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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peas

This pie makes use of leftovers. I used chicken in this recipe but this could easily be a beef pot pie using leftover roasted beef or steak, beef gravy, and leftover vegetables.
If you are on a low carb or gluten-free diet, I have included recipes for both regular pastry and a low carb/gluten-free pastry.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken, cubed

(leftover from Oven Roasted Butterflied Chicken)

½ cup frozen peas
2 cups chopped leftover vegetables or a combination of carrots, onions, green beans or peas
1 cup leftover chicken gravy
Pie Crust Dough for a double crust (store-bought or homemade recipes below)
Melted butter

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Mix well and set aside.


Place one rolled out pastry crust in a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Add the chicken filling and cover with a second crust. Crimp the edges and seal the crust all around the pie. Cut 4 slits in the top crust and brush the top with melted butter. (Pie can be refrigerated until ready to bake.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly about 30 minutes.

All-Purpose Flour Pastry

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks (16 oz) COLD unsalted butter diced into 1/4″ pieces
6 tablespoons of ice water

Directions

Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.

Add cold diced butter and pulse the mixture until coarse crumbs form.
Add ice water and pulse just until moist clumps or small balls form and the dough sticks together when pinched. If the dough is too dry, add more water a teaspoon full at a time. Be careful not to add too much water or the dough will be sticky and difficult to roll out.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and gather dough together into a ball. Divide dough in half and flatten to form 2 disks.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour before using in the recipes.


Place each disk between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper and roll each into 13 inch round circles.

Low Carb-Gluten Free Pastry

Ingredients

4 cups almond flour blanched
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 tablespoons butter melted
2 egg whites (I use the refrigerated carton of egg whites, such as Egg Beaters)
4 tablespoons water

Directions

Combine egg whites and water.
In a food processor, combine almond flour, salt, and butter. Pulse for 5-6 pulses. Drizzle in egg white and water mixture. Pulse all ingredients together until a dough forms. If the dough seems dry add another tablespoon water.
With hands, form dough into two balls and then flatten each on a piece of wax or parchment paper.

Cover the top of each dough disc with wax paper or plastic wrap and then roll out into a pie crust circle to fit a 9 to 10-inch pie plate. Follow directions about for completing the pot pie.

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Tripoli

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. This series continues with the country of Libya.


Food in Libya is a very important part of family life. A well-known Libyan saying is “one must eat well”. Libyan cuisine is based on the traditions of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Berber cuisines. Tripoli is Libya’s capital, and the cuisine in this city is especially influenced by the Italian cuisine. Pasta is common, as are many seafood dishes. Fruits, most often served, include figs, dates, oranges, apricots, and olives.

The sand in Libya gets so hot in the summer that walking on it with bare feet becomes unbearable. As a result, the Tuareg way of baking bread is to bury it in the hot sand, which is as effective as baking in an oven. The technique can also be used to bake potatoes and eggs by burying them whole in the sand and leaving them there for several hours.

Olive oil is the main ingredient of nearly all Libyan dishes. Its use in North Africa goes back thousands of years, and its life-prolonging properties were well-known to the ancient Libyans and Egyptians.


There are four main ingredients in the traditional Libyan cuisine: olives (and olive oil), palm dates, grains, and milk. These are very ancient foods and they have been in the Libyan cuisine since Neolithic times when humans first began to make use of their natural surroundings. Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups, Bazin, and other dough-based dishes. Dates are harvested, dried and stored for the rest of the year. They can be eaten as they are, made into syrup, fried or eaten with milk for breakfast.

Garlic is also one of the most important Libyan foods, as it is usually added to most dishes that involve sauces or stews, especially those served with couscous and pasta.

One of the most important social occasions in Libya is getting together for tea drinking. This activity brings families together, to chat, laugh, discuss and gossip about the highlights of the day and about life in general. Talking in Libya is a very important social activity and it firmly bonds the family. Libyan tea is a very strong, thick, syrup-like black tea. After boiling water in a traditional teapot, a handful of red tea leaves are added, and the leaves are boiled for a long time (about twenty minutes).

Bazin

Bazin is the most well-known Libyan dish. It is made by boiling barley flour in salted water to make a hard dough and then forming it into a rounded, smooth dome that is placed in the middle of a serving dish. The sauce around the dough is made by frying chopped onions with ground lamb, turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika and tomato paste. Potatoes may also be added. Hard-boiled eggs are arranged around the dome. The dish is then served with lemon and fresh or pickled chili peppers, known as amsyar. Batata mubattana (filled potato) is another popular dish that consists of fried potato pieces filled with spiced ground meat and covered with egg and breadcrumbs.

