Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: biscotti

We Say Biscotti, Italians Say Cantucci

As noted, Italians call biscotti cantucci and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, round, square or otherwise—as the British use the word biscuit. In North America, we use biscotti as the ancient Romans did, to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie (in other words, cantucci).

Biscotti have been baked for centuries. It was the perfect food for sailors who were at sea for months at a time. The biscuits were thoroughly baked to draw out moisture, becoming a cracker-like food that was resistant to mold. Biscotti were a favorite of Christopher Columbus who relied on them on his long sea voyages.

Biscotti are eaten and enjoyed in many ways! Italians favor them as “dipping cookies” either in a cup of espresso or cappuccino or in a special Italian wine known as Vin Santo. They are enjoyed as a breakfast biscuit with coffee or as a dessert along side a dish of Gelato or Spumoni and, of course, biscotti can be savored as a subtly sweet crispy snack all by themselves!

Though modern biscotti are associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, the popular Italian cookie traces its origins to Roman times. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became cotto or cooked). The Roman biscotti were more about convenience food for travelers rather than a pleasurable treat for leisurely dinners. Unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were first baked, then baked a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment for the long journeys—Pliny, a Roman philosopher and author, boasted that they would be edible for centuries. Biscotti were a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in 455 C.E, the country was repeatedly sacked by the Visigoths, the Vandals and others. The people did their best to survive but there was no culinary development. With the progression of the Renaissance, cuisine also flowered. Biscotti re-emerged in Tuscany, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with the local sweet wine. Their dry, crunchy texture was seen to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine. Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into Vin Santo is a perfect way to end a meal or to while away an hour at a café. Tuscan biscotti were flavored with almonds from the plentiful almond groves of Prato.  Cantucci di Prato can be found in the window of every pasticceria in Tuscany.

Cantucci became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato, and spread throughout the Italian peninsula. As the Roman Legions had appreciated their long storage ability, so did the soldiers, sailors and fisherman of the Renaissance. But now, rather than pallid, dry staples for nourishment, Italian bakers put their culinary gifts to work. Biscotti became so popular that every province developed its own flavored version.

Not only are biscotti delicious to eat but they have inspired some artists to use them in their works of art. Barbara Melnick Carson recently visited Tuscany and wrote about her experiences on her blog. She discovered such art in her travels. You can read some of her creative posts at http://barbaramelnikcarson.com/

You can also view her photos of biscotti used as art in the post, The Art of Pastry.

She shared some of her photos with me and I am including them in this post, just below.

AntonioMatteiBiscottiDress

Dress Made With Biscotti  

AntonioMatteiWindow

Antonio Mattei opened his almond biscuit business in the center of Prato in 1858. It is still operating at that same location at Via Riscasoli, 20, not far from the Duomo

From the almond recipe of Tuscany, the recipe expanded to lemon-flavored dough and to other flavors and spices; to biscotti with raisins and other dried fruits; to biscotti studded with chocolate morsels and a variety of nuts. Today, the flavorings are only limited to the imagination of the baker and the palates of the customer.

Most European countries have adopted their own version of biscotti. the British have rusks; the French biscotte and croquets de carcassonne; Germans zwieback; Greeks biskota and paxemadia; Jews mandelbrot; and Russians sukhariki.

Biscotti range in texture from very hard to somewhat spongy and more cake-like. First, the sticky dough is shaped into a log and baked until firm. After a short cooling period, the log is sliced into diagonal pieces and baked again to cook out the moisture and produce the crisp, dry-textured cookie with a longer shelf life. The classic recipe has no butter or oil, using only eggs to bind the ingredients together. Recipes that do use butter or oil have a softer texture and a shorter shelf life.

Here is the Classic Biscotti Recipe: 

Anisette or Amaretto Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Anisette or Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.

Beat in the vanilla, anisette or amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.  With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.

