This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.
Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.
Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.
Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.
Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.
The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.
Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.
The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna
The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.
Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.
Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.
From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.
Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).
Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.
TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA
PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)
FOR THE PASTA
- 10 oz all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
- 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Nutmeg to taste
- 2 oz butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 egg
For the pasta:
Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.
Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.
For the filling:
Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.
Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.
Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.
BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE
- 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
- 1 ½ ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- Salt to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.
Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.
In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.
ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)
This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.
- 2 lbs spinach
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 oz olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
- 1 ¾ oz butter
- 3 ½ oz lard
- 1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
- 1 clove of garlic
- Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.
Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.
Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.
Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.
The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- a great source of fiber
- an excellent way of getting multiple fruit and veggie servings
- a filling dish that usually has a low-calorie count
But, having a salad alone doesn’t ensure good nutrition. Too much cheese, fried meats and bread can ruin a healthy salad. Another culprit is the salad dressing itself. Store-bought dressings have lots of trans fats, sugars, artificial ingredients and a surprising number of calories.
So, what’s a health-conscious, calorie-conscious person to do?
Start from scratch! Homemade salad dressings give you the flexibility to use fresh, natural ingredients and make healthy substitutions where they are needed.
Salad dressing is one of those foods where we tend not to notice how much we’re putting on and, if you’re watching calories, they can add up fast. One tip for keeping serving sizes reasonable: It really only takes a small amount of an oil-based dressing to coat the leaves of a salad. The trick is to put a small amount in a bowl and toss the salad very well. This not only uses less oil, it tastes better when the salad has an even coating of dressing instead of being poured on the top.
It’s quite surprising how much sugar and other carbohydrate can be added to salad dressings, so keep sweeteners to a minimum.
The best oils for salads dressings have high amounts of monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is probably the best choice, at 73% monounsaturated fat and it also has other good-for-you nutrients. Canola oil has 59% monounsaturated fat.
In the summer when fruits, vegetables and fragrant herbs are in abundance, homemade dressings are refreshing drizzled over just about anything. When you think healthy, you don’t think creamy, cheesy salad dressings. But, there are definitely ways to balance taste and nutrition without giving up either. Making healthy substitutions to your salad dressing is not as challenging as it may seem. In fact, it’s rather easy.
Herbs (dill, chives, rosemary), spices, garlic and shallots help add flavor to any salad dressing. Red or white wine vinegar, lemon or orange juice (or any citrus) and chicken or vegetable stock are low-fat and can replace some of the oil when making a vinaigrette. Mustards like Dijon can also replace a portion of oil as well as add thickness to the dressing. Classic vinaigrettes generally contain a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Using some of the ingredients mentioned above, you can bring those calorie numbers down, yielding a healthier and more flavorful dressing.
Tofu might not seem like an obvious substitution choice, but pureed in the blender it’s a perfect base for a creamy dressing. Tofu is also a great source of protein and calcium. Low-fat sour cream and low-fat plain yogurt also make good substitutions in creamy dressings, like Thousand Island.
The key is to reduce the high calorie and fat ingredients and bump up the ingredients that add flavor and texture.
Balsamic Herb Vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar, a reduction that comes from grapes, is a low-calorie liquid; a tablespoon only has about 14 calories. Additionally, it’s low in sodium and fat, making it an excellent base for a healthy salad dressing.
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Whisk everything together and set aside until you are ready to make a salad.
Creamy Herb Dressing
I like this drizzled over seafood salads.
Makes ½ cup
- 2 tablespoons refrigerated egg substitute or 1 large pasteurized egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (packed) fresh dill leaves
- 1/2 cup (packed) fennel fronds
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Pulse egg, garlic and vinegar in a food processor until smooth. With motor running, gradually drizzle in oil and process until emulsified. Add dill and fennel and process. Add a tablespoon of water, if needed, to make the dressing the consistency of heavy cream; season with salt and pepper.
Orange-Poppy Seed Dressing
Delicious over a fruit salad.
Makes 1 cup
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender; process until blended. Pour into a serving bowl and stir in the poppy seeds.. Cover and refrigerate.
Blue Cheese Dressing
Excellent over roasted beets.
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup light sour cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.
Homemade Coleslaw Dressing
Dressing makes enough for half a medium cabbage and one carrot, shredded.
- 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon finely minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry yellow mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill.
Mix with your favorite coleslaw ingredients the day you are planning to serve the coleslaw. Chill the coleslaw before serving.
