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Category Archives: ravioli

Hanover Street – the heart of Boston’s Little Italy.

Some of the many original Italian ports of origin.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. Since the completion of the Big Dig and the demolition of the old elevated Southeast Expressway, the neighborhood has found itself re-connected to the rest of the city. There is arguably no more vibrant area of Boston on a summer evening when the narrow city streets come alive with a blend of culture and cuisine.

The North End, often called Boston’s “Little Italy,” is a one-square-mile waterfront community, bordered by Commercial and Causeway Streets and Atlantic Avenue, located within walking distance of Boston’s financial district and Government Center. A highly desirable residential area for professionals who work nearby, the neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the decidedly Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of delectable edible goods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

The many immigrants who originally settled in these neighborhoods, with their distinctive dialects, their history and their traditions of the regions in Italy from which they came, were carefully preserved and are celebrated during the summer months in the North End even today. Italian-Americans still comprise more than 41% of the resident population. It is one of the most vibrant and thriving neighborhoods of its kind. Old customs and traditions die hard (if ever at all). For despite the fact that 50 individual religious societies once existed in the North End and only 12 remain today, these societies with their religious feasts and processions remain an integral part of North End neighborhood life and culture, drawing large summertime crowds. Saint Anthony’s Feast is celebrated each year in the North End of Boston on the weekend of the last Sunday of August. Begun by Italian immigrants from Montefalcione, Italy, in 1919, it has become the largest Italian religious festival in New England. Italian foods, religious services, parades, festivities, games, live music and entertainment highlight this feast on the elaborately decorated Endicott and Thatcher streets in the heart of Boston’s historic North End. 

Tourism provides an economic boost to the area. However, many neighborhood grocery stores, fruit vendors, butcher shops, bakeries, shoe stores, clothiers and cobblers have simply disappeared to be replaced by restaurants. With a population barely one-quarter of its 44,000 peak in 1930, fewer services are required to sustain the community. Ten of its 12 schools have been subdivided and converted to condominium apartments. Church parishes have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Times have changed in Boston’s North End.

From 1880 to 1920, an estimated 4 million Italian immigrants arrived in the United States, the majority from 1900 to 1914. Once in America, the immigrants faced great challenges. Often with no knowledge of the English language and with little education, many of the immigrants were compelled to accept the poorest paying and most undesirable jobs. Many sought housing in the older sections of the large northeastern cities in which they settled, which became known as “Little Italys”, often in overcrowded substandard tenements.

The destinations of many of the Italian immigrants were not only the large cities of the East Coast, but also more remote regions of the country, such as Florida and California. They were drawn there by opportunities in agriculture, mining, railroad construction and lumbering. Many of the immigrants had contracted to work in these areas of the country as a condition for payment of their passage. Many of the Italian laborers, who went to these areas, were later joined by wives and children, which resulted in the establishment of permanent Italian American settlements in diverse parts of the country.

The Old North End

The first Italians arrived in the North End of Boston in the 1860’s, forced by unbearable conditions in Italy to leave their native land. Their numbers grew in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Although many of the first Italian immigrants worked as vendors of fruits and vegetables, they later found work in commercial fishing, in shipping, in construction, and as shopkeepers. They sought help from family members and acquaintances from the same regions of Italy who had already established themselves in the area. Over time, this resulted in enclaves of residents living together on streets segregated by a region of Italy – Sicily, Milan, Naples, and Genoa – from which they had come; preserving its language and customs as well. Over the next decades, the Italian population of the North End increased and other immigrant groups moved elsewhere. By 1900, Italians had firmly established themselves in the North End and by 1930 the North End was almost one hundred percent Italian.

The North End had also changed in a number of other significant ways. Protestant churches were acquired by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston – reflecting the ascendancy of Irish Catholicism throughout the neighborhood. The Seamen’s Bethel Church became the Sacred Heart Church in 1871. The Bulfinch-designed New North Congregational Society became St. Stephen’s Church. In 1873 St. Leonard’s Church was founded at the corner of Hanover and Prince Streets, becoming the first Italian church in New England and the second oldest in America.

