So many more options become possible in March. Here, on the Gulf Coast, strawberries are in season and they are beautiful. They taste wonderful in a smoothie. I look forward to this time of year, so I can purchase artichokes because we love them stuffed. Asparagus make delicious salads and so does fennel. And, broccoli rabe is at its best in the spring, so look for it at your market.
Italian Seasoned Fresh Bread Crumbs
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 8 slices of regular, low carb or gluten-free bread), crusts removed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Tear the bread slices into pieces. Process into crumbs and place in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
4 large artichokes, trimmed
2 cups Italian seasoned “bread” crumbs (see recipe above)
8 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat of your blade and minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cut off the stems so the artichokes will stand upright. Slice off the top third of the artichokes and pull off some of the tough outermost leaves.
Trim off the pointed tips of the remaining leaves with kitchen shears. Wash the artichokes and turn them cut side-down to drain.
Rub the cut parts with a little lemon juice. Use your thumbs to open the leaves the rest to make room for stuffing and set aside.
Heat the oven to 425° F and place a small stock pot or tea kettle with water on the stove to boil.
Combine the bread crumbs, garlic, cheese and red pepper flakes.
Stuff one artichoke at a time by scooping out 1/2 cup of stuffing, placing the artichoke in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkling with the 1/2 cup of stuffing.
Use your fingers to work the stuffing in between the leaves. Be sure to get a bit of the stuffing between each of the outer leaves and in the top.
Transfer the stuffed artichokes to a baking dish just large enough to hold the artichokes upright.. Continue until all artichokes are stuffed and placed in the baking dish.
Drizzle each artichoke with lemon juice and olive oil. Pour boiling water from the kettle or pot to fill the dish about an inch high.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 45 minutes. Check for tenderness by sliding a knife easily through the base of the artichokes.
Once tender, uncover and bake for 15 minutes, or until the artichokes turn golden brown.
Place each artichoke in an individual bowl and pour some of the broth in the baking dish over the artichokes before serving.
Spring Asparagus Salad
Variations: add cooked beets or crispy bacon to the salad.
1 bunch fresh, thin asparagus
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon whole-grain or Dijon-style mustard
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3 scallions (green onions), sliced thin
Bibb Lettuce cups
Bring a large pot or deep skillet of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt.
Trim and discard the tough woody asparagus ends.
Carefully place the asparagus spears in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or just until the vegetable is bright green and tender but not soft.
Drain and place the asparagus in a large dish filled with ice water.Let the asparagus cool in the ice bath for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the asparagus to a kitchen towel to dry. Cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces and then place them on a platter or individual salad plates lined with lettuce.
Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, mustard and a pinch of salt in a liquid measuring cup, until well blended, to form a vinaigrette.
Sprinkle the sliced scallions over the asparagus and then sprinkle the chopped egg on top.
Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to coat.
Easy Strawberry Smoothie
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup regular milk or unsweetened almond or coconut milk
Sweetener of choice to taste
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses to serve.
Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast or 2 halves, cooked and diced
1/2 of a fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon roasted garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
In a large bowl, toss the chicken cubes with the lemon juice, garlic powder, fennel, fennel seeds, black pepper and walnuts until combined.
Add the mayonnaise to the chicken mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Taste the salad and see if you would like to add salt.
Cover the salad and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Broccoli Rabe Parmigiano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
2 lbs Broccoli Rabe
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz cooked pasta, optional
Cut off about one inch from the bottom of the broccoli rabe stalks. Wash the broccoli very well. Cut into two-inch lengths.
In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes; sauté 30 seconds.
Add broccoli rabe, broth, lemon juice and lemon zest; mix well. Cover skillet and cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until the broccoli rabe is crisp-tender.
Add the salt, black pepper and grated cheese. Mix well and cover the pan. Let the mixture sit for five minutes before serving. This sauce is delicious served over pasta.
Chocolate Covered Peanuts
Coconut oil works well with chocolate because it will prevent the candy from softening, as butter or oil would do.
