Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: squash

Paprika is critical to Hungarian cuisine and it adds a very special and unique flavor. Hungary’s climate and soil conditions produce nearly ideal conditions for growing the peppers that end up as paprika, and their paprika is preferred by chefs across the globe.

All paprika is made from hot chilies, and the piquancy level of the finished spice is dependent on how much of the interior pith (which contains almost all the capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for spicy flavor) is left attached to the fruit of the pepper before drying and grinding. Hungarians love the entire paprika spectrum, from fully hot (all the pith left intact) to “sweet,” or mild (with all pith removed). Hot paprika is difficult to find in the United States, but the sweet variety is a part of nearly everyone’s spice rack.

Paprikash showcases paprika perhaps more than any other Hungarian dish. Pieces of meat (usually chicken but other types of meat can also be used) are braised in a brick-red sauce made simply from onions, tomatoes, and of course paprika, then finished with a bit of sour cream. Here is my version.

Pork Paprikash

Ingredients

1 (1 pound) pasture raised pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt
Half a large sweet onion, cut into thin wedges
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup bottled mild banana peppers, finely chopped
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons arrowroot or all-purpose flour

Directions

Trim fat and silverskin from the meat. Cut meat into thin medallions ( crosswise) and sprinkle lightly with salt; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown the slices on both sides, about 3 minutes. Remove the meat to a plate.

Heat the remaining oil and add the onions. Cook until tender. Stir in the garlic.
Sprinkle with the paprika, black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir 1 minute more.

Add tomatoes, broth, and banana peppers. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Return the meat slices to the pan and cook, uncovered, about 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir together the sour cream and arrowroot in a small bowl; stir into the meat mixture. Cook and stir until very thick.

Serve the Paprikash over rice, cauliflower “rice” or wide noodles.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Ingredients

One 2 lb. acorn squash
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Seasoning mix: Combine ¼ teaspoon of each: chili pepper, brown sugar, lemon peel, orange peel, cilantro, and salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Cut acorn squash into quarters and remove the seeds from the center of each quarter.
Slice each quarter in half and place in a baking dish. Pour the melted butter over the squash and turn the pieces over in the butter.

Sprinkle with the seasoning mix.
Roast the squash until tender, about 25 minutes.


Entertaining at lunchtime can be relaxing and informal for the host. If you have friends that are on special diets, a lunchtime menu can be an easy way to meet their needs and guests, not on a special diet will be happy with your menu, Here are two recipes that work well for everyone.

Bacon Swiss Quiche (Gluten-Free and Low Carb)

Press in the Pie Pan Crust
1 ½ cups almond flour
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar substitute such as monk fruit)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, melted
Filling
5 slices bacon
2 scallions, finely chopped
6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided

Directions

For the pie crust:
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, sweetener, and salt. Stir in melted butter until dough comes together and resembles coarse crumbs.
Turn out into a glass or ceramic 9-inch pie plate. Press firmly with fingers into the bottom and up the side of the pie pan. Use a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup to even out the bottom.

To prebake the unfilled crust: 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and bake the crust 10 minutes. Cool slightly before filling.

To prepare the filling:
Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F.
Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy and remove to a paper towel to drain. Break into small pieces.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet. Add the chopped scallions to the skillet and cook until softened about 2 minutes.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a large measuring cup or a bowl.
Place 1 cup of the shredded cheese on the prebaked pie crust. Top with the crumbled bacon and cooked scallions. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet.


Add the egg mixture and top with the remaining shredded cheese.
Place the baking sheet on the middle shelf in the oven and bake the quiche for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before cutting.

No-Fuss Butternut Squash Soup

6-8 servings

Ingredients

4-12 oz packages frozen pureed butternut squash or 4-15 oz cans organic butternut squash
32 oz container vegetable broth
4 oz container unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Herbs for garnish, such as sage

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a Dutch Oven except the cream. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and serve garnished with fresh herbs.