In 1920, the North End had 28 Italian physicians, six Italian dentists, eight Italian owned funeral homes and, on every main street, four or five barber shops . Most North End businesses were of the “Ma and Pa” variety – small grocery stores, butcher shops, bakeries, dressmakers, cobblers and shoe stores.

There were two notable exceptions to the “Ma and Pa” businesses:

Luigi Pastene came to Boston from Italy in 1848 and began selling produce from a pushcart. By the 1870’s, he was joined by his son, Pietro, in establishing Pastene as a company specializing in selling groceries and imported Italian products. By 1901, Pastene expanded its operations to facilities along Fulton Street in the heart of the North End. Today, the Pastene Corporation is a major national brand with distribution and packing facilities established in New York, Montreal, New Haven and Havana, as well as in Italy in Naples and Imperia.

Three Sicilian friends- LaMarca, Seminara and Cantella – started a small macaroni and spaghetti manufacturing business in 1912. They became so successful that within five years, they moved their Prince Pasta Company to 207 Commercial Street. Then, in 1939 the three partners were joined by Giuseppe Pellegrino, another Sicilian immigrant with a talent for marketing. He created the famous slogan “Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day”. Eventually the company was sold to Borden, Inc. in 1987.      

 


These two business success stories aside, most Italian North Enders found life hard, both economically and socially. Like the experience of the Boston Irish before them, Italian-Americans began to accrue political power after the close of WW II and in 1948 Foster Furcolo was elected the first Italian-American Congressman and eight years later he became the first Italian-American Governor of Massachusetts.

Fred Langone, whose grandfather had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1922, was elected in 1961 to the Boston City Council, a position he held for the next 22 years. Frank X. Belotti served as Lieutenant Governor from 1963 to 1965 and John Volpe was elected the second Italian-American Governor of Massachusetts in 1960.

Ravioli

Little cases of dough containing a savory filling — this is the definition given by Webster’s Dictionary. But Marguerite Dimino defines ravioli as “the one Italian food that everyone loves.” The following is a step-by-step recipe for, as many have called it, “the best ravioli in Boston’s North End.” It would seem unlikely that from the number of good cooks in the North End, one could emerge with a singular reputation as perhaps “the best.” But Marguerite DiMino, a vivacious mother of four grown children, has done just that.

Her ravioli is a culinary celebrity in Boston. She has prepared her ravioli for a television audience, as demonstration for an ethnic week at the Museum of Science and during an Italian festival at a leading department store. When the Consulate-General of Israel was served a North End specialty during Jerusalem month, it was Marguerite’s ravioli.

A Boston newspaper featured Marguerite’s ravioli and included her recipe in the article. Soon she was inundated with calls and letters from people homesick for “a ravioli like their grandmother’s.” She went on to write one of the most well known cookbooks from the region, The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane. Here is her recipe:

Dough:

  • 2½ pounds (about 10 cups) unbleached, unsifted flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Boiling water as needed

 Directions:

Make a well in the flour on a pastry board. Add salt. Partially beat eggs before adding to flour. Add eggs gradually, mix with fingers until dough resembles the texture of cornmeal. Sprinkle on the boiling water starting with only 1/4 cup, and work it into dough. Add more boiling water, as needed, until dough is smooth and pliable, but not too soft. Knead dough for about five minutes. Pat with some water, cover, and let sit for about half an hour. Prepare filling and meat sauce while waiting for the dough. 

Filling:

  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • 8 finely chopped parsley sprigs

Blend all ingredients together.

Meat Sauce:

  • Oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Dash: sweet basil, red pepper flakes, oregano, and bay leaf
  • (Remove bay leaf before serving)
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (beef may be substituted)
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 can (1 Ib. 12 oz.) Italian peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can water (using tomato can)

Directions:

Put enough oil in a saucepan to coat the bottom. Saute garlic, onion, and seasonings over medium heat until onion is lightly golden. Add all the meat. Cook until slightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir a few minutes. Add tomatoes and stir. Pour in water. Reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer for up to one hour, stirring frequently.

