Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Risotto

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Padua University

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.

Padua Basilica

Padua Basilica

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.

Botanical Garden of Padova

Botanical Garden of Padova

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.

Padua's anatomical theater

Padua’s anatomical theater

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.

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Paduan Hens

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.

paduachicory

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.

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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.

paduasandwiches

Tramezzini

Tramezzini are very common in Padua. They are stuffed triangular sandwiches made of chewy white bread and usually served with a glass of Prosecco.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

paduarisotto

Risotto con gli Asparagi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

paduachicken

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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paviacover2

pavia hats

Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.

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The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.

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By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.

paviaromebuilding

paviasabmiller

Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.

paviaber

Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.

paviabrewery

paviatruck

Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.

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When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.

• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.

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Serves 1

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.

Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.

Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.

Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.

Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.

Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.

The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.

Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.

Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.

paviarice

Asparagus Risotto

From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).

Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.

In the saucepan with the  reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.

Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.

Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

paviapork

Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)

Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.

Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper

Directions

Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.

Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.

When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.

After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.

The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.

paviacake

Paradise Cake

Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.

Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.

Ingredients

1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
4 eggs
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste

Directions

Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.

Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.

Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.

Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.

Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

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cremonapainting

Portrait of Antonio Stradivari by Alton S. Tobey, 1971. Collection of Oberlin College Library, Oberlin Ohio. To learn more about the artist: http://www.altontobey.com/AA.html#ago

Cremona is a province in the Lombardy region of Italy and occupies the central section of the Padana Plain, so the whole territory is flat, without mountains or hills, crossed by several rivers and artificial canals, most of which are used for irrigation. The river Po, which is the longest Italian river, is a natural boundary adjoining the Province of Piacenza. The area is about an hour south of Milan by train.

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cremonaviolinmaker

cremonaviolin

The city of Cremona has a strong musical tradition. The cathedral, built in the twelfth century, provided a focus for musical activity and, by the sixteenth century, the town was the musical center of the region. Even now it attracts people to hear performances by ensembles and attend the many musical festivals and concerts. The city of Cremona is the birthplace of Stradivarius. The town became renowned for the violins and other musical instruments that were made here by many members of the Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri and Bergonzi families of luthiers, who were all prominent citizens of Cremona.

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cremonarice2

The principal economic resources of the province are agricultural. Rice is grown with the help of water drawn from the canals. Other crops include maize (corn) and barley and to a lesser extent, soya and sugar beet. Grapes are cultivated, wine is produced and there is also a silk industry. The farms in the province are some of the most productive in the country. Beef and dairy cattle are raised here. Beef serves as a main ingredient for local dishes and the milk is used to create traditional cheeses, as well as butter and cream. The area is famous for its food specialities, such as nougat (Italian: torrone) and mustard, the famed Mostarda di Cremona, a sweet and spiced fruit preserve, served with the classic stew called bollito misto.

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Cremona’s location at the border of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna brings influences from both: charcuterie like cotecchino and salame; grana padana cheese; stuffed pasta specialties like marubini and tortelli di zucca and the tramezzini sandwich, made on spongy, white bread stuffed with ham, tuna, eggs and artichokes and slathered with mayonnaise.

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Rice became known in Europe, after being imported from Egypt and west Asia. It was known to Greece (where it is still cultivated) by returning soldiers from Alexander the Great’s military expedition to Asia. Large deposits of rice from the first century A.D. have been found in Roman camps in Germany and the Moors brought Asiatic rice to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century. Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. In Majorca, rice cultivation seems to have stopped after the Christian conquest, although historians are not certain.

Muslims brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before it is was grown in the plains of Pisa (1468) or in the Lombard plains (1475), where its cultivation was promoted by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and demonstrated in his model farms. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then to France, eventually reaching all the continents during the age of European exploration. Rice is a main component in Italian cuisine.

Veal and Rice Croquettes

cremonacroquettes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (440g/14 oz) short-grain rice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup (50 g/l⅔ oz) grated Parmesan
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Dry breadcrumbs

Meat Filling

  • 1 dried porcini mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 125 g (4 oz) minced veal
  • 2 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Directions

Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, without rinsing and cool.

