Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: escarole

"Tuscany Delights" painting by Lisa Lorenz.

“Tuscany Delights” painting by Lisa Lorenz.

Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. … You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh? … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick. (Michael learning to make gravy from The Godfather.)

For a crowd-pleasing reunion meal, serve this family style menu with plenty of garlic bread and red wine for a comforting Italian-American feast. All the dishes in this menu can be prepared several days ahead, except for the pasta, and heated before serving.

I have many memories of the Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses while I was growing up. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its distinction were the meats that were cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs and my favorite, braciole. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared and simmered for hours in tomato sauce.

Sitting down together for a family meal has been in decline in America for decades. According to surveys, however, that’s beginning to change. This is good. Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to do well in school and more likely to have a healthier diet. In addition the treasured memories children develop are irreplaceable.

“Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!)” — as my grandmother would say.

Menu for 12-16

  • Braised Artichokes and Stuffed Cherry Peppers
  • Braciole and Pasta
  • Sautéed Greens and Garlic Bread
  • Dessert: Italian Cookies

italianfeast8

Italian American Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and mix with the garlic powder and parsley.

Using a basting brush, coat the bread generously with the butter mixture. Place the Italian bread on a medium baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

italianfeast1Braised Artichokes

This dish can be made ahead. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 large artichokes, outer leaves trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 lemons, halved and juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the bottom.

Heat oil in an 8 to 10-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine, artichokes, lemon juice and squeezed lemon halves, salt and 10 cups water; boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer artichokes to a serving platter, cut each half, in half, and keep warm.

Discard all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid; return the pan with the liquid to medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; spoon sauce over artichokes to serve.

italianfeast2

Tuna Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Make this appetizer a day or two before the party, so they can marinate.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (32-oz.) jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, seeded and stemmed

Directions

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Stuff each pepper with a little of the tuna mixture. Transfer to a covered dish and pour the remaining oil over the peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

italianfeast3

Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

This entire dish, with the exception of the pasta, can be prepared well in advance and reheated.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and finely diced
  • 24 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef steak (top sirloin or round), pounded to 1/16″ thickness (about 3 lbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 lbs penne or rigatoni or pappardelle pasta

Directions

To make the filling:

Mix together raisins, 3/4 cup parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, prosciutto and garlic in a bowl; set aside.

Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper and place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks or kitchen string and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves and return beef rolls to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, gently stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the meat rolls from the sauce, remove toothpicks, transfer to serving platters and cover plates with foil. Keep warm.

Continue cooking sauce until thickened, while you cook the pasta.

Pour some of the sauce over the meat rolls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Mix some of the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the braciole and pasta.

italianfeast5

Sautéed Greens and Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium heads escarole (or greens of choice), cored, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F

Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. You may have to wait until some of the leaves wilt before adding more.

Stir in peppers; season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top; transfer skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 12 minutes.

italianfeast6

Pine-nut (Pignoli) Italian Cookies  

Makes about 48 cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, from 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer bowl, beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and lemon peel until smooth.

Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks. They freeze very well.)

italianfeast7

Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups finely ground almonds, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.


wintersalad

This is not the season for cold potato salad or any other cold salad when you are trying to warm up. Then again, forget any memory of overcooked, withered spinach salads adorned with hard-boiled eggs and greasy bacon dressing. Good warm salads are filled with delicious flavors and appealing textures. The first key to a great warm salad lies in learning to barely wilt the greens, so that the warm vinaigrette brings all the flavors together but doesn’t make the salad soggy. The second key lies in the complementary combination of ingredients.

When a dressing is warm, it has a more pronounced flavor than when it’s cold, plus the heat really brings out all the flavors of the salad. You have to be careful when you dress the greens, though, because you want them to be just slightly wilted.

You can accomplish this in several ways.

Heat the dressing in a pan. Then pour the warm vinaigrette over the bowl of greens, add the garnishes and toss. This method work well with hardier greens like spinach, escarole and kale. You can wilt mesclun this way, too; just dress the greens a little more lightly and serve them immediately.

Or you can arrange the raw greens on serving plates, top with just cooked shrimp or chicken and then drizzle the hot dressing over all. This method is better when the greens are particularly tender, like mizuna or mesclun. Whichever wilting method you choose, just remember you don’t want to fully cook the greens, so don’t put them directly into a hot sauté pan. Don’t wilt the greens until you’re ready to serve them; this type of salad looks and tastes best when freshly dressed.

wintersalads3

Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound baby spinach (7 cups)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Spread the spinach on a large platter. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook it in the pan with the bacon fat over moderately high heat until barely pink, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Pour the shrimp and beans onto the bed of spinach.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mustard to the skillet and whisk in the red wine vinegar, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the salad and garnish with the bacon. Serve immediately.

wintersalads4

Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small beet, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss. Top the salad with the feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

wintersalads1

Warm Chicken Salad with Green Beans, Almonds and Dried Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 6)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and shredded
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high; season chicken with salt and pepper. In two batches, cook chicken until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, slice chicken crosswise.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cover and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.

Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, jam, mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula and radicchio with half the dressing. Divide salad among four plates; arrange chicken, green beans, cherries and almonds on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve immediately.

wintersalads2

Spinach Salad with Salmon

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the Vinaigrette

In a blender combine vinegar, mustard, garlic, rosemary, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. With machine running, add oil in a thin stream; blend until creamy.

For the Salmon

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from the heat. Place salmon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil, without turning, until opaque throughout, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool briefly, then flake.

Divide spinach and tomatoes among serving plates. Top with salmon, blue cheese and pecans. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Pass the remaining dressing with the salad.

wintersalad3

Steak and Potato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan (1 ounce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high. Pat steak dry; season steak with salt and pepper and cook until browned and medium-rare, 3 to 5 minutes per side (reduce heat if skillet begins to scorch). Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain.

In a large bowl, combine romaine and arugula. Add potatoes, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine.

Top salad with steak and Parmesan and serve with lemon wedges.


 A Forest of Greens by  Carl Warner

A Forest of Greens by Carl Warner

For decades, Italian country cooks have simmered greens and buttery white beans together.

When we eat greens—such as escarole, Tuscan cabbage, spinach and chard—we are eating the leaves of a plant. Leafy greens are miracle vegetables—not only are they are low in calories, rich in amino acids, vitamins A and C, minerals and fiber, they also help with digestion and boost the metabolism. In addition, they are believed to provide a host of health benefits—from building up the immune system to balancing hormones.

Some of the most common types of leafy greens and lettuces (called lattughe in Italian) are found in most good Italian fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stores) and in a vast portion of the United States as well. The leafy green vegetables described below make wonderful contorni (side dishes) when cooked for just a few minutes:

Spinaci (Spinach)

Spinach

For salads, baby spinach is preferable because the leaves are more tender, but mature spinach is used in Italian cuisine in a myriad of ways—from the classic sautéed spinach to the fillings for a variety of pasta ripiena (filled pastas). Also, many pasta dishes, rolled meat preparations and crespelle (filled crêpes) use spinach as a main ingredient.

The best way to prepare spinach is by following this simple procedure:

Trim off the reddish roots from each bundle and eliminate any yellowish leaves Then wash the leaves three times in a clean sink filled with water. Fresh spinach often comes with a good deal of sand and dirt—so you want to be sure to thoroughly wash the spinach before cooking. Let the leaves dry out a bit in a big colander. In a large sauce pan, heat extra virgin olive oil on a low-medium flame; add one clove of peeled garlic (flattened with a knife) and then add the spinach, a little salt (very important because this will help release the spinach juices) and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, until the leaves cook (they will shrink substantially). Then, remove the lid and allow the excess liquid to evaporate. Grate some nutmeg over the cooked spinach and serve.