To Assemble:

Divide dough into fourths and roll out only one-fourth at a time, keeping the rest covered. Roll dough as thin as possible. Place heaping teaspoons of filling 1½ inches from edge of dough. Continue to place filling in straight rows on the dough, being careful to leave 1½ inches between each spoonful. Fold over the edge of the dough to completely cover the first row of filling. With your fingers, gently press down on dough around the mounds of filling. Using a 2½-inch ravioli cutter, cut around the mounds. A pastry cutter or small glass may be used instead — but be sure to seal the edges with a fork. Continue in this manner until all the dough is used. (The dough that you don’t want to use may be frozen in a plastic bag and used at a later date to make more ravioli or even pasta. It may also be kept in the refrigerator up to 5 days.)

To Freeze:

This recipe may very well make much more than you will want to serve at one time. The ravioli can be frozen before it is cooked. Sprinkle flour or cornmeal on cookie sheets and place ravioli in a single layer on the sheets and freeze. This takes about 20 minutes. After the ravioli is frozen it may be placed in plastic bags. This way the pieces won’t stick to one another.

To Cook:

Bring 6 to 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Gradually add the ravioli and cook until tender (15 to 20 minutes) . It is best not to overcrowd the pot, because you will need to continually press ravioli to bottom of pot so that they will cook evenly.

To Serve:

Carefully remove ravioli and let them drain well. Place them in a serving dish and cover with meat sauce and a layer of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Continue in this manner until you have used all the cooked ravioli. Serve with a tossed salad, garlic bread, and wine. Enjoy your meal and all the compliments you will receive!

The North End Italian Marinara Sauce

This recipe for Marinara Sauce is adapted from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, one of the North End’s most celebrated cooks.

This sauce is perfect for adding sliced black olives, clams, mushrooms or crab. Use your imagination. This is a spicy sauce due to the red pepper flakes. Good over cooked thin spaghetti or linguini.

 I like to serve this sauce over Chicken Parmigiana.

Ingredients     

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2- 26.4 ounces Pomi chopped tomatoes salt and pepper, plus
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, more of the above seasonings
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

In a large heavy skillet, on low heat, very slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and mint.

Cook for 5 minutes or until garlic is light golden brown.

Raise the heat to medium high and carefully add the tomatoes.

Let the sauce come to a soft boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a pinch more of red pepper, basil and mint.

Add the chopped parsley.

Let sauce simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Frankie’s Gravy and Meatballs

This recipe was one of four chosen from more than 1500 submissions to the Food Network’s Italian recipe contest. It earned Frankie Imbergamo an appearance on the “Emeril Live” TV show. Growing up on Hanover Street in Boston’s “Little Italy” where he attended both the Eliot and Michelangelo schools, Frankie still identifies closely with the neighborhood. It’s his point of reference. “It’s where it all began for me,” he says. “I have so many special memories of people – family and friends – and of times – both good and bad. A common thread, it seems, through all these memories has been love, comfort and a feeling of belonging – a feeling of home.”

Partly as a result of his newly-found mini-celebrity status, family members and friends urged Frankie to assemble some of his favorite home-style recipes into a cookbook. “Through the years, I’ve enjoyed creating my own meals, in my own style and always with the finest ingredients,” he explained.

So, with assistance from his wife, Maureen, the husband-and-wife team produced, The Good Life! Favorite Italian Recipes by Frank J. Imbergamo. The volume contains 40 recipes, including “Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers and Potatoes,” “Haddock Pizzaiola” and “Baked Lobster Pie.” It also includes a useful reference list pairing recipes with suggested wines. Here is the recipe that won him first place.

Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Gravy (sauce):

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (Flotta or Pastene)
  • 1 (6 oz.) can water (use empty tomato paste can)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans Pastene Kitchen Ready tomatoes
  • 3/4 can water (21 oz. use empty Kitchen Ready can)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

In a bowl, mix all ingredients for meatballs with hands for about 5 minutes, until well mixed. Form about 16 meatballs and place on a platter. In a frying pan add olive oil and, when hot, add meatballs and cook on medium heat until browned. Repeat until all meatballs are browned. Place meatballs on a new platter. Do not discard the oil.

Saute chopped onion and chopped garlic in the oil for approximately 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring all the while. Add can of water (tomato paste can) and cook and stir for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.

