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).
Every once in a while, I survey what is hiding in my freezer and decide to make something with the frozen goodies. Winter is a very good time to do that for me. Since our growing season is just about here in the south, I have to make room for my CSA produce. A biggie is the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and gravy which shouldn’t be stored for too many n\months. So this week turkey pot pie was on the menu, Since I still have the turkey bones, soup is on the menu next week. This week the frozen ham bone gave is split pea soup for lunch. A box of frozen artichoke hearts were just right for pizza and the extra applesauce made a delicious bread.
Recipe for Baked Applesauce:
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, oil, eggs and milk; beat well. Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt; stir until smooth.
Fold in the pecans. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
Turkey Pot Pie
Following Thanksgiving, I had quite a bit of turkey and turkey gravy leftover. I placed some in the freezer for the future. The future is here and I decided this was a good time to make a turkey pot pie.
2 refrigerated 9 inch pie crusts, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups leftover turkey gravy, defrosted if frozen
2 cups diced turkey, defrosted if frozen
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 small baking potato, peeled and diced
Salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 425°F. Unroll pie crust and place one pastry in a 9 inch pie pan.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.
Spoon the mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.
Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. During last 15 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Artichoke & Fontina Pizza
9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion sliced into thin rounds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 sprig basil leaves sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
One pound of your favorite pizza at room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese. drained
8 oz Italian Fontina cheese, sliced thin
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a medium skillet and saute the garlic and onion until tender. Add the artichoke hearts, lemon juice, salt and pepper and simmer until the artichokes soften.
Cool the mixture to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan. Stretch the pizza dough to fit the pan.
Combine the ricotta with basil, salt and pepper
Cover the dough with the sliced fontina cheese. Top with ricotta and then the artichoke mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Split Pea Soup
Recipe for Glazed Ham:
2 1/4 cups dried split peas
2 quarts cold water or broth
1 1/2 pounds ham bone
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
/4 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
2 bay leaves
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.
For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.
Following the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.
After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.
Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.
Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.
Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.
Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.
Cagliari Style Lobster Salad
Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.
- 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
- 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
- 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional
Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.
Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.
Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines
- 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
- 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste
Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.
Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.
Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.
While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.
Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.
Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola
Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup fregola
- 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
- Slices of Italian bread, toasted
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.
Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.
Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.
Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.
Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.
- 1 lb dough
- Chopped fresh tomato
- Sliced mozzarella cheese
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Sliced Sardinian sausage
- Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
- Italian green and black olives and a few capers
- Oregano and fresh basil
Spread the dough in a pan.
Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.
Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.
Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.
Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.
Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.
The fall is the best time to buy greens from a grocery market or farmers’ market. Some leafy greens cook very quickly. Spinach is the best example. But others, like kale, are more hearty and need a longer time to cook. Dark green, leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Is is good idea to include them in your recipes, often. Here are some of my favorite ways to cook them.
Lacinato kale (called cavolo nero, literally “black cabbage”, in Italian and often in English) is a variety of kale with a long tradition in Italian cuisine, especially that of Tuscany. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm. Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita. It is also readily available in my market.
Tuscan Kale, Roasted Chicken and Lemon Sauce
- 2 large bone-in chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bunches Tuscan kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into 1″ strips
- Simple Lemon sauce, recipe below
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a medium baking dish, drizzle with the 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning. Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Place the kale in a large pot, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, minced garlic and simmer over very low heat until the kale is wilted completely.
Continue to cook until the kale and onions are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the kale on a serving platter, top with the roasted chicken and serve the lemon sauce on the side.
Simple Savory Lemon Cream Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons. flour
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ up. white wine
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or other herbs
Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet, add the flour and whisk for about a minute. Add the milk and wine. Remove the pan from the heat and add the seasonings, lemon zest and lemon juice.
Return the pan to the heat and whisk until thick and creamy, about another minute or two. Pour over vegetables, chicken or fish.
Rapini (Broccoli rabe)
Pasta With Greens and Ricotta Cheese
Paccheri a type of pasta in the shape of a very large tube that originated from Campania and Calabria, Italy. They are generally smooth, but there is also a ribbed version, paccheri millerighe.
They can be served stuffed or with just a sauce.
- 2 bunches greens, such as chard, kale or broccoli raab (rapini), washed well and cut into 2 inch lengths.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or a mixture of Parmesan and Romano Pecorino
- 1 pound paccheri, pappardelle or orecchiette pasta
Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over very low heat.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt it generously and add the greens. After the water returns to a boil, boil for about 3 minutes until the greens are tender.
Using a deep-fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the rapini to the skillet. Toss in the hot pan for about a minute, just until the greens are lightly coated with oil and fragrant with garlic.
Season with salt and pepper.
Do not drain the hot water in the pot, as you’ll use it to cook the pasta.
Place the ricotta in a large pasta bowl.
Bring the water for the pasta back to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook al dente. Ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the pasta into the ricotta and stir together.
Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the ricotta. Add the grated Parmesan and toss with the ricotta and greens. Serve at once.
Spinach and Cheese Pizza
- 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
- 1 bunch spinach, stemmed and washed well
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the pizza pan
- Half of a medium onion sliced
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onion is tender. Add the spinach and cook just until it wilts.