Makes about 18 clusters
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening
3 tablespoons powdered sugar or powdered sugar-free sweetener
Combine the chocolate, coconut oil and sugar in a microwaveable glass bowl or in a double boiler.
Melt the chocolate mixture in a microwave at half power, for 1 minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted, stirring several times.
You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water.
Stir in the peanuts, completely covering them in chocolate. Using a 1 inch scoop or tablespoon drop the mixture into wax paper. Cool completely before serving
One-Layer Heart-Shaped Carrot Cake
For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large room-temperature eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the Frosting:
4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
To Make the Cake
Heat oven to 325 F. Cut parchment to fit heart pan (or 8 inch round cake pan) and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
Measure flour and add to an electric mixer bowl along with the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oil, eggs and vanilla.
Blend for 1 minute on low-speed.
Stir carrots and nuts into the batter. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from the pan to a serving plate.
For the frosting:
Place all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer beat the ingredients until the cream forms stiff peaks.
Frost the top of the cake and refrigerate the cake until serving time.
Easy Frozen Chocolate Mousse
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream, well chilled
8 oz good quality chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate sprinkles, garnish
In a double boiler or in a bowl set over a saucepan, melt chocolate over simmering water. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
Pour the cream and vanilla into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds.
Add sweetener to taste if you want. I did not because I think the chocolate makes it sweet enough
Continue beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
To test, turn off the mixer and lift the beaters. If the cream makes soft little peaks that flop over slightly, it is ready.
Add the warm chocolate to the cream and mix in slowly until incorporated.
Spoon into 4 dessert dishes. Chill in the refrigerator to serve as mousse or place in the freezer overnight to serve as frozen mousse.
Garnish with chocolate sprinkles before serving.
8 large strawberries with tops
6 oz good quality chocolate, chopped
Gently rinse strawberries and dry on paper towels (berries must be completely dry). Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or set out muffin paper cups.
In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. You may also microwave the mixture.
Dip the lower half of each strawberry into the chocolate mixture; allow excess to drip back into the saucepan.
Place on the prepared cookie sheet or muffin paper cups.
Refrigerate uncovered about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is firm, or until ready to serve.
Store covered in refrigerator.
Spring is here and so are luscious strawberries at very reasonable prices. Take advantage of this beautiful fruit and eat them as is or use them to make some delicious recipes. Below are some of my favorite ways to use strawberries. What are yours?
Strawberry Breakfast Cake
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup self-rising flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
Grease a 9 inch springform pan and sprinkle the inside with a little granulated sugar. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the topping ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. With your fingers, rub the mixture into crumbs. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together until creamed. Add the eggs, one at a time.
On low-speed add the sour cream and vanilla. Gradually add the flour, mixing until incorporated.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Top the batter with the sliced strawberries and sprinkle the topping over the berries.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for several hours and then remove the cake pan ring. The cake can also be served warm.
Preserves are cooked the same way jam is, however, the only difference is that the fruit in preserves is cut into chunks, whereas with jam, the fruit is crushed. The texture of preserves is not as stiff as jelly or jam. It is easy to spread and makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes.
1 quart of strawberries
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 long strip of lemon zest
Fill 4 pint jars with boiling water and place the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you make the preserves.
Wash the strawberries and remove the leaves. Cut them in half and place the berries in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir well.
Bring the mixture to a boil and stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes or a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the heat. Empty the pint jars and remove the lids from the water.
Fill the jars with the preserves and place the lids on the jars. Cool for a few hours at room temperature. Store the jars in the refrigerator for a few weeks or freeze them for future use.
Strawberry Almond Scones
Self-rising flour can be used for a quicker preparation. Leave out the salt and baking powder in the recipe, if using.
1 cup fresh hulled and finely chopped strawberries
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing on the scones
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the scones
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract
Coarse sugar for the topping
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the chopped strawberries and cream and set aside while you make the dough.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 table knives in a scissor motion, cut butter into flour until the size of small peas.
Add the almond extract to the strawberry-cream mixture. Add the mixture to the flour/butter mixture and stir together with a fork, just until combined.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 triangles.
