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Tag Archives: Emilia-Romagna

Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

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.

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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.

 Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

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.

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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.

Castell’Arquato

Castell’Arquato

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.

 Verdi Theater in Busseto


Verdi Theater in Busseto

Cesena

Cesena

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.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

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.

GNOCCO FRITTO WITH PARMA HAM

Gnocco Fritto with Parma Ham

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).

Barrels of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Barrels of traditional Balsamic Vinegar

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

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PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)

4 servings

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.

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BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)

This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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passover

The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia-Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role while the Duke Ercole I d’Este was in power. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, after the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located on three city streets, formed a triangle near the cathedral and became a ghetto in 1627. Between 1627 and 1859, the Ferrara Jews were restricted to the ghetto, a self-sufficient small town within the larger one. With a population of about 1,800, the ghetto had its own synagogues, schools and old age homes. In 1848, King Carlo Alberto proclaimed the emancipation of the Italian Jews, granting them equal rights. Today, the old ghetto area, with its small attractive stores and refurbished colorful houses, is an essential part of the itinerary of all guided tours.

In 1799, the city was taken over by the Republic of France, which established a small garrison there. Shortly after, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Klenau approached the fortress with his military forces consisting of Austrian cavalry, artillery and infantry men, augmented by Italian peasant rebels, and demanded its capitulation. The commander refused. Klenau blockaded the city. For the next three days, Klenau patrolled the countryside, capturing the surrounding strategic points. The French attempted two rescues of the beleaguered fortress and, finally, a column led by Pierre-Augustin Hulin reached and relieved the fortress. Klenau took possession of the town, though, and garrisoned it with a light battalion. The Jewish residents of Ferrara paid 30,000 ducats to prevent the pillage of the city by Klenau’s forces, thus, saving the city from being sacked.

Although Jews lived in several towns of Emilia-Romagna, including Modena, Bologna, Parma, Reggio and Emilia, the Jewish cuisine that seems to have survived or prevailed is the one from the city of Ferrara. Their influence in the region’s cooking is mainly Sephardi, with dishes such as buricchi, which is reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese empanadas and can have both sweet and savory fillings.

Jewish Museum

Jewish Museum

An old saying from Ferrara goes, “Dell’oca non si butta via niente”, which translates as “Nothing gets thrown away from a goose”. Inspired by the Italian pork cold cuts, the Ferrara Jews recreated similar cuts using goose. All the parts of the goose were eaten: its fat was widely used in cooking as it was full of protein and calories and was cheap to buy. Its meat was used to make ‘prosciutti’ and goose sausages or salami. For centuries the word ‘sallame’, spelt with two ‘l’s instead of ‘salame’ was used within the Jewish community in order to distinguish the goose salami from the forbidden pork one. Foie gras was made from the goose liver and it was very expensive. Sometimes it was even used for payment in illegal betting and smuggling.

Goose was widely used in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont until modern times, when it was replaced by turkey, as turkey is more tender, less fatty and cheaper. Many recipes from the Jewish community of Ferrara have goose and turkey as their main dish entree and turkey meatloaf is still a popular dish. A well-known and interesting goose dish is the ruota del faraone or Pharaoh’s wheel. It is made with fresh tagliatelle, goose salami, pine nuts and raisins. It’s ingredients represent the Egyptian soldiers and chariots being caught up in the waves of the closing Red Sea, while chasing the Jews who were escaping from Egypt. This dish and many other old traditional recipes are laborious and few people make them today, if at all. Testine di spinaci – the stems of spinach – and guscetti – the husks of green peas were dishes created at the time of the ghettos, when living conditions were particularly poor and creativity was a necessity in the kitchen.

During Passover, foods containing chametz, that is leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not allowed. The Ashkenazic tradition also places kitniyot in the list of prohibited Passover foods: rice, corn, soy, millet, beans, peas, any other legume or anything derived from those products, such as corn syrup, tofu or soy oil fall under this category. Similarly, seeds, mustard, sesame and fennel are also avoided during Passover. This restriction includes peanuts, even though we think of them as nuts, they really are classified as legumes. People from a Sephardi or Mizrahi background do not have the kitniyot restriction.

