July is a month when everything seems to be in season. Even our young fig tree that we planted in April is producing some figs. Here is a photo of our very first fig. You will have to wait a bit until I can show you what I can make with them,
My CSA share and the farmers’ markets are filled with wonderful produce to choose from and turn into some delicious meals. I like to try new ideas for recipes with some of the vegetables that are not plentiful during the cooler months. So this month is a good time to cook with poblano peppers, fresh tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant and okra. Looking for something different, give one of these recipes a try.
1 1/2 pound eggplant (1 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
Half a medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
11/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped oil cured olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)
Roast face down on a foil lined baking sheet that has been brushed with olive oil, about 20 minutes or until tender.
Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.
Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a medium, heavy saucepan.
Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more.
Add the eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook until thickened and all visible liquid has evaporated.
Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with toasted Italian bread slices.
Summer Squash and Potato Pie
Vegetable cooking spray
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 small sweet onions
4 medium red potatoes
2 medium zucchini
3 (yellow) summer squash
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until barely tender. Drain, cool and peel.
Very thinly slice the onions, zucchini, squash and potatoes.
Preheat oven to 375°F
Coat a 10-inch quiche dish or pie pan with cooking spray.
Alternate, overlapping slightly, slices of onion, potato, zucchini and yellow squash in a single circular layer all around the dish (see photo),
Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.
Drizzle with the melted butter. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 45 minutes more or until golden brown.
Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Pasta with Tomato and Zucchini Sauce
3 oz Prosciutto, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 lb short pasta (such as penne)
2 zucchini, diced
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cook the prosciutto in the 1 tablespoon olive oil until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili flakes and remaining olive oil.
Add this mixture to the skill and cook for 2-3 minutes, just enough time to heat the ingredients.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain well.
Add the pasta to the skillet vegetables along with the grated cheese and the crispy prosciutto, toss again and serve in individual pasta bowls.
Creamy Corn Stuffed Poblano Peppers
8 small poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground chili powder, divided
1 cup fresh corn kernels cut from cobs (about 2)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of a 1/2 lime, plus the juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Put the poblano peppers on a baking sheet and toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Roast until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.
Using a paring knife cut the top off each pepper—be careful not to puncture or rip the peppers.
Remove and discard any seeds and membranes from the opening in the top; set the peppers aside.
Remove the corn kernels from the cobs; add to a bowl along with the scallions.
Stir in the cream cheese, cilantro, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon salt, cheddar cheese, the lime zest and lime juice.
Divide the stuffing mixture into 8 equal portions.
Stuff each pepper with the filling using your fingers to push the stuffing down into the peppers and place them in an oiled baking dish.
Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake the peppers until the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with salsa, if desired.
Oven Roasted Okra
I had never tried okra until this year, when my CSA farm included a bunch in my share. I did some research and found a way to make it tasty from the New York Times cooking section. The secret to good tasting, non-slimy okra is oven roasting. Use small, thin okra for the best taste.
1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves to taste optional
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rinse the okra, drain and dry on a kitchen towel. The okra should be dry.
Trim away the stem ends and the tips and place the okra in a large bowl. Generously salt the okra and toss with the olive oil until coated.
Place the okra on a rimmed baking pan in one layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes.
The okra should be lightly browned and tender. If you don’t want it too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the oven, toss with fresh thyme and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot.
In my part of the world, produce planted in February is coming into season during the month of April. Friday’s market had plenty of radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, leeks and asparagus. Fresh herbs and citrus fruits are still plentiful and they make excellent flavor additives to savory dishes.
There was lots to choose from, so the menu this week will reflect the variety of spring crops available. Here are a few ideas for when these crops are in season in your area.
Pair this salad with the scallop recipe below. It is a great combination.
4 large radishes
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 oz baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
Whisk together the lemon juice, orange zest, salt, honey and cayenne; whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Set aside
Rinse and trim the radishes and slice into thin rounds.
Line a salad bowl with the spinach leaves and mound the radishes in the center and top them with the olives.
Drizzle the salad with the dressing just before serving.