Modern Versions

Double Chocolate Biscotti 

This double chocolate biscotti recipe gets its chocolate flavor from cocoa powder in the dough and the addition of chocolate chips.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Position one of your oven racks in the center of your oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking liner and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix. Combine two of the whole eggs, the egg yolks, and vanilla in a small bowl and mix into the dry mixture until just combined. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

After mixing, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Briefly knead the dough, just until it comes together, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 2 1/2 inch by 12 inch flat log. The dough will be sticky so you may need to add more flour to your hands as you go along to accomplish this.

Carefully transfer the logs onto your prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart because they will spread as they bake.

Beat the remaining whole egg and brush it over the logs.

Place the baking sheet on the center rack of your oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the logs are firm to the touch.

Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow the logs to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Transfer the logs to a cutting board, discarding the parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices. Place the slices on the baking sheet cut side down.

Bake the biscotti until they are crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes turning halfway thorough baking.

Remove the biscotti from baking sheet and place on a wire rack to allow cool completely.

Variations: Feel free to experiment with the recipe:

Darker Chocolate, use Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder instead of regular unsweetened cocoa powder.

Double Chocolate Biscotti with cherries, add 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries with the chocolate chips.

Chocolate Hazelnut, substitute hazelnuts for the almonds.

Double Chocolate Biscotti with Orange, add 1 teaspoon grated orange zest to the dough when you add the vanilla.

Double Chocolate Macadamia, substitute macadamia nuts for the almonds.

Double Chocolate Biscotti with Ginger, add 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger when you add the chocolate chips.

Mexican Flair, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the flour mixture.

Mocha, add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder to the flour mixture.

Triple Chocolate Dipped, melt 12 ounces of your favorite chopped dark or white chocolate. Place it in a narrow heatproof container then dip half of each biscotti slice into the chocolate.

Place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and place the sheet into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to harden.

Vegan Chocolate Biscotti

*Adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour 
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant dried espresso coffee
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a food processor, add the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and coffee crystals and pulse to combine. About six pulses.

Next, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the Egg Replacer with water, oil, then add the sugar and vanilla extract to this. Mix well.

Next, add the flour mixture and chocolate chips to this sugar mixture. Gently mix the dough. The dough will be wet and heavy with a few lumps. Just be careful to NOT overwork the dough.

Gently lift the dough up out of the bowl and turn it out onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Divide the dough in half and shape into two long logs. About ten inches long and three inches wide.

Don’t bother flattening the logs out–they will flatten as they bake and take on the domed look of biscotti.

On lowest rack in the oven, bake biscotti logs for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about fifteen minutes.

Slice logs into 1/2 inch pieces with a serrated knife. Separate the pieces a bit so the air circulates around them on the baking sheet.

Bake for a second time for 20 minutes. (A bit longer if you want crunchy biscotti.) Remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely before storing. Can be stored in airtight container for several weeks.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Yield – About 16

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, not extra virgin
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachio nuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F

Mix together oil and sugar until well blended.

Mix in the almond extract, next beat in the eggs.

In another bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder – gradually stir this into the egg mixture.

Mix in cranberries and nuts by hand.

Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12 x 2 inches). Place logs on lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F.

Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes turning halfway through the baking time.

Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container.


As a child, I remember my father taking me with him when he went shopping on a Saturday morning, in what was, “the little Italy” neighborhood in our city. We would visit the Italian deli for cold cuts, Sorrento’s Bakery for bread, Sacco & Sons for sausage and a quick lunch trip to Spirito’s for a slice of pizza. I didn’t mind the excursion during the warm months because my father always bought me a lemon ice from one of the push cart venders. The neighborhood that I remember is no longer there, but eating lemon ice or sorbetto or gelato is timeless. The recipes for frozen ices and other Italian treats will keep you cool in the coming months, but light enough so you do not have to worry about the calories.

Gelato (Italian Ice Cream) has a very low butterfat content, which makes the flavors more intense on the tongue. In addition, less air is introduced into the mixture before it is frozen, creating a much more dense dessert that adds a surprising richness to the flavor. Gelato may be made with or without eggs, cornstarch or cream in its base and, frequently, has other ingredients such as fresh fruit or coffee added for flavor. I prefer to make gelato without raw eggs yolks, so another thickener, such as cornstarch, is needed.  There are numerous recipes around but the best recipe, I found for this version, is from Mark Bittman in The New York Times. It is easy, healthy and offers many flavor ideas but does not sacrifice taste.