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Don’t let your herbs go wild in the garden or get moldy in the refrigerator. There are lots of way to incorporate them into your recipes.

A general guideline for using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use dried herbs.

Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.

For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors.

Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor.

Storing Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator for a few days.

After washing, you can mince the herbs and place them halfway up in the sections of an ice-cube tray. Cover herbs with cold water and freeze until solid.

Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag. Drop them into soups, stews and sauces as needed.

Some Other Ways To Use Herbs

If you love a big, green salad, add fresh herbs to the mix.

Add a big handful of fresh herbs to a basic mixture of equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, stir and then remove from the heat. Once completely cooled, strain out the herbs (discard) and use the simple syrup to sweeten iced coffee or tea and cocktails.

Fresh herbs are a perfect in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. They round out the fatty and sharp flavors from the oil and vinegar.

Combine finely chopped herbs and room-temperature butter to make a spread that compliments bread or cooked meat or vegetables.

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Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 medium zucchini and 2 medium patty pan squash, diced
  • 1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups Summer Vegetable Stock (corn cob stock) (recipe here)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot; add the garlic, celery and onion. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly salt the vegetables. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.

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Add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 25 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lemon juice, corn and herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls topped with a tablespoon of sour cream.

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Creamy Herb Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This makes a great party dip with lots of fresh summer vegetables and pita chips.

It is best to process all the ingredients in the food processor with the exception of the yogurt, for the best consistency.

Use either whole or low-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (but don’t use nonfat).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Process mayonnaise, shallot, chives, basil and lemon juice in food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover dip and refrigerate until thickened, at least 1 hour. (Dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days.

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Spaghetti with Clam and Herb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams in broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red-pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. (or use the quick skillet method – see recipe here). Drain pasta and set aside.

Drain the clams over a large measuring cup. Set the clams aside. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of clam broth.

Heat oil in the same pan that the pasta was cooked in over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, herbs, hot pepper and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring as needed, until the shallots have softened.

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Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked spaghetti, turn the heat down and let the spaghetti simmer for two minutes.

Add the drained clams and let the mixture heat for a minute or two. Serve in pasta bowls with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

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Pan-Fried Herbed Pork Cutlets

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely minced herbs (any combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, chives, parsley)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 pork cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick and each weighing about 4 oz)
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Combine the herbs, fennel and salt in a shallow dish.  Place the flour in a second shallow dish. Pat chops dry with paper towels.

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Trim the cutlets of fat and pound them lightly with a meat mallet to make them uniform in thickness. Press the herbs on both sides of the cutlets and then dredge the cutlets in the flour (do not discard flour).

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Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Dredge cutlets in the flour a second time just before cooking.

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Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the pork cutlets until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 heads tender lettuce (such as Boston or Bibb), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, sage and chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • Sliced red and white radishes
  • 1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Directions

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and mustard; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, shallots, radishes and herbs. Add dressing and toss to combine. Add almonds and serve.

Variation: The dressed salad can also be placed—open-face sandwich fashion—on top of grilled bread that has brushed with olive oil.


Soup can be anything you want it to be – quick, slow-cooking, hearty or light. You can also experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans and meats to make delicious meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and soups make wonderfully satisfying meals. Here are some tips for making great tasting soup.

1. Start with a Delicious Liquid Base

Soups are mostly water, but often include broth or stock, wine or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink. The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. The best to use is homemade but many delis, supermarkets and butchers sell freshly made frozen stock that works well, too. If you buy store- bought broth, dilute it with water (4 parts of broth to 1 part water) and find a brand sold in boxes instead of cans to avoid a slight metal taste. When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol taste. For cream or milk-based soups, check the expiration date to be sure you are using fresh dairy products.

2. Sweat the Aromatics

Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.

3. Use the Right Tools

A large and heavy pot with a cover

A powerful blender or hand immersion blender

An ample soup ladle.