Put the rice in a large bowl and stir in the egg, egg yolk and Parmesan. Stir until the rice sticks together. Cover and set aside.

To make Meat Sauce: Soak the mushroom in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, squeeze dry and finely chop.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushroom and onion; cook for 2–3 minutes until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until browned.

Add the prosciutto, tomato paste, wine, thyme and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parsley. Set aside to cool.

With wet hands, form the rice mixture into 10 balls. Wet your hands again, pull the balls apart and place 3 heaping teaspoons of the meat sauce in the center of each.

Remold to enclose the filling; roll in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Chill for 1 hour.

Deep-fry the croquettes in oil, two at a time, for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while frying the remainder. Serve immediately.

Insalata di Riso

cremonaricesalad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kilo / 1 pound of rice
  • 1 jar Italian condiriso (or half cup of canned corn and some chopped green olives and cocktail onions), drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of lemon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth

Directions

Bring chicken broth and enough water to fill a pot large enough to cook all the rice, to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the rice and cook until tender. Drain.

While the rice is cooking, put the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.

Add warm, drained rice to the vegetable mixture. Stir and let come to room temperature.

Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add as much pepper and lemon juice as you’d like.

Variations: You can add other herbs like basil and chives. Also add any other chopped raw vegetables, like zucchini or scallions, and/or tuna and feta cheese.

Risotto Ubriaco (Drunken Risotto)

cremonawinerice

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1  onion, finely chopped
  • 4  cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml olive oil
  • 1  cup/250ml smoked pork belly, diced into 1/2 inch (5mm) pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups/875 ml carnaroli rice, unwashed
  • 2  cups/500ml full-bodied red wine
  • 6  cups/1.5L light chicken stock
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml butter
  • 4  tablespoons/60ml grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the diced pork belly and stir to mix well.

Add the rice and toast it, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes, until it is very hot but not browned.

Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated.

Add the chicken stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding more stock until the rice is tender but firm.

Be careful toward the end not to add too much stock –  the risotto should be creamy, not soupy. This process should take 16-18 minutes in total.

When the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano; stir vigorously to fluff. Serve at once in individual bowls.

Italian Rice and Bean Soup

cremonasoup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped fine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried  Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 cup rice
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions.

While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion and celery and cook until soft, for about four minutes.

Add stock, tomatoes and seasoning and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, stir in the beans and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cooked rice and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese,

Radicchio and Fennel Risotto

cremonarisotto

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable stock
  • 90 g (3½ oz) butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) fennel, finely sliced
  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 350 g (12 oz) arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 175 g (6 oz) radicchio, shredded
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 75 g (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra to serve if liked
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan and keep hot.

Melt half the butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the fennel and shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes, until tender.

Add the rice and stir well until it is covered with butter. Add the wine and shredded radicchio and season with pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.

Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, until it has been absorbed.

Continue adding the stock by ladle, stirring constantly, until it has all, or nearly all, been used and the rice is just tender. This should take about 18-20 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, parsley, basil, Parmesan and the remaining butter.

Cover and leave to rest for 1 minute, then stir again. Serve with more Parmesan if required.

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Porta Castello Tower

Porta Castello Tower

The Province of Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city of Vicenza is the capital of the province and it is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, rich in history and culture with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi.

Founded in the 2nd century B.C., Vicenza came under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The architectural work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80),  gives the area its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the region’s development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England, other European countries and North America.

The region was once under Napoleonic rule and, later, became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the populace of Veneto rose up against Austria and the area received the highest award for military valor for the courage it displayed in the uprising. Later, as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the province was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war for Italian independence.

Vicenza was a location of major combat in both World War I and World War II and it was the most damaged city from Allied bombings in the Veneto region.

vincenzapalazzo

Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare

In the 1960s the region experienced a strong economic development caused by the emergence of small and medium family businesses. In the following years, the region’s economic development grew and huge industrial areas sprouted around the city.

Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, which includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Behind the classical Palladian buildings, you will also find a more ancient Vicenza that goes back to the days of a less established social order. The daily strife and power struggles between rival families was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. If you walk down some of the smaller streets, you may still come across tall bulky houses with defensive turrets, each bearing the family’s coat of arms, and built to defend their ancestral rights and families. The combination of such towers that still watch over the town, led to Vicenza being known as the “City of a Thousand Towers”.

Also, in the province of Vicenza and within easy reach, are the castles of two very renowned rival families. In the town of Montecchio Maggiore, one will find the remains of the hilltop fortresses that belonged to the Montecchi (Montagues) and Capuletti (Capulets), the legendary protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet saga. The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting even without the town. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda, a charming and less formal house. The grand Basilica di Monte Berico, with its three Baroque facades, a painting by Veronese and the views from the hillside are impressive.

Here are some personal photos of the villa a dear friend lived in while working in Vicenza. She was kind enough to share these photos, so you may have a close up view of these magnificent structures and gardens. I am sure you will enjoy viewing them as much as I have.

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Thank you to Dolly Alvarez Crooks for photos of my friend Barbara Ferg-Carter’s Vicenza Villa.

The Cuisine of Vicenza

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The quality and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica and the peas of Lumignano. These products have found their way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area.

The local specialty, Baccalà alla Vicentina, is made with salt-cured cod (stockfish) that is soaked for a couple of days and served with yellow or white polenta.

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The most famous local cheese, is Asiago, which comes from Asiago, located in the Vicenza Alps.

The province has numerous wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established and traditional wines include: Durello, Torcolato, Recioto and Raboso.

Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:

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White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain the asparagus and place them on a serving platter.

Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the minced shallot. Saute for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Be careful not to burn the shallot.

Remove the pan from the heat, turn away from the stove and add the wine. Place the pan back on the burner and add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue to cook until slightly reduced.

Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder. Add the butter and continue to saute until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny.

Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme and lemon slices to serve.

vicenzarisotto

Risotto with Peas

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat and keep at a low simmer.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until it is thoroughly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is completely absorbed.

Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice mixture; stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed.

Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at time, stirring constantly after each addition, until the rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center and the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream, a total of 18 to 20 minutes.

About 12 minutes into the cooking time, stir in the peas. The rice should be al dente but no longer crunchy and the peas tender and bright green. The mixture will continue to thicken slightly when removed from heat.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the butter, cheese, chopped marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with marjoram sprigs.

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Cutlets in Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium veal or pork cutlets or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Half of a small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens. Add the cutlets and cook until golden on all sides, around 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve the cutlets with the sauce spooned over the top.

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Cherry Gelato

Ingredients

  • One 16 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed or 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a blender or food processor combine the cherries and orange peel. Blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the pulp. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the cherry mixture and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high-speed for 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saucepan the combine milk, cream and salt; heat just until simmering. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes.

Slowly stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining milk mixture. Combine thoroughly.

Heat and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Be careful not to let mixture boil.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl combine cherry mixture and the egg yolk-milk mixture, stirring until well mixed. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze the chilled mixture in a 2 to 4 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the mixture to a covered freezer container and freeze in your regular freezer for 4 hours before serving.

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fortwocover

Are you planning on going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day this year?

You might want to reconsider. My husband and I prefer to have our special dinner at home because years ago we would go out and we were always disappointed. The restaurant charges were higher than normal and the food was not always up to expectations. The restaurant was crowded, they had lots of reservations, the staff were exhausted and we were rushed through dinner. Got to turn those tables! Some advice. Instead, stay home, cook a great meal and enjoy a romantic evening at home. Below is a special dinner you can make at home and, even with beef tenderloin and lobster on the menu, you won’t spend anything like what a restaurant meal will cost you on Valentine’s day.

First Course

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Lobster Risotto

For 2 divide the finished risotto in half and serve half for dinner with the lobster. Save the other half for another dinner or some great arancini. I am not in favor of making half a recipe for risotto because I think the taste is affected.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen lobster tails (about 2 medium), thawed
  • 5 cups salt-free chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the lobster meat turns white.