In an 8-quart pan, add tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 3/4 can of water (Kitchen Ready can), tomato paste mixture from fry pan and browned meatballs. Mix thoroughly, stirring carefully with wooden spoon as not to break meatballs. Add salt, ground pepper and parsley and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, then cover and cook on low heat for 2-1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking and burning on bottom of pan, until done.

Serve over al dente pasta and sprinkle with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, along with crusty Italian bread and a good bottle of red wine.

Crespelle Al Forno

 Recipe from one of Boston’s North End restaurants, Tresca:

Crepe:

  • 2 egg yolks, 4 whole eggs
  • 6 oz. all purpose flour
  • 6 oz. water
  • 6 oz. milk
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch of chives

Directions:

Mix all ingredients, let sit 5 minutes. Mix again and strain. Heat a nonstick pan with oil over medium heat, add 1 oz. of mix turning pan to coat evenly. When sides pull away from the pan, flip over and cook 10 seconds. Remove to a plate.

Filling: Mushroom mix

  • 1 cup each of mixed mushrooms, shiitake, oyster and baby bellas, sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/4 cup marjoram, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil

Directions:

Saute mushrooms with shallots, add marjoram, salt and pepper. Reserve some mushrooms for garnish.

Pulse remaining mushrooms in food processor until coarsely chopped.

Mix ricotta with mushrooms and truffle oil, then chill.

Scoop mushroom mix into crepe and roll.

Heat skillet used to cook mushrooms with some olive oil. Brown crepes on both sides and place pan in a preheated moderate oven. Heat crepes until hot in the center. Serve with sauteed mushrooms and a drizzle with truffle oil.

Baked Cod with Lemon & Olive Oil

From the North End Fish Market

Two girls gone fishing !  According to Liz Ventura and Keri Cassidy: They traded successful careers in software and human resources for the opportunity to own their own business. “Why food? Because they love to eat. Why fish? Easy, there wasn’t a fish market in the north end at the time. In the small predominantly Italian neighborhood where food is taken very seriously it was the only missing piece. When they found out that the tiny produce store that they loved to frequent was closing, a light bulb went on, and the North End Fish Market was open for business a year later.”

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cod fillets (6 ounces each)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange the fillets in a 13 x 9 baking dish. Drizzle with the lemon juice and oil, and sprinkle with the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the paprika and lightly rub it in. Top with roasted red peppers. Bake until the flesh is completely opaque but still juicy, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with the pan juices spooned over the top. Garnish with basil.

Sfogliatella

Recipe courtesy John Picariello and Sara McGee, Modern Pastry Bakery

“The Modern Pastry Shop is an award winning, family owned Italian bakery that was created over 70 years ago, on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End. The world may have changed since the 1930’s, but their original recipes and time honored traditions for creating their confections have not. The recipes and the baking procedures are the same since their family brought them over from Italy, so many years ago.”

Recipe for Italian Custard Cream: http://www.academiabarilla.com/italian-recipes/how-to/confectioner-cream.aspx

Serves: 16 to 20 pieces

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 3/4 pounds bread flour
  • Vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 1 pound semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil
  • 15 eggs
  • 1 1/4 pounds ricotta
  • 3/4 pound custard cream
  • 1/2 pound sugar

Directions

For the dough: Mix the bread flour and 1 cup water in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attachment until firm. Take the dough out of the bowl, completely wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.

Press the dough as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Apply oil to the surfaces and roll the dough into a salami-shaped roll about 3 inches thick. When done, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight.

For the filling: Put 4 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the semolina and mix until thoroughly firm and cooked. When the semolina is cool, put it in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and add the cinnamon oil. Mix at speed 2 and add the eggs one at a time. Add the ricotta and custard cream and mix thoroughly. Add the sugar, little by little while mixing thoroughly. If mixture is still extremely firm, add a couple more eggs.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the “salami roll” into 1/4-inch discs. Each disc should be smoothed out between your palms. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the middle of the disc with filling and fold over into the shape of a clam shell. Put on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crispy, about 1 hour.