Lightly brush the tops of the scones with a little cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately place the scones on a rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Fruit Salad
1 pint strawberries, trimmed and sliced
2 large red mangoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 orange, zested, white pith removed and sliced
1 teaspoon honey
In a medium bowl, stir together the strawberries, mangoes, orange slices, zest and honey. Chill, covered, until ready to serve.
Looking forward to spring!
In my area asparagus, Florida plum tomatoes, celery, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, arugula, spinach, beets, strawberries, raspberries and herbs are all in season. So, while I was shopping this week, I decided to take advantage of the good prices for the asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. I would have bought beets and carrots also but my friend has a great garden and he shared some of his bounty with me.
This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.
1 lemon, halved
2 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 tablespoon diced pickled pepper rings
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
To prepare the stuffing:
In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.
Toss and set aside.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon halves into the water. Cut off the artichoke stems and make sure the artichokes are level so they do not tip over in the baking dish..
Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 inch off each artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed called the choke.
Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out the choke.
Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointed ends from outer leaves of each artichoke. Wash the artichokes well with running water. Let the water run into each leaf.
I once had an embarrassing moment when I served this dish and a guest had a fly in one of the leaves.
Rub a lemon half over all the cut parts of the artichoke. Holding the artichokes over the bowl of stuffing, stuff the choke cavity and in between the leaves with the breadcrumb mixture.
Stand stuffed artichokes upright in a baking pan or casserole dish just large enough to fit the artichokes.and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.
Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Squeeze the lemon juice from the halves and add it to the water. Cover the pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.
Bake artichokes for about 11/2 hours, or until tender and a knife slides easily into an artichoke and a leaf pulls out easily.
Remove from the baking dish and set on individual serving dishes.
Bucatini with Spring Vegetables
6 ounces dried bucatini pasta (thick spaghetti)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges (optional)
Trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Weigh the asparagus and set aside 8 oz. Reserve the rest of the asparagus for another recipe. Cut the 8 oz of asparagus into two-inch lengths.
In a large pot cook pasta according al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain. Return pasta to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss until well combined; set aside.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of oil.
Add asparagus and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until bright green. Add cherry tomatoes,olives, basil, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce. To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Pass with lemon wedges, if desired.
1 lb pizza dough
24 very thin asparagus
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced.
Salt & black pepper to taste
Snap off the bottom ends of the asparagus.
Mix the ricotta with the basil leaves and a little salt.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly oil a pizza pan.
Stretch the dough to cover the pan and brush with oil, making sure to coat edges well. Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the dough.
Scatter spoonfuls of ricotta over the dough and sprinkle with the shallots. Place the tomato slices over the cheese and arrange the asparagus in a spoke pattern over the tomato layer.
Sprinkle with the olives and black pepper.
Bake the pizza until browned, about 20 minutes.
Beet Salad With Blue Cheese
4 medium beets
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 orange, minced
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
2 thin carrots, shaved
6 cups baby greens
1/2 crumbled bleu cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove the tops and tails from the beets.
Place the beets in an ovenproof casserole dish with 1/4 cup of the raspberry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the honey and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add water until the liquid covers the beets halfway.
Cover the dish and bake for about an hour (longer if beets are larger). The beets should be tender throughout when pierced with a knife.
For the dressing:
Whisk the shallots, remaining raspberry vinegar and honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking. Stir in the orange zest.
While the beets are still warm, peel and cut them into eighths.
Cover a serving platter with the greens. Arrange the beets, carrots and cucumber slices on a platter and scatter the bleu cheese on top. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
2 refrigerated pie crust sheets for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
In large bowl combine:
2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour, all-purpose flour or other pie thickener
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Mix the sugar with the pie thickener in a large mixing bowl. Add the fruit, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to combine the sugar and fruit.
Fit one pastry sheet into the pie pan and place pan on a baking sheet.
Pour the filling into the pie shell.
Place the second pastry sheet on a cutting board. With a pastry cutter the sheet into 12 even lengths.
