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AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE
The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spoil and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith. Following the pre-meal chants, the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzo, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast. Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno's Antica Sinagoga, 1850

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno’s Antica Sinagoga, 1850

People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully in Italy almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of southern Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.

Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.

passover2

Italian Charoset

(adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden)

In Italy there are various regional versions of haroset. The haroset of Padua has prunes, raisins, dates, walnuts, apples and chestnuts. In Milan they make it with apples, pears, dates, almonds, bananas and orange juice. Other possible additions include: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Ingredients

  • 3 apples, sweet or tart
  • 2 pears
  • 2 cups sweet wine
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 lb. dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup yellow raisins or sultanas
  • 4 oz. prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honey or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apple and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water, if it becomes too thick.

passover3

Sweet-And-Sour Celery (Sephardic Passover Apio)

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mild honey
  • 4 lbs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving about 1 cup of celery leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a wide heavy 6-to 8-quart pan, then set the paper round aside.

Simmer water, lemon juice, oil, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the pan, stirring, until the honey has dissolved.

Stir in celery (but not leaves) and cover with the parchment round. Simmer until tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop reserved leaves. Serve celery sprinkled with celery leaves and parsley.

passover4

Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin removed
  • 4 thighs (about 1 pound), skin removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup pitted whole green olives
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add browned chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon, ginger and coriander; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Turn chicken over; cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon; place 1 chicken piece on each of 4 plates. Add lemon zest, juice, and parsley to the pan; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon sauce over chicken.

passover5

Vegetable Farfel Kugel

Farfel is small pellet or flake shaped pasta used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is made from an egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being cooked. It can be served in soups or as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, when dietary laws pertaining to grains are observed, “matzah farfel” takes the place of the egg noodle version. Matzah farfel is simply matzah broken into small pieces

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 6 ounces matzah farfel
  • 7 large eggs, whites only
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Dash paprika

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 inch oven proof dish.

In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté the fresh vegetables in oil 3-5 minutes. Add drained spinach. Pour boiling water over farfel (in a strainer) to moisten. Add farfel, vegetables, salt, pepper and nuts. Cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the farfel mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake 45 minutes or longer until browned.

passover1

Passover Honey Nut Cake

(adapted from A TREASURY OF JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING By Marcy Goldman)

Cake

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Soaking Syrup

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan. (If you do not have one that size, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).

Cake:

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.

Soaking Syrup:

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.

Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup.

Refrigerating this cake while it is absorbing the liquid helps the cake to firm up, which makes it easier to cut.


lambbasic1_wide-d28234fec2b2afb46e2aad61985c3d451a8870b6-s40-c85One of the best ways to cut the cost of your shopping bill but still enjoy good quality meat is by buying cheaper cuts. It’s easy to end up buying the same things each week, such as chicken breasts or pork chops, but these are the more expensive cuts of meat. Many of the cuts that our grandparents ate regularly are forgotten about, even though they make great tasting, inexpensive meals and can be used in a variety of recipes. Don’t be put off buying cheaper cuts of meat because you are unsure of what to buy or you don’t know how to cook them.

A great way of finding out more about the cheaper cuts of meat that are available in your area is to talk to your local butcher or your local supermarket meat department manager. When shopping for lamb, always check the dates that are stamped on the packaging to know if you are getting fresh meat. If lamb is not contained in a package, look at the color of the meat, as that is a major factor in determining how fresh it is. Lamb should be pink/red in color. Any meat that is dark red is older and will not be as tender. Also, look for other markings on the label that will give you more information about the lamb. USDA Prime will be the highest in tenderness and flavor. USDA Choice is still high quality meat, but slightly less tender. While USDA Prime has somewhat of a higher fat content, all grades of lamb have similar protein, vitamins and nutrients.

Cheaper cuts of meat often come from tougher, muscled areas of the animal and require slow cooking in stews or casseroles to soften them up. By slow cooking these cuts of meat, which can be done either in a slow cooker or in a covered pot in the oven, you can easily make tasty meals. Where dishes call for “braising” or “stewing”, you can often use any of the cheaper cuts of meat. Braising refers to the cooking technique, where the meat is browned first in a pan and then cooked for several hours in liquid on low heat in a covered pot.

Less Expensive Lamb Cuts

Lamb Breast

This is one of the cheapest cuts and can be very versatile – it can be roasted, stuffed or rolled.