 


Varieties of nuts: peanuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachio and pecans. Food and cuisine. Stock Photo - 8333516

Nuts and seeds — raw, toasted, or ground — add flavor, nutrition and texture to just about anything we put them in. Even better, consistent evidence shows that all manner of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and cashews, promote healthy arteries and cholesterol levels when we consume them in moderation. Eating a small handful of nuts about five times a week is recommended.

Botanically speaking, a nut is a dry fruit with a seed that’s encased in a hard, woody shell. While all nuts are seeds (the fruit is the seed — think pecans), not all seeds are nuts (the seed can be separated from the fruit and is not one in the same —think pumpkin seeds).

Here are a number of  healthy nuts that should have a place in your pantry:

ALMONDS: calcium-rich — sold whole, shelled, raw, blanched, sliced, slivered or dry-roasted are available year round. Almond flour is a great gluten free choice in baking.

BRAZIL NUTS: come from magnificent, large trees that grow wild in the Amazon rain forest. Similar to coconut in texture, Brazil nuts are eaten raw or roasted.

CASHEWS: The cashew tree is related to poison ivy and poison sumac, but don’t be afraid ! This rich, curved nut — which is actually lower in total fat than most nuts — is always a crowd favorite.

CHESTNUTS: The lowest in fat of all nuts, chestnuts are appreciated for their flavorful contribution to soups, stuffing and stews, as well as the holiday tradition of eating them roasted. Chestnuts are available fresh only in the autumn, but dried, canned and pureed versions are available year round.

FLAX SEEDS: are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and are high in fiber. While they’re identical nutritionally, brown flax seeds have deep, nutty flavor while golden flax seeds are mild. Add to breads, cookies and smoothies or sprinkle on cereal and salads.

HAZELNUTS (also known as. Filberts): Bakers and confectioners are partial to these nutrient dense nuts — which can be made into butter, flour, oil and paste — because their rich flavor and texture lend themselves well to desserts and snack foods.

HEMP SEEDS: are a healthful food with omega 3 fatty acids, similar to flax seeds. They’re also similar in flavor to sunflower seeds and can be used in or on baked goods, salads, yogurt and cereal.

MACADAMIA NUTS: are rich and creamy nuts with the highest fat levels of all nuts and are among the most expensive ones available.

PEANUTS: which are actually legumes, not nuts at all — originated in South America but have become an important crop throughout the tropics and in the southern half of the U.S. They have a good deal of both protein and fiber. They grow on low vines, forcing the shells into the ground.

PECANS: are native to the southern Mississippi River Valley with a buttery and slightly bittersweet taste. They’re excellent in pies, quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream.

PINE NUTS ( also called Pignoli nuts): — are exactly what you think; they’re the edible seeds of pine trees. These delicious little nuts are the essential ingredient in fresh pesto or a great addition to salads.

PISTACHIOS: have beige shells with nuts that range from dull yellow to deep green. Primarily sold as a snack food, they’re easily adaptable to recipes where pecans or other nuts are used.

PUMPKIN SEEDS (also known as Pepitas): Roasted pumpkin seeds are commonly eaten in casseroles, salads, soups and breads. Their rich, peanut-like flavor makes them a terrific snack food.

SESAME SEEDS: are frequently sprinkled on breads and cakes as a form of decoration, but they’re delicious and good-looking on just about anything. Look for black or white sesame seeds in the grocery aisles.

SUNFLOWER SEEDS: Sunflowers belongs to the daisy family and are native to North America. Their shelled seeds are delicious eaten raw or toasted or added to cakes and breads or sprinkled on salads or cereals.

WALNUTS: have come into greater favor recently because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy compound. In addition to their health benefits, walnuts add texture and flavor to pastas, salads, stir fries and desserts.

Tips for Toasting:

While nuts and seeds are certainly delicious eaten raw, toasting them brings out a richer flavor. To enhance their flavor or crisp them up, toast nuts on the stove top or in the oven.

On the stove: Place a single layer of nuts in a heavy, ungreased skillet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat, shaking the pan and stirring until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant, then remove them from the pan immediately and let cool.

In the oven: Arrange the nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

Nut roast recipe

How To Add More Nuts To Your Recipes:

LEAFY GREENS: Chop the toasted nuts and sprinkle over braised hearty leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard. Finish off with a splash of balsamic vinegar, orange juice, or lemon juice.