Place 6 strips on top of the pie filling and weave the second 6 over and under the strips on the pie to create a basket weave look.
Spray the strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.
Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).
Making healthy breakfasts can be good for you and they can taste really good. Pancakes are always special on the weekend and you can keep them healthy by using a variety of grains and flours. The same with muffins and replace some of the oil with healthy ingredients like applesauce or fruit juice and add plenty of fruit. Eggs are always a good choice but skimp on the fat that is used to cook them and add vegetables, so then they a great choice. Don’t forget fruit. Use whatever is in season. Strawberries are in season here where I live, so they were my choice for the muffin recipe.
Oat & Wheat Pancakes
Makes about 8 four-inch pancakes
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the oats and buttermilk. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
Combine the egg, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir into the oat mixture.
Pour the oat mixture into the flour mixture and stir well.
Heat a grill or large skillet. Lightly grease and drop ¼ cupfuls of batter on the grill. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another minute.
Serve with maple syrup.
Eggs and Potato Hash
The potatoes can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until it is time to cook the hash.
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup each chopped onion and green pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. When hot, add the olive oil, and then add the potatoes in a single layer.
Lower the heat to medium and cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are crusty and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the onion, pepper and cook until the onions brown slightly, about 2 minutes.
Off the heat, make 4 small evenly spaced wells in the hash. Break each egg into a small custard cup and then pour the egg into one of the wells. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Sprinkle the oregano and the cheese over the hash.
Transfer the skillet to the oven (or place in individual baking dishes) and bake until the eggs are cooked to your taste, about 5 minutes for firm whites and soft yolks. Serve immediately.
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup diced strawberries (or other fruit that is in season)
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds or other nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 12 muffin tin cups.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix evenly. Stir in the chopped fruit and the nuts.
In a separate bowl, mix the egg, oil and orange juice. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until moistened but still lumpy.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffin, about 25 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.
Trapani is a province in the island region of Sicily in Italy. The northwestern part of the province is rugged in comparison to the south. The province also includes the archipelago of the Egadi Islands, the volcanic island of Pantelleria, which is the largest in Sicily, and the Stagnone Islands. The Egadi Islands consist of three main islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and two islets, Formica and Maraone. The coast is one of the most impressive in Italy and comprises valuable naturalistic spots with its seafront full of cliffs and stacks alternating with beautiful beaches.
Marsala, a town in the province of Trapani, is the home of Marsala wine. Marsala became known when the English began their explorations for commerce and trade. As the legend goes….
In 1770, a violent storm forced a British ship to take shelter in the harbor of Marsala. John Woodhouse, a merchant, disembarked and went into town to sample the wine in one of the humble taverns. Although more accustomed to the liqueur wines of Spain and Portugal, his palate detected their similarity to the local Marsala wine, prompting him to risk purchasing a considerable consignment of wine (blended with alcohol to withstand the journey) to take to his native land to sound out the market. The response was positive, the merchant set up his own company in Marsala. A second English merchant, Ben Ingham, a connoisseur of fortified wines, gradually improved the wine’s quality by using carefully selected blends of different grape varieties.
In 1833, the entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio, bought up large areas of land between the two largest established Marsala producers and set out to make his own vintage with a more specialised range of grapes. At the end of the 19 century, several more wine-growers joined the competition, including Pellegrino (1880). After the turn of the century, Florio bought out Ingham and Woodhouse and retained the two labels.
Marsala is registered as a DOC wine (a State-designated label of controlled quality); this means that production is restricted to an exclusive area around Trapani and a collection of additional vineyards in the provinces of Agrigento and Palermo. Only grape varieties with a high natural sugar content are used to make Marsala: these, once pressed, are left to ferment before being blended with ethyl alcohol to produce the different types and flavors of Marsala. Relative to the sugar content, Marsala may be categorised as dry, semi-dry or sweet. Its main denomination, however, is relative to the length of time it is left to mature: Marsala Fine (1 year), Superiore (2 years), Superiore Riserva (4 years), Vergine (5 years) and Vergine Riserva (10 years). Dry Marsala is usually served as an aperitif, while the sweeter forms are drunk as a dessert wine.