Broccoli and Ricotta Pizza
1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
2 cups broccoli florets
8 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
20 black olives, pitted and halved
2 chopped fresh plum tomatoes
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Oil a large pizza pan.
Press the pizza dough out on the pan to the edges.
Cook the broccoli in salted boiling water for 2 minutes until it is just crisp-tender.
Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain well.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and garlic. Add a pinch of salt.
Place the sliced mozzarella evenly on the dough.
Drop the ricotta mixture in tablespoons on top of the dough and mozzarella.
Sprinkle with the olives and chopped tomatoes. Arrange the broccoli on top of the mixture.
Drizzle the top of the pizza with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake the pizza for 18 to 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces thin sliced prosciutto, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
1 cup half & half or heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz short pasta (I use Barilla’s Casarecce pasta for this dish)
1 bunch very thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 in pieces
1 1⁄2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh basil to taste
Bring 4 quarts salted water to boil in large pot.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water with the pasta for the last two minutes of cooking time.
Cook pasta al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, drain pasta and asparagus and return to pot.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking.
Cook prosciutto until lightly browned and crisp, (5 minutes) Transfer to paper towel lined plate.
Add garlic to the pan and cook 30 seconds.
Stir in cream and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
Add the pasta and asparagus to the lemon cream sauce with 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, the cheese and the basil, toss to combine, add remaining water, if needed.
Sprinkle with black pepper and crunchy prosciutto. Serve immediately.
Sea Scallops in a Citrus Rosemary Sauce
I also like to serve this dish with a mango salsa. See recipe:
Serves 2. This recipe is easy to increase the number of servings.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small finely chopped shallot
6 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
Flour, for dredging
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Juice and zest from half a large orange
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Heat oil in a small skillet. Sauté shallots over medium heat until soft. Push them to one corner of the pan.
Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Season flour with salt and pepper.
Dredge the scallops in the flour.
Increase heat under pan to high; sear the scallops for 1 minute. Turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes.
Add lemon juice, orange juice and orange zest to the skillet (the sauce will sizzle and steam).
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and swirl in butter and rosemary. Serve immediately.
2 slices pasture-raised bacon
2 leeks, rinsed well with white and light green parts sliced very thin
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 cups half & half or whole milk
Fresh dill or chives, chopped fine
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Sour cream for garnish, optional
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel. When cool enough to handle crumble into small pieces.
Heat the reserved bacon fat over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic, celery and carrot.
Cook until tender, about five to six minutes or so.
Add the broth, cubed potatoes and a teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cover the pot.
Cook the potatoes, vegetables and broth together over medium-low heat until the vegetables are softened and fall apart when pressed with the tines of a fork, about thirty minutes.
Puree with an immersion blender or use a processor.
Add the half & half, dill or chives to taste, crumbled bacon and adjust the seasoning. Reheat over low.
Serve with a tablespoon of sour cream, if desired.
The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy. The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.
The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.
Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.
The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.
L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.
The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.
The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.
Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.
Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.
Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.
Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.
The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.
Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.
Prosciutto and Fichi
The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.
Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..
Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)
2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock
Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.
Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.
Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.
Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.
Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.
Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.
Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.
Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.
Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.
Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.
This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.
Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.
Makes about 36 pizzelle
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)
Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).
Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.
Serve with your favorite toppings.
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.
Padua is a province in the Veneto region of Italy. It is home to some of the masterpieces from the Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture period and the towns of Cittadella and Montagnana are famous for their well-preserved Medieval city walls. There are also many ancient and historic villas in the countryside. The hills offer a relaxing naturalistic site often covered with woods, while the eastern slopes offer ancient spa sites, such as Terme Euganee, Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Galzignano Terme and Battaglia Terme. There is a small part of the Venetian Lagoon lying inside the province, the Valle Millecampi (“one-thousand-fields valley”) that includes naturalistic routes for cycling or horse-riding.
The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second oldest in Italy. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students and in 2013 was ranked “best university” among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students.
From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy and law. During this time, the university adopted the Latin motto: Universa universis patavina libertas (Paduan Freedom is Universal for Everyone). Nevertheless, the university had a turbulent history, and there was no teaching in 1237–61, 1509–17 and 1848–50.