Lamb Shanks

Lamb shanks have become popular in recent years, which has pushed the price up a bit. But they are still a good value and are suitable for slow roasting, stewing or braising. Lamb Shanks are excellent on a dinner party menu. They also make for a delicious meal, when slow roasted in individual aluminium foil packs with white wine and herbs.

Whole Lamb Shanks

Whole Lamb Shanks

Shanks are a cut of lamb taken from either the shoulder (fore shank) and arm of a lamb or the upper part of the leg (hind shank). The fore shank includes part of the shoulder, as well as part of the leg, while the hind shank includes only part of the rear leg. Lamb shanks have a paper-thin membranous covering and a thin layer of fat. While a lamb shank is leaner than other parts of a lamb, the meat can be tough. This cut of lamb must be braised or roasted.

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Cross Cut Lamb Shanks

Osso buco is the name for a classic Milanese dish of cross-cut slices of veal shank, which are often labeled osso buco and slowly braised in a vegetable-rich, tomato-based sauce until the meat is so tender, it falls away from the bone with the merest nudge of a fork. The shanks are traditionally served over saffron risotto or polenta.

If you’ve ever seen a whole veal shank, you’ll understand why cutting it crosswise into thick sections makes complete sense. The same is true of lamb shanks, pork shanks and turkey legs. Ask to have them cross cut for a nicer presentation, because it is so much more appealing to serve shanks in slices rather than as joints on a platter. Most likely, you’ll have to place a special order with the butcher in your market, but lamb shanks are much cheaper than veal.

browned-shank

Tips For Slow Cooking Lamb

  • Brown the lamb first, in batches if necessary. This will caramelize the meat and improve its flavor.
  • Although lamb is a little more fatty than other meats, don’t trim all of it away before cooking. The fat contains a lot of the flavor and helps make the meat tender. The excess will rise to the surface of the cooking liquid and can be skimmed away.
  • Remember to only lightly season slow-cooked dishes at the beginning of cooking. As the meat braises the cooking liquid reduces and concentrates the sauce, which can easily become too salty.
  • When simmering lamb, do it over a low heat so that the liquid bubbles only very gently around the meat. This will keep the meat tender.
  • Keep an eye on slow-cooked lamb. Unless you want it so tender it falls apart. Check it after about 45 minutes for tenderness, as lamb cooks much faster than other meats. 

lamb ossobuco

Lamb Osso Bucco

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  1. 2 lamb shanks trimmed of fat and cross-cut into 1 or 1 ½ inch thick pieces
  2. 2 heaping tablespoons flour
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  6. 1 onion, chopped
  7. 2 carrots, chopped
  8. 1 stalk celery, chopped
  9. 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  10. 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
  11. 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  12. 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  13. 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  14. 1 bay leaf
  15. 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Drop the lamb pieces into the bag and shake, thoroughly covering the pieces with the flour mixture.

Pour the olive oil into a Dutch Oven and brown the shank pieces over medium-high heat. Remove the browned lamb and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery to the skillet. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, tomato sauce, wine, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Add the browned lamb and return to a simmer.

Place the pan in the oven, covered, and bake for 1 hour.

Turn the meat. Cover and cook another hour or until the lamb is tender enough to fall off the bone easily.

Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. It is traditional to serve this dish with risotto.

shankpan

Lamb Shanks in Foil Packets

Ingredients

  • 4 (2-1/2-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 (2-1/2- to 3-inch) strips orange zest
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter

Directions

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.

Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put 1 rosemary sprig, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Set aside.

Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the herbs. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the wine drippings evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a teaspoon of the butter.

Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap. Bake for 2-1/2 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.

Transfer the contents of the packets to large pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the liquid from the packets. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

lamb shanks and pasta

Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Shanks and Winter Vegetables

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks, cross-cut into 1-inch-thick slices, as for osso buco
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • Juice and julienned zest of 1 orange
  • Juice and julienned zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 thick parsnip, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 small rutabaga, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 small celery root, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 pound dried pappardelle, fettuccine or other wide, flat pasta
  • 1/4 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Dry the pieces of meat with a paper towel, season them well with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides; set them aside. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan; cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Add in the wine; simmer 5 minutes. Add the stock, orange juice, lemon juice, tomato paste, rosemary, the browned lamb shanks and any juices they have released. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Stir in the orange and lemon zest, parsnips, rutabaga, mushrooms, tomatoes and celery root. Cook, partially covered, until both the lamb and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. Set aside to cool. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add it back to the stewed vegetables. Discard the bones.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, reheat the lamb and vegetable stew; bring to a simmer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta directly from its cooking pot to the pot with the stew. Add the cheese and parsley; toss to combine. Season well with salt and pepper and serve in heated bowls, garnished with lemon wedges.