Note: This basic method can be used with any greens and other vegetables with a high water content. None of the leafy greens’ nutritious juices are wasted when you cook and steam them in this way—it’s one of the quickest and healthiest ways to prepare them.

Bieta or bietola (chard)

coloredchard

This vegetable is used a great deal in Italian cuisine in all its forms—as verdure cotto (cooked vegetables) or biete saltate in padella (sautéed in a pan).

Because the stems take longer to cook than the leaves, it’s best to cut out the stems and cut them in half-inch pieces. Boil these pieces first in a small amount of salted water and then two minutes later add the leaves, cut in slices. After cooking another two minutes or less, drain and sauté the chard right away on a high flame in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. After just a couple of stirs, they’re ready to serve as a delicious contorno (side dish). Just drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil on top before serving.

For other more complex preparations, the following method for cooking chard can be used: Drain the chard from the boiling water with a strainer and immerse them right away in ice and water. Then press the leaves firmly to remove the water or spin in a salad spinner to remove the water. Next, sauté the chard in a pan as described above. Cooked chard can be used in pasta dishes or as a filling for a focaccia, in frittatas or as part of the filling for involtini (stuffed, rolled meat). Chard can be prepared with other vegetables, such as endive, and baked in the oven with a béchamel sauce, for example.

Escarole

greens escarole 1

Escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. It is high in folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and K. Sometimes referred to as chicory and characterized by broad, dark outer leaves, this member of the chicory family does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The inner leaves are good in a salad and the darker, outer leaves can be sautéed.

Try serving some escarole quickly wilted with lemon juice or stir chopped escarole into soup. A medium head of escarole usually yields about seven cups of torn leaves.

Italian/Tuscan Cabbage

greens cabbage

Cabbage grows very well in the winter months and is therefore one of the most popular Italian winter vegetables. Common Italian cabbage varieties include:

Cavolo Verza: Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage. A head cabbage with bright green, characteristically crinkly leaves. Very popular in northern Italy.

Cavolo Cappuccio: Red or green smooth-leaved head cabbage. Common in Northern Italy, especially the Northeast.

Cavolo Nero: Black leaf kale, a leafy cabbage with dark blackish-green leaves. It’s popular in central Italy, especially Tuscany.

Cime di Rapa or Rapini: Broccoli raab, one of the more rustic flowering cabbages; both the tiny florets and the leaves are edible. Popular in central and to a greater degree in Southern Italy.

greens escarole

Sauteed Escarole Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of escarole (or 2 small heads)
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 long italian hot peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Clean and rinse escarole twice; chop into large pieces.

Boil in salted water for 5 minutes until wilted. Drain

Add olive oil to the pan and heat.

Add the chopped garlic and prosciutto and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic.

Add peppers and cook another minute or so.

Add the drained escarole and broth.

Gradually add the grated cheese, tossing gently until blended.

Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste.

Place in a casserole dish; sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve hot.

greensSwisschard

Swiss Chard with Pancetta & Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 large bunches of fresh Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest bottom third of the stalk. Roughly chop the leaves and remaining stalks into inch-wide strips.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard by boiling it just long enough to soften the leaves and stalks, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the olive oil, garlic and the crushed red pepper to the pan. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add the diced pancetta, lower the heat and allow the pancetta to cook until lightly browned.

Add the cooked diced potatoes and sauté with the pancetta briefly. Then add the blanched Swiss chard; toss together and cover and cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Add salt to taste and a small drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with rustic bread. Serves 4 to 6

greenszuppa-di-cavolo-

Zuppa di Cavolo Nero

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Tuscan cabbage, about 2 1/2 pounds (1 k)
  • A medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A stalk of celery, minced
  • A sprig of fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 canned plum tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) simmering vegetable or meat broth
  • Slices of Italian bread
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Wash the cabbage, stripping the ribs from the leaves and slicing the leaves into strips. Next, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a soup  pot; add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and begins to color. Add the thyme and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and broth, mix well, check seasoning, and simmer the soup for an hour.

In the meantime, slice and toast the bread and use it to line the soup bowls.

Ladle the soup over the bread and serve it with freshly grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black or red pepper for those who want it.

baked greens

Baked Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 8 ounces medium shell or penne pasta
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, about 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the wooden spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than the package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in sausage mixture.

Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

*A note to my readers who do not use US measurements – there is a recipe measurement/temperature converter tool in the side bar under Blogroll. Just click on the title and a new page will open with the converter tool.


Cliff_at_Tropea,_Italy,_Sep_2005

Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy – lapped by the crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, the classic flavors of local foods and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place in both winter and summer. The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.

With farmland sparse in Calabria, every viable plot is cultivated to its greatest advantage. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, beans, onions, peppers, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, grapes, olives, almonds, figs and mountain-loving herbs grow well in the area. Calabrians tend to focus on the high quality of their ingredients, so that virtually everything picked from a garden is useable and worthy of praise.

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Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking.

Fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod and sardines and shrimp and lobster are common on their tables. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation has become a fine art in Calabria. Oiling, salting, curing, smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce and the local pancetta pairs perfectly with plump melons in summer.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal, so the fact that the organ meats are so prized by locals comes as no great surprise. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is both a complex and singularly unusual flavor. Made from pig’s fat and organ meats mixed with liberal local pepperoncinis, this salami-style delicacy is a testament to the Calabrian patience in waiting until foods have reached their perfection. In this case, waiting for the salami to cure for an entire year. Other salamis such as capicola calabrese and soppressata di calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads, cheeses and Calabrian wines.

Spelinga_Nduja

Nduja

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking. Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Pane del pescatore (“fisherman’s bread”) is a local specialty rich with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, due to Greek and Arabic influences. Greek influence still pervades in eggplant, swordfish and sweets by incorporating figs, almonds and honey into the preparations. Similarly, special pastries and desserts take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts, like ricci di donna (or “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (or “hairs of the priest”), belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are scilateddri, lagane, cavateddri and maccheroni.

Wine is not produced in huge quantities in the region, though the small batches are excellent in flavor and heavily influenced by Greek varieties. Ciró wines are produced using the same ancient varieties of grapes, as wines produced in antiquity for local heroes of the Olympic games. The grapes are still grown primarily in the Cosenza province of Calabria and Ciró wines often take up to four years to reach maturity. Calabria also turns out sweet whites, such as Greco di Bianco.

hot peppers

Calabrian hot pepper is found in many Calabrian dishes – toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines, pork sausages, pasta sauces and fish dishes will have hot pepper added.  A fondness for spicy food shows in the popularity of all types of peppers and, unusual for Italy, the use of ginger (zenzero), which is added to spice up sauces (along with hot pepper). Some Calabrian chicken and fish recipes also include ginger.

Antipasto

stuffedmush1

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

  • One dozen mushroom caps
  • 1 cup well-drained skim milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for garnishing

Directions

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and set the caps side. Use the stems for soup or other recipes.

Thoroughly combine the next five ingredients -ricotta through pepper- in a mixing bowl.

Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the 12 mushrooms with olive oil cooking spray.