Make A Libyan-style Dinner In Your Kitchen

Recipes adapted from http://libyanfood.blogspot.com/

Lentil Soup With Fried Onions

Ingredients

2 cups lentils
5 cups water
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
1 onion
1 large tomato
1/2 -1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt

Fried Onions
2 medium onions
Oil for frying

For the Topping
Extra cumin
Toasted bread, cut into cubes or triangles

Directions

Wash and drain the lentils; wash and cut the carrot; chop the tomatoes and onion. Put the onion, tomatoes, carrot, lentils, garlic cloves, salt and cumin in a soup pot.
Add 5 cups of boiling water. Cook, until the lentils, become mushy. Let cool, puree, and add more boiling water if a thinner soup is desired, stir well.

For the topping: Cut the 2 onions into thin slices and fry in a little olive oil stirring constantly until dark brown.

To serve: Place a handful of toasted bread in the soup bowl before ladling on the soup. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin to each bowl. Top with a tablespoon of fried onions.

Libyan Couscous with Fish

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Steamed Couscous
500g couscous (ready-cooked variety can also be steamed)
1 cup of hot water + 3 tablespoons olive oil

Stock
1-2 fish heads (washed, gills removed)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground cumin
Salt, to taste
1 1/2-2 liter boiling water

Vegetable Sauce
1 medium onion
1 medium size potato
1 medium size aubergine (eggplant)
1 medium size squash
1 medium-size red bell pepper
1 cup cooked/canned chickpeas (or fresh/frozen peas)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 chili peppers
3-4 garlic cloves

For the Fish and Marinade
4-6 portions of firm-fleshed fish, grouper is the Libyan favorite
4 large cloves garlic
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 chili pepper chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
Olive oil to brush the fish before grilling

Directions

In Libya, steamed dishes are cooked in a kaskas, but any pot with a steamer insert is fine. When steaming couscous you can place a square of cheese-cloth between the pot and steamer if its holes are larger than the couscous.

Put all the ingredients for the stock in the steamer pot. Bring to boil then reduce the heat and cook over medium heat.

Pour 1 cup of hot water and the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the couscous, mix well. Put the couscous in the steamer, then place it above the stock pot. Lightly rake over the top layer only with a spatula a few times during the first steaming, so it gets steamed properly.

After 45 minutes, remove the steamer and put the couscous in a deep plat; pour about 5 ladles of hot stock onto the couscous.

Mix well, then return the couscous to the steamer for another 45 minutes. Stir lightly but thoroughly 2-3 times during the second steaming to break up lumps.

Put all the ingredients for the fish marinade in the food processor, then use this paste to coat the fish on both sides. Cover the fish with cling film (plastic wrap) and set aside.

Cut the onion, eggplant, potato and bell pepper into thick slices.

Prepare the vegetable sauce by putting olive oil, chopped onion, chopped chili and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then stir until they have softened. Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, cover and cook on low heat. Add the peas or cooked chickpeas and about 3 ladles of strained fish stock, so the liquid is just about covering the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes more.

Brush the cut vegetables generously with olive oil and grill until almost cooked. Remove the vegetables from the grill and cut them into cubes. Add the grilled vegetables to the sauce pot.

Grill the fish and keep warm to serve with the couscous.

Remove the couscous from the steamer and place in a serving dish, arrange the vegetables from the sauce on the couscous, spoon some of the remaining sauce around the vegetables. Serve with the grilled fish and lemon wedges.

Date Filled Semolina Cookies

Ingredients

Dough
3 cups semolina
1 cup flour
1 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon orange blossom water added to a ½ liter of warm water

Filling
750g date paste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Syrup
4 cups boiling water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon slice
2 tablespoons orange blossom water

Topping
1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Directions

Prepare the syrup by simmering all the ingredients except the orange blossom water over moderate heat for 30 minutes or until a syrupy consistency is reached. Add the 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water and set aside to cool. For a richer taste, add 1 tablespoon of honey while the syrup is still warm. Set aside.

For the dough: Mix the semolina, flour, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix. Cover and let rest for at least one hour.

For the filling: Cut the date paste into small pieces and knead. Add some olive oil if the paste is not soft enough to be kneaded. Add cinnamon, grated nutmeg, sesame seeds and knead them in. Roll out the sesame date paste with your palm into 4 long ropes or sticks.

Divide the dough into 4 portions, take one portion of the dough and add the orange blossom flavored warm water a little at a time. Knead well until the dough becomes smooth and easy to shape. The dough will also become lighter in color. Form the dough into a furrow or trench shape and place one of the date rolls in the dough. Pinch closed and smooth the dough over the date roll.

Cut the roll into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F/220°C until golden, for about 12 minutes. Place the cookies in a single layer in a deep dish. Pour the sugar syrup over the warm cookies.