Yield:1 cup – 8 Servings
- 2 ounces cubed Parmesan
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 11/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 11/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch kosher salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup silken soft tofu
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Starting on the lowest speed, chop the cheese cubes in the blender until it settles into the bottom of the jar, gradually increasing the speed. Add the garlic down the chute and chop until minced.
Next, add the mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt,pepper and tofu to the blender and blend until smooth. While the blender is running, drizzle olive oil down the middle and blend until it reaches salad dressing consistency.
Dressing for Salads with Fruit and Nuts
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together the vinegars, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oils. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Thousand Island Dressing
- 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- Pinch of cayenne
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup water
In a blender or food processor blend all ingredients and salt, if needed, until smooth, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water, if necessary to thin to a desired consistency.
Good over sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper.
In a blender or food processor, combine feta, yogurt, 1/4 cup olive oil, mint, lemon zest and juice; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth, adding more oil if you need it to reach a smooth consistency.
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Parmigiano Reggiano, Tortellini, Bolognese Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena are all famous foods of this region. A vast, wealthy region located in northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna is rich in meats and pastas. The craft of curing meat is held in high esteem here — Italy’s best known meat product, Prosciutto di Parma, is created in Emilia, as is the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano Reggiano.
The richness and complexity of first and second courses served in this region balance each other out, with one being richer and having more complex flavors than the other. Emilia-Romagna meals layer flavors, with pastas that range from tagliatelle (golden egg pasta) to tortelli (stuffed pasta), to tortelloni (larger) and spinach pasta. Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar or pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar.
Pasta is often the first course, including lasagna and cannelloni. Risotto dishes or soups – such as tomato & cauliflower or fresh spinach are popular. Sauces based on prosciutto, or fresh mushrooms may dress tagliatelle, however, tomato sauces are the favorite pasta topper in this region. The famous meat sauce typical of the Bologna area, known in Italy as Ragu, is usually referred to as, Bolognese Sauce. On restaurant menus, one can usually this sauce served over spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.
Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Chicken is the most popular meat: from pan–crispy chicken with rosemary, to chicken cacciatore over polenta or potatoes and capon at Christmas. Residents throughout the region eat rabbit and serve more pork than beef, such as pork tenderloin with marsala sauce. Along the Adriatic coast, in Romagna, seafood appears frequently in dishes, such as, clams with balsamic vinegar.
From grilled asparagus and Parma ham salad to basil and onion mashed potatoes to roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a variety of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.
Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich, decadent tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries in red wine, often find their way to the table. More contemporary offerings include semifreddos, with a texture somewhere between soft serve ice cream and frozen mousse and a sorbet made with Muscat wine. Fresh chestnuts also appear in many desserts, especially at Christmastime.
Some differences do exist in the cuisine between Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia’s cuisine demonstrates more northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of Ferrara province and rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, more closely, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes with plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.
Homemade Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1 1/4 cups finely chopped celery
- 3/4 cups finely chopped carrot
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 1/2 pounds spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
- 3/4 pound ground pork
- 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3/4 cups tomato paste (about 7 1/2 ounces)
- Homemade Pappardelle (see recipe below)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for passing
Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the next 4 ingredients. Sauté until vegetables are soft but not brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Add beef, sausage, pork and pancetta. Increase heat to high. Cook until meat is brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in milk, wine and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until sauce is thick and juices are reduced, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in very large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to the same pot. Add enough warm Bolognese sauce to coat pasta and 1 cup cheese. Toss over medium heat until heated through, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls, if dry. Adjust seasoning.
Makes about 2 1/2 Pounds
- 5 cups all purpose flour, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 6 large eggs, divided
- 6 large egg yolks, divided
- 6 tablespoons (or more) water, divided
Make pasta in two batches. Place 2 1/2 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Whisk 3 eggs, 3 yolks and 3 tablespoons water in a bowl. With machine running, pour egg mixture through the feed tube. Blend until a sticky dough forms, adding additional water by teaspoonfuls, if dry.
Scrape dough out onto floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, sprinkling lightly with flour, as needed, if sticky, about 8 minutes. Shape into ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 45 minutes. Repeat with remaining flour, salt, eggs, yolks and water.
Divide each dough ball into 4 pieces. Cover dough with plastic wrap.
Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into a 3-inch-wide rectangle. Run through the pasta machine 5 times, dusting lightly with flour, if sticking. Continue to run dough piece through machine, adjusting to the next-narrower setting after every 5 passes, until dough is about 26 inches long. Cut crosswise into 3 equal pieces. Run each piece through the machine, adjusting to the next-narrower setting, until strip is a scant 1/16 inch thick and 14 to 16 inches long. Return machine to the original setting for each piece. Arrange strips in a single layer on sheets of parchment.
Repeat with remaining dough. Let strips stand until slightly dry to touch, 20 to 30 minutes. Fold strips in half so short ends meet, then fold in half again. Cut strips into 2/3-inch-wide pappardelle.
Pork Loin with Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 1/2 pound boneless pork loin
- Butcher’s twine
- A medium onion
- Sprig of rosemary
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- A sprig of fresh marjoram
- A small bunch of parsley
- A small bunch of chives
- A sprig of thyme
- 1/2 cup beef broth or unsalted bouillon
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Tie the pork loin with butcher’s twine, so it will keep its shape as it cooks.
Peel the onion and chop it with the rosemary, marjoram, parsley, chives and thyme.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof pot and brown the meat on all sides. Turn the burner off.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the onion mixture, sauté for a minute or two and then let the mixture cool. Distribute it over the pork loin and add the broth..
Place the pork in the oven and roast the meat for an hour, spooning the pan drippings over it occasionally. Remove it to a cutting board and cover with foil.
Stir the cream and the vinegar into the roasting pan drippings and reduce the sauce briefly. Slice the meat, putting the slices on a warmed serving platter.
Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, water still clinging to the leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Melt the butter in a deep 14-inch sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the spinach by the handful to the hot pan and cook until it is wilted and there is no liquid left in the pan, about 5 minutes, stirring often. It may seem like all the spinach won’t fit at first, but as it wilts, it will shrink to fit.
Season the spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook 15 more minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the Parmigiano and stir until it is melted through. Cook 5 minutes more and serve hot.
Chocolate Almond Torte
- 3 oz. butter
- 5 oz. sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/2 lb dark chocolate
- 3 ½ oz. almonds, skinned and toasted
- 3 tablespoons espresso coffee powder
- 1/2 cup dark rum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with cooking spray, dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside.
Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in a double boiler pan.
Whisk the egg yolks with sugar until creamy.
Finely chop the toasted almonds and add them to the egg mixture; add the coffee, rum, melted butter and chocolate. Mix well.
Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp.
Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely.
Carefully run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.
Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.
Cut into thin wedges to serve.
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Few foods have enjoyed the widespread fame of balsamic vinegar, not only as a condiment, but as a form of medicine, since the turn of the second millennium. This luxurious liquid has been produced in and around the city of Modena in Emilia-Romagna since the year 1000, and myths and legends have long attested to its medicinal properties. In 1046, a Benedictine monk pronounced balsamic vinegar beneficial; Lucrezia Borgia sipped it to fight childbirth pains; Francesco IV, Duke of Modena, used it to soothe his ulcer; and composer Gioacchino Rossini drank it to calm his nerves.
Tradizionale and Condimento balsamics are made in Modena and Reggio-Emilia using artisan methods established in the Renaissance and dating back to the Middle Ages. Balsamic vinegar is one of Emilia Romagna’s oldest and proudest products. To make this vinegar, the must (grape juice before fermentation) of Trebbiano and other grapes grown in the Emilian countryside is slowly cooked over an open fire and reduced to as little as one-third of its original volume (the exact amount of reduction depends on the vintage, the sugar content of the grapes, and the producer’s preference). The cooked must is filtered and poured into oak barrels, where it matures over the winter. In the spring, the aging process begins, and lasts a minimum of 12 years: the vinegar is poured into smaller casks made of different kinds of wood (oak, chestnut, cherry, ash, and mulberry), each of which imparts a particular aroma and color to the final product.
The barrels, held in an attic environment where the sun’s rays are allowed to filter in and play their part in the vinegar’s evolution, are topped with vinegar from the next larger barrel so that they are always two-thirds full. It takes 770 pounds of grapes to produce 15 quarts of vinegar, which explains the high cost of genuine balsamic vinegar.
The longer the balsamic vinegar ages, the more complex, and expensive, it becomes: 2 months of aging in wooden barrels is the minimum required by the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena (known as CABM), but a special version is aged 3 years or longer to yield a rich, deep vinegar with a fuller body and a sweeter, mellower flavor with hints of wood. Even better than Aceto Balsamico di Modena is Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, which is aged a minimum of 12 years and up to 25 years or longer… even 100 years is not unheard of! One word–Tradizionale–makes all the difference, and means that the vinegar was aged longer than other balsamic vinegars.