Marsala was traditionally served between the first and second courses. It is now also served, chilled, with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses.
Marsala is a fortified wine – this means alcohol is added to it. This also means that, just like you can keep an open bottle of vodka or rum on your shelf, you can also keep an opened bottle of Marsala around. Just keep it in a cool, dark area.
Cooking with Marsala
Should you use – sweet or dry Marsala – in a recipe? Do you like sweet or savory chicken dishes? Are you even going to notice the subtle difference? You might not even be able to taste any difference since both are going to taste “like Marsala”. So make your recipe one time with the sweet and one time with the dry, and see if you can even notice any difference.
Garlicky Marsala Mushroom Sauce
This sauce can be served over cooked pasta, folded into an omelet, served with pan-fried chicken breasts or over cheese grits (polenta).
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound white mushrooms, caps quartered
- 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced and 2 minced
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the white and shiitake mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and cook over high heat, stirring once, until the mushrooms are browned all over, about 3 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic, the shallot and rosemary and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the minced garlic, chives, olives and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Rigatoni D (Marsala)
This dish was named after its creator, David DiGregorio, Executive Chef at Chicago’s Clark & Grand St. restaurant. David and his team spent about 3 months perfecting the Marsala Cream Sauce to compliment chicken.
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
- 3/8 cup Spanish, yellow or white onion, diced ½”
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups cold low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups rigatoni pasta
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lb chicken breast, boneless, skinless
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay)
- ¾ cup sweet Marsala wine
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 3/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
On a 12 X 18 cookie sheet or tray, mix the diced onions, mushrooms, finely chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar together until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and coated. Bake for 15 minutes until the mushrooms are a deep brown color and almost all the liquid and moisture has evaporated. Set mixture aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch with the cold chicken broth with a whisk. Set aside the mixture.
Prepare pasta as directed on the box to the al dente stage approximately 10 minutes before you plan on cooking the entire pasta dish. Drain pasta in a colander, shake out excess water, then toss in an 8 quart bowl with half of the olive oil.
Cut the chicken into pieces approximately 1” long x ¾” wide. In a 12”-14”.
In a pan or Dutch oven. heat the remaining olive oil and butter until melted and the butter begins to lightly brown, add the sliced chicken and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown color is achieved.
Immediately add the white wine to the sautéed chicken, cook until the wine evaporates, add the Marsala wine and reduce by half, then add the cold chicken broth/cornstarch mixture, bring to a simmer. Then add the heavy cream, kosher salt, black pepper and the roasted mushrooms, onions. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken.
Add the cooked rigatoni and simmer for 2 minutes. Finish the pasta and sauce with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.
Sage Meatballs with Marsala Wine Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (about 20 leaves), very finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- All-purpose flour for dredging
- 1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
In a large bowl, combine the meat, Parmigiano, half the butter, the sage and salt until they are very well blended, using your hands. Form small meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter using cold wet hands to keep the meat from sticking. Roll the meatballs in the flour and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat, then cook the meatballs until brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Shake the skillet often so they don’t stick.
Remove the excess fat from the skillet with a spoon and discard. Once the meatballs are brown, pour in the Marsala wine and continue cooking until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini
Budini is Italian for puddings or parfaits.
Makes 6 servings
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
- 6 tablespoons sweet Marsala (preferably imported)
- 3 tablespoons whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 15 ounces)
- 2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons; about 4 1/2 ounces)
Combine mascarpone, 3 tablespoons Marsala, cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in medium bowl. Stir gently until well blended.
Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons Marsala, and 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl; toss to blend. Cover mascarpone and berry mixtures; refrigerate 30 minutes.
Place 2 tablespoons crumbled cookies in each of 6 champagne goblets. Divide strawberry mixture with juices among the goblets.
Top berries with mascarpone mixture, then remaining cookies. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.