Drain and set aside to cool.

When cool, remove the lobster meat from the shell and chop it into 1-inch pieces; set aside.

Warm the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep it hot over low heat.

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion and cook, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.

Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, half of the lobster meat and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve:

Place in a serving dish and top with remaining lobster pieces; garnish with parsley.

Second Course

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Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Tomatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (each about 4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once.

Allow 7 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) and 9 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).

To serve:

Spoon the vinegar tomato sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with thyme.

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Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Shallots

Ingredients

  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the green beans and season with salt and ground pepper.

Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and serve.

Dessert

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Chocolate Crepes with Raspberry Sauce

12 servings

For the sauce:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Place water and 3 1/2 cups of the raspberries in a blender; cover and process for 3 minutes until smooth. Strain the raspberry puree and discard the seeds.

Place the puree in a small saucepan along with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.

In a blender, blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.

Heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with cooking spray to coat bottom of pan.

Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe mixture into the pan, swirling the pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottom of the crepe is light golden brown.

Turn the crepe over and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and crepe mixture.

This should make 12 crepes. You can freeze the extra crepes for another time.

To serve:

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce into the center of each crepe. Fold into quarters, top with some of the remaining sauce, a few of the remaining fresh raspberries and dust each with powdered sugar. Serve warm.


cuneocover

Cuneo (Italian) or Coni (French) is a province in the southwest section of the Piedmont region of Italy. The province has an interesting history. Nicknamed the town of seven sieges, it still retains the organization plan of a military town. It was once surrounded by massive walls, had large squares and contained magnificent palaces for wealthy aristocrats.

Originating in the 12th century, it was first built as a fortified town. Its location, in a naturally strategic position protecting the roads to France through the Tenda and Maddalena passes, made it a natural choice to be used as a military location. The French eventually demolished the walls and you can tell where the old walls were, as they are now the main streets in the province. During World War II, Cuneo was one of the main sites in the country of partisan resistance against the German occupation of Italy.

Pedestrian crossing and big plaza at city center under cloudy sky at rainy day in Cuneo, Italy.

Pedestrian crossing and big plaza at city center in Cuneo, Italy.

Sections of this province were part of France until 1947. Cuneo borders the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur on the west, the province of Turin on the north, the province of Asti to the east and Liguria to the south. It is also known as the Provincia Granda (the big province) because it is the third largest province in Italy and the largest one in the Piedmont region. It is also the capital of the province. This has created problems in the past for inhabitants in the eastern sections of the province, who are frustrated by the long trip to Cuneo every time they have business with the provincial government. The issue of dividing the province into two has been brought up several times.

Chianale (Cuneo, Val Varaita, Piedmont, Italy), old typical mountain village in the Italian ALps at summer

Chianale (Cuneo, Val Varaita, Piedmont, Italy), an old mountain village in the Italian ALps at summer

The province’s beautiful landscapes offer great variety that include valleys, hills and wildlife reserves. Some 75% of the area is mountainous. The Maritime Alps Natural Park with its high-altitude lakes and the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall are distinctive sites in the province. Italy’s first forestry commission was established by the local government of Cuneo.

The economy is primarily based on the agricultural produce of the area, especially the wine industry.  Engineering, paper products, metallurgy, rubber and cattle also play an integral role in its local financial system.

The Tour de France travels through here, as well.  The Italian leg of the Tour often goes from Digne-les-Bains in France to Prato Nevoso in Piedmont, followed by a rest day in Cuneo.  From there, bikers head on to Jausiers in France.

The majority of the region’s winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of the Piedmont region in Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The best-known wines from the area include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Piedmont region is located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. In addition to the vast mountainous terrain, the Po Valley consumes a large area of the region. The valley and the mountains contribute to the area’s noted fog cover which aides in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape (which gets it name from the word nebbia meaning “fog”).