Jewish lamb shanks

Lamb Shanks – Jewish Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Kosher lamb shanks (about 1 pound each), cross cut and visible fat removed
  • Kosher (coarse) salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium onions, halved root to stem and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Soak the lamb shanks in water to cover in a large bowl, changing the water frequently until it runs clear. (This will take about 15 minutes in all.) Remove the lamb shanks, dry them very well with paper towels and then season them all over with salt.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and brown them on all sides, about 15 minutes altogether. Remove the shanks and set them aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook the onions until they are soft, about 10 minutes.

Mix saffron with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and add to the pan. Stir to mix well, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the remaining chicken stock and return the lamb shanks to the pot.

Place the pot in the oven and roast, covered, turning and basting the shanks frequently, for about 1 hour.

Add the apricots and prunes and continue roasting, covered, until the meat is very soft, about 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the shanks to a platter and keep warm. Remove as much fat as possible from the sauce, using a spoon or a fat separator. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks, garnish with toasted almonds. Serve by itself or over couscous.

slow cooker lamb

Slow Cooker Wine Braised Lamb Shanks

Ingredients :

  • 4 large lamb shanks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Burgundy wine (or beef broth)
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules

Directions

Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Place in a 5-qt slow cooker. Sprinkle with the parsley, garlic, oregano and lemon peel.

In a small saucepan, saute the onion and carrot in oil for 3 – 4 minutes or until tender.

Stir in wine or broth and bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour over the lamb.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove lamb and keep warm. Strain cooking juices and skim fat. In a small saucepan, bring juices to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Serve with the lamb.

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Since the history of Italian food is so rooted in the regional cultures, it is interesting to take a look at the main regions of the country and what kinds of food products and dishes each one is known for. The most well known regions in Italy that are noted for their culinary distinctions are the following: Abruzzo-Molise, Apulia, Calabria-Lucania, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Naples-Campagna, Piedmont, Rome-Lazio, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria-Marche and Veneto. These areas can be split up roughly into three categories: northern, central and southern Italy.

Northern Italian cuisine is characterized by less use of olive oil, pasta and tomato sauce and more use of butter (or lard ), rice, corn (for polenta), meat and chesses for cream sauces.

Much of what the rest of the world considers Italian food comes from the central regions of Italy. Velvety smooth olive oils, world-famous cheeses, savory cured meats and rich tomato sauces grace the tables of this region. Beef dishes can be found more often here and the hills of Tuscan and Umbria are known for their wild boar. Both coasts share their love of locally caught seafood and the mountainous countryside is known for its hearty fare.

From the pizza of Naples to the countless types of dried and fresh pasta, the food of the south is the heart of Italy. This is the cuisine found in most Italian-American cuisine. Here you will find rich and spicy tomato sauces and the almost exclusive use of olive oil in cooking. In fact some of the best olive oil comes from this region, but very little of it is exported. The south is home to citrus fruits, fields of durum wheat for pasta, olive groves and vineyards. The sea is used to its fullest extent with all manner of seafood included in dishes from tuna to anchovies and clams to sea urchins.

Pigs are grown throughout Italy, and though many become sausage, salami or prosciutto, just as many do not. It is the one meat that is found in all the regions of the country. Historically, while a good portion of the hog was used for cured meats, many other recipes and uses for pork became popular in Italian cuisine. Each region has its own unique way of cooking pork. Here are five pork chop recipes to illustrate the regional variations of this cuisine.

Bolognese Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 thick (3/4 -1 inch) rib pork chops with bone
  • 6 large slices of prosciutto
  • 6 slices Italian fontina cheese
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions

Trim all the gristle and fat from the cutlets, then cut them in half, leaving the halves attached only along the bone, so that the cutlets will open like a book.

Open the meat and fill each with a slice of prosciutto and one of cheese, trimming their edges so nothing sticks out.

In a skillet with a cover large enough for the meat to lie flat, heat the oil with the bay leaves. Place the pork chops in the pan and brown them on both sides, turning them carefully.

Season the meat with the minced herbs, salt and pepper, cover, and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning the meat occasionally; should the meat look as if it’s drying out or over browning, reduce the heat.