SALAD: Try a classic salad combination: bitter leafy greens (arugula), dried fruits ( cherries), fresh seasonal fruits ( pomegranate), fresh herbs, and chopped nuts. Drizzle with a tangy vinaigrette.

FISH OR MEAT COATING: Mince the toasted nuts finely and whisk together with butter, mustard, and seasonings to make a breading, then bake or pan-sear. Try with wild salmon, barramundi, or shrimp for seafood, or lamb, duck, or pork.

FRUIT CRISP OR COBBLER: Substitute any chopped nuts for the usual almonds or walnuts in your crisp or cobbler topping. Also toss some add-ins into the topping mixture, like grated ginger, chopped chocolate chips, or ground cinnamon.

ROASTED VEGETABLES: Combine seasonal vegetables ( Brussels, sweet potatoes, red onions, rutabagas, turnips, and/or pumpkin) with olive oil and seasonings, then bake until golden and soft. Toss cooked veggies with toasted nuts and finish with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and/or balsamic vinegar to taste.

PIES OR TARTS: Use any combination of toasted nuts as a substitution for pecans in any traditional pecan pie recipe—experiment with different nuts and spices. Use ground nuts as a base for pie crust instead of flour.

HOLIDAY STUFFING: Add a few handfuls of chopped toasted nuts to your seasonal stuffing, especially any stuffing that includes dried/fresh fruits and herbs.

COOKIE BATTER: It’s easy enough to add nuts to any cookie batter before you bake them. Simply fold anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts into your cookie batter just before baking.

PASTA: Cook pasta noodles al dente and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to taste. Finish with chopped toasted nuts, cheese of choice, and minced herbs like parsley or rosemary.

POPCORN: Add seasoned nuts of choice to freshly popped popcorn for a wholesome snack.

Cooking With Nuts And Seeds:

There are many regional variations of cooking throughout Italy, but in general, grain foods such as pasta, bread, rice, and polenta are mixed in a variety of interesting ways with vegetables, beans, fish, poultry, nuts, cheeses and meat. Nuts such as pine nuts, walnuts and almonds are used in cooking or eaten as snacks. One of Italy’s most famous sauces, pesto—which originates from the seaport of Genoa —is a mixture of pine nuts, garlic, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

A deliciously different pesto made with walnuts and richly-flavored sun-dried tomatoes, is featured in this post. You can use this pesto as a dip or spread, you can stir it into soups to add richness and flavor and, of course, you can serve it with pasta.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Walnut Pesto

Makes 1 cup                                                                                                                                                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor.

While you process, slowly pour the olive oil into the mix until all the ingredients turn into a smooth paste (you may have to scrape the sides occasionally).

Variations: Pine nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamias, almonds or cashews can be substituted for the walnuts.

Salmon and Asparagus                                                                                             

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz Farfalle pasta ( bow tie) or Rigatoni whole wheat or regular (Wheat makes it healthier)
  • 2 uncooked salmon fillets (6 oz each) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 fresh Asparagus spears – trim ends and cut in half 
  • 1 red pepper – julienned
  • 1 cup of the sun dried tomato walnut pesto, recipe above

Directions

First prepare the pesto and set aside.

Boil the pasta and add the asparagus and red pepper to the pot for the final 8 minutes of cooking. Add the salmon to the pot for the final 3 minutes. Drain the cooked pasta, salmon and vegetables in a mesh colander.

Put the pesto in the bottom of the pot and top with hot pasta, salmon and vegetables. Toss or stir together gently to combine well and heat through.

If you prefer, you can use shrimp in place of salmon.

Risotto with Squash, Spinach, Beans and Walnuts

2 servings                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion—finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic—finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed pumpkin or winter squash (cut into half inch cubes)
  • 2 packed cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup canned cannellini beans—rinsed well and drained
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and rice, stirring to coat the grains in oil and cook for 1 minute.

Add the wine, stock, salt, black pepper, pumpkin or squash and spinach, stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes without lifting the lid.