Although the winemaking regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux (France) are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar: the Piedmont wine region has a colder, continental winter climate and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Vineyards are typically planted on hillsides with warmer south-facing slopes.

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One of the most commonly used meat in the local cuisine is veal. It is the main feature of festivals, such as the Fiera del Bue Grasso, which attracts thousands of visitors in December each year. The province of Cuneo also produces Italy’s only pork-free sausage. Pig farming, however, provides the ingredient for the famous Cuneo raw ham, which also has a well-known cooked variety.

Il Grande Fritto Misto” (the Great Mixed Fry), one of the most characteristic dishes of the Cuneo region, is made with veal and pork, to which vegetables, semolina and fruit are added. Provincial meat products also include: Morozzo capon, Sambuco lamb and Langa lamb; Piedmontese blond chicken and Saluzzo white chicken. Famous products include the Alba White Truffle, Castelmagno, Raschera, Bra and Murazzano, Toma Piemontese, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Are cheeses, which are all produced in the province.

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The cultivation and processing of chestnuts, both brown and white varieties, is a heritage of the area’s mountain tradition. They are used in pastry making and as an ingredient in other dishes. Hazelnuts are grown in the hills and form the main ingredient of Torrone di Alba and the region’s very famous glacè chestnuts and hazelnut cakes. “Alba torrone” (nougat); “paste di meliga” (cornflour cookies), which are also known as “Batiaje” because they are often made for baptisms and “baci di Cherasco” (hazelnut chocolates) are well-known desserts.

If you have a sweet tooth, Cuneo can help satisfy your cravings. The town’s specialty is Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates with a rum-based filling. The most widely known brand is Arione, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.

Risotto with Hazelnuts and Castelmagno Cheese

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Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 14 oz (400g) risotto rice  (carnaroli)
  • 3 ½ oz (100g) hazelnuts
  • 3 ⅛ oz (90g) Castelmagno cheese, diced
  • 1 ¾ oz (50g) butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) hot broth (vegetable or meat)
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. Cool and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a deep saucepan and cook the onion until tender.

Add the rice and rosemary. Toast the rice for a minute then add the white wine.

When the wine has evaporated completely add a ladle of hot broth and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed.

Continue adding the broth until it is all absorbed. Halfway through cooking add half of Castelmagno cheese and half of the hazelnuts.

When the rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining the remaining cheese.

Garnish the dish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.

Meatballs Cuneo Style

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

In a bowl combine the veal, grated apple, egg and salt. With wet hands form small meatballs. Coat each one in flour and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs evenly, then add the wine. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Peperonata

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 6 bell peppers (3 red and 3 yellow) seeded and cut into ½ inch size strips
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • Salt
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so the peppers do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the herbs and taste for salt and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm as a side dish.

Bunet di Cuneo (Baked Chocolate Pudding)

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup (250 g) sugar
  • 2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) Amaretti cookie crumbs
  • 3 cups (750 ml) milk

Directions

Put the 1/3 cup sugar and water in a heavy skillet over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture is a syrup and the color of honey.

Remove from the heat and pour the syrup into a 9 inch loaf pan. Swirl the liquid in the pan around to coat all the edges.

Beat together the eggs and 1 cup sugar.

Add the cocoa and Amaretti cookie crumbs. Stir well.

Add the milk, stirring gently but thoroughly.

Pour into the loaf pan and set in a larger baking pan with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water.

Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 1 hour.

Cool to room temperature before chilling overnight.

To serve, slide a knife around the outer edges and invert onto a platter. Cut into thick slices to serve.

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Risotto is a hearty, warming rice dish, rich in flavor, of which any of a hundred different ingredients can be added to it. Risotto is not only versatile, but easy to make.

Rice was first introduced into Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was found to be perfect for growing shorter-grained rice. The popularity of rice grew throughout Italy and then the outside world discovered it.

It was in Milan where the rice met its future destiny. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries where rice was a staple. The technique for making risotto probably evolved from trying to cook the rice as porridge—boiling it in milk, water or broth until soft. A fourteenth-century manuscript known as the “Libro per cuoco” by an anonymous Venetian contains the recipe, “rixo in bona manera” or rice cooked in sweet milk.