Tuscan Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta (about 3 ounces)
  • 6 – 6 ounce thick-cut bone-in pork chops
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts (fresh or unsweetened canned or jarred), roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped pitted dried plums (prunes)
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

In an extra-large skillet cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered and the pancetta is brown but not too crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle all sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to the hot drippings in the skillet; cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden brown, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Using tongs, transfer chops to a plate.

For the sauce: add butter to the skillet; heat over medium heat until no longer foamy. Add onions and chestnuts to the hot butter; cook about 5 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the skillet occasionally. Stir in garlic and thinly sliced or dried sage; cook about 30 seconds more or until fragrant. Add broth, Marsala, vinegar and honey. Bring to boiling.

Cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until liquid begins to turn syrupy, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in dried plums and cooked pancetta; season to taste with pepper.

Return pork chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet; spoon sauce in skillet over chops. Cover skillet; reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through. Serve sauce over pork. If desired, garnish with small sage leaves.

Pork Chops Roman Style

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons. honey
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the honey, vinegar and thyme and cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer.

Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning the chops occasionally and basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes more for medium doneness. Transfer the chops to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops. Serves 4.

Neapolitan Pork Chops

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 pork rib or loin chops, cut about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 green or red bell peppers, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet with a cover. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Season chops with salt and pepper.

Place chops in the skillet and brown on both sides. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over low heat about 1 hour or until tender.

Sicilian Style Pork Chops

 

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli), toasted and chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 pork loin chops, each 1 1/2 inches thick (about 10 ounces each)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Finely slice Swiss chard. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat Swiss chard and 1 inch water to boiling over high heat, cover and cook 5 minutes. Drain, pressing hard to squeeze out excess liquid.

In the same saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in Swiss chard, raisins, pine nuts and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cut a pocket from the side of each chop, inserting knife almost to the bone. Slice parallel to surface, widening pocket as you go. Do not cut through to edge.

Fill pockets with chard stuffing, gently press closed. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.

Add chops to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides. Add broth and wine to the skillet, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour, or until chops are tender.

Transfer chops to platter, keep warm. Increase heat to high and boil pan juices until reduced to 3/4 cup. Pour over chops and serve.


Long before biblical times and across different civilizations, the leaves of the laurel tree have developed symbolic meaning in many areas- perhaps most familiar to us as a symbol of glory and achievement. To this day, students in Bologna and Padova, Italy wear a wreath of alloro (laurel, in Italian) on the day they formally receive their laurea (university degree). The English term “bay leaf” derives from the Latin word bacca, which means “berry” – an ancient reference to this tree’s inedible black berries. But, it is the leaves from this tree that add great taste to some well known Italian dishes.

Used mostly in dried form in hundreds of food preparations, bay leaves are one of the most popular spices throughout the world. In Italy, bay leaves, like rosemary, are free for the picking; laurel trees grow wild almost everywhere – including even in the milder parts of the northern regions, mostly around the three major lakes and Liguria.

Bay leaves are used to season many Italian meat and fish dishes and they add flavor to soups, sauces and stews. The flavor of bay leaves is deepened with steaming. Try them with vegetables, fish, seafood or chicken in a steamer. Bay leaves release their flavor during slow cooking, so the longer the better. Consider adding bay leaves to casseroles and slow cooker meals. Bay leaves also impart a great flavor to white, cream/cheese sauces (for example, béchamel sauce).

Bay leaves are also used in pickled vegetables, as well as in fish and meat marinades. The leaves’ spicy taste – which is attributed to their essential oil, cineole, blends beautifully in vegetable, fish and meat sauces for pasta dishes. Just one important reminder: Bay leaves always should be removed from all food preparations before serving. Why? Because they are as tough as old boots to the human palate, so avoid consuming them as part of the meal!

A question that is often asked: Are bay leaves poisonous?

The question derives from the fact that spreading whole or crushed bay leaves in pantries and kitchens have been found to keep cockroaches, meal moths and flies away. But this is mainly because of the aromatic oils present in the leaves. Household pests are repelled by these oils, which act as a deterrent for them. Bay leaves, however, are perfectly safe to use in your cooking.

Bay leaf oil is also available. Add 10-15 drops of bay leaf oil into a 16 ounce bottle of your shampoo. This solution is believed to be an effective cure for dandruff.

Taking a bath with water mixed with bay leaf oil can be very soothing for the senses. Dipping your hands and feet in bay leaf-water solution is believed to ease pain in those regions.

The aromatic properties of bay leaf oil make it suitable to be used as a room freshener. Pour a few drops of bay leaf oil into a dish, light a candle below this to gently heat the oil and vaporize it.