Turn the cookies every 15 minutes, so they soak in the syrup on all sides. Remove the cookies from the syrup and place in a sieve to remove the excess syrup. Place the drained cookies on a platter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Let rest overnight before serving.


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It is a gray and rainy day here – just perfect for a soup dinner. I also know I have a turkey carcass in the freezer that was leftover from the holidays and it is time to put it to good use.
I also save small amounts of leftover vegetables in the freezer in little ziplock bags. These little bags are perfect for adding to soup recipes and they don’t require additional cooking.

farro

Of course, almost any ingredient that you like can go into a soup pot, but I usually try to vary them, so that it doesn’t seem like the same old soup. In this soup recipe, I used farro instead of rice or pasta. Farro is hulled wheat that has been used in the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice in Italian recipes.

Hearty Italian Turkey Soup

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For the stock

1 roasted turkey carcass, broken in pieces, plus any additional bones
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 celery stalk tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Water

Directions

Place the turkey carcass in a very large soup pot. Add the other ingredients and add enough water to just cover the turkey bones.

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Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubbling simmer, partially cover the pot and let the stock cook for two hours.

Remove the pot from the heat. With tongs take the turkey bones out of the stock and place them in a wide bowl to cool. Strain the stock in a colander covered with cheesecloth.

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This recipe makes about 12 cups of stock. I also had about 2 cups of meat from the bones that I chopped and set aside.

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For the soup

12 cups turkey stock
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cups canned
3 large carrots, diced
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup pearl onions (frozen are great-no peeling)
1 cup cooked, diced asparagus
2 cups cooked, diced green beans
2 cups cooked baby lima beans
2 cups cooked peas
2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat

Directions

Rinse the soup pot out and pour the strained stock into the pot. Add the water, salt, carrots, tomatoes and farro.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until the farro is tender. Taste one of the grains to be sure.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt, if needed.

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sunday-dinner-at-grandma-rafellos

How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.

Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.

Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.

If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.

Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.

Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.

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Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.

Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.

You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.

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Sautéed Peas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.

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Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

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Apple Rosemary Tart

Ingredients

One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.

Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.

Dot the apples with the butter.

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Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.

Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.


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Over the past week and a half, I cooked several meals that yielded plenty of leftovers. My plan was to create some new ways to use these leftovers and this post is the result of that planning. The chicken breasts were really an economical buy because they yielded 3 different meals. The same with the pot roast. There was also plenty of kale remaining to make a hearty soup and the leftover stuffing makes a great breakfast hash.

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Chicken Divan Redo

Roasted chicken recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/11/14/dinners-in-the-oven/

2 servings

  • 6 leftover roasted broccoli floret spears
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups reserved lemon broth from the roasted chicken or use chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup well-chilled half & half
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 4 leftover roasted chicken slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Directions

In a heavy saucepan combine the broth and flour. Stir until the flour is absorbed. Add the half & half and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and then simmer until thickened  

Stir in the cheese and season the sauce with salt and pepper, if needed. Heat until the cheese is melted.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange the broccoli in two individual baking dishes or in a 2-quart gratin dish and pour half the sauce over it.

Arrange the chicken on top of the broccoli, pour the remaining sauce over it. Sprinkle the top with of each dish with one tablespoon of the breadcrumbs and sprinkle each with paprika.

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Cut two pieces of foil just large enough to cover the dishes. Coat the foil with cooking spray and use that side to cover the dishes. Bake the covered dishes for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake  until the top is golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

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Individual Shepherd’s’ Pie

I had served the pot roast with mashed potatoes and made extra potatoes so I would have some leftover.

Pot roast recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/11/11/how-to-keep-beef-recipes-healthy/

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced leftover pot roast and gravy
  • 2 carrots, diced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

Directions

Combine the pot roast, peas and carrots in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture in half and place it in two individual ovenproof dishes.

Spread half of the potatoes over the mixture in one dish and spread the remaining potatoes over the mixture in the second dish.

(You can even fix this earlier in the day and refrigerate until dinner time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the casseroles for about 30 minutes or until the potato topping is golden brown.

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Caesar Salad with Leftover Roasted Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken cut into cubes
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup croutons, see recipe below
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Dressing

  • 1 anchovy, finely chopped or use anchovy paste
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise made with olive oil, if available
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Add the anchovy, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a bowl and whisk together.

Gradually whisk in the 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.

Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Top the salad with extra cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Croutons

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cubed bread
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In mixing bowl combine the bread cubes and olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Pour the bread cubes onto a baking sheet. Spread them into a single layer.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes to prevent burning.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

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Kale and Lima Bean Soup

I used homemade cooked dried baby lima beans for this soup, but you can use canned white beans, if you choose.