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Gelato

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Ice Cream Maker

Put 2 cups milk, the sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into liquid, then add pod. Cook until mixture begins to steam.
In a bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining milk; there should be no lumps. Remove bean pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract, if using.
If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill for 2 hours. When cool or if there are no lumps, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yield: 1 generous pint.

Additions:

  • Honey-Jam Variation –  Substitute honey for half the sugar. Add 1/2 cup good jam to mixture before freezing.
  • Yogurt-Substitute yogurt for half the milk.
  • Cherry-Vanilla-Add 1 cup halved, pitted cherries just before freezing.
  • Strawberry, Blueberry or Peach-Add 1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or peeled and chopped peaches before freezing.
  • Coffee-Substitute 1/2 cup very strong coffee for 1/2 cup milk.
  • Coconut-Substitute 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup milk; add 1/2 cup toasted dried coconut.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip-Add 1/2 cup minced mint and 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate just before freezing.

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Fresh Strawberries With Limoncello

Limoncello has long been a staple in the lemon-producing region of the Italian Amalfi Coast, especially in Capri and Sorrento. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons that are grown in that region. Families in Italy have passed down recipes for generations, as every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe.
When my son and daughter-in-law returned from a trip to Capri several years ago, they brought me back a bottle. Until that time, I had never heard of the product. I find it compliments many fruit desserts or adds another dimension to fruity drinks. Bottles of limoncello should be kept in the freezer until ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • 20 whole large fresh strawberries, cut into halves
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • fresh ground pepper
  •  Biscotti

Directions

Place cut strawberries in a bowl.

Pour over the liqueur, orange juice and sprinkle over with freshly ground pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. 

Serve as is or with biscotti.

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Citrus Sorbetto

Makes a perfect palate cleanser.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, fresh
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 orange

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil reduce and simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, let cool.

Stir together all the juices, zest and vanilla and add in the sugar syrup.  

Chill syrup & juice blend in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

You may serve the sorbetto right away or store it in the freezer.

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Ricotta With Berries

2 servings

Berries

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 10 strawberries, hulled and chopped ( or sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 

Ricotta

  • 6 ounces skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto
  • Garnish with mint leaves

Directions

Combine the berries with lemon juice and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

Mix ricotta ingredients together. This may be done in a food processor, if a finer texture is desired.

Serve berries over a scoop of the ricotta and garnish with mint. Serving it in a martini or other decorative glass makes for a nice presentation.

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Strawberry and Ricotta Crepes

Serves 4

The crepes can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer, so that you can pull this dessert together quickly. This recipe also makes more crepes than you’ll need for the servings below.  Allow the extra crepes to cool, place waxed paper between them, stack and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Other fresh seasonal fruits can be used instead of strawberries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cleaned and sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • Small pinch of salt

Crepes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Measure all crepe ingredients and place into a blender; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. (This helps the flour absorb more of the liquids.)  

Heat a crepe pan (or use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). Lightly grease the pan.

Measure about 1/4 cup batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter. Once the crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and turn the crepe over. The second side cooks quickly, so after about 15 seconds, slide the crepe from the pan to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter (yield: about 20 crepes).

Mix ricotta with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Mix strawberries gently with sugar, mint and salt. Set aside.

If the crepes were prepared earlier in the day or frozen and defrosted overnight, reheat them in the microwave for a minute or two until warm.

Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on one half of each of 8 warm crepes and fold to cover. Place two crepes on each serving plate.

Top with strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Lemon Biscotti With Lemon Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1  cup pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.

Combine zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon extract, oil and eggs. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until well-blended.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 to 8 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll.

Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the baking sheet; cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch) slices.

Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; bake for 10 minutes.

Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).

Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.

Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice and powdered sugar; drizzle over the biscotti.

If you’re making enough to freeze, store them in the freezer without the drizzle, then make it just before serving.