Stuff each cap with ricotta filling. Sprinkle the tops lightly with breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees F  20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

First Course

pasta_alla_calabrese

Calabrian Sugo – Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

This is a basic Calabrian sauce that is the foundation of many dishes. It can be served on its own with any pasta shape. It can also be the starting point for the addition of many other ingredients. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned.

Ingredients:

  • 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in their juice or 3 ½ cups of peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh or dried hot red pepper or a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound rigatoni

Directions:

If you are using canned tomatoes, break them up by hand. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Second Course

tuna

Trance di Tonno alla Calabrese (Tuna Steaks Calabrese Style)

Ingredients

  • 4 tuna steaks (about 2 pounds and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Place the tuna in a large large dish in a single layer, sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours, occasionally turning the tuna.

Remove the tuna from the marinade.

Heat a large skillet until very hot and cook the tuna together with the lemon wedges, for approximately six minutes depending on thickness of the fillets or until the fish done to your likeness.

Sprinkle with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil before serving.

sauteed-escarole-with-raisins-pine-nuts-and-capers-104912-ss

Sautéed Escarole

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • One head of fresh escarole, washed thoroughly
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.

Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt or more hot pepper.

Dessert

crostata light marmellata

Devil’s Tart (Crostata del Diavolo)

Sweet and hot are popular combinations in southern Italy, as evidenced by this tart. Chile jam is readily available from mail order sources. You can also roll the top crust out and fit it over the filling instead of making a lattice top.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces soft butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 11 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 4 ounces red chile jam (Marmellata di Peperoncino)
  • 4 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, egg and lemon peel.

In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the butter-sugar-egg-mixture.

Divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough on a floured surface to fit a tart or pie pan and fit the dough into the pan.

Spread the fruit jam evenly over the dough in the pie dish and, then, spread the chile jam evenly on top of the orange jam. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Roll the other half of the dough to the size of the top of the tart pan on a floured surface. Cut the dough into one inch strips and lay the strips on top of the filling in a lattice pattern.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

marmellata-di-peperoncino

Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes (frombootlewithlove.wordpress.com)
Mangia! Mangia! (mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com)
Calabria: An Ideal Holiday Spot (gateawayblog.wordpress.com)
A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/11/11/plan-a-venetian-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/09/23/a-fall-neapolitan-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/10/22/a-fall-bolognese-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/01/09/make-a-roman-inspired-winter-dinner/

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Generally, authentic Italian stews have similar ingredients to vegetable soup, but they tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables and sometimes have a thicker sauce. Some Italian stews are simply meat simmered in broth or wine. In Italy stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl or on a plate alongside bread, polenta or rice. Some stews are served over polenta.

Stews are generally easy to prepare, store well in the refrigerator and taste better reheated. A perfect make ahead dish. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian seaoning that have been converted into stews by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture. Usually, this type of stew contains small, hollow noodles like macaroni or shell pasta.

Many Italian stew recipes that are the most popular in Italy did not actually come from there. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by other nearby cultures, some common Italian stews may have originated in border areas, like Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota, which contains beans and bacon and is often cooked with garlic, potatoes and meat, originally came from Croatia.

In general, Italian stews are cooked using similar, low-heat methods, but they can contain a variety of meats and vegetables. They can be made on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker. Vegetables cooked in this type of stew can vary, but usually include carrots, celery and fennel. Potatoes, onion and garlic are also common. The typical Italian stew contains beef, but it can also contain other meats like chicken, pork or veal. Rabbit is a highly popular stew meat in Northern Italy. Sausage is also a common meat, especially in the south.

pork stew

Italian Pork Stew

My adaption of Marcella Hazan’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound Cipollini onions, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot
  • 1 cup potatoes diced

Directions

Bring broth and mushrooms to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms in a colander over a bowl, reserving broth.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.

Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of pork mixture; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add pork to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining pork mixture, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Add wine to the pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in reserved broth, pork-onion mixture and sage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until pork is almost tender.

Stir in carrot and potato. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer 10 minutes.

128-oxtail-stew400

Roman Oxtail Stew

In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the custom of raising beef for meat, as opposed to raising oxen for plowing and transportation, is relatively recent. That’s why, in English, we still refer to the tail of a steer as “oxtails” and not to “beef tails”. There are few true oxen left anywhere in the Western world and modern farming techniques have replaced their work. Most butcher shops and supermarkets in America actually sell the tail cut as “beef oxtails.” Oxtail stew tastes best, if made a day ahead and then reheated. This is a popular stewing cut in Italy and is often served over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 beef oxtail (2 1/2-3 pounds)
  • 6 celery stalks, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium-sized white onion
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Italian dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 6 to 8 cups boiling water
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Rinse the oxtail under warm running water and eliminate any fat or gristle with a paring knife. Chop it into sections along the vertebrae. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Mince 1 celery stalk and reserve the rest. Mince the garlic with the carrot and onion. Mince the pancetta; you should have 3/4 cup. Combine the minced vegetables and pancetta with 1 heaping tablespoon of the parsley.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the minced vegetable-and-pancetta mixture and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until the onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the oxtail pieces, a generous pinch of salt and several turns of the peppermill. Brown thoroughly, stirring, for about 15 minutes.

Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes, crushing and stirring. Add just enough of the water to completely submerge the oxtail meat.

Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string, leaving about one foot of the string attached. Lower the purse into the stew and secure the string to a pot handle. Drop in the bay leaf and stir.

Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours.

Slice the remaining 5 celery stalks into 2 inch sticks. Add them to the stew and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the cloves and the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 heaping tablespoon of parsley. Serve in soup bowls.

sausage-beans-and-greens-24066-ss

Sausage, Escarole & White Bean Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small head escarole, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces, washed and lightly dried
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula until lightly browned and broken into small (1-inch) pieces, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the escarole to the pot in batches; using tongs, toss with the sausage mixture to wilt the escarole and make room for more. When all the escarole is in, add the beans and chicken broth, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are heated through and the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar and salt.

Transfer to bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the Parmigiano. Serve with toasted Italian country bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

vegetable stew

Italian Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 (26-ounce) container POMI chopped tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini (8 ounces each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers or a combination, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion and potatoes and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant and potatoes begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of the pot; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and the chopped tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until the eggplant is soft and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add zucchini, bell peppers and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. Add crushed red pepper to taste, if desired.

Tuscan chicken

Tuscan Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oil in large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion, garlic and fennel seed; cook and stir on medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, red wine, basil, rosemary, salt, oregano and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet  and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.

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Fennel seeds are the dried “fruit” of the fennel plant. The plant has feathery leaves, which are used as an herb and it also produces yellow flowers. When the flowers die, seeds form in clumps and are collected once they have ripened and hardened.

The seeds are oval in shape and green or greenish brown in color. They are often mistaken for anise. However, fennel seeds are slightly larger and less pungent. The seeds and leaves of the fennel plant both have a licorice flavor, although the flavor of fennel is milder and somewhat sweeter than anise.

Fennel seeds are actually a spice, although the leaves, stalks and roots of the plant are known as a herb. The bulb-like vegetable called fennel or finocchio in Italian is related to the herb fennel and is similar in taste, however, they are not the same plant. The fennel plant is native to the southern European and Mediterranean regions, although, it is now cultivated and produced in other parts of the world such as India, China and Egypt.

