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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Wine

Planning your menu before you go shopping is a practical skill that will save you time and money. At this time of year, you want easy to prepare meals that utilize what is in season and you want to cook healthy meals most of the time. This does take a little planning but well worth the time. Here are a few ideas to help you plan next week’s menu.

Fish Parmigiano

Serve this fish entrée with basil pesto pasta and yellow summer squash.

Ingredients

4 white fish fillets (about 6 oz each), such as flounder, tilapia, halibut, etc.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 1 ½ cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
Olive oil plus olive oil cooking spray
1 cup Marinara sauce, heated
4 slices mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cover a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and coat with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush each fish fillet on all sides with the mayonnaise.

Place the coated fish in the panko crumbs and press the crumbs into the fish on all sides.

Place the fillets on the prepared baking pan and drizzle the top of each fillet with a little olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place hot marinara sauce on each fillet (about ¼ cup on each) and top with a slice of cheese.

Return the pan to the oven and cook about 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta

Serve this pasta entrée with a tomato salad.

Topping

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Cauliflower

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped fine
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 minced garlic cloves
12 ounces short pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

For the topping:

Combine the breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat.

Cook, stirring, until the mixture is well toasted and golden-brown.

Stir in the thyme; remove from heat, and reserve.

For the cauliflower:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium baking dish, combine the shallots, cauliflower, garlic, salt and red pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the cauliflower is tender and browned.

Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese. Set aside while the pasta cooks.

For the pasta:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pan.

Turn the heat to very low and add the cauliflower sauce. Heat for a minute or two and pour into a pasta serving.

Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the top of the pasta and serve.

Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Pizzaiola is a term used for a Neapolitan style pizza tomato sauce. I like to use it over pork cutlets or beef steak. Mashed potatoes and a green vegetable are good sides for this entrée.

Ingredients

For the pork

4 boneless pork chops, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

For the sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups crushed Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 basil sprig

Directions

For the pork:

Trim the pork chops of all fat. Pound them between sheets of plastic wrap until about a ¼ inch thick.

Beat the egg with a little water. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

Dredge the pork cutlets in the Italian breadcrumbs. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

It is important to refrigerate the breaded pork for a few hours, so that the breading stays put when the pork is cooked.

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion, bell pepper and garlic.

Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and let the sauce simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

To cook the pork:

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin coating of olive oil. Heat.

Add the pork cutlets and cook until brown on one side, turn and cook the second side until brown.

Drain the chops on paper towels. Place on serving plates and top with the Pizzaiola sauce.

Dinner Frittata

I usually make extra grilled vegetables, so I can use them in a frittata or quiche.

Serve this entrée with an Italian Mixed Greens Salad.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 cups leftover grilled potatoes, peppers and onions
See recipe link 
1 cup cooked spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
6 large eggs beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
3 slices of your favorite cheese

Directions

Preheat the broiler

Heat the oil and butter together in an ovenproof nonstick skillet.

Add the potato and pepper mixture and cook until hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scatter the crumbled bacon over the mixture.

Pour the beaten eggs over all and cook until the eggs are set on the bottom.

Distribute the cooked spinach over the top of the frittata.

Break the cheese slices into quarters and place them evenly over the spinach.

Place the skillet under the broiler and cook the frittata until the cheese melts.

Remove and let rest for 3 or 4 minutes. Cut into serving pieces.

Chicken Piccata

Serve this quick cooking chicken entrée with noodles dressed with butter, Parmesan cheese and parsley and a green vegetable.

Serves 2

Ingredients

Two 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded until thin and even
Coarse salt
Ground white pepper
1/4 cup finely ground all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and white pepper. Lightly coat in flour. Shake off excess.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the olive oil and butter, swirl them around the pan, and add the chicken.

Turn the heat to high and saute the chicken 2 minutes per side.

Pour in the wine, swirl it around the pan for 20 seconds, and turn the chicken over.

Add the lemon juice and capers, swirl them around in the pan and turn off the heat. Serve immediately.