Look on products like matzah flour, juices, wine, oil, candy and soda for the “Kosher for Passover” certification. That can help you be sure.

matzah gnocchi

Matzah Gnocchi

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer

Ingredients

  • 11 matzahs, broken into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons of matzah meal, plus more to dust the gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon kosher approved extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

Soak the matzah in cold water or broth for at least 1 hour or until soft. Drain, squeeze well and place into a clean bowl; add the eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, nutmeg and matzah meal. Mix all the ingredients together.

In a second bowl, place some more matzah meal. With a wet tablespoon or a small scoop, take some of the mixture and place it on top of the matzah meal. Using your hands, roll the mixture evenly over the matzah meal and shape it into a ping-pong size ball. Proceed with the rest of the mix and place the rolled gnocchi on a piece of wax paper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the gnocchi and scoop them out as they rise to the surface using a slotted skimmer. Place them in with the tomato sauce and serve.

Prepare the sauce:

Heat olive oil and add thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts) and a whole clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, and discard the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon . Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for about 10-15 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken.

passoverrolledturkeys-01

Passover Rolled Turkey Breast With Mushroom-Spinach Stuffing

FOR THE STUFFING:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE TURKEY:

  • 1 Kosher whole turkey breast, boned, with skin (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium Kosher chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup kosher-for-Passover dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks are tender and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and spinach and stir until spinach wilts. Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and stir in matzah meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

TO PREPARE THE TURKEY:

Lay turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board or wax paper. Trim any excess skin. Holding a knife parallel to the meat, make lengthwise cuts on both breast halves, cutting away from the center, so meat is of a consistent thickness (creating a rectangular shape). Cover with wax paper and pound to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with the spinach stuffing mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Starting from the left side, roll into a cylinder. Tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string and secure open edges with toothpicks.

Place turkey on a rack, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Combine 2 cups chicken broth with the wine and pour over the turkey. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting with stock mixture every 15 minutes (add broth if evaporating too quickly) or until temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.

Remove from roast the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Skim fat from the roasting pan and pour pan juices into a small saucepan with the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and string, and slice turkey into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve with sauce.

Latkes
Easy Latkes

These latkes are oven fried.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Matzah meal
  • Kosher approved vegetable oil for the baking sheets

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray two large cookie sheets with rims with cooking spray.

Grate or shred the potatoes. You can use the fine shredding attachment on a processor or mixer. Wrap the grated potatoes in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them, wringing as much liquid as possible from them.

Shred or grate the onion. Don’t use the finest shredding disk of your food processor, as it will turn the onion to mush; the medium shredding disk is preferable.

Combine the drained potatoes, onion, egg, salt and matzah in a bowl, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Pour a thin layer of oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move. For easier-to-clean pans and slightly less greasy latkes, heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil.

Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4 to 1/3-cupful. Space them far enough apart so that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over when the time comes.

Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, turn the pancakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and drain the pancakes on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.

rootveg

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • About 3-4 pounds, in any combination: turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery root, shallots, golden beets, butternut or kabocha squash
  • 1/3 cup kosher approved olive oil
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel all the vegetables and dice into 1 inch pieces.
Combine al lthe ingredients in a mixing bowl and transfer to two rimmed cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
Roast about 20-30 minutes, until very tender.
Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Serve with the turkey roast.

Passover basic_sponge

Italian Almond Passover Cake

Servings: 12

Dress this simple cake up by dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar and topping it with fresh fruit.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal, plus more for coating the cake pan
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds or 2 cups packaged finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup kosher approved extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and grease the paper. Evenly coat the bottom and sides with matzah meal, tapping out any excess.

If you are using whole blanched almonds, pulse the whole blanched almonds in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of matzah meal and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until very finely ground. If using packaged finely ground almonds, mix by hand: packaged ground almonds with the matzah meal and the 1/4 cup sugar.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar at high-speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. At low-speed, gradually add the ground almond mixture, the extracts, the olive oil and the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Beat 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it; then quickly fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Run a small, sharp knife around the side of the cake, transfer it to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the base of the pan, then carefully peel off the paper. Garnish according to taste.