Season with salt and pepper. Set the skillet aside.
Press the pizza dough to the edges of the pan.
Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella and spread the ricotta over the mozzarella. Distribute the spinach mixture evenly over the ricotta and sprinkle with feta.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
Apple Pecan Pancakes
Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted or vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Vegetable oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter or oil and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and then add in the cider. Stir until just incorporated and a few lumps remain.
Stir in the apples and pecans. Let the mixture rest while the griddle heats.Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil.
Pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn carefully and cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.
Brush the pan with oil as needed.
Note: If you want to keep the first batches of pancakes warm while you cook the others, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter while working with subsequent batches.
Pasta with Oven Roasted Cauliflower Sauce
- Kosher salt
- One head of cauliflower, cored and cut into tiny florets
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 10 large fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 oz thin slices prosciutto di parma (about 8-9 slices) chopped
- 1 lb dried cavatappi pasta
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
Pour the olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and mix well.Add the cauliflower florets, grape tomato halves and the chopped prosciutto.
Mix well with a large spatula and spread out in a single layer. Roast, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Add the chopped sage and continue to roast for 10 minutes more.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Boil the pasta until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture and enough pasta water to moisten. Heat the mixture and then add the cheese.
Pour onto a pasta serving platter and garnish with additional sage leaves for serving.
Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon with Braised Cabbage
Add some baked sweet potatoes to the complete this dinner.
- 1/3 cup apple jelly
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine apple jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk.
Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add salmon skin side up, and cook 3 minutes.
Turn salmon over; brush with half of the apple mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Brush with remaining apple mixture and serve.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ head green cabbage, cut into ½ inch thick slices
- 2 leeks
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Garnish with grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
In a skillet, over medium, heat the butter and when melted, add the leeks and cabbage.
Stir and let the leeks and cabbage wilt and soften. Add the salt and lemon juice; then stir in the cream. Reduce heat to low and let the cabbage braise for about five minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish. Grate some cheese over the cabbage before serving.
Homemade Pizza with Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese
- 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 8 large vine ripe tomato slices, 1/4-inch thick, each cut in half
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup torn fresh basil
Place the tomato slices on paper towels for about 30 minutes to reduce their moisture.
Adjust the oven rack to the bottom position; preheat to 450°F.
Coat a pizza pan with olive oil and press the dough with your fingers to the edges of the pan
Brush the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place the tomato slices evenly on top of the ricotta and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.
Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with oil and return the pizza to the oven for 5 minutes more. Let set 5 minutes before slicing.
Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds
French beans are smaller and younger than common green beans and have a softer pod.
Serves 6 to 8
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2/3 cup blanched almond slivers, toasted
- 1 lemon, quartered
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat the oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add shallots to the green beans in the serving bowl, along with the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the toasted almonds and toss gently.
Garnish with lemon quarters and serve.
Tomatoes were yellow and orange-colored at the beginning of the tomato’s cultivation, with the color red becoming more prevalent through many years of breeding. Today, there are hundreds of different types of tomatoes in colored varieties that include red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and black. Some tomatoes, like Heirloom and cherry, come in many varieties, as well.
Most people consider the red tomato varieties the most popular, especially the Beefsteak and Roma varieties. Pink tomatoes have similar flavors to the red ones, that include the Pink Girl and Brandywine varieties. Orange tomato varieties include Persimmon and Mountain Gold and they are usually sweeter than red tomatoes, due to a higher sugar content. Yellow varieties, such as Golden Boy and Garden Peach, are similar to the orange type, but are usually less tangy than red tomatoes. There are green tomato varieties (not just unripened tomatoes) that ripen green and usually have a lower acidic taste than red tomatoes.
- 4-5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed
Place the following herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of parsley
Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.
Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.
Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomatoes and sea salt.
Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.
Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.
Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.
Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.
Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.
This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.
- 1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
- 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
- 2 cups fresh tomato sauce, see recipe above
- 1 ½ cups leftover sautéed peppers and onions, see recipe here
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 slices of prosciutto, cut into strips
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Move an oven rack to lowest position in the oven.
Press the dough out on a greased pizza pan. Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella.
Spread the sauce over the cheese. Place the peppers and onions evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with the hot pepper.
Place the pizza in the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the prosciutto slices evenly on top.
Return the pizza to the oven for about a minute or two to warm the prosciutto. Set the pizza on the counter on top of a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.
Tomato Jam is great on burgers in place of ketchup or served alongside grilled meat or fish. It also pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and cured meats. I like to serve it as an appetizer, as part of a cheese board selection.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
- 3 pounds Roma tomatoes), cored and quartered
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
- 2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, sugar, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 2-second pulses.
In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.
Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, until it is glossy and has a jam like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).
Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.
The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.
Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.
The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).
Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.
Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.
Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.
Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.
Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.
Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.
The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.
Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)
“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.
4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Combine the minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.
Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.
Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.
Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.
About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.
Make the filling.
Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.
It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.
Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.
Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.
Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork, drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.
Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below
In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.
Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.
Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.
When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.
Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.
1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).
NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.
Makes approximately 1 cup.