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I am sure you have heard of Chicken Cacciatore but how about Beef Cacciatore? I came up with this recipe when I had several beef round roasts in the freezer and did not want to make a traditional pot roast. This is a great dish to make at this time of year. Assemble it and put in the oven and then you can go on with your holiday preparations. Cook some pasta or mashed potatoes and you have dinner.

A typical bottom round roast that weighs 3 to 4 pounds should be slow roasted in a Dutch Oven for about 4 hours for a tender roast with an internal temperature of 165 to 170 F(74 to 77 °C) . Preheat the oven to 300 °F (149 °C) and slow roast the meat for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the weight.

Beef Cacciatore

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 lb boneless bottom round roast (also called rump)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 (28 ounce) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
8 oz Pappardelle Pasta

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown the roast on all sides in the oil in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

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Add the garlic, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Let them cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine, tomatoes, seasoning and some additional salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Cook for about four hours or until very tender. Turn the roast over several times during cooking.

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Remove the roast to a large plate and let rest for ten minutes. Slice thin.

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Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Bring the sauce to a boil in the Dutch Oven and reduce the heat to low. Add the drained pasta and let heat for a minute or two.

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Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and place the sliced beef on top.

Serve this meal with a green salad.


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This is a perfect dinner to have on a lazy weekend when you don’t feel like doing much or there is a great game on TV in the afternoon. This dinner is easy to fix in the morning and put it into the refrigerator until it is time to bake. Another advantage is that all the dishes go into the oven and bake together – so no extra pots or last-minute cooking.

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Normally, I make recipes for two servings, but there are some things I like to double up on for extra meals and leftover creations. Chicken and salmon are often two of those ingredients. In this post I am doubling up on the amount to chicken and stuffing, so I can use the extra for other meals and the stuffing can be divided into smaller portions and frozen to serve at another time, You will see later in the week how I use up some of my leftovers.

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Roasted Chicken Breasts

If you like dark meat chicken by all means substitute chicken leg quarters.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4- bone in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Distribute the lemon slices, the onion and garlic in a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken. Dry the chicken pieces well with paper towels.

Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with oil and sprinkle with half of the herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up and brush it all over with oil and the remaining herb mixture.

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Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and roast for another 15 – 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the chicken with the pan juices, cooked lemon and onion. Reserve remaining broth for leftovers.

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Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing

Reserve one-third of the stuffing for this meal and set aside the remaining stuffing for other meals. I assembled this recipe a few days ahead and set aside some for this meal.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, diced
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaved
  • 1 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and sausage. Cook until light brown, about 5 min. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the same skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are tender about 8 minutes.

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Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

This stuffing can be baked at a range of oven temperatures, depending on what else you are cooking.

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For this dinner, I put the stuffing in the oven with the chicken and let it bake for the same amount of time.

Place the stuffing in a casserole dish or baking pan and bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Roasted Broccoli Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If baking this dish with the chicken, place the broccoli in the oven after the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes and you are going to add the wine.

Wash the broccoli and cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalk, leaving some of the stalk attached. Pull the florets apart. You don’t want the pieces too small.

Place the broccoli florets in a single layer in an oiled baking pan. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.

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Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.


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The reason grass-fed meat is generally healthier for you is because it is lower in overall fat and saturated fat and it provides a higher amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat.

Opt for organic. The use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics is not allowed in certified organic beef production. Nor is feed made from animal by products..

Go for grass. Choose beef from cattle that were 100 percent “grass-fed”. ” These animals are raised on their natural diet of grass from birth to market and are not given antibiotics and hormones. Look for a grass-fed label from the American Grassfed Association.

Look at labels. Check for phrases like “Naturally Raised,” “No Hormones Added,” “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “Never Fed Animal Byproducts.”

Portion control: 5-6 oz of meat is more than adequate to satisfy. Serve vegetables and salad for menu balance.

Grass-fed meat requires less time to cook than grain-fed meat. Since it is generally leaner, with less fat to keep it moist, it will cook faster at the same level of heat. Grass-fed meat is best cooked medium rare to medium, or it will become tough. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part. At 135°F the meat is still rare. At 145°F to 155°F it will be medium. Above that the meat may lose its moisture and tenderness.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes after cooking it to help redistribute the juices inside. Do not cut it immediately since the juices will spill out, leaving a drier texture. For the same reason, turn meat with a spatula or tongs rather than a fork.