Antonio Nebbia in “Cuoco Maceratese” introduces a revolutionary method where he suggests letting the rice soak in cold water for two hours, then frying the rice in a little butter and adding cabbage broth.

A more complete preparation appears in the early 19th century, in the anonymous “Cuoco Moderno”, printed in Milan in 1809, where the recipe “Yellow Rice in a Pan” says to cook the rice in a sauté of butter, cervellata (an Italian pork sausage), marrow, onion and gradually adding hot broth in whicj saffron had been dissolved.

And finally” the” classic recipe as described by Felice Luraschi, a celebrated chef from Milan, in his “Nuovo cuoco milanese economico” manuscript of 1829, a recipe titled “Risotto alla Milanese”.

Today the dish is served extensively, almost unchanged, in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. Ingredients as varied as scallops, lobster, truffles, veal, mushrooms, squid ink, snails, asparagus, duck, sausage, pumpkin and almost anything else you can think of are paired with this classic dish.

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All rice is a member of the grass family. What makes Risotto special is it’s high amount of starch. This starch is what makes Risotto “creamy” without any cream. Risotto rice is a round medium- or short- grain white rice with the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano. They all have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties like Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish. These varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and for making sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino and Fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) of the grains, and not the quality.

Basic Technique for Making Risotto

Risotto recipes recommended not washing the rice prior to cooking as that will make it lose its starch which is an essential ingredient of the dish. The rice and vegetables are toasted lightly in butter. Herbs, spices and a little wine are added. The rice is cooked gradually over a low flame and broth is added to the rice and stirred until absorbed. More broth is added in several steps until the rice is tender.

Popular Italian Risottos

• Risotto alla Milanese – is cooked in beef stock and beef bone marrow with lard in Italy. Cheese and saffron are added. This dish is popularly served with osso buco (a dish consisting of braised veal shanks).

• Risotto al barolo – is made with borlotti beans and sausage meat and is cooked with red wine.

• Risotto al nero de seppia (black risotto) – is a specialty from Veneto and is made with cuttlefish.

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This is probably the best tasting risotto I have ever made, with much of the credit going to the Meyer lemons from my tree. You may recall that we planted the tree last April and it has rewarded us with about 20 large lemons in its first year.

Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil and Grilled Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

Risotto

  • 6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil leaves

Grilled Shrimp

  • 18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A pinch of kosher salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

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Directions

For the risotto:

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a second large saucepan. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.

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Add the wine to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. The best way to see if the rice is cooked, is to taste it.  Risotto should be creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it. If it is mushy, it has cooked too long.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and juice, the salt and pepper and the basil. Mix well but gently.

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For the grilled shrimp:

Mix the shrimp with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate until cooking time.

Heat a stovetop grill until very hot. Place the shrimp on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.

Spoon the risotto into individual bowls, top each with grilled shrimp and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

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Production engineer, Generalist, Curious, Jack-of-all-trades, Wanna-be master of all of those too :) P.....rocrastinator!!

simple cooking recipes

a blog to share with you the best

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Mommy Cook For Me

Home recipes from one mother to another

Rosemarie's Kitchen

A collection of recipes and memories.

The Happily Ever Hanson Life

Life as a married woman

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"Research & Writing at your Touch."

Inspiration in Focus

Connect. Learn. Be inspired. Share. Reconnect. Repeat.

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Front Porch Bliss

A hunting family sharing adventures in homemaking, parenthood, chicken keeping, and life on the Colorado High Plains

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Mediterranean recipes from a writer’s point of view.

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The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.

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underratedpleasures

Welcome to my little cozy island in the middle of internet chaos. Here I collect even smaller pleasures who are often underrated. As a photographer I learned to keep my eyes open for the beautiful things in life. As a nurse I learned how precious this life is. At least two times a week you will see some underrated pleasures appear on the blog.

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Cradle of Joy

Food, Reviews and much more

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