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Tangerine and Prosecco Sorbet

“Italian Champagne” – Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from late-ripening white grapes from the Veneto – Conegliano – Valdobbiadene region of Italy.

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups chilled tangerine juice or tangerine orange juice
  • 1 cup chilled Prosecco
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated tangerine peel

Directions

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil.

Transfer syrup to medium bowl and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

Add tangerine juice and Prosecco to syrup; whisk to blend well. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer sorbet to a freezer container. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. 

DO AHEAD:  Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen. Divide sorbet among wine goblets or dessert glasses.


When I was growing up, my maternal grandparents lived in the same city as I did in New Jersey.  They had a large house ( because they needed it for 7 daughters) and a large yard. My grandfather was a great gardener and he loved it.  He could make anything grow and was eager to share his bounties with you.  He had row after row of stunning roses, gladioli and lilies of the valley. Whenever I went to his house, he would send me home with a big bunch of whatever flowers were in season or a bag of zucchini and tomatoes.  I loved that my grandfather had such a gift. After my husband and I bought our first house that was not too far from his house, he would come over and spruce up my yard for me. He saved a great, little magnolia tree in the center of my yard and, boy, did my tomato plants thrive. Wish I could remember, now, what he did to those tomatoes to make them so fine.

Italians have had a very close relationship with food throughout history, but the famine endured by most Italians during World War II, shaped their cuisine into a more simple and inexpensive one. The hardship of war meant that Italians grew vegetables in their own backyard gardens, even if the garden was only 10 yards across. Owning land and the cultivation of a vegetable garden have always been popular for Italians and a right they have taken full advantage of in Italy and in the US.

My grandfather certainly espoused that philosophy and most of his yard was dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. He even grew grapes – for wine, of course. The grapes, he grew, were white and light red, but I don’t recall what kind of grapes they were. He would cut off a bunch, usually the white ones, with his pocket pen knife and hand them to me for a snack.  I would eat a couple but they tasted awful – tart and full of seeds. I would eat a few because I did not want to hurt his feelings.  He was very proud of those grapes.

The grapes were grown on a trellis that overlooked a large bench he had for sitting in his yard. The trellis was impressive and I would sit there under all those grapes and feel quite cozy in what felt like another world.  My grandfather did make wine with those grapes and he would bring the wine to Sunday dinner, usually in a big jug. My father would put the jug on the floor near his feet and occasionally hoist the jug up and fill the glasses on the table – not mine, of course. You may have heard that European children drink wine with dinner, but not in our house. Wine was for grown-ups.  I remember my mother passing on my grandfather’s wine, saying, it was a bit too strong for her, but my father and grandfather enjoyed it.

Using Wine in Your Recipes

The function of wine in cooking is to intensify and enhance the flavor and aroma of food – not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it.  Use wines in your cooking that you would drink for dinner.   Wines, labeled cooking wines, are not quality wines and they often contain salt and food coloring.
When you take some of the fat out of dishes, you usually need to add another ingredient to replace the lost moisture. Here are some examples of how wine can do just that:

  • Instead of sauteing veggies in butter or oil, you can saute them in a smaller amount of oil plus some wine for flavor and moisture.
  • Instead of making a marinade with 1/2 cup of oil, decrease the oil to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup wine.
  • You can add wine to the pan while fish is cooking or drizzle fish with a tablespoon or two of wine and bake it in a foil package
  • For certain types of cakes, using wine or sherry in place of some of the fat not only lightens up the cake but adds flavor.
The following recipes use wine in their preparation and range from appetizers to desserts.

Appetizer course 

Italian Octopus Stewed in Wine and Tomatoes

This is a recipe for Southern Italian stewed octopus with white wine and tomatoes. Octopus requires long, slow simmering over low heat to keep it tender. Serve with crusty bread. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small octopus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the octopus to the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove. Discard water.
Cut the octopus into pieces and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute or two.
Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chili flakes and bring to a simmer.
Add the salt and the honey.  Mix well, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the capers and half the parsley.
Check the octopus — sometimes small ones will be tender in just 30 minutes.
If they are still super-chewy, cover the pot again and simmer for up to another 45 minutes.
When you think you are about 10 minutes away from being done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a little to cook down the sauce.
To serve, add the remaining parsley, basil and black pepper.