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Pan-Seared Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 rib-eye steaks (preferably grass-fed and organic) (about 12 oz. each and 1 inch thick), all fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut each steak in half lengthwise (to make four steaks) and pat them dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

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Place a 12-inch heavy frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, place the steaks in the pan and sear until deeply browned on both sides and medium rare, 2 minutes per side (no more than that). Transfer the steak to a serving to a plate.

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Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan. As it comes to a boil, deglaze the pan by stirring the bottom of the pan well with a wooden spoon. Add the steaks; pour in the marinara sauce and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the steaks, cover the pan and heat just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

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Grilled Onion Burger

For 2

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. grass-fed organic ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • Half red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 hamburger rolls
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Divide the ground beef in half. Using a hamburger press form 2 burgers.

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Sprinkle with the steak seasoning and refrigerate until cooking time.

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For the onions: heat the oil in a small skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook until tender and set aside while you grill the burgers.

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I prefer to grill burgers instead of cooking them on top of the stove, so heat an outdoor grill to medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Spray the burgers on both sides with cooking spray and place them on the grill. Cook 4 minutes and turn them over. Cook for another 4 minutes. Toast the rolls on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the toasted rolls and divide the cook ed onions between the two burgers. Add ketchup, if desired

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Pot Roast with Onion Gravy and Mustard Sauce

For a leaner pot roast, choose a bottom round or rump roast. Chuck roast is a bit more tender, but fattier.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • One 3-pound (organic and grass-fed) rump or bottom round roast, trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

To prepare pot roast:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.. Add the beef; cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove beef to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions; cook, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and orange zest; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Return the beef to the pot, nestling it among the onions. Add the wine to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F..

Cover the pot with a lid and transfer to the oven and bake until the beef is tender, 3 – 3 1/2 hours. Turn the meat several times during the cooking process.

To prepare the mustard sauce:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and pepper in a small serving bowl. Reserve in the refrigerator until serving time.

To make the gravy:

Transfer the roast to a clean cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Skim fat from the liquid in the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; add to the liquid and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the meat and serve with the gravy and the mustard sauce.

The roast is delicious served with roasted carrots, parsnips and asparagus

Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat the sliced pot roast with gravy in a skillet over medium-low heat. The mustard sauce can be covered and refrigerated separately for up to 2 days.


italia

Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.

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For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.

cagliariciviccenterFollowing the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.

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After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.

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Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.

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Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.

Pane Carasau - Sardinian Bread

Pane Carasau – Sardinian Bread

Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.

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Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.

Cagliari Style Lobster Salad

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Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional

Directions

Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.

Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.

Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines

Linguine with sunblush tomatoes, parsley, sardines and fried bread crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
  • 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste

Directions

Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.

Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.

Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.

Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola

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Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fregola
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
  • Slices of Italian bread, toasted

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.

Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.

Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.

Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.

Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.

Pizza Sarda

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb dough
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Sliced Sardinian sausage
  • Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
  • Italian green and black olives and a few capers
  • Oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Spread the dough in a pan.

Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.

Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.

Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.

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Portrait of Antonio Stradivari by Alton S. Tobey, 1971. Collection of Oberlin College Library, Oberlin Ohio. To learn more about the artist: http://www.altontobey.com/AA.html#ago

Cremona is a province in the Lombardy region of Italy and occupies the central section of the Padana Plain, so the whole territory is flat, without mountains or hills, crossed by several rivers and artificial canals, most of which are used for irrigation. The river Po, which is the longest Italian river, is a natural boundary adjoining the Province of Piacenza. The area is about an hour south of Milan by train.

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cremonaviolinmaker

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The city of Cremona has a strong musical tradition. The cathedral, built in the twelfth century, provided a focus for musical activity and, by the sixteenth century, the town was the musical center of the region. Even now it attracts people to hear performances by ensembles and attend the many musical festivals and concerts. The city of Cremona is the birthplace of Stradivarius. The town became renowned for the violins and other musical instruments that were made here by many members of the Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri and Bergonzi families of luthiers, who were all prominent citizens of Cremona.