Fennel has been around for thousands of years and food historians say that the name has Greek origins. In 490 BC the Ancient Greeks fought with the Persians in the city of Marathon. According to the story, the battleground was actually a field of fennel and the word for fennel is derived from the Greek word for “marathon”. The Romans introduced the spice to the UK and other European countries and over time it was also transported East to Asia and China. The Puritans took the spice to the US, where they called fennel seeds “meeting seeds”, due to the fact that during long church sermons or Puritan meetings, they chewed on the seeds to fend off hunger and tiredness. Today fennel and fennel seeds are popular in Northern and Southern European cuisines, as well as in Chinese and Indian cooking, where they are often included in spice blends.

Medicinally, fennel seeds have traditionally been used to settle the stomach and digestive system. This is due to components in the seeds that are known to prevent muscle spasms and cramps. In the Indian culture, fennel seeds are often chewed after a meal in order to prevent gas or indigestion. The seeds can also be made into an after dinner digestive drink to relieve the same symptoms.

Whole Fennel Seeds

Ground Fennel Seed

Fennel seeds can be bought from your local supermarket or spice shop. The freshest and best quality seeds will be a bright green color and these are the best seeds for cooking. As the seeds age, their color changes to a darker green and then a brownish green to grey. You can buy the seeds whole or in ground form. The whole seeds will keep longer and you can easily grind them yourself at home with a pestle and mortar or a spice mill. Store the seeds in a dark cupboard away from the sunlight in an airtight glass container. Try to use the seeds within 6 months.

The seeds can be used without any special preparation, if you are using them in a sweet dish or to flavor bread. However, if the seeds are being used for a savory recipe, they may be toasted or heated in a dry frying pan for two or three minutes before grinding or crushing, as this will accentuate their flavor and aroma. Toasting the seeds in this way actually changes the flavor of the seeds slightly, giving them a stronger and spicier flavor rather than a sweeter and milder one.

Fennel seeds have different uses in different parts of the world. In Scandinavia and central Europe, the seeds are used in baking, particularly in rye breads and sweet pastries. Fennel is extremely popular in Italy where they are added to sausage mixtures. In India fennel seeds are one of the ingredients in the common spice blend, panch phoran, which also contains mustard, fenugreek seeds and cumin that is used to flavor curry. Fennel is very versatile but is especially flavorful in rubs for meat, poultry, fish and seafood.

Below are a number of ideas on how you can use fennel seeds in your cooking:

  • Use fennel seeds to make fish soup and fish stock.
  • Add fennel seeds to salads, particularly cucumber salad.
  • Add to soft cheese and spread on bread.
  • Use the seeds when making bread or biscuits.
  • Use in sausage mixtures.
  • Use in any pork dishes, stews or casseroles.
  • Sprinkle ground fennel seeds over fish or meat.
  • Use in Italian-style pasta sauces.
  • Use in pickling solutions.
  • Use in a marinade for meat, fish or vegetables.
  • Add to poaching or steaming liquid for fish and shellfish.
  • Add to couscous, lentil, bean or bulgur wheat dishes.
  • Add to homemade coleslaw or potato salad.
  • Use in homemade salad dressings.

Homemade Italian Fennel Pork Sausage

Fennel seed is one of the main ingredients in Italian sausage and this recipe includes Asiago cheese for added flavor. Try making your own at home. You can use a food processor to chop up the pork and most electric mixers come with a sausage stuffer attachment. This sausage is just as good in patties as in casings.

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless pork shoulder roasts, cut into small chunks (remove large pieces of fat) weighing 6 pounds after trimming
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 5 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 4 tablespoons crushed fennel seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

Directions

Toast fennel seeds in a pan in a preheated 325-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Cool before using in the recipe.

In a large bowl, combine pork, salt, pepper red pepper, parsley, Asiago cheese, fennel seeds and garlic. Thoroughly blend with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend.

Put seasoned pork chunks through the medium plate of a food chopper. Place in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute seasonings.

All sausages can be prepared as patties (the easiest) or run through a sausage-stuffer into hog casings by following the instructions of the appliance. Sausages freeze well.

Patties can be sauteed in a little olive oil and served with tomato sauce.

Yield: about 6 pounds.

Braided Fennel Seed Twists

Taralli are the famous hard country biscuits from Molise and Campania. They look like bagels and can be made large or small. They appear at every meal and are addictive. They are flavored with fennel seeds, black pepper and peperoncino (crushed red pepper). Try using all these flavorings in the dough or just one, depending on your taste. When taralli are braided they are called treccine (little braids).

Makes 18

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115F)
  • 2 teaspoons active dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Directions

Pour the water into a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and pulse to dissolve it. Pour the olive oil into the feed tube.

In a large measuring cup mix the flour with the salt and pour through the feed tube with the motor running. Stop the machine.

Grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder until coarse. Add them through the feed tube along with the black pepper. Pulse the machine to blend the ingredients. The dough should be soft,

but not sticky.

When the dough forms a ball, stop the machine and transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and transfer it to a work surface. Only use flour on the surface if the dough is sticky, but it should be fine without it.

Roll the dough out into a 36-inch log. Cut 36 1-inch pieces.

Roll two pieces into an 8 inch rope, then twist the pieces together to form a braid. Pinch the ends together to form a circle.

Allow the biscuits to rise on lightly greased baking sheets for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake the biscuits about 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn off the oven and allow the them to really dry out in the oven. They should be the consistency of a hard cracker. Cool.

Serve at room temperature with cheese and olives and a glass of wine.

To freeze, wrap the biscuits individually in plastic wrap and then in a large zip lock bag. They will keep for about 3 months

Chicken and Escarole Soup with Fennel

6 main-course servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 14-to 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 8 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 head of escarole, cut into wide strips
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Mix in onions, celery, garlic and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until vegetables and chicken are tender, about 15 minutes. Add escarole; simmer until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Serve, passing cheese separately.

Fennel Crusted Tuna Steaks

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
  • 2 tuna steaks (5 to 6 ounces, 2 to 3 inches thick)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Place a medium-sized skillet on medium-high heat and add oil to the pan.

Using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, crush fennel seeds into a powder. Place in a shallow bowl, add crushed pepper and mix until well incorporated.

Pat tuna steaks dry with paper towel. Season steaks liberally on both sides with salt.

Press fennel-pepper mix onto tuna steaks on both sides.

Carefully place tuna steak into the heated pan.

Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes until pink in the middle or until done to your liking.

Grilled Spareribs with Fennel Seeds

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • 2 racks (2 1/2 lbs. each) pork spare ribs trimmed St. Louis-style, membrane removed, cut into 8- portions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients except the ribs and olive oil in a bowl. Rub ribs all over with the oil and spread with seasoning mixture, putting most on the meaty side of the ribs. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours; let stand at room temperature for one hour before cooking hour.

Meanwhile, scrunch 5 (1 1/2 ft.) sheets of foil each into a log about 9 in. long; set aside.

Prepare a grill for low (250° to 300°) indirect heat and put a 9-by 13-in. drip pan in place ( check note below).

Set ribs with bone tips upright over the drip pan area, arranging foil logs between ribs to hold them up. Grill, covered, until meat is very tender when pierced and shrinks back 1/2 inch from the tips of the bones, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours.

Transfer ribs to a rimmed baking sheet and cover with foil. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: If using gas, put a drip pan in place under one area of the cooking grate (the indirect-heat area), then light only the burner or burners on the rest of the grill (the direct-heat area).