Kale recipe link

 

 

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Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 10 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth or homemade broth
  • 4 cups packed chopped fresh kale or 2 cups leftover cooked kale
  • 1 large fresh tomato, diced
  • 4 cups home cooked dried baby lima beans or canned no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained
  • 3 large carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook 3 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning; cook 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, kale, tomatoes and beans and heat thoroughly. Serve hot with grated cheese and Italian bread.

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Easy Hash and Eggs

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups of leftover Italian bread and sausage stuffing, (see link above from Dinner’s In The Oven)
  • 4 large eggs

Directions

In a medium skillet with a cover, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the butter.

Add the stuffing, flatten with a spatula and cook until light golden brown and crispy on the bottom. Gently turn the stuffing over and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

With a large spoon make four round holes in the stuffing mixture. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and gently pour into each hole in the stuffing.

Cover the pan and cook the eggs to your likeness or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. Serve immediately.


tuscany-dawn-tuscany_italy_3_1024x1024

This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

peas

Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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parmacheese parmahamParma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Parma is famous for its Prosciutto di Parma. The whole area is renowned for its sausage production, as well as for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some kinds of pasta like gnocchi di patate, cappelletti (or anolini) in brodo and tortelli with different stuffings (potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms or chestnuts). Prosciutto or Italian ham is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.

There’s a reason why these foods developed in the Emilia region. It’s one of the few areas of Italy that isn’t mountainous, so there are plains and pasture. The farmers of the region were able to raise cows and therefore produce milk and with milk came butter, cream and cheese. Add ham to the dairy ingredients and you have the central core of the region’s cuisine.

parmabarilla

Parma is also home to one of Italy’s longest established pasta factories, Barilla. The Barilla Center for the Propagation of Gastronomy has several state-of-the-art kitchens for demonstrations and a large auditorium for lectures, as well as a huge library of books on food and cooking, some as early as the 15th Century.

Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s hind leg or thigh. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example “prosciutto cotto d’agnello” (“lamb prosciutto”).

The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham. First, the ham is cleaned, salted and set aside for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, so as to avoid breaking the bone and to drain it of all liquid. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated area. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham and the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until thoroughly dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.

Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is allowed in Protected Designation of Origin hams.

Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The two famous types of Italian prosciutto are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in flavor.

parmafood

Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini or melon. It is also eaten as accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or in a dish of tagliatelle with vegetables. It is used in stuffings for meats, as a wrap around veal or chicken, in a filled bread or as a pizza topping. Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish, where thin slices of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and sometimes in a variation of the Caprese salad with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. The name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various versions of this cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna) and Mantua (in Lombardy). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name as a protected designation of origin. According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created during the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to the product produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to an even earlier time.

parmacenter

Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years and cheese is produced daily. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Whole milk from the morning milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk (which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats.

Starter whey is added and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is then added and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces and the temperature is raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. The remaining whey in the vat is traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” is produced.

parmafactory

The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt, imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number and the month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves and the cheese and the shelves are cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.

At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel. The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio’s logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).

Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos or eaten sliced as an appetizer. It is often shaved over other dishes like salads. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup.

parmapasta

Prosciutto Parmesan Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the prosciutto in the skillet over medium heat until just brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and set the prosciutto aside on paper towels. Drain the skillet of any remaining fat.

Add the cream the skillet and heat on low. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese in small amounts. When all the cheese has been melted, stir in the peas and prosciutto.

Allow to heat for 2 minutes more. Add the drained pasta and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

parmasandwich

Cheese and Prosciutto Panini

Ingredients

  • 4 whole slices Italian bread
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Unsalted butter

Directions

Cover two slices of the bread with a layer of  grated cheese. Generously grind black pepper over the top.  Place two slices of Prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.

Cook in a panini maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or:

In a large frying, add enough butter to provide a generous covering, about 2 tablespoons. Heat the butter over medium-low heat until foamy.

Add the cheese sandwiches, pressing them onto the pan; slowly fry, regulating the heat so the butter does not burn.

Once light brown, turn the sandwiches over and press down with a spatula to compress slightly. Brown the other side.

When done, transfer the sandwiches to a paper towel to drain. Cut in half diagonally and serve.

parmapizza

Arugula-Prosciutto Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions

Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round.

Transfer the round to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or another upside-down baking sheet; slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the pizza from the oven, brush with the olive oil mixture and top with the ricotta and mozzarella.

Return the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven.

Toss the arugula and shallot in a large bowl with the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Top the baked pizza with the arugula salad, prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese. Cut into slices and serve.

parmamap



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