Authentic balsamic vinegar, not the typical commercial product, is more of a glaze than a vinegar; rich, thick, sweet, and aromatic, its acidity is perfectly balanced by its sweetness. To ensure that consumers are able to differentiate between authentic balsamic vinegar from Modena and lesser imitation vinegars, the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena has created a special seal that can only be placed around bottles that pass their stringent tests. If a bottle of vinegar is wearing the CAMB seal, the vinegar is guaranteed to have been made from indigenous grape varietals and produced and bottled in its area of origin, in or around Modena.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is markedly different from other wine vinegars, whose pronounced acidity and pungent taste can oftentimes be jolting. Its deeper, mellower flavor makes it an ideal choice for much more than just dressing salads. Try a drop of it in pan sauces for meat or fish, where it lends a pleasant yet subdued note of acidity. Rather delicate, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is best suited to subtle preparations: sprinkled over steamed vegetables or a platter of thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, drizzled on fresh field strawberries and vanilla-bean gelato, or whisked into warm zabaglione.
Which Balsamic Vinegar Should I Buy?
Choosing a good imported balsamic vinegar is like buying a fine wine: You need to sample several until you find one you love. Although all varieties have a 6 percent acidity level, they vary in flavor depending on the proportion of cooked-down crushed grape to wine vinegar, the type and size of wooden casks they were aged in, and the length of time they were aged. Better varieties are aged for at least three years in wooden barrels, which produces an intense, woody flavor.
In an effort to boost sales, some companies may make false aging claims on their labels; others don’t follow production specifications governed by Italian law (the United States doesn’t oversee label claims on imported balsamic vinegar). But there is one way to know you’re purchasing a quality product: Look for a seal from the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (CABM). A burgundy-colored seal (you’ll find it on the neck-band of the bottle) guarantees product authenticity and indicates an aging period of less than three years, making these vinegars a good choice for salad dressings and pan sauces. The gold and white “Invecchiato” (aged) CABM seal guarantees that the product has been aged more than three years in a wooden cask, creating a more delicate (and more expensive) vinegar suitable for drizzling over vegetables, fruit, and prosciutto.
True aceto balsamic vinegar comes in 3.4 ounce bottles and sells from $50.00 to $500.00 per bottle. It must be aged a minimum of 10 years. The better balsamic vinegars are aged 25 to 50 years (these are not to be poured, but used by the drop). Dark in color and syrup in consistency, they have a flavor that is a balance of sweet and sour. Tradizionale has a mellow acidity and a sharp aroma.
Balsamic Vinegar, due to its acidity level, has a very long shelf life. Unopened, Balsamic vinegar can be stored indefinitely. Once opened, you want to store it in a cool dark place. After several years, the opened bottle may start to mellow in taste, but it will not go “bad.”
Recipes to use your balsamic vinegar:
Arugula with Steak, Lemon and Parmesan Cheese
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Dash kosher salt
- Dash freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds beef tri-tip steak or sirloin steak
- 1 bunch (about 5 1/2 cups) arugula
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Grill the beef to medium rare, let cool 10 minutes. Slice thin.
Toss the arugula with the dressing and add beef and shaved Parmesan.
Chicken with Balsamic Tomato Sauce
Balsamic vinegar and tomatoes make a delicious sauce to serve over chicken breast and pasta.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 sliced onion
- One 14.5 oz can Italian diced tomatoes with, undrained
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Basil leaves for garnish
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt and pepper; cook chicken 5 to 7 minutes or until browned, turning once. Remove from the skillet; set aside. Add onion to the skillet; cook 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat or until crisp-tender.
Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning and vinegar to the skillet; bring to a simmer. Return chicken to the skillet; cook 10 to 12 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (165°F).
Serve chicken with the sauce and pasta, if desired. Garnish with basil.
Root Vegetables Roasted with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon whole dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
- 2 parsnips
- 2 large carrots
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups additional vegetables, such as shallots, sweet potatoes or yams, red onions, turnips
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the fennel seed and toast, shaking constantly, until the seeds are fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour onto a plate to cool. Stir in the remaining spices.
Peel the vegetables and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture and oil.
Spread the seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer — do not crowd them together or they won’t roast properly.
Roast for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are brown and soft. Loosen the vegetables from the pan with a thin spatula and drizzle with the vinegar and honey.