If using charcoal, ignite 50 briquets in a chimney, then bank coals on opposite sides of the grill, leaving a cleared area in the middle. Set a drip pan in the cleared area. Let coals burn down to the temperature specified in the recipe. To maintain the temperature during cooking, add 5 briquets to each mound of coals about every 30 minutes, starting when ribs go on the grill; if the fire gets too hot, partially close vents under grill and on the lid.


This time of year is perfect for lighter soups that showcase the flavors of seasonal vegetables. Taste isn’t the only reason for cooking up a big pot of spring soup. It can save you money, too. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cornell University scientists found that the cost per serving is usually lower for in season fresh food than for processed food. Further, a recent USDA Economic Research Service analysis found that fresh seasonal produce costs 12 to 18 cents per serving on average. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables will also provide you countless health benefits, thanks to an almost endless variety of nutrients.

Italians enjoy food in its most straightforward state—no fuss, just real ingredients in their purest form, allowing for the integrity the of the ingredients to shine. They also use the time of year as their guide and work with products available, visiting their local grocers or farmer’s markets to see what is fresh. The delicate flavors in these soups are a direct reflection of the new beginnings taking place around us in our environment. Sometimes the most effortless dish makes for the most appetizing meal.

These soups provide the perfect way to incorporate spring’s most green ingredients: peas, asparagus and artichokes, to name a few. All great soups start with the basics- carrots, onions and celery- with variations like shallots, leeks, garlic and even fennel. The goal of a great soup is to build upon the basics to create a wonderful and balanced set of flavors, which can take hours or just 30 minutes. When making Italian soups, it’s best to start with traditional ingredients and then add your own personal flair to achieve something new and unique. Soups are a great way to showcase your individuality and taste.

The first two soup recipes below are two of my favorites for this time of year and I make them on a regular basis. The last group of soups are ones that I adapted from the cookbook,The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti, Chronicle Books, 2006. They are great examples of the kinds of soups made in Italy and in Italian American homes, that utilize all the wonderful springtime produce that are found in markets this time of year. I have changed some of the ingredients and some of the techniques to suit my family’s palate.

Broccoli Leek Soup                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins.” Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups broth, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Return soup to the heat; add florets; bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add half-and-half and chives and reheat on low briefly.

4 servings

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup

Yield: 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Place barley in a bowl with just enough water to cover it.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in an 8-quart stockpot.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the olive oil, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken to stockpot, along with the salt and black pepper. Brown for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, vegetables and spices to the pot.

Drain the water from the barley. Add the barley to the soup.

Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium. Cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Use a variety of lettuces for a mix of colors and textures, especially radicchio. The greens lose their bright hue when you cook them, taking on muted, earthy tones. If you want to perk up the color, gently stir in another handful or two of spinach during the last few minutes of cooking. Adding a small rind of Parmigiano while the soup is simmering boosts the flavor of the broth.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head radicchio or escarole, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth or low-sodium commercial chicken broth
  • 1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly shaved or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and then stir in the butter and romaine lettuces, radicchio and spinach, tossing the greens so that they are well-coated with the other ingredients. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes or so, just until the greens have wilted.

Pour in the broth and add the Parmigiano rind. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Stir in the rice, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shaved or grated Parmigiano cheese.

Ladle the soup into a serving tureen or into individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining cheese.

Shepherd's Soup

Shepherd’s Soup

This recipe is Sardinian based and uses tender vegetables and broken spaghetti in a simmered milk-based broth. In Italy, this soup is made with fresh sheep’s milk or goat’s milk.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups cut-up thin green beans (1-inch pieces)
  • 7 baby carrots (3 to 4 inches long), halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound baby yellow or new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved or quartered (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups broken spaghetti (1-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine the milk and water and bring almost to a boil over medium-high heat (do not let the liquid boil over). Stir in the salt, green beans and carrots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a bare simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to turn tender. Add the potatoes and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just starting to soften. Stir in the pasta and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes if using frozen, or slightly longer if using fresh, or until they are tender but still bright green.

While the peas are cooking, put the cheese in a small bowl and add a few spoonfuls of the milky broth. Stir the cheese and hot broth together to make a thin paste and stir this paste into the soup until fully incorporated. Add a generous grinding of pepper and stir gently but thoroughly.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with an additional sprinkle of cheese.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Tender green asparagus, spring onions and fennel combine in this for a typical spring. Adding pearled barley to the mix gives it a little more substance. Accompany the soup with country bread for a one-dish supper.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 spring onions, bulbs and tender white part of stalks sliced crosswise, about 1 cup
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and quarters thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low-sodium commercial broth, heated to a simmer
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Put the barley on to cook before you start the soup: In a large saucepan, combine the water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the barley. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. It should not be mushy. Reduce the heat, if necessary, so that the barley cooks at a gentle, steady simmer. Drain the barley in a colander placed in the sink and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the barley is cooking, trim off the tough ends from the asparagus and discard them (or add them to the pot in which you are heating the broth to enhance its flavor; remove them before adding the broth to the soup).

Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Set aside the tips. You should have about 4 1/2 cups asparagus pieces, not including the tips.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and fennel, reduce the heat to medium-low and saute, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir vigorously to combine. Pour in 1 cup of the heated broth and stir for a minute or so to incorporate thoroughly.

Slowly pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and add the asparagus pieces — except for the reserved tips — and the parsley sprigs. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion or standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Stir in the cooked barley and asparagus tips and heat gently over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve the soup, stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Ladle the soup into a large serving bowl or tureen and top the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sweet Pea Soup With Radish

Makes 4 servings

For the radish topping:

  • 3 to 4 radishes, cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 small spring onion (bulb only), thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix together the radish and cucumber with the coarse salt. Place the radish and cucumber in a small colander set over a bowl and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and pat vegetables dry with paper towels.

Transfer the radishes and cucumbers to a bowl and stir in the spring onion, oil, sugar and a grinding of pepper. Gently toss to combine. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until serving time.

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spring onions or leeks (bulbs and tender parts of stalk)
  • 1 small sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 small sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth, or low-sodium commercial broth
  • 4 cups shelled peas (about 4 pounds in the pod) or 4 cups good quality frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mascarpone or ricotta cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the spring onions and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they have softened but are not browned. Add the marjoram and thyme and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Pour in the broth, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Carefully tip in the peas and cook for 6 to 8 minutes for fresh peas; 3 to 4 minutes for frozen, or until they are just tender but still bright green. Take off the heat and remove and discard the sprigs of marjoram and thyme. Using an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Return the soup to medium heat and stir in the milk, salt and pepper to taste. Heat until just warmed through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta cheese and top with a spoonful of radish mixture.

 


Most of the immigrants went to the cities. New York, Buffalo, Rochester and other cities in the State of New York received large contingents. It must be remembered that immigrants almost always came to join others who had preceded them – a husband, or a father, or an uncle or a friend. In western New York most of the first immigrants from Sicily went to Buffalo, so that from 1900 on, the thousands who followed them to this part of the state also landed in Buffalo. There they joined their friends and relatives who in many cases had purchased the tickets for their steerage passage to America. After they arrived, guided and assisted by relatives, they ventured out of the city of Buffalo, joined work gangs all over western New York to pick peas, beans and other crops and to work in the numerous canneries located in the small towns and villages. In their westward migration they first went to work on the farms in Brant, Angola and Farnham and also in the canneries at Farnham, Silver Creek, Irving and other places. Some of the men found work on the railroad. They moved from place to place and lived in freight cars. In this manner some of them reached as far as Westfield and settled there. The canneries there and the rich farm lands provided work for the whole family.