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The principal economic resources of the province are agricultural. Rice is grown with the help of water drawn from the canals. Other crops include maize (corn) and barley and to a lesser extent, soya and sugar beet. Grapes are cultivated, wine is produced and there is also a silk industry. The farms in the province are some of the most productive in the country. Beef and dairy cattle are raised here. Beef serves as a main ingredient for local dishes and the milk is used to create traditional cheeses, as well as butter and cream. The area is famous for its food specialities, such as nougat (Italian: torrone) and mustard, the famed Mostarda di Cremona, a sweet and spiced fruit preserve, served with the classic stew called bollito misto.

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Cremona’s location at the border of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna brings influences from both: charcuterie like cotecchino and salame; grana padana cheese; stuffed pasta specialties like marubini and tortelli di zucca and the tramezzini sandwich, made on spongy, white bread stuffed with ham, tuna, eggs and artichokes and slathered with mayonnaise.

cremonacity

Rice became known in Europe, after being imported from Egypt and west Asia. It was known to Greece (where it is still cultivated) by returning soldiers from Alexander the Great’s military expedition to Asia. Large deposits of rice from the first century A.D. have been found in Roman camps in Germany and the Moors brought Asiatic rice to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century. Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. In Majorca, rice cultivation seems to have stopped after the Christian conquest, although historians are not certain.

Muslims brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before it is was grown in the plains of Pisa (1468) or in the Lombard plains (1475), where its cultivation was promoted by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and demonstrated in his model farms. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then to France, eventually reaching all the continents during the age of European exploration. Rice is a main component in Italian cuisine.

Veal and Rice Croquettes

cremonacroquettes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (440g/14 oz) short-grain rice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup (50 g/l⅔ oz) grated Parmesan
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Dry breadcrumbs

Meat Filling

  • 1 dried porcini mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 125 g (4 oz) minced veal
  • 2 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Directions

Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, without rinsing and cool.

Put the rice in a large bowl and stir in the egg, egg yolk and Parmesan. Stir until the rice sticks together. Cover and set aside.

To make Meat Sauce: Soak the mushroom in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, squeeze dry and finely chop.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushroom and onion; cook for 2–3 minutes until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until browned.

Add the prosciutto, tomato paste, wine, thyme and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parsley. Set aside to cool.

With wet hands, form the rice mixture into 10 balls. Wet your hands again, pull the balls apart and place 3 heaping teaspoons of the meat sauce in the center of each.

Remold to enclose the filling; roll in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Chill for 1 hour.

Deep-fry the croquettes in oil, two at a time, for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while frying the remainder. Serve immediately.

Insalata di Riso

cremonaricesalad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kilo / 1 pound of rice
  • 1 jar Italian condiriso (or half cup of canned corn and some chopped green olives and cocktail onions), drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of lemon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth

Directions

Bring chicken broth and enough water to fill a pot large enough to cook all the rice, to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the rice and cook until tender. Drain.

While the rice is cooking, put the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.

Add warm, drained rice to the vegetable mixture. Stir and let come to room temperature.

Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add as much pepper and lemon juice as you’d like.

Variations: You can add other herbs like basil and chives. Also add any other chopped raw vegetables, like zucchini or scallions, and/or tuna and feta cheese.

Risotto Ubriaco (Drunken Risotto)

cremonawinerice

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1  onion, finely chopped
  • 4  cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml olive oil
  • 1  cup/250ml smoked pork belly, diced into 1/2 inch (5mm) pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups/875 ml carnaroli rice, unwashed
  • 2  cups/500ml full-bodied red wine
  • 6  cups/1.5L light chicken stock
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml butter
  • 4  tablespoons/60ml grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the diced pork belly and stir to mix well.

Add the rice and toast it, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes, until it is very hot but not browned.

Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated.

Add the chicken stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding more stock until the rice is tender but firm.