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Giuseppe_Verdi00

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Italian composers of all time. Giuseppe Verdi was responsible for some of the best operas, which are still widely known and revered today: La Traviata, Aida and Rigoletto, to name just a few. Verdi dominated the Italian opera scene after the eras of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture.

Verdi was born to Carlo Giuseppe Verdi and Luigia Uttini in Le Roncole, a village in the province of Parma (Emilia-Romagna region) in Northern Italy. When he was still a child, Verdi’s parents moved from Le Roncole to a nearby village, Busseto, where the future composer’s education was greatly facilitated by visits to the large library belonging to the local Jesuit school. It was in Busseto that he was given his first lessons in composition. Verdi went to Milan when he was twenty to continue his studies. He took private lessons in music and voice while attending operatic performances and concerts. Eventually, he decided to pursue a career in theater composition.

After his studies, Verdi returned to Busseto, where he became the town music master and gave his first public performance at the home of Antonio Barezzi, a local merchant and music lover who had long supported Verdi’s musical ambitions. Because he loved Verdi’s music, Barezzi invited Verdi to be his daughter Margherita’s music teacher and the two soon fell deeply in love. They were married in May 1836 and Margherita gave birth to two children. Unfortunately, both died in infancy while Verdi was working on his first opera and, shortly afterwards, Margherita died of encephalitis at the age of 26. Verdi adored his wife and children and was devastated by their deaths.

His first opera, Oberto, performed at La Scala in November 1839, was successful and La Scala’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli, offered Verdi a contract for three more works.
It was while he was working on his second opera, Un giorno di regno, that Verdi’s wife died. The opera was a failure and he fell into despair, vowing to give up musical composition forever. However, Merelli persuaded him to write Nabucco and its opening performance in March 1842 made Verdi famous. It follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco. The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot. The best-known piece from the opera is the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”.

A period of hard work – producing 14 operas – followed in the next fifteen years. These included I Lombardi in 1843, Ernani in 1844 and, for some, the most original and important opera that Verdi wrote, Macbeth (1847). It was Verdi’s first attempt to write an opera without a love story, breaking a basic convention of 19th-century Italian opera.

Nabucco

Nabucco

Sometime in the mid-1840s, Verdi “formed a lasting attachment to the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who was to become his lifelong companion”. Their cohabitation before marriage was regarded as scandalous in some of the places they lived and eventually Verdi and Giuseppina married. In 1848, Verdi bought an estate two miles from Busseto. Initially, his parents lived there, but after his mother’s death in 1851, he made the Villa Verdi at Sant’Agata his home, which it remained until his death.

Rigoletto

Rigoletto

During this time, Verdi created one of his greatest masterpieces, Rigoletto, which premiered in Venice in 1851. Based on a play by Victor Hugo (Le roi s’amuse), the opera quickly became a great success. There followed the second and third of the three major operas of Verdi’s “middle period”: in 1853 Il trovatore was produced in Rome and La traviata in Venice. The latter was based on Alexandre Dumas’ play, The Lady of the Camellias, and became the most popular of all of Verdi’s operas worldwide. You can listen to the drinking song, “Brindisi” from La Traviata, in the video below performed by two of my favorite opera singers, Dame Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti.

In 1869, Verdi was asked to compose a section for a requiem mass in memory of Gioachino Rossini, as part of a collection of sections composed by other Italian contemporaries of Rossini. The requiem was compiled and completed, but was cancelled at the last minute. Five years later, Verdi reworked his “Libera Me” section of the Rossini Requiem and made it a part of his Requiem Mass, honoring the famous novelist and poet Alessandro Manzoni, who had died in 1873. The complete Requiem was first performed at the cathedral in Milan in May 1874.

Verdi’s grand opera, Aida, is sometimes thought to have been commissioned for the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and there had been a plan to inaugurate an opera house as part of the canal opening festivities, but Verdi turned down an invitation to write an “ode” for the new opera house. In 1869, the organizers approached Verdi (this time with the idea of writing an opera), but he again turned them down. When they warned him that they would engage the services of Charles Gounod and Richard Wagner, Verdi began to show considerable interest and agreements were signed in June, 1870.

