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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: eggplant

Eggplant are at their very best now. Take advantage of their availability and you will make some very rewarding and tasty recipes. Buying eggplant in season, picked young, means they will not be bitter, nor will they need to be salted before cooking them. Chubby purple eggplant are not the only kind of eggplant available. My CSA grew three different types this summer: regular purple globe eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an heirloom eggplant from Sicily and white eggplant. All delicious. Here are some recipes I made with my share.

Baba Ghanoush with Pita

Ingredients

2-3 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice, more if desired
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt

Directions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat and place the eggplants directly on the grill.

Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and charred on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.

The eggplants should be very tender.

Test the eggplants by sticking a skewer near the stem and bottom ends. If the skewer meets resistance, continue cooking.

When they are done, wrap the eggplants in foil and crimp the top to seal. Let the eggplants rest for 15 minutes.

Open the foil package, using a sharp knife slit open the eggplants and with a large spoon scoop out the soft flesh.

Transfer to a strainer set in a large bowl. Pick out any bits of skin and blackened flesh.

To roast in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several place. Place on an oiled baking pan and roast until soft all over, about 20 minutes.

Follow directions as above.

Put the eggplant in a food processor, add the garlic, lemon juice and pulse until it is smooth and creamy.

Add the tahini and pulse again until it’s combined. With the processor turned-on, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream.

The mixture will be pale and creamy.

By hand, stir in the parsley, agave, smoked paprika and salt. Taste to see if you’d like additional salt or lemon juice.

Put the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm flatbread or vegetables.

Baba ghanoush can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Let the eggplant dip warm to room temperature before serving.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the burrata cheese.

Summer Eggplant Tart

Serves 8

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
Olive oil spray
1 small eggplant, sliced 1/8 inch thin
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thin
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the thawed puff pastry in a 7 x 11 inch baking dish patting the dough up the sides of the dish.

Refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish.

Bread the eggplant slices and oven bake until brown and crisp – as if making them for eggplant parmigiana. Directions are below in the eggplant parmigiana recipe.

Sprinkle the tomatoes on both sides with kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer between on paper towels to drain.

Remove the baking dish with the pastry from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with the minced onion and garlic.

Arrange the eggplant and tomato slices in even rows on the pastry. Season with pepper and sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables.

Distribute the shredded cheese over the top. Bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese is browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

This is a staple in my house. So happy that my CSA grows wonderful eggplant.

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with olive oil.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise or lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:
Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
1- 8 ounce package shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

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Sometimes the craving for a sandwich comes on and you want one that will be rewarding. I never eat sandwiches for lunch, since my lunches tend to be light: yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit or a bowl of soup. So having a sandwich for dinner is a real treat for me. Leftovers can also be the start of some great sandwich recipes, as indicated in the recipes below. What is your favorite dinner sandwich?

Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

A mixed green salad is perfect to complete this meal.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 pound grilled Italian sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large green bell pepper, roasted, skins removed and sliced into long strips
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, skins removed and sliced into long strips
1/4 cup marinara sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Ciabatta or Hoagie rolls

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the rolls in foil and heat for about 10 minutes.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid.

Add the sausage and peppers and sprinkle with a little salt and the Italian seasoning. Stir in the marinara sauce and cover the pan.

Heat the mixture until hot.

Fill the rolls with the sausage mixture and serve.

Italian Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Serve this sandwich with sweet potato fries and pickles.

2 servings

Ingredients

4 slices country-style bread
Olive oil for brushing
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
Dried Italian seasoning
4 slices mozzarella cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves

Directions

Place the sliced chicken in a zip-lock bag and pour the salad dressing in. Close the bag and shake it so the dressing is evenly distributed.

Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat an electric Panini press on high or the “panini” setting according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you do not have a Panini Press: You can cook the sandwiches in a skillet on top of the stove. You will need a second skillet to weigh the sandwiches down. Heat one skillet over medium heat.

Brush the bread slices on one side with olive oil. Place 2 slices of mozzarella on each side of the bread slices not brushed with oil.

Arrange the chicken and then the roasted bell peppers on top of the cheese.

Place 4 basil leaves on each sandwich and then 2 more slices of mozzarella.

Top each sandwich with one of the remaining bread slices, oiled side up.

Place the sandwiches on the preheated Panini press, close the lid and cook until the cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes.

Or place the sandwiches in the heated skillet and place the unheated skillet on top, pressing it down.

Cook the sandwiched until brown on the bottom.

Turn them over, replace the skillet press and cook until the second side is brown, about 6 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

2 servings

Ingredients

2 ciabatta rolls
Two 4×4 inch pieces of Eggplant Parmesan:

Recipe link: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/05/18/what-to-cook-this-week/

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Split the rolls in half. Place a square of Eggplant Parmesan on the bottom half of each roll. Place the top of the roll on top of the eggplant.

Wrap the sandwiches in the aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet.

Bake the sandwiches for about 15- 20 minutes, until hot.