The Botanical Garden of Padova, established by the university in 1545, was one of the oldest gardens of its kind in the world (after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). In addition to the garden, the university also manages nine museums, including a History of Physics Museum.
The University began teaching medicine from the day it was founded and played a leading role in the identification and treatment of diseases and ailments, specializing in autopsies and the inner workings of the body. The university houses the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatre in Europe, dating from 1595.
Since 1595, Padua’s famous anatomical theater drew artists and scientists studying the human body during public dissections. Anatomist Andreas Vesalius held the chair of Surgery and Anatomy and in 1543 published his anatomical discoveries in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The book triggered great public interest in dissections and caused many other European cities to establish anatomical theatres.
The university became one of the universities of the Kingdom of Italy in 1873 and, ever since, has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific and scholarly research. In the field of mathematics alone, its professors have included such figures, as Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, Giuseppe Veronese, Francesco Severi and Tullio Levi Civita. On 25 June 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, a Venetian noblewoman and mathematician, became the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Padua’s cuisine has its simple roots in the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard, Farmyard products include: the well-known Paduan hen, Polverara hen, goose, guinea-hen and capon.
All varieties of chicory are cultivated in the countryside of Padua and include the Variegated Castelfranco, Early and Late Red Treviso, Red Chioggia or Red Verona varieties, are always present in the cooking proposals of the restaurants of Padua. Their soft and slightly bitter taste is particularly appetising in risotto dishes.
Padua is a producer of both the white and of the green species of asparagus. Boiled eggs and asparagus or risotto with asparagus are part of the springtime cuisine.
Like the rest of the Veneto region, Padua is a land of well-known vineyards. DOC wines are produced in five areas of the province.Wines events and exhibitions are usually organized for spring and autumn.
Since Pre-Roman times olive trees have been cultivated in the Euganean Hills. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in the area is under the protection of the Association of the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills. The color of the oil is typically golden green, obtained by using cold-pressing techniques and bottling after careful decanting without filtering.
Montagnana is renowned for its ham, a tradition rooted in the rural population, called, prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, by the locals. The sweet taste, the tenderness, the pink color and the unmistakable smell guarantee the identity of this product, so much so, that these properties were granted by the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) seal and are now safeguarded by the Consortium of the Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo, based in Montagnana. On the third Sunday of May, Montagnana organizes Piacere Montagnana, the festival of sweet ham.
In summer Padua produces its excellent cheeses in the northern grazing areas and among them are Grana Padano, Montasio and Asiago.
The cooking traditions of Padua are passed on to the generations that follow with only slight changes to adjust to more modern tastes and likes, while preserving the old recipes.
Tramezzini are very common in Padua. They are stuffed triangular sandwiches made of chewy white bread and usually served with a glass of Prosecco.
- 1 can mushrooms
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Slices of Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 slices bread
Remove the crust from the bread.
Chop the mushrooms.
In a bowl, stir together the mushrooms, cream cheese, parsley, lemon juice and pepper until creamy. Spread a layer of mushrooms on each slice of bread.
Top four pieces of bread with some ham. Turn the other four slices upside down on top of the other one. Press and cut diagonally.
Risotto con gli Asparagi
- 5-6 cups homemade or purchased low sodium broth
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rice: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup Grana Padano grated cheese, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
Pour the broth into a pot and heat. Keep at a simmer.
Trim and discard the tough woody stems of the asparagus (usually about an inch). Slice the spears crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Leave the tips intact.
Place 1 tablespoon of butter and the extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot.
Add the onions and cook over med-high heat for a couple of minutes, until transparent.
Add the sliced asparagus (reserve the tips for later use) and salt.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus are soft and slightly golden in color.
Add the rice and “toast”, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until the rice acquires a light golden color.
Add the white wine and stir for one minute, letting it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of hot broth to the rice and lower the heat to medium. Add the asparagus tips.
Stir every 30 seconds or so. Keep adding broth, ladle by ladle, as soon as the liquid is absorbed, slightly covering the rice each time, until the rice is cooked.
You will need approximately 5 cups of broth, but it depends on the rice variety, so be prepared to add more or less.
Cooking time for the rice will be 14 to 18 minutes, depending on the rice variety used. The final consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 cup cheese and heavy cream.