Source: CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY WESTFIELD, NY: August 1960.

Buffalo, New York

Approximately 1908

Canal Street was the name of a thoroughfare as well as a district in Buffalo in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally called Rock Street, Canal Street ran parallel to and just to the west of the famed Erie Canal at its terminus in Buffalo. The area had been the site of the original Village of Buffalo, near a Seneca Indian village on Buffalo Creek. The city eventually expanded outward from the waterfront location.

The Canal, completed in 1825, opened up the western United States to travelers and trade from the east coast. With it came a tremendous increase in Great Lakes freighter traffic at Buffalo Harbor and, with that, an influx of canal and freighter crewmen, who were often paid when they reached Buffalo and spent their pay freely in the bars and brothels that sprang up in the district, that was known at different times as “Canal Street”, “Five Points”, “the Flats” and “the Hooks”.

In the early 20th century, the district became the home of the Italian immigrants, mostly Sicilian. Canal Street’s name was changed to Dante Place and the neighborhood became known as “Little Italy.” Most of the bars and brothels gave way to three-and four-story brick tenements, each housing multiple families.

Alter the first wave of immigrants came, a larger wave from Abruzzi province in central Italy, from Calabria in the boot and more Sicilians from the Mediterranean island, arrived on the waterfront. The Italians extended their area up to Niagara Street and Front Park and down to Eagle and Chicago Street. Their traditional neighborhood had been the West Side, but they moved out past the city limits as early as 1900 and today are still scattered throughout the area. 

No fewer than five distincts emerged in Buffalo:

Newcomers from Sicily settled in a neighborhood called, The Hooks, close to Canal Street on the crowded Lower West Side.

Calabrians regrouped in South Buffalo.

The Campanese, who came from Naples, lived closer to downtown.

The Abruzzi, lived on East Delavan and immigrants from central southern Italy, the Campobassese, settled in the Lovejoy-William area.

Syracuse, New York

The “Bambinos” of Little Italy – Syracuse, New York in 1899

Little Italy in Syracuse, New York, is an area on the north side of the city where the early Italian immigrants settled. The neighborhood has been called Little Italy for years, but it was not until 2003 that the city officially designated it as such. The area is populated with Italian restaurants, some along North Salina Street, Little Italy’s main street.

St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church at 130 North State Street, c.1910

Italian immigrants first came to the area around Syracuse, New York in 1883 after providing labor for the construction of the West Shore Railroad. At first, they were quite transient and came and went, but eventually settled down on the Northside. By 1899, the Italian immigrants were living on the Northside of the city in the area centered around Pearl Street. The Italians all but supplanted the Germans in that area of the city and had their own business district along North State and North Salina Streets.

Early residents in the neighborhood worked for Learbury Suits, Nettleton Shoes and other Northside factories. The Columbus Baking Company has been a mainstay on Pearl Street for over a century. The bakery is family-owned and specializes in four types of bread. Thano’s Import Market, located on North Salina Street for over 90 years, sells Italian delicacies, such as aged provolone cheese, olives and homemade pasta.  

Syracuse Northside Produce Market, c.1900

By 1900, farmers gathered at the Northside Produce Market  and supplied fresh fruit and vegetables to local residents. Lombardi’s Fruits & Imports,created during this time, is another fixture on the Northside and carries hundreds of items imported directly from Italy.

Bronx, New York

Arthur Avenue pushcarts in 1940.

Arthur Avenue – what some call the “real Little Italy” is in the Bronx. Located in the Belmont section of the Bronx, Arthur Avenue was named after President Chester A. Arthur in the 19th century. Italians temporarily settled here to help build the Bronx Zoo, but with the creation of the Third Avenue elevated train, which ran between the Bronx and downtown Manhattan, their presence in the neighborhood remained and grew, with the population reached close to 100,000 Italian residents by the early 1900s.

The Bronx Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world. In 1898, the City of New York allotted 250 acres of Bronx Park to the New York Zoological Society to build a park aimed at preserving native animals and promoting zoology. The Bronx Zoo opened in 1899 and remains one of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the United States, housing 4,000 animals representing more than 650 species. The Rockefeller Fountain, was built by Italian sculptor Biagio Catella in 1872, donated to the Zoological Society by William Rockefeller in 1903, and moved to its present spot in the zoo in 1910.

In the 1890s, Italian immigrants moved from lower Manhattan to the tenement buildings of the Bronx. They set up shops selling produce, pasta, cheese, salumi, bread, pastries and other products. Many of those establishments are still doing business today. The atmosphere of Italy is preserved on merchant lined Arthur Avenue and in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, established by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1940.

The Arthur Avenue Retail Market brings all the elements of the neighborhood together under one roof. For a meal to remember, head to Dominicks’s. This classic restaurant is loud, has no menu, no dessert and is consistently named the neighborhood’s favorite “red-sauce joint”. Not to worry dessert lovers, the neighborhood has an abundance of sweet treats at shops like Egidio Pastry, where desserts have been served since 1912.

Some Italian American Regional Favorites:

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 14 large white mushrooms. each about 2 inches wide
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces Italian fennel sausage,casing removed
  • 1 cup finely chopped green peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons grated romano cheese
  • 3 large sweet vinegared cherry peppers, chopped

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems. Set aside the 10 best and largest mushroom caps. Finely chop the remaining 4 mushroom caps and all the stems. Transfer them to a small bowl and set them aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is nicely browned. As it cooks, break the sausage apart with a wooden spoon.

Add the green peppers, garlic and chopped mushroom, increase the heat to high and cook the mixture, stirring, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is browned and tender and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.

Add the bread crumbs and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cheese. Add the pickled peppers and remove the mixture from the heat.

Spread the mixture on a platter, allow it to cool slightly, and then transfer it to the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes or until it has cooled completely.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Stuff each of the reserved mushroom caps with 1 to 1½ tablespoons of the sausage mixture. Set the stuffed mushrooms in a casserole and drizzle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until the mushroom caps are tender. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate, spoon any remaining pan juices over them, and serve.

Escarole Soup

Serves 8–10

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground lean beef
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 clove, finely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced, plus 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley , minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large heads escarole, cored and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

Directions:

Mix beef, bread crumbs, parmesan and pecorino cheese,, seasoning, finely chopped garlic and onion, parsley , egg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Form into 30, 1 ½″ meatballs; chill.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic and onions; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 6 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add meatballs; cook until meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice; top with more parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Fillet of Sole Oreganata

There are different kinds of sole, Dover sole, considered the best, is caught in the English channel and surrounding waters, imported, and sold in fish markets in America. It is expensive. The best domestic sole is called gray-sole, which is fairly abundant in the North Atlantic. Also distinctive in flavor is Lemon Sole. Flounder is also an option. 

 Ingredients:

  • 4-fillets of sole or flounder (6 oz each)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of Chardonnay (or another dry white wine)
  • 1/2-cup of fish stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Oreganata Mixture:

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix oreganata ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In a 350-degree oven, bake fillets in a pan topped with lemon juice, wine, fish stock and salt and pepper for 10 minutes.

Place oreganata mixture over fillets and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown. Arrange fillets on a plate and serve with lemon wedges.