Fruit with Balsamic Vinegar Syrup
Balsamic vinegar with its sweet-yet-tart flavor is a wonderful complement to grilled fruit.
- 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- 2 large mangoes, cored and cut in half
- 2 large peaches, cored and cut in half
- Nonstick, butter-flavored cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Mint or basil leaves, for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, mangoes and peaches. Spray generously with cooking spray. Toss and spray again to ensure the fruit is well-coated. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
Place the fruit on the grill racks or broiler pan. Grill or broil over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove the fruit from the grill and arrange on a serving plate. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and garnish with mint or basil.
- Balsamico Tradizionale: True Balsamic Vinegar (formaggiokitchen.com)
- The World’s Best Balsamic Vinegar, Fruit Of Centuries-Old Knowledge Reaches Its Apex With Acetum Of Modena And Is Now Available Online (prweb.com)
- O&CO.’s Balsamic Vinegar Carries CABM Certification (prweb.com)
- Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP: What’s in Your Bottle of Vinegar? (formaggiokitchen.com)
- Parma’s 3 Kings Food Tours – Food n Walk’s Classic day in the food basket (gustoitalia.wordpress.com)
- Healthy Orange Balsamic Salad Dressing (cantstayoutofthekitchen.com)
Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook, if you do it right!
By choosing foods that are low in fat, high in nutrients and full of flavor you can get great meals that are also healthy. Use marinades, not only to add extra flavor, but also to reduce the formation of cancer causing substances on foods. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce the formation of these chemicals by as much as 99% and, since, marinades tenderize meats, you will have a much better meal.
There has been a lot of talk about grilling and cancer. While the risk is real and you really need to keep this in mind, there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the cancer risk. Two primary substances, Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are chemicals that form on food, primarily meats, when they come in contact with intense heat and flame. They are known cancer causing agents, so you need to reduce their formation, as much as you can. HCAs and PAHs are formed mostly from fat. Either by fat being heated to extreme temperatures or by the smoke created by fat burning. For the most part, this applies to meat fats and not just the grease and fat from what you are cooking, but from the build up on the bottom of your grill.
Scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that herbs of the Lamiaceae family (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage) used in marinades, reduced HCA formation dramatically. These herbal antioxidants reduce the formation of chemicals when meat is grilled and, also happen to be, herbs traditionally used in Italian cooking.
To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:
- Keep your grill clean. A clean grill not only cooks better it is safer in every way.
- Trim excess fats from foods. These fats are the troublemaker, so keep it to a minimum.
- Use marinades based on olive oil and/or citrus juices.
- Avoid flare-ups. Flare-ups burn foods and this increases HCA formation.
- Don’t overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of PAHs and HCAs, so if you have charred sections of meat cut them off.
- Use herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage to add flavor and reduce HCA formation in foods.
- Grill extra vegetables to accompany meats. They do not form HCAs like meats do, plus the antioxidants they contain may help to lessen some of the damage HCAs and other cooking toxins cause in your body.
Clams Oreganato on the Grill
Serves 4 as an appetizer
- 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped very fine
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 12 cherrystone or littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 3-4 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Heat grill and coat the rack with vegetable oil. Dip each closed clam in water (this will add steam) and place on the grill so that none of the clams are overlapping. Close cover and grill for approximately 4-5 minutes or until clam shells open. Check often for clams that have popped open. Remove clams with tongs to a platter as soon as they open their shells.
In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt. Add the olive oil and stir until well combined. Add enough of the chicken stock to moisten the bread crumbs..
Top the bottom half of the clams with the bread crumb mixture, dividing mixture evenly on top of each clam, and place back on the grill. Close grill cover and for about 1 minute or until just heated through. Serve with lemon wedges.
Origins of Bruschetta
Bruschetta comes to us from Central Italy where it’s chiefly eaten as an appetizer or snack. The most basic bruschetta begins with tomatoes, good quality olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and onions. Depending on the combinations of ingredients you use, you can take this dish, from such a basic foundation, to one that is a uniquely- flavored creation.
Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta
1 small eggplant (1/2 – 3/4 pound)
1 small zucchini summer squash
1 large meaty tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 red bell pepper
1 Vidalia onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6-1″ thick slices fresh Italian bread
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the squash into long diagonal 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the onion and tomato into crosswise 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the pepper into quarters. Season vegetables with kosher salt, pepper and brush with olive oil. Brush bread slices with a little oil.
Put all the vegetables on the grill, except the tomato. Grill on medium high heat until cooked through and grill marks are formed, about 10 minutes. Grill the tomato slices about 2 minutes.