Soup Course

Zuppa di Cipolle:  Italian Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 5 large yellow onions 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 6 cups beef stock, low sodium
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices country-style bread, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated or shaved

Directions:
Peel the onions and cut in half.  Thinly slice the onions crosswise.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the diced pancetta and cook for about 3-5 minutes until some of the fat has been rendered.
Add in the sliced onions, stir. Cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and slowly cook the onions until tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir often.
Stir in the stock and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Toast the bread slices.  Rub the toasted slices with garlic. Place the bread slices in individual soup bowls. Pour the soup over the bread.
Either sprinkle grated cheese or shave cheese over the soup. If your bowls are oven proof, you can then place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.

Second Course

Osso Buco is another traditional dish that uses veal, in this case, veal shanks. There are many recipes for Osso Buco that also use pork, beef or lamb shanks. Turkey thighs are not traditional but create the same effect and contain less fat than shanks.

Turkey Osso Bucco

Ingredients

  • 6 turkey thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the turkey with paper towels to dry and ensure even browning. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and dredge the turkey in the flour to coat.

In a heavy roasting pan large enough to fit the turkey thighs in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the turkey to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season vegetables with salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer about 3 minutes.

Return the turkey to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come 2/3 up the sides of the turkey. Add the herb sprigs, and bay leaf to the broth mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer to the oven.

Braise until the turkey is fork-tender about 2 hours, turning the turkey after 1 hour. Serve this dish over risotto or polenta with a side of green peas.

Side Dish

Broccoli Sautéed in Wine and Garlic – Roman Style

Makes 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds broccoli, cut into spears
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat until just sizzling. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing frequently and gradually adding the wine to keep the garlic from browning until the stalks are tender 8 to 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes lemon and orange zest and toss well.

Dessert Course

Biscotti, means twice-baked, and these cookies have grown to become an Italian classic.  As its name implies, the cookies are baked twice, first in the form of a log. They are then baked again after the log is sliced into diagonal strips. The crisp, crunchy cookie is perfect for dipping in coffee or dessert wine or even simply for snacking. Because they don’t need to be moist, biscotti are naturally low in fat.
It is said that biscotti were originally created as a provision for Venetian sailors and businessmen who went to sea for long periods of time and required foods that wouldn’t spoil. Many Italians eat the cookies as part of their breakfast with café latte. The varieties of biscotti differ throughout the many regions of Italy, but they are famous for their classic anise, almond or hazelnut flavor.

Vin Santo ( the wine of saints) is a late-harvest wine from Italy, generally Tuscany. It’s usually made from white grapes, namely Trebbiano or Malvasia, that are semi-dried before being pressed and fermented; then the wines are stored in small barrels for up to 10 years, usually in attics which turn hot and cold with the seasons. There is a wide diversity in styles, from sweet dessert versions to dry, sherry-like styles, and quality varies.

Biscotti al Vin Santo

Makes about 20 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) sliced almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz butter), cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup sweet white wine, (substitute a sweet Madeira or sweet Marsala for Vin Santo, if unavailable in your area)

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Let them cool.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir in the sugar and lemon zest. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, then stir in the almonds. Make a well in the center and add the wine and almond extract. Stir gradually drawing in the flour to make a smooth soft dough that holds together. If it seems dry, add a little more wine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape the dough into a log about 1 inch thick, 4 inches across and 12 inches long. Wrap it in plastic wrap, then flatten it slightly. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours and longer if you wish. The dough can also be frozen.

For the first baking:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the log, set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until lightly browned and firm on the outside 35 to 40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the log cool on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the second baking:

When cool, cut the log with a serrated knife into 1/2-inch slices – they will be quite soft, almost cake-like in the center. Space the biscotti on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake, turning halfway through,  until they are dry and lightly browned on the cut surfaces, 20 to 25 minutes. Let them cool on a rack and store them in an airtight container.



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