Be careful toward the end not to add too much stock –  the risotto should be creamy, not soupy. This process should take 16-18 minutes in total.

When the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano; stir vigorously to fluff. Serve at once in individual bowls.

Italian Rice and Bean Soup

cremonasoup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped fine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried  Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 cup rice
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions.

While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion and celery and cook until soft, for about four minutes.

Add stock, tomatoes and seasoning and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, stir in the beans and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cooked rice and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese,

Radicchio and Fennel Risotto

cremonarisotto

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable stock
  • 90 g (3½ oz) butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) fennel, finely sliced
  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 350 g (12 oz) arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 175 g (6 oz) radicchio, shredded
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 75 g (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra to serve if liked
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan and keep hot.

Melt half the butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the fennel and shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes, until tender.

Add the rice and stir well until it is covered with butter. Add the wine and shredded radicchio and season with pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.

Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, until it has been absorbed.

Continue adding the stock by ladle, stirring constantly, until it has all, or nearly all, been used and the rice is just tender. This should take about 18-20 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, parsley, basil, Parmesan and the remaining butter.

Cover and leave to rest for 1 minute, then stir again. Serve with more Parmesan if required.

cremonamap


Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Chianti, Italy, is the Classico wine region in the province of Tuscany, Italy. Chianti” is the name of the wine region but the wine from Chianti is known as Chianti Classico, to distinguish it from other Chianti wines that come from areas of Tuscany outside the Chianti region. Stretching between Florence and Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is highly romanticized  area with its terracotta-roofed towns and vineyards stretching across sun-draped hillsides. However, you no longer will find the straw-wrapped wine bottles readily available. Today, Chianti vintners produce excellent, nuanced wines that are worthy of elegant surroundings.

chiantivineyards

Chianti Vineyards

The Chianti DOCG covers all the Chianti wine region and includes a large stretch of land encompassing the western areas of Pisa near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Florentine hills to the north, the province of Arezzo in the east and the Siena hills to the south. These vineyards overlap the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  Any Sangiovese-based wine made according to the Chianti guidelines from these vineyards can be labelled and marked under the Chianti DOCG should the producer wish to use the designation.

The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Wines labelled “Chianti Classico” come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.

chaintigrape

Sangiovese grapes

During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995, it became legal to produce a Chianti made completely from Sangiovese grapes. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed to be labelled as “Superiore”.

chiantiwinery

Antinori Winery

The Antinori family has been producing wine in the region since the 1300s.  The family company, Marchesi Antinori, is planting for the future. In the fall of 2012, a new, architecturally stunning winemaking facility, called Antinori nel Chianti Classico, was inaugurated. And in March of the following year, the glass-and-steel complex opened to the public for tours of its elegant cantina and grounds. “The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation. “We wanted to have a winery which was not a monument, but integrated in the landscape.”

Tasting Room

Antinori Tasting Room

The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot, multilevel winery, with an energy-efficient gravity-flow system and naturally cool underground barrel rooms that have yet to need air-conditioning. In addition, the new location houses the company’s headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo. Its most dramatic features are the glass-walled tasting rooms that rise above the cathedral-like barrel cellars and the exterior onion-peel staircase that climbs to a terrace built on a swooping 70-foot roof overhang.

chiantihow-to-read-an-italian-wine-label

Wine Type

Is identified in one of three ways (see below):

Region

The region or sub-region will always be located next to the classification level

Classification (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da Tavola)

Wine Name

This is never next to the classification and often indicates that the wine is a blend of grapes, as in the case of a Super Tuscan wine.

Producer Name

Italian wineries will often use words like Tenuta, Azienda, Castello or Cascina in their name.

chiantiwine

What makes Chianti the perfect food wine?

Chianti, a red blend from Tuscany, is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil.

When you think of pairing Chianti with food, most people think of pasta and it is a perfect combination, but there is so much more that you can pair with Chianti.

It’s a great compliment to strong-tasting poultry dishes, spiced lamb or even beef (as long as it’s not overly fatty). If you are looking for a good wine with pizza, Chianti is a good choice.

