Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peas

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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dinnerfortwocover

Last week my fish market received its first seasonal shipment of Copper River salmon. It was gorgeous. Copper River salmon is bright orange or red with a firm texture and an excellent taste. It is also excellent cooked on a grill.

I purchased an 8 oz fillet and for dinner that night. I had also shopped for some seasonal vegetables to use for the week and thought a creamy spinach would make a perfect bed for the salmon. I wanted to flavor the salmon but not overwhelm it, and since I would be cooking it on the grill, I wanted to keep it moist. I like citrus flavors with fish, so I added citrus zest, chives (which are thriving in my garden right now), some truffle oil and wrapped the fillets in prosciutto. This turned out really well. I had leftover Pea Salad from last week, so that was a good side dish.

For dinner two, I made pork chops since I wanted to try a tip I had just picked up about soaking pork chops in buttermilk before cooking them to keep them tender. This works very well. The pork chops were delicious. I had leftover warm potato salad from earlier in the week to go with it and cooked fresh broccoli florets, also in season and on sale in my market, for a second side.

Hopefully you will like these recipes for two and, if you have a larger family, the recipes are easily doubled.

Dinner One

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Salmon

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 8 oz skinless salmon fillet, cut in half
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Zest from 1/2 lime
  • Zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil or olive oil

Directions

Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil large enough to fit the salmon. Coat lightly with cooking spray and pierce a few holes in the foil with a fork. Place the foil on a tray.

(I like to place fish fillets on the grill with foil underneath, so that the fish doesn’t fall apart.)

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, chives and citrus zest and mix thoroughly.

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Lay the salmon fillets flat on the foil and drizzle with the truffle oil. Season with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the citrus mixture. Wrap each filet in prosciutto. Place the salmon in the refrigerator until ready to grill.

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Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high.

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Slide the foil with the fish on it, onto the grill; close the lid and grill until the fish is cooked through, about 10  minutes.

Serve the salmon over creamy spinach.

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Easy Creamed Spinach

Ingredients

  • 10 oz package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons 1/3 less fat cream cheese, plain or with chives
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat milk
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a deep skillet and add the garlic; cook 1 minute.

Add spinach in batches, pushing it down with a wooden spoon or spatula to help it wilt.

Keep adding more spinach until all the spinach is wilted. Cook the spinach until it is dry, then lower the heat.

Make a well in center of the spinach and add the milk and then the cream cheese.

Heat and stir until the mixture is dissolved. Mix throughout the spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

peasalad

Spring Pea Salad

You can find the recipe here.

Dinner Two

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Oven Fried Pork Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 bone-in pork chops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the pork chops between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness.

Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce; add the pork chops and marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Mix the flour with the slat and pepper. Dredge the pork chops in the flour, dip in the buttermilk again and then coat in the panko crumbs.

Heat the butter and oil in an ovenproof skillet add the pork chops to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

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Transfer the skillet with the pork to the oven. Bake until the pork chops are crisp on the outside and a meat thermometer inserted into the pork registers 150°F, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the pork chops to serving plates. Garnish with lemon wedges

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Warm Potato Salad

You can find the recipe here.

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Broccoli Sauté with Orange Zest and Almonds

Serves:  2

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted, slivered almonds

Directions

Heat a medium skillet and add the almonds. Toast to a light brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.

Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with toasted almonds and mix well.


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The chart shows what is in season where I live in the south on the Gulf Coast area of the US. We are about two months ahead of the northern states in when crops mature. For example, strawberries are in season here from February until the beginning of May, while in the north, the peak season is June.

This week I am cooking what is in season and sharing the recipes with you for stuffed artichokes, spring peas, golden beets, leftover spring vegetables from the holiday week and strawberry pie. Rhubarb is available mid-April here. The veggie dishes are a little different – time to make a change in flavoring these traditional spring vegetables. We enjoyed the changes.

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Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I grow so much basil during the summer that I have pesto sauce in the freezer all winter long. I had small amounts of vegetables left from the meals I served during the holiday. As a frugal cook, I do not throw anything away. These leftover vegetables can add much flavor to a simple pasta dish without a lot of preparation. I served this pasta with grilled shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought  basil pesto
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup cooked leftover spring vegetables (carrots, zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli)
  • 1 /2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

In a medium skillet, combine the pesto with enough cream to thin out the sauce. Add the leftover vegetables and warm over low heat.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Cover the skillet and heat on low until the mixture is hot. Add cheese and black pepper. Toss and serve.

peasalad

Spring Pea Salad

This salad goes well with BBQ meat or roasted salmon.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an orange, peeled and fruit segments diced
  • 1/4 of a fennel bulb, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound green peas, blanched (if fresh) or thawed (if frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a medium serving bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the red onion, peas, fennel and oranges and toss gently. Let marinate for an hour and serve at room temperature.

artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Italian sausage link, casing removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/4 cup marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes, cut sides down, in a bowl with the water. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the artichokes and place the squeezed lemon half in the bowl.

Thinly slice the other half of the lemon and set aside.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon until crumbly.

Add the minced garlic and marinara sauce and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the bread crumbs and red pepper flakes. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs absorb the sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Take the artichokes out of the water bath and drain.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open and fill each with the stuffing mixture.

Place the artichokes in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the artichokes.

Place the lemon slices on top of the artichokes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (The size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time).

Remove from the heat and serve hot or at room temperature.

goldenbeets

Golden Beets in Walnut Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 golden beets, trimmed of greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in foil and place the packages on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Bake the beets, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife pierces each with little resistance. (They may cook at different rates; remove each one when it is done.)

Place oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When it is warm, add the garlic and cook until it begins to soften. Add walnuts and continue to cook until they begin to color, about another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the beets have cooled, peel off the skins. Thinly slice the beets and arrange them in a serving dish. Pour the walnut sauce over the sliced beets and garnish with parsley.

strawberry rhubarb

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Until rhubarb is in season where you live, you can make the pie with all strawberries.

My family’s favorite pie.

  • Two 9 inch refrigerated pie crusts or you favorite pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Granulated sugar for the topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Fit one pastry sheet into a 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cut the top crust into 10 even strips on a floured board. Place the strips on top of the fruit and weave them to form a lattice top.

Brush the top crust with 1 tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let the pie cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


Porta Castello Tower

Porta Castello Tower

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

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

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

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

vincenzapalazzo

Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cuisine of Vicenza

vicenzoasparagus

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

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

vicenzaasiago

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

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

Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:

vicenzaappetizer

White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

vicenzarisotto

Risotto with Peas

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vicenzachicken

Cutlets in Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

vicenzadessert

Cherry Gelato

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vicenzamap



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