Aida

Aida

Teresa Stolz was associated with both Aida and the Requiem, as well as, a number of other Verdi roles. The role of Aida was written for her and she performed the opera at the European premiere in Milan in February 1872. She was also the soprano soloist in the first and in many later performances of the Requiem. After Giuseppina Strepponi’s death, Teresa Stolz became a close companion of Verdi until his death.

In 1879 the composer-poet Boito and the publisher Ricordi pleaded with Verdi to write another opera. He worked slowly on it, being occupied with revisions of earlier operas, and completed the opera seven years later. This opera, Othello, his most powerful and tragic work, a study in evil and jealousy, is notable for the increasing richness of detail in the orchestral writing. Verdi’s last opera, Falstaff, whose libretto was also by Boito, was based on Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Part 1 with Victor Hugo’s translation. It was an international success and is famous for being one of the world’s best comic operas.

Othello

Othello

While staying at the Grand Hotel et de Milan, Verdi suffered a stroke on January 21, 1901. He gradually grew more feeble and died nearly a week later. Arturo Toscanini conducted a combined orchestra and choir composed of musicians from throughout Italy at Verdi’s funeral service in Milan. To date, it remains the largest public assembly of any event in the history of Italy.

Completing 25 operas throughout his career, Verdi continues to be regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. His works are noted for their emotional intensity, tuneful melodies and dramatic characterizations. He transformed the Italian opera, with its traditional staging, old-fashioned librettos and emphasis on vocal displays, into a unified musical and dramatic entity. As Verdi matured he played with the expectations of listeners, who expected scenes to unfold in familiar patterns. Instead, he would break off an aria and transition into a charged recitative or blur distinctions between forms and styles to make the music responsive to the dramatic moment and the text. The music of Verdi, one of Italy’s most outstanding composers, makes up some of classical music’s most timeless treasures and his operas are among those most frequently produced in the world today.

Busseto's Tribute to Verdi

Busseto’s Tribute to Verdi

Emilia Romagna

Verdi lived in Busetto in the heart of the Italian province of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna. When one thinks of luxurious Italian food, it is usually classic Emilia Romagna cuisine. The area is known for its flavorful produce dishes. Bright green asparagus is served with Parmigiano Reggiano and melted butter. The sweet chestnut, known as Marrone di Castel Rio, comes from Emilia Romagna, as do porcini mushrooms. Local shallots and olive oil pressed from local olives are prized for their quality. Pasta is a favorite food in the region. While polenta, rice and gnocchi were staples in Emilia Romagna cooking, fresh egg pasta is now more popular. Most areas consider tagliatelle their favorite shape and serve it with ragù. Recipes also include tortelli, or large pasta squares, filled with ricotta and greens and served with melted butter.

In addition to the Romagnola breed of cattle, rabbit, game birds and poultry are eaten. Wild duck and tomatoes are stewed with herbs, white wine and served with risotto. Cappone ripieno, or roasted capon, is stuffed with with a marsala flavored veal and ham filling. Other popular meats include pork, lamb and mutton. Proscuitto di Parma and fresh fruit are served together for a refreshing appetizer.

Emilia is well known for Parmigiano Reggiano, but the Grana Padano and Provonole Valpadana are also extremely high quality. Cheeses are used young, while sweet, or aged to develop a sharper flavor for grating. Ravaggiolo and squaquarone are also creamy piquant cheeses used in cooking. After so many rich dishes, it’s appropriate that many Emilia Romagna desserts are based on fresh fruit. Melons, stone fruits, berries and pears are most often served.

crostini di polenta with moules

Toasted Polenta with Mussels

You can use any seafood to top the polenta. The same combination may be successfully used in bruschetta or crostini recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups polenta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mussels, steamed and removed from the shell
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Olive oil for brushing

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 – 26-28 can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

For the green sauce:

  • 1 cup green parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cook the polenta in salted water with the olive oil, in proportions according to package directions. You want a thick polenta, not thin. Pour the polenta into a loaf pan and leave it to set overnight; or for at least two hours.

The next day, cut the loaf into slices. Place the slices on a wooden board and brush with some olive oil. Next arrange the slices, oiled side down, on a greased oven rack. Brush the other side with olive oil.

Bake in 200°C/390°F oven until golden brown on top, for about 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven; let it cool.