Lasagna

Chianti’s is a perfect accompaniment for lasagna. It’s higher acid level stands up well to Lasagna’s rich tomato sauce and it has enough flavor to stand up to sausage or meat that is often part of the dish.

Spaghetti Bolognese

A rich meat sauce made with a tomato and wine base pairs with Chianti.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

The herbs used to flavor the meat pair perfectly with the slightly acidic nature of Chianti.

Cioppino

It was first created in San Francisco by the fishermen whose diet was pretty much limited to whatever they caught at sea and didn’t sell. Trading with other fisherman for different types of seafood brought variety and, in the process, created one of the world’s favorite seafood stews. The brininess brought by the seafood along the tomato flavor are the ideal compliment for Chianti.

Pizza Margherita

Pair pizza with Chianti. Chianti is light enough to not overwhelm pizza Margherita’s simple flavors of basil, tomatoes and cheese.

Main Dish Recipes to Serve with Chianti Wine

chantimarket

Tuscan Market

Pork and Mushroom Ragu 

chiantiragu

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, minced
  • 2 lbs boneless pork ribs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • One 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, in their juice and chopped
  • 1/4 flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 lb package pappardelle pasta

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a boil. Soak porcini mushrooms in the boiled broth for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the porcini, chop them and set them aside. Reserve the broth.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add a layer of pork ribs and brown the meat on all sides, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove the browned pork, set aside and repeat with the remaining pork until all the pieces are well browned.

Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until they are softened and most of the released juices evaporate. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, meat, reserved porcini beef broth, chopped porcini mushrooms and tomatoes to the pot. Mix well and bring it to a brisk simmer.

Cover and adjust heat to a low simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Stir frequently, add 1/4 cup of water as needed to keep it moist.

Cook the pappardelle pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain. Mix the pasta with the ragu and top with the parsley.

Chicken and Sausage Skewers

chiantituscan-chicken-sausage-skewers

Ingredients

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. thin sliced prosciutto, cut each slice in half
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh Italian sausage cut into 2″ pieces
  • Sage leaves
  • 12 skewers

Directions:

Over low heat in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and the chopped rosemary leaves.  Once the oil and rosemary start to sizzle, remove from the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature (can be done 4 days in advance).

Whisk 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil with the white wine vinegar; add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30-60 minutes. Reserve the remaining oil.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and lightly season with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece of chicken with a piece of prosciutto.

Alternate the chicken and sausage on the skewers, placing a sage leaf between them. Each skewer should have about 2 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of sausage to make 12 skewers.

Refrigerate the kebabs until ready to cook. When ready to grill, brush the chicken and sausage with some of the remaining rosemary oil.

Heat a grill and create a low heat section. Cook the skewers over low heat and turn frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes on each side. Brush with more rosemary oil if the meat appears dry during cooking.

Alternatively, the skewers can be cooked in the broiler until they are browned.

Classic San Francisco Cioppino

chantifishstew

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 pounds), cracked and cleaned, still in the shell.
  • 2 pounds fresh halibut fillet or other firm-fleshed white fish, cubed
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels OR clams OR oysters OR a combination of those, depending on what is available

Directions

In a large pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat.

Sauté the celery, onions and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes). Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the seafood and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for one hour. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Add the white fish and shrimp. Simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Add mussels and simmer for 3-5 minutes more, until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Add the crab last and just heat through. Ladle the stew into large bowls and serve with crusty sourdough bread and lots of napkins.

Sunday Braciole

chiantibeef

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the filling over the flank steak covering it evenly.  Starting at the shorter end, roll up the flank steak into a tight cylinder. Tie the roll with butcher’s twine (kitchen string).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the braciole. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

Carefully remove the braciole to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the braciole back into the pan.  Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Bake turning the braciole every 30 minutes and basting with the tomato sauce.

After one hour uncover the pan and bake until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more wine or water to the sauce if needed as it cooks.

Remove the braciole from the sauce and let rest for ten minutes. Remove the twine.

Slice the braciole into 1 inch thick slices.  Transfer to a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with the basil and parsley.

chiantimap



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