Stir in the white beans, walnuts, Parmesan, basil and remaining tablespoon of oil to combine.

Variations: Use toasted pine nuts instead of the walnuts. Use chickpeas or fresh fava beans instead of the cannellini beans.

Farro Salad                                                                                                        

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, or you can use pecans (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups Thyme-Scented Farro, recipe below

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

In a bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Add the Thyme-Scented Farro, pine nuts, apple, pomegranate seeds and parsley; toss before serving.

MAKE AHEAD:  The salad without the pine nuts can be refrigerated overnight. Bring the salad to room temperature before serving and add the pine nuts.

Thyme-Scented Farro

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups farro (10 ounces)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the farro and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the water and kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender. Fluff the grains and discard the thyme sprigs. 

MAKE AHEAD:  The cooked grains can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

Makes 3 – 4 dozen cookies                                                                                                                                                  

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup scant sesame seeds

Directions

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Grease 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray.

Place milk in a small bowl. Place sesame seeds in a small bowl.

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in an electric mixer bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, blend well.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add gradually to the creamed mixture, blending well.

Break off a small piece of dough and mold into a smooth ball in your hand.

Dip the top of the ball in milk and dip in sesame seeds.

Place on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.


Look for these winter vegetables at farmers’ markets (if you’re lucky enough to have year-round markets near you) and in produce departments for the best flavor and greatest value in season. Specific crops and harvest dates will depend on your region’s climate and most of these are only available locally in temperate regions.

Beets are in season in temperate climates fall through spring, and available from storage most of the year everywhere else. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached

Belgian Endive are mostly “forced” to grow in artificial conditions, and are available year-round. Their traditional season (when grown in fields and covered with sand to keep out the light), is late fall and winter.

Broccoli, like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates, so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best (that is, more sweet, less bitter and sharp) when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli Rabe, rapini is a more bitter, leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels Sprouts grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer.

Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather it grows in, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”)

Carrots are available from winter storage from local growers in many areas, and fresh in warmer and temperate regions.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Celeriac/celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring (except in cold climates, where you’ll find it during the summer and early fall).

Celery is at its best in the fall, with its harvest continuing through winter in warm and temperate climates.

Chicories are cool weather crops that come into season in late fall (and last in temperate climates through early spring).

Curly Endive (Frisée) is a chicory at its best in fall and winter.

Escarole is another bitter chicory in season fall and winter.

Fennel‘s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Herbs from hothouses in cooler climates.

Horseradish is at its best in fall and winter. Like so many other root vegetables, however, it stores well and is often available well into spring.

Jerusalem Artichokes/sunchokes are brown nubs, that look a bit like small pieces of fresh ginger. Look for firm tubers with smooth, tan skins in fall and winter.

Kale is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.

Kohlrabi comes into season by the end of fall, but stays sweet into winter.

Leeks more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

Onions,  year round.

Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Potatoes,  year round.

Radicchio, like all chicories, radicchio is more sweet and less bitter when the weather is cool.

Radishes large varieties are available in winter.

Rutabagas also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetable perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed.

Sweet Potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They store very well and are available year-round.

Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter Squash comes into season in early fall and usually lasts well into winter.

Recipes for Winter Vegetables

 

Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter

If you don’t have time to make fresh pasta, use purchased wonton wrappers.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red or golden beets (about 14 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Fresh Egg Pasta, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap beets individually in foil; place on baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Open foil carefully (steam will escape). Cool. Peel beets; finely grate into a medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in breadcrumbs.

Roll Fresh Egg Pasta dough into long sheets according to recipe. Place 1 dough sheet on work surface. Using 3-inch round biscuit cutter, cut sheet into 7 rounds. Transfer rounds to lightly floured baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough for total of 56 rounds.

Sprinkle 2 smooth kitchen towels with flour. Place 8 pasta rounds on work surface, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic. Place small bowl of water next to work surface. Spoon 1 teaspoon beet filling onto half of each round. Dip fingertip into water and dampen edge of 1 round. Fold dough over filling, pushing out as much air as possible and pressing edges firmly to seal. Transfer to prepared towels. Repeat with remaining rounds.