Rest for one minute and serve with freshly ground black pepper and the reserved cheese.
Paduan Chicken Cacciatore
Authentic Chicken Cacciatore doesn’t use tomatoes. It was a traditional Italian dish that hunters could easily make in the field if they needed to cook a meal.
- 1 Padua chicken
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20 mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, diced
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 sage branch
- 1 thyme sprig
- Dash red wine vinegar
- Chianti red wine
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the chicken up into smaller pieces.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Brown in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pan and brown gently. Add the diced prosciutto and place the chicken back in the pan.
Add the herbs and vinegar and allow it to evaporate.
Add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone.
Serve with either polenta or slices of bread and with steamed or roasted vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley.
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.
Parma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Parma is famous for its Prosciutto di Parma. The whole area is renowned for its sausage production, as well as for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some kinds of pasta like gnocchi di patate, cappelletti (or anolini) in brodo and tortelli with different stuffings (potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms or chestnuts). Prosciutto or Italian ham is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.
There’s a reason why these foods developed in the Emilia region. It’s one of the few areas of Italy that isn’t mountainous, so there are plains and pasture. The farmers of the region were able to raise cows and therefore produce milk and with milk came butter, cream and cheese. Add ham to the dairy ingredients and you have the central core of the region’s cuisine.
Parma is also home to one of Italy’s longest established pasta factories, Barilla. The Barilla Center for the Propagation of Gastronomy has several state-of-the-art kitchens for demonstrations and a large auditorium for lectures, as well as a huge library of books on food and cooking, some as early as the 15th Century.
Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s hind leg or thigh. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example “prosciutto cotto d’agnello” (“lamb prosciutto”).
The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham. First, the ham is cleaned, salted and set aside for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, so as to avoid breaking the bone and to drain it of all liquid. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated area. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham and the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until thoroughly dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.
Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is allowed in Protected Designation of Origin hams.
Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The two famous types of Italian prosciutto are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in flavor.
Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini or melon. It is also eaten as accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or in a dish of tagliatelle with vegetables. It is used in stuffings for meats, as a wrap around veal or chicken, in a filled bread or as a pizza topping. Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish, where thin slices of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and sometimes in a variation of the Caprese salad with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. The name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various versions of this cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna) and Mantua (in Lombardy). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name as a protected designation of origin. According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created during the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to the product produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to an even earlier time.
Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years and cheese is produced daily. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Whole milk from the morning milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk (which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats.
Starter whey is added and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is then added and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces and the temperature is raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. The remaining whey in the vat is traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” is produced.
The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt, imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number and the month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves and the cheese and the shelves are cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel. The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio’s logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).
Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos or eaten sliced as an appetizer. It is often shaved over other dishes like salads. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup.
Prosciutto Parmesan Pasta
- 8 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the prosciutto in the skillet over medium heat until just brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and set the prosciutto aside on paper towels. Drain the skillet of any remaining fat.
Add the cream the skillet and heat on low. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese in small amounts. When all the cheese has been melted, stir in the peas and prosciutto.
Allow to heat for 2 minutes more. Add the drained pasta and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cheese and Prosciutto Panini
- 4 whole slices Italian bread
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter
Cover two slices of the bread with a layer of grated cheese. Generously grind black pepper over the top. Place two slices of Prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.
Cook in a panini maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or:
In a large frying, add enough butter to provide a generous covering, about 2 tablespoons. Heat the butter over medium-low heat until foamy.
Add the cheese sandwiches, pressing them onto the pan; slowly fry, regulating the heat so the butter does not burn.
Once light brown, turn the sandwiches over and press down with a spatula to compress slightly. Brown the other side.
When done, transfer the sandwiches to a paper towel to drain. Cut in half diagonally and serve.
- 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Shaved Parmesan cheese, for topping
Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round.
Transfer the round to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or another upside-down baking sheet; slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pizza from the oven, brush with the olive oil mixture and top with the ricotta and mozzarella.
Return the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven.
Toss the arugula and shallot in a large bowl with the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Top the baked pizza with the arugula salad, prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese. Cut into slices and serve.