Serve with pickled Tuscan peppers.

Vegan Summer Garden Sandwich

1 serving

Ingredients

Vegan Creamy Italian Salad Dressing, recipe below
2 slices of your favorite bread or 1 Italian roll
4 small slices of oven baked or grilled eggplant
4 thin slices of fresh, uncooked zucchini
1 slice red onion
2 large slices vine ripe tomatoes
Garden leaf lettuce

Directions

Brush one side of each piece of bread with the creamy dressing and layer the ingredients on the side of one piece of bread brushed with dressing.

First, place the eggplant on the bread and then add the zucchini slices, tomato slices and onion.

Top with lettuce leaves and the remaining bread slice, dressing side down. Cut in half and enjoy this sandwich with your favorite coleslaw.

Vegan Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

Adapted from Vintage Kitty

Makes 16 tablespoons

Ingredients

1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons almonds
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch chili flakes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon organic sugar or agave syrup
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the warm water, almonds, Italian seasoning, dried basil and chili flakes in a mixing bowl and let soak for 15 minutes.

Place the mixture in a blender and add the garlic, shallot, olive oil, vinegar and sugar.

Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Add fresh parsley and pulse. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Store in the refrigerator up to one week


July is a  month when everything seems to be in season. Even our young fig tree that we planted in April is producing some figs. Here is a photo of our very first fig. You will have to wait a bit until I can show you what I can make with them,

My CSA share and the farmers’ markets are filled with wonderful produce to choose from and turn into some delicious meals.  I like to try new ideas for recipes with some of the vegetables that are not plentiful during the cooler months. So this month is a good time to cook with poblano peppers, fresh tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant and okra. Looking for something different, give one of these recipes a try.

Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients

1 1/2 pound eggplant (1 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
Half a medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
11/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped oil cured olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil leaves for garnish
Crostini

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on a foil lined baking sheet that has been brushed with olive oil, about 20 minutes or until tender.

Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a medium, heavy saucepan.

Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more.

Add the eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook until thickened and all visible liquid has evaporated.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with toasted Italian bread slices.

Summer Squash and Potato Pie

Ingredients

Vegetable cooking spray
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 small sweet onions
4 medium red potatoes
2 medium zucchini
3 (yellow) summer squash
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until barely tender. Drain, cool and peel.

Very thinly slice the onions, zucchini, squash and potatoes.

Preheat oven to 375°F

Coat a 10-inch quiche dish or pie pan with cooking spray.

Alternate, overlapping slightly, slices of onion, potato, zucchini and yellow squash in a single circular layer all around the dish (see photo),

Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.

Drizzle with the melted butter. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 45 minutes more or until golden brown.

Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pasta with Tomato and Zucchini Sauce

Ingredients

3 oz Prosciutto, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 lb short pasta (such as penne)
2 zucchini, diced
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Cook the prosciutto in the 1 tablespoon olive oil until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili flakes and remaining olive oil.

Add this mixture to the skill and cook for 2-3 minutes, just enough time to heat the ingredients.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain well.

Add the pasta to the skillet vegetables along with the grated cheese and the crispy prosciutto, toss again and serve in individual pasta bowls.

Creamy Corn Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Ingredients

8 small poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground chili powder, divided
1 cup fresh corn kernels cut from cobs (about 2)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of a 1/2 lime, plus the juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salsa, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put the poblano peppers on a baking sheet and toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Roast until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Using a paring knife cut the top off each pepper—be careful not to puncture or rip the peppers.

Remove and discard any seeds and membranes from the opening in the top; set the peppers aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cobs; add to a bowl along with the scallions.

Stir in the cream cheese, cilantro, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon salt, cheddar cheese, the lime zest and lime juice.

Divide the stuffing mixture into 8 equal portions.

Stuff each pepper with the filling using your fingers to push the stuffing down into the peppers and place them in an oiled baking dish.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.

Bake the peppers until the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with salsa, if desired.

Oven Roasted Okra

I had never tried okra until this year, when my CSA farm included a bunch in my share. I did some research and found a way to make it tasty from the New York Times cooking section. The secret to good tasting, non-slimy okra is oven roasting. Use small, thin okra for the best taste.

Ingredients

1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves to taste optional
Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the okra, drain and dry on a kitchen towel. The okra should be dry.

Trim away the stem ends and the tips and place the okra in a large bowl. Generously salt the okra and toss with the olive oil until coated.

Place the okra on a rimmed baking pan in one layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes.

The okra should be lightly browned and tender. If you don’t want it too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the oven, toss with fresh thyme and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot.


People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, however, Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues outside of the Middle East in Ostia Antica (near Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD) there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout Italy.

There are differences in what is considered Kosher in various Jewish traditions. For example, the Ashkenazim consider rice to be chametz, or leavened, and therefore forbid it, while allowing chocolate, cheese and other dairy products. The Italkim and Sephardim instead allow rice, but consider chocolate and dairy products to be chametz, and thus forbidden.