Grill one side of bread until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove bread and vegetables from grill. While the bread is hot, rub the toasted side of each piece with garlic .
Chop vegetables into very small dice and add basil. Serve chopped vegetables on bread slices, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. This pesto freezes well if you have it leftover.
Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts
Prepare grill and oil grates.
Brush 4 boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Grill 5 minutes each side.. Top with a tablespoon or two of Spinach Pesto.
Spinach Pesto is also goes well with grilled scallops.
Grilled Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops
Fennel seed and pork are a fairly typical Italian combination.
- 1 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 (¾-inch-thick) loin bone-in pork chops
- Vegetable oil for brushing grill rack
Grind the fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or, if you don’t have either of those, in a plastic bag with a rolling pin). Combine them in a bowl with the garlic, salt and enough of the olive oil to make a paste.
Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then spread the fennel-garlic paste over both sides of the chops. Let sit for 30 minutes (or up to a few hours, if you put them in the refrigerator; bring back to room temperature before cooking).
Grill the chops for 1-2 minutes per side over a hot fire, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the internal temperature reaches at least 137 F. Let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a green salad. 4 servings
Grilled Bone-in Chicken Breasts and Legs with Tomato Olive BBQ Sauce
Tomato Olive Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons steak sauce
- 3 tablespoons Sambuca, (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, reduce heat, cover, sweat in the oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic, stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives, honey, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Sambuca, and salt and pepper.
- Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature.
- 4 bone-in chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs with thighs attached
- Prepare grill for medium indirect grilling.
- Brush each piece of chicken with barbecue sauce.
- Grill indirectly until juices run clear, about 15 to 20 minutes. The chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken from the grill, cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
- Serve with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get 12 evenly cut cubes.)
4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
12 (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper
12 cherry tomatoes
Combine first 10 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add swordfish fish cubes. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.
Prepare grill and oil grates. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Thread swordfish cubes, onions, and bell pepper alternately onto each of 4 (10-inch) skewers. Thread cherry tomatoes on a fifth skewer and set aside.
Place swordfish kabobs on grill and grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once. After 4 minutes, place the tomatoes on the grill and rotate after two minutes. Serve tomatoes with fish kabobs and garnish with lemon slices. Serve with rice.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally made using T-bone or Porterhouse steaks, but you could make it with rib eyes, strip loins, sirloin, or even fillet steak.
As long as the meat is of a very high quality (organic, grassfed is best), it will taste delicious, even if it’s not entirely authentic! It is healthy only if you keep portions small – about 4 oz. per person.
The marinating time is quite long, so make sure you start this dish at least a day before you want to eat it.
- 2 10 oz. T-bone steaks
- 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- Sea Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Balsamic vinegar or lemon
- High quality extra virgin olive oil
Put the steak in a shallow dish. Mix together the olive oil, rosemary, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the steak, cover and let rest in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours.
Heat a grill until it is very hot. Grill the meat to taste, turning to cook the steak evenly on both sides. Traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served rare to medium-rare; test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. Cook to an internal temperature of 130 to 135°F for medium-rare or an internal temperature of 120 to 125°F for rare.
Remove steaks from grill, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice steak across grain, then place slices on heated dinner plates. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and shave some parmesan cheese over the top. Season to taste and serve. Good with an Arugula Salad.
Serves 4 or more
Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese
- 4 firm, ripe peaches, pitted and halved
- olive oil for brushing the cut sides of the peaches
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 8 teaspoons fig jam
- Mint leaves
Brush peaches lightly with olive oil. Place the peaches on a greased grill rack, cut side down, and do not move the peaches in order to get grill marks on them. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side to get those grill marks. Continue grilling the peaches until slightly softened and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes total. Turn the peaches over and warm a minute or two.
Mix together the mascarpone cheese, Amaretto and honey.
To serve peaches, place a teaspoon of fig jam in the hollow where the pit had been and top each with a tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture. Decorate with mint leaves.
- Vegetable bruschetta (charlotte.news14.com)
- Talaya’s WAVE Cafe Dish of the Day sponsored by Spaghettini: Lemon Shrimp Tagliatelle Pasta with Grilled Tomato Bruschetta (947thewave.radio.com)
- Dole’s Grilled Fruit Rx To Ease Bloat (supermarketrxs.typepad.com)
- Vegetarian Barbecue Ideas (apartmentguide.com)