Dolce Torino

Serves: 6

This no-bake recipe comes from an Italian recipe written in 1891. Store-bought savoiardi ladyfinger cookies are dipped in liqueur, layered with chocolate and then refrigerated until firm.

Ingredients:

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk or 2 tablespoons egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
  • 3½ ounces dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons sweet liqueur, such as Alchermes*
  • 12 savoiardi (crisp ladyfingers)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed pistachios or hazelnuts

Directions:

In a large bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar and egg yolk until very smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Put the chocolate and cream in a small bowl and melt chocolate, either in a microwave or over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Let chocolate mixture cool to room temperature, then stir it and the vanilla into the butter mixture. Set aside.

Combine 5 tablespoons warm water with the granulated sugar in a shallow bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the liqueur. Dip 4 of the savoiardi, one at a time, into the liquid. Be sure to moisten them well on all sides. Arrange the 4 liqueur-dipped savoiardi in a row, close together, on a serving plate. Spread with one third of the chocolate mixture. Repeat the dipping and layering to make 2 more layers, spreading the last layer of chocolate mixture on top and around the sides of the stacked savoiardi. Sprinkle top layer with pistachio or hazelnuts. Refrigerate for 3 hours, or until firm. Serve cold.

*Alchermes is a Mediterranean red colored liqueur made from brandy flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices. Use a cranberry liqueur as a substitute. Cranberry flavored liqueur popular brands: Godfreys or Boggs.


Look for these winter vegetables at farmers’ markets (if you’re lucky enough to have year-round markets near you) and in produce departments for the best flavor and greatest value in season. Specific crops and harvest dates will depend on your region’s climate and most of these are only available locally in temperate regions.

Beets are in season in temperate climates fall through spring, and available from storage most of the year everywhere else. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached

Belgian Endive are mostly “forced” to grow in artificial conditions, and are available year-round. Their traditional season (when grown in fields and covered with sand to keep out the light), is late fall and winter.

Broccoli, like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates, so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best (that is, more sweet, less bitter and sharp) when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli Rabe, rapini is a more bitter, leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels Sprouts grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer.

Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather it grows in, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”)

Carrots are available from winter storage from local growers in many areas, and fresh in warmer and temperate regions.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Celeriac/celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring (except in cold climates, where you’ll find it during the summer and early fall).

Celery is at its best in the fall, with its harvest continuing through winter in warm and temperate climates.

Chicories are cool weather crops that come into season in late fall (and last in temperate climates through early spring).

Curly Endive (Frisée) is a chicory at its best in fall and winter.

Escarole is another bitter chicory in season fall and winter.

Fennel‘s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Herbs from hothouses in cooler climates.

Horseradish is at its best in fall and winter. Like so many other root vegetables, however, it stores well and is often available well into spring.

Jerusalem Artichokes/sunchokes are brown nubs, that look a bit like small pieces of fresh ginger. Look for firm tubers with smooth, tan skins in fall and winter.

Kale is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.

Kohlrabi comes into season by the end of fall, but stays sweet into winter.

Leeks more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

Onions,  year round.

Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Potatoes,  year round.

Radicchio, like all chicories, radicchio is more sweet and less bitter when the weather is cool.

Radishes large varieties are available in winter.

Rutabagas also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetable perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed.

Sweet Potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They store very well and are available year-round.

Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter Squash comes into season in early fall and usually lasts well into winter.

Recipes for Winter Vegetables

 

Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter

If you don’t have time to make fresh pasta, use purchased wonton wrappers.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red or golden beets (about 14 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Fresh Egg Pasta, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap beets individually in foil; place on baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Open foil carefully (steam will escape). Cool. Peel beets; finely grate into a medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in breadcrumbs.

Roll Fresh Egg Pasta dough into long sheets according to recipe. Place 1 dough sheet on work surface. Using 3-inch round biscuit cutter, cut sheet into 7 rounds. Transfer rounds to lightly floured baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough for total of 56 rounds.

Sprinkle 2 smooth kitchen towels with flour. Place 8 pasta rounds on work surface, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic. Place small bowl of water next to work surface. Spoon 1 teaspoon beet filling onto half of each round. Dip fingertip into water and dampen edge of 1 round. Fold dough over filling, pushing out as much air as possible and pressing edges firmly to seal. Transfer to prepared towels. Repeat with remaining rounds.

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen solid, about 6 hours. Transfer ravioli to resealable plastic bags.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat and stir in poppy seeds; keep warm. Working in batches, cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to skillet with melted butter; toss to coat. Divide ravioli among 8 plates; sprinkle with Parmesan.

TIP

The flavor, color, and texture of roasted fresh beets is incomparable, so don’t use canned beets. When choosing beets, select bunches with bright, glossy leaves attached.

Fresh Egg Pasta

You can also cut ravioli from the store bought sheets of fresh pasta dough.

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/4 POUND

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 4 large eggs 

Directions:

MAKING THE DOUGH

Place flour in processor. Add eggs. Using on/off turns, blend until clumps of moist dough form (do not process into a ball). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; shape into ball. Knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

ROLLING DOUGH INTO SHEETS

Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover with plastic wrap. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine. Fold in half crosswise (end to end) and run through again. Continue, adjusting machine to narrower settings after every 2 passes and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until pasta sheet is 22 inches long (scant 1/16 inch thick). Place sheet on lightly floured work surface; cover with plastic. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

8 Servings

Ingredients:

PASTRY

1 refrigerated 9 inch pastry crust, such as Pillsbury

FILLING

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat free half & half

Directions:

PASTRY

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ round. Transfer to a 9 inch pie dish; press onto bottom and up sides of dish. Fold overhang under; crimp edges. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Line dough with foil or parchment paper; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Return to oven and bake until crust is light golden brown, 15-20 minutes longer. Let crust cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

FILLING

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450°F.  Using a small paring knife, cut around stems of bell peppers. Lift out stems with seeds and discard. Transfer whole peppers to a small baking dish; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast on upper rack, turning peppers occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer peppers to a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Peel peppers, then cut into strips. Set aside.

At the same time, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast on lower rack for 10 minutes. Add sweet potato to eggplant and mix gently. Continue roasting until eggplant and sweet potato are tender, 20–25 minutes longer. Set vegetables aside.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Arrange tomatoes, skin side down, on prepared sheet. Roast on lower rack until tomatoes are beginning to brown and are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and fennel; cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 5–6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Scatter onion-fennel mixture over bottom of crust. Top with eggplant-sweet potato mixture and roasted peppers. Scatter 1 teaspoon thyme over. Top with cheese and tomatoes.

Whisk eggs and half & half in a small bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture over vegetables. Scatter remaining 1 teaspoon thyme on top.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake tart until filling is set, 50–60 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Bread Crumbs    

The secret behind this Sicilian-inspired dish: crunchy homemade breadcrumbs.                                                         

To make your own, let cubes of Italian bread dry out, then process them into coarse crumbs in a food processor.

8–10 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into 2” florets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, soaked, rinsed, patted dry
  • 3/4 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl; season mixture with salt and pepper. Divide cauliflower mixture between 2 large rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is golden and crispy, about 45 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Cauliflower can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Reheat before using.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 5–6 minutes. Add capers and cook until they start to pop, about 3 minutes longer. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden, 2–3 minutes; transfer breadcrumb mixture to a plate and set aside.

Add chicken broth and anchovy paste to same saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add golden raisins and white wine vinegar and cook until half the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Do ahead: Breadcrumb and raisin mixtures can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm raisin mixture before continuing.