Jewish cuisine through the centuries influenced modern-day Italian cuisine. Wild radicchio flavored with garlic, herb salads, omelettes, pies made with chard, spinach, leeks, marinated cabbage, turnips, eggplant, artichokes, fava beans, polenta chestnuts and raisins are just some of the ingredients contributed by the Jewish immigrants.

Here are some recipes suitable for Passover with Italian Jewish influences.

Tomato Soup with Rice

Ingredients

1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 medium carrot, slice
1 tablespoon olive oil
26 oz container Italian chopped tomatoes (such as Pomi- no salt or sugar added)
8 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Directions

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onion, celery and carrots in oil until softened but not browned.

Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining chicken broth and rice. Season with salt, thyme and pepper.

Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.

Honey Lemon Artichokes

Ingredients

1 large lemon, cut in quarters, plus the freshly squeezed juice from 2 or 3 lemons to equal 1/2 cup
4 large globe artichokes (12 to 14 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 medium roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice

Directions

Fill a very large bowl with cold water; squeeze a few of the lemon quarters into the water, then place them in the bowl.

Rinse the artichokes. Snap off or use kitchen shears to trim all the pointed outer leaves and then slice off the center leaves at the top.

Leave 1 to 2 inches of stem attached to each artichoke; cut off the rest and discard.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove a thin layer from the remaining stems.

Working quickly so the artichokes don’t discolor, use a grapefruit spoon or a melon-ball scoop to remove the choke, or thistle part, in the center of each artichoke, making sure to remove all fibers.

Quickly transfer each trimmed artichoke to the bowl of lemon water.

Once all the artichokes are trimmed, work with them one at a time, cutting them in half and then again, so each artichoke is quartered.

Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.

Add the artichokes cut side down, fitting them snugly into the pan.

Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, re-positioning the artichokes in the pan as needed so each one picks up golden color.

Season lightly with salt.

Stir in the lemon juice, honey and water; cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

The liquid should thicken slightly and the artichokes will be tender.

Transfer to a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the artichokes.

Garnish with the parsley and red bell pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Braised Chicken and Eggplant

Ingredients

3 lbs chicken pieces; skinned/fat removed
Salt and pepper; to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion; halved, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1½ lbs eggplant; unpeeled, cubed
½ lb. fresh Roma tomatoes; cored, cubed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken on each side.

Remove the chicken from the skillet to a bowl or platter. Don’t clean the skillet.

Add the onion, garlic and eggplant. Cook the vegetables and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Add bay leaf and hot pepper flakes. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet. Baste with the sauce.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked. Discard the bay leaf before serving and sprinkle with basil.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

Ingredients

2 pounds fingerling or small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and pat dry the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Toss the potatoes making sure to coat them well with the herbs and oil.

Put them onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, gently moving them around on the pan halfway through cooking.

Serve at once garnished with more fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil.

Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup

Lemon Syrup

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Cake

1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds (4 ounces)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped (2 3/4 ounces)
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
8 large eggs, separated
Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest with 1/2 cup of water.

Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat; let steep.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-by-3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; oil the paper.

Evenly coat the bottom and sides with the matzo meal, tapping out any excess. Refrigerate the pan.

In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the granulated sugar, almonds, lemon zest and egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake.

Remove the pan sides and invert the cake onto a wire rack.

Peel off the parchment and let the cake cool to room temperature.

Reheat and strain the syrup. Transfer the cake to a plate and prick all over with a fork.

Pour the syrup evenly over the cake and set aside at room temperature for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake and serve.


cosenza2
Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.

Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) "The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus"

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) “The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus”

An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.

Cosenza

Cosenza

In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.

piazza_xv_marzo_cropped

The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.

The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.

Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The south Italy, Calabria, locale food - soft sausage nduja, peper, tomato, cheese

Soft sausage nduja, chili peppers, tomato, cheese

The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

caciocavallo_250

The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.

Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).

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Recipes To Make From Cosenza

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Pickled Eggplant

Serve with Calabrian Bread

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.

Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.

Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.

In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.

Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.

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Pane Calabrese

Ingredients

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil
Cornmeal
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.

Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.

Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.

In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400  degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.

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Lagane E Cicciari

Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water

Directions

Add the salt to the flour and mix well.

Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)

Roll the dough to form a long log

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.

Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.

Cook as directed below.

Chickpea Sauce

Ingredients

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.

Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.

Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.

Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce

When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)

Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.

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Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
Olive oil
Breadcrumbs
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.

Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.

Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.

Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.

In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.

Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.

Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.

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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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vegan-diet

My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.

Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.

Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.

If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.

Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.

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Pureed Celery Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).

Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.

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Crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.

Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.

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Eggplant Olive Pasta

Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.

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Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.

Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.

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Vanilla Almond Biscotti

After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.

They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.

Makes about 15 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.

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Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the center is firm (about 30 minutes); remove from the oven and place the log on a cutting board to cool for about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.

Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.



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