4. Salt in Layers

Canned and prepared soups and broths are known to be high in sodium. You want a satisfying homemade soup that is full of flavor but not overly salty. Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you are cooking them. If you’re cooking meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before adding more salt.

5. Include Something Fresh

You’ve used great ingredients. You’ve cooked and salted them properly. Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt or pesto. A hint of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep melded flavors in the rest of the soup.

6. Garnish at the End

Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper. The best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.

  • Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a pureed vegetable soup )
  • Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht )
  • Bitter on savory (herbs on a lentil soup)
  • Salty on sweet (diced prosciutto on sweet potato or squash or carrot soup )

Fall Soups

Take advantage of the fall vegetables that make great additions to soup:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mustard Greens
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Squash
  • Turnips

Tuscan Peasant Soup with Pancetta

Yields 3-1/2 qts.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 -1 cup small-diced pancetta (about 4 oz. or 4 thick slices)
  • 4 cups large-diced Savoy cabbage (about ½ small head)
  • 2 cups medium-diced onion (10 to 12 oz. or 2 small)
  • 1-1/2 cups medium-diced carrot (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 28-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 7 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 2 15-1/2-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained (about 2-1/2 cups, drained)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 4- to 5-qt. Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp (the oil will also be golden brown), about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and with a slotted spoon or strainer carefully transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the chopped cabbage and salt lightly. Cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until limp and browned around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat again and transfer the cabbage to another plate.

Put the pot back over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and the vegetables are browned around the edges and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, 8 to 9 minutes.

Add the last 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the fresh rosemary and the ground coriander. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stir together, and cook the mixture 2 to 3 more minutes.

Return the cabbage to the pan and add the chicken broth. Stir well, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes to infuse the broth with the flavor of the vegetables. Add the beans, bring back to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary and let rest a few minutes.

Taste the soup and add lemon juice to brighten it—you’ll want at least 1 teaspoon. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Serve the soup hot, garnished with the reserved pancetta crisps, the toasted breadcrumbs and the grated Parmigiano.

Fall Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped, thick stems discarded
  • 2 or 3 cabbage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch chard, preferably white, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini, with their liquid. (If using canned beans buy low sodium.)
  • Water

Directions:

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pot and turn the heat to medium.

Add half the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, which takes about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and repeat the process, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

Add the parsley, cabbage and chard and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is softened but not browned.  Add the tomato paste and stir.

Mash half the beans and leave the remainder whole. Add this mixture to the pot, along with any bean cooking liquid and enough water to cover the ingredients completely.

Continue cooking, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as necessary, until all the vegetables are very tender and the soup is hot. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Roasted Butternut Soup with Apples and Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock 

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the oil.

Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Set aside some of the bacon for garnish.

Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.

If you’re using a roasting pan that can be used on the stovetop, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat. Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat.

Add the stock and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes. You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up with a potato masher. Garnish with bacon before serving.

Chicken Kale Soup with Pesto

If you are pressed for time, you can substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto.

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces), cut into quarters
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 6 ounces baby kale or spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can low sodium cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot, bell pepper and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly salt the chicken and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add kale (or spinach if you cannot find baby kale in your market) and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan cheese and basil in a food processor (a mini processor works well). Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water if needed, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sauteed Leeks

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped and thoroughly rinsed
  • 6 slices Pancetta, diced
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

In a wide, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (do not brown), about 5 minutes.

Add cauliflower, potato and 2 tablespoons butter; stir to combine. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add leek and diced pancetta, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 cups broth and a pinch salt; cook at a very gentle simmer for 15 minutes. Strain liquid into pot with cauliflower; reserving pancetta and leeks for garnish.

In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, carefully purée cauliflower mixture. Return purée to pot, if using a blender, and gently heat to warm through. Adjust seasoning. Add additional broth to thin soup to your liking. Ladle soup into bowls, top with pancetta and leeks and sprinkle with parsley.

 


Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” – Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960’s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen

Stuffing

  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Directions:

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.

 

Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)



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