Poaching Fish

Sea bass is a fish found in areas of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic that is sought after by many sports fishermen. Sea bass is a quality protein source, with flaky white meat. The delicate flesh of sea bass stands up well to cooking methods, such as poaching, which refers to cooking in a liquid such as water, wine or stock. You can find sea bass at some grocery stores and most fish markets. Any sustainable white fish fillets will work in this recipe.

Directions

Place a pan or skillet on the stove over high heat. Add liquid such as white wine, vegetable or fish stock, water or a combination to total about two cups.

Add aromatic vegetables and herbs:

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 leek, cut into 4 or 5 pieces,
  • 1 carrot, cut in thirds
  • 2-3 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Stir the vegetables around and let the liquid come up to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture gently for 10 minutes.

Season sea bass fillets with salt and pepper and place into the liquid, skin side up.

Cover the skillet and poach the fish for six to eight minutes, until the fillets are cooked through. The flesh should flake off easily.

Remove the fillets from the pan and serve them with rice and side vegetables.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

Ingredients

  • 5 cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1½ cups dried white beans: cannellini
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Pomi brand chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ cup small macaroni (ditalini), uncooked
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dash crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish
  • Basil leaves, optional

Directions

Place water and beans in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat for 3 minutes and remove from the heat. Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

Add the onion, tomatoes, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves. Mix well and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender (about 1½ hours). Stir frequently. Add macaroni and mix well. Cover and continue simmering until macaroni is tender (about 12 minutes).

Remove bay leaves before serving. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired. Serve with Parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread.

Italian Style Pot Roast

I usually make this the day before serving. The flavor improves greatly sitting overnight in the refrigerator. Just heat up the next day and serve.

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds beef pot roast (rump or chuck)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups medium-bodied Italian red wine
  • 1 26-ounce container Pomi brand chopped Italian tomatoes

Directions

Trim the fat from the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with the salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, shimmering but not smoking, add the roast and cook, turning it a few times, until it is browned on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrot, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are golden brown and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and stir about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine and stir quickly, lifting up the browned caramelized vegetables that stick to the bottom of the pan. When the wine is almost all evaporated and thickly coats the vegetables, return the meat to the pan and turn it over a few times to coat in the sauce.

Raise the heat to high, adding the remaining wine, the bay leaves, the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender and flakes away when pierced with a fork, 3-4 hours. Turn off the heat and let the roast sit in its juices for an hour.

Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil. If the sauce is too thin, bring it to a fast boil and reduce it until it has a medium-thick consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Cut the meat into thick slices (it will probably fall apart) and place on a warm serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve with pasta.

Penne with Chick Peas, Leeks and Artichoke Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb whole grain penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks cut in thin rounds
  • 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 package frozen artichokes hearts, defrosted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Parsley thinly sliced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile cook the garlic over low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the artichokes, season with salt and pepper and saute for two minutes.

Remove 1 ½ cups of boiling water from the pasta pot and add to the artichoke mixture. Reboil. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Process in the blender or use an immersion hand blender until smooth and set aside.

In the same skillet, gently heat remaining olive oil with leeks and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Add the chickpeas and cook for three minutes.

Cook pasta two minutes under the required cooking time on the package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Add penne and the reserved pasta water to the chickpeas. Be sure to remove the bay leaf. Stir in the artichoke sauce and heat until warmed. Garnish with fresh Italian parsley before serving.

Sweet and Sour Cipollini Onions

Adapted from a recipe from Italian chef, Fabio Trabocchi. Cipollini are small Italian onions readily available in the supermarket.

This dish makes a great side dish for roasted pork.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds cipollini onions, peeled
  • Strips of zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water. Cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add the butter and the 1/2 cup of the balsamic vinegar. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the butter is melted.

Add the onions, lemon zest, bay leaves and chicken stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer over moderately low heat until the onions are very tender and glazed and the liquid is syrupy, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Prune and Olive Chicken

Prune and Olive Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pitted prunes, halved
  • 8 small pimento stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (3 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8- 10 pieces, skin removed
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the garlic, prunes, olives, capers, olive oil, vinegar, bay leaves, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Spread mixture in the bottom of a 10×15 inch baking dish. Add the chicken pieces, stir and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Remove dish from refrigerator. Sprinkle brown sugar on top and pour white wine all around chicken.

Bake for 1 hour, spooning juices over chicken several times, as it is baking. Serve on a platter, pouring juices over the top, and garnish with fresh parsley.



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