Transfer warm cauliflower to a serving bowl. Scatter raisin mixture over, then toss to distribute evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cauliflower with breadcrumb mixture and parsley.

Wilted Escarole with Prosciutto and Chilies           

   8-10 Servings                                    

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into matchstick-size pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 heads of escarole (about 2 pounds), leaves torn into medium pieces (16 packed cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Working over a small bowl, finely grate enough zest from lemon to measure 2 teaspoons. Cut lemon in half; squeeze juice into another small bowl. Set zest and juice aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until garlic is beginning to turn golden at edges, about 2 minutes. Add prosciutto and cook, spreading with tongs to keep pieces from sticking together, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes; stir for 30 seconds, then add escarole. Cook, tossing escarole, until wilted but not overcooked, 3–5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, transfer escarole to a serving dish. Add butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice to pan. Cook, whisking, until a sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle sauce over escarole.


Native to the East Indies, endive and escarole were introduced into Egypt and Greece at a very early period and references to them appear in early history accounts.  Escarole is a member of the leafy chicory family, widely cultivated in England from at least the 1500’s and is a popular green in Sicilian cuisine. The plants were, eventually, brought to America by colonists.

Endive is closely related botanically to chicory and the two names are sometimes incorrectly used as synonyms. Escarole is another name for a type of endive with broad leaves and  “endive” is used to designate plants with narrow, finely divided, curly leaves. Equally confusing are the two types of endive plants that you will see in your produce aisle. These greens are used raw in salad, or may be cooked like spinach. The slightly bitter flavor adds zest to a mixed salad.

French Endive

Endive-Frisee

Chicory

The outer layers of the escarole plant are dark green but after peeling back a layer, it will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green. Each layer will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green, and as the leaves lighten in color, the bitterness will also significantly lessen. What this means is that in preparing a dish, one can use different layers of escarole in order to achieve a particular taste that one wants.

Few young people, these days, have ever heard of escarole and I wonder how many have ever tasted this leafy green. In the world of Italian-American foods, escarole may be second only to Sunday “gravy.” Escarole finds itself in soups, in recipes with beans and in stuffed versions. A very important use of escarole has been for a New Year’s Day soup, a soup that most Italian Americans called “Straciatella,” which means something like “rag soup.” The name comes from the way the greens and the beaten egg swirl about shapelessly in the chicken broth. Then, there is escarole and beans, one of my grandfather’s favorites.

Purchase and Care of Escarole

Choose firmly packed heads with unblemished leaves. Crispness, freshness, and tenderness are essential factors of quality. Wilted plants, especially those that have brown leaves, are undesirable, as are plants with tough, coarse leaves. Such leaves will be excessively bitter. 

How to Store: Wrap escarole in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days.

What are the health benefits of Escarole?

Escarole is rich in many minerals and vitamins, especially folate.  A 1/2 cup serving of escarole provides 36 mg of folate.

Escarole is a good source of vitamin B complex, A, C, and K.

Escarole is high in fiber and is also an optimum source of minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium.

Escarole is fat free, low in carbohydrates and calories. It can be added to any diet plan and 100 grams of fresh leaves will only be around 17 calories

Escarole is enriched with a good amount of antioxidants that are derived from Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is also an essential vitamin for vision, healthy hair and glowing skin. Consumption of natural greens also protects from lung and oral cavity cancers.

So next time you are in the produce aisle, pick up a head of escarole and make one of the following recipes.

Sauteed Escarole                                                                                                                                                                   

Serves: 4

Italians incorporate an abundance of vegetables into their diet. This is a very typical and simple preparation of a traditional vegetable. Serve as a side dish with your favorite entrée or a pasta with a hearty tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads escarole, about 1 3/4 lbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

To prepare escarole:

Cut out the core of each head, then cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Rinse leaves several times in cold water until all dirt has been rinsed off. Drain escarole of as much liquid as possible prior to sautéeing.

Combine olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan and heat together over medium heat until the garlic begins to lightly brown. Be very careful not to burn garlic as it will turn bitter. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute. Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover the pan for a few minutes so that escarole can braise in its own liquid and lose some of its bitterness. Uncover and let liquid evaporate. Escarole is finished once it is tender (approximately 5 to 6 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl.

Escarole and Beans

This dish is best served with warm crusty Italian bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large heads escarole, torn into bite sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

Wash escarole well in several changes of water

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook for one minute. Mix in escarole, turning to coat with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until tender.

Pour in beans and chicken broth, and simmer until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley; simmer 10 minutes more.

Escarole Salad

Using marmalade in a dressing allows you to put a little sweetness into a salad without adding additional sugar. Orange Marmalades range in flavor and texture, so your dressing will vary, depending on which sort you choose. Some are more sweet, others more bitter. Use the marmalade you like best.

 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
  • 1/2 pound small button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 4 ounces escarole (inner leaves are good for this dish), torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach (about 4 packed cups)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • Flaky coarse sea salt

Directions:

Make the base for the dressing: In a small saucepan, combine the shallots, oil, 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Heat over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are very soft and just lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.

When the shallots have cooled, add the marmalade plus the orange zest, the vinegar, lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon each fine sea salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, then whisk in the lukewarm water.

In a large serving bowl, combine the escarole and spinach. Add the dressing and toss. Season to taste with crushed flaky coarse sea salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms and walnuts. Gently toss to combine and garnish with extra orange zest, if desired.

Caponata-Style Escarole With Fish Fillets                                                                                                                          

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each) other firm white fish fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large head of escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
  • 10 anchovies (about 3 ounces), drained and coarsely chopped
  • 10 oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, well rinsed
  • Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Thinly slice off both ends of one lemon. Cut into 8 thin slices. From remaining lemon, squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice into a bowl.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over moderate heat until deep golden, about 2 minutes; discard the garlic. Add the escarole to the pan along with the anchovies, olives and capers. Cook, stirring constantly, until the escarole turns bright green and wilts, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange salmon or other fish fillets on top; season with salt and pepper. Place 2 lemon slices on each fillet. Cover, and cook until salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes.

Transfer salmon to a plate. Stir lemon juice into escarole mixture. Serve fish over the escarole and garnish with parsley.

Mediterranean Rice-Stuffed Escarole

Stuffed Escarole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • 1 large head escarole (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten  or 1/4 cup egg substitute   
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the upper third of the oven.

Quarter escarole, lengthwise, leaving base attached, and rinse well. Cook in a medium pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) 6 minutes. Drain and cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1 quart water to a boil with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan. Add rice and parboil, uncovered, 10 minutes (rice will not be tender). Reserve 1/2 cup the cooking liquid, then drain rice in a fine sieve.

Cook pine nuts in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add beef and brown. Add peppers, raisins, capers, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until raisins begin to plump, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add rice. Cool slightly, then stir in egg and 1/4 cup cheese.

Cut off and discard base from 1 escarole quarter, then gently spread leaves to create a 4-inch-wide area. With base end nearest you, place one fourth of rice mixture in center of bottom half of one escarole quarter. Fold base of leaves over rice, then fold in sides and roll up rice in escarole. Put, seam side down, in a 2-quart flameproof shallow baking dish, then repeat with remaining escarole and stuffing.

Drizzle with reserved rice cooking liquid and remaining tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and turn on broiler, then broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is browned, 4 to 7 minutes.

 



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