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen solid, about 6 hours. Transfer ravioli to resealable plastic bags.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat and stir in poppy seeds; keep warm. Working in batches, cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to skillet with melted butter; toss to coat. Divide ravioli among 8 plates; sprinkle with Parmesan.

TIP

The flavor, color, and texture of roasted fresh beets is incomparable, so don’t use canned beets. When choosing beets, select bunches with bright, glossy leaves attached.

Fresh Egg Pasta

You can also cut ravioli from the store bought sheets of fresh pasta dough.

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/4 POUND

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 4 large eggs 

Directions:

MAKING THE DOUGH

Place flour in processor. Add eggs. Using on/off turns, blend until clumps of moist dough form (do not process into a ball). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; shape into ball. Knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

ROLLING DOUGH INTO SHEETS

Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover with plastic wrap. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine. Fold in half crosswise (end to end) and run through again. Continue, adjusting machine to narrower settings after every 2 passes and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until pasta sheet is 22 inches long (scant 1/16 inch thick). Place sheet on lightly floured work surface; cover with plastic. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

8 Servings

Ingredients:

PASTRY

1 refrigerated 9 inch pastry crust, such as Pillsbury

FILLING

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat free half & half

Directions:

PASTRY

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ round. Transfer to a 9 inch pie dish; press onto bottom and up sides of dish. Fold overhang under; crimp edges. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Line dough with foil or parchment paper; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Return to oven and bake until crust is light golden brown, 15-20 minutes longer. Let crust cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

FILLING

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450°F.  Using a small paring knife, cut around stems of bell peppers. Lift out stems with seeds and discard. Transfer whole peppers to a small baking dish; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast on upper rack, turning peppers occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer peppers to a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Peel peppers, then cut into strips. Set aside.

At the same time, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast on lower rack for 10 minutes. Add sweet potato to eggplant and mix gently. Continue roasting until eggplant and sweet potato are tender, 20–25 minutes longer. Set vegetables aside.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Arrange tomatoes, skin side down, on prepared sheet. Roast on lower rack until tomatoes are beginning to brown and are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and fennel; cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 5–6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Scatter onion-fennel mixture over bottom of crust. Top with eggplant-sweet potato mixture and roasted peppers. Scatter 1 teaspoon thyme over. Top with cheese and tomatoes.

Whisk eggs and half & half in a small bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture over vegetables. Scatter remaining 1 teaspoon thyme on top.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake tart until filling is set, 50–60 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Bread Crumbs    

The secret behind this Sicilian-inspired dish: crunchy homemade breadcrumbs.                                                         

To make your own, let cubes of Italian bread dry out, then process them into coarse crumbs in a food processor.

8–10 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into 2” florets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, soaked, rinsed, patted dry
  • 3/4 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl; season mixture with salt and pepper. Divide cauliflower mixture between 2 large rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is golden and crispy, about 45 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Cauliflower can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Reheat before using.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 5–6 minutes. Add capers and cook until they start to pop, about 3 minutes longer. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden, 2–3 minutes; transfer breadcrumb mixture to a plate and set aside.

Add chicken broth and anchovy paste to same saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add golden raisins and white wine vinegar and cook until half the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Do ahead: Breadcrumb and raisin mixtures can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm raisin mixture before continuing.

Transfer warm cauliflower to a serving bowl. Scatter raisin mixture over, then toss to distribute evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cauliflower with breadcrumb mixture and parsley.

Wilted Escarole with Prosciutto and Chilies           

   8-10 Servings                                    

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into matchstick-size pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 heads of escarole (about 2 pounds), leaves torn into medium pieces (16 packed cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Working over a small bowl, finely grate enough zest from lemon to measure 2 teaspoons. Cut lemon in half; squeeze juice into another small bowl. Set zest and juice aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until garlic is beginning to turn golden at edges, about 2 minutes. Add prosciutto and cook, spreading with tongs to keep pieces from sticking together, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes; stir for 30 seconds, then add escarole. Cook, tossing escarole, until wilted but not overcooked, 3–5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, transfer escarole to a serving dish. Add butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice to pan. Cook, whisking, until a sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle sauce over escarole.



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