Meanwhile prepare the mussels and sauces.

In a skillet heat the olive oil; add chopped garlic and the mussels. Then add the wine and let it cook until all liquids evaporate.

To cook the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan; add chopped onion and sauté until golden. Next add chopped garlic. Stir and sauté briefly, then add the canned tomatoes. Lower the heat and cook until the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Then place it in a food processor and blend with a small bunch of fresh basil, salt and pepper.

To make the green sauce:

Place all ingredients for the sauce in a food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.

Carefully remove the polenta slices from the rack and arrange on a serving platter. Top with the tomato sauce and green sauce. Then arrange the mussels on top. Serve warm.

tagliatelle

Tagliatelle with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pancetta (Italian unsmoked cured bacon), chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 8 ounces bottled peeled roasted whole chestnuts, coarsely crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces dried flat egg pasta such as tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
Cook pancetta in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, 1 tablespoon sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in chestnuts and remove from heat.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and add to the pancetta mixture in the skillet. Add the reserved cooking water along withthe  cheese and butter and cook, tossing constantly, over high heat until pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with parsley and remaining tablespoon sage.

parma pork

Pork Tenderloin Prosciutto Parma

Serve with broccoli rabe. Try to purchase authentic Italian Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano for this dish—even though it is more costly, the superior flavor is worth the expense.

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloins, (1-1 1/4 pounds each), trimmed
  • 4 thin slices Italian Parma ham, (Prosciutto di Parma), divided
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Combine sage, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Butterfly the tenderloins, so they can be flattened, stuffed and rolled. To do that, make two long horizontal cuts, one on each side, dividing the tenderloin in thirds without cutting all the way through. Working with one tenderloin at a time, lay it on a cutting board. Holding the knife blade flat, so it’s parallel to the board, make a lengthwise cut into the side of the tenderloin one-third of the way down from the top, stopping short of the opposite edge so that the flaps remain attached. Rotate the tenderloin 180°. Still holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, make a lengthwise cut into the side opposite the original cut, starting two-thirds of the way down from the top of the tenderloin and taking care not to cut all the way through. Open up the 2 cuts so you have a large rectangle of meat. Use the heel of your hand to gently flatten the meat to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cover each butterflied tenderloin with 2 of the prosciutto slices, then spread 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano over the ham, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting with a long side, roll up each tenderloin so the stuffing is in a spiral pattern; then tie the roasts at 2-inch intervals with kitchen string.

Lightly brush the roasts all over with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, then rub with the reserved herb mixture. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roasts, bending to fit if necessary, and cook, turning often, until the outsides are browned, 3 to 5 minutes total.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, checking often, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, remove the string and cut the pork into 1-inch-thick slices.

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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.

First Course

Homemade Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

10 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

Homemade Pappardelle

Makes about 2 1/2 Pounds

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Second Course

Pork Loin with Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Spinach Parmigiano

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Dessert

Chocolate Almond Torte

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.


Cécile Kyenge

Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, born in Kambove, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), is a Congolese-born Italian politician and ophthalmologist. She is the Minister for Integration in the current Italian government. Dr. Kyenge is married and the mother of two daughters, Maïsha and Giulia. After moving to Italy in 1983, she became a qualified ophthalmologist in Modena, Emilia-Romagna.

She founded an intercultural Association (DAWA) to promote mutual awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in her country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also the spokesperson of the association “March First”, which works to promote the rights of migrants in Italy. She collaborates with many Italian magazines, including Combonifem and Corriere Immmigrazione, an online newspaper and a weekly journal on the culture of Italy of the present and future.

In February 2013 she was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Democratic Party in Emilia-Romagna. Two months later she was appointed Minister for Integration in the coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. She supports the introduction of a “Jus soli” law to grant citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil. Under the current legislation, Italian nationality is passed on most commonly by blood, meaning the grandchild of an Italian, who has never set foot in the country, has more rights to citizenship than someone who was born in Rome to foreign parents.

But even if Dr. Kyenge is unable to push a single piece of legislation through Parliament, she will have secured an important legacy. Her April 27 appointment as Minister for Integration in Italy’s newly formed government has kicked off a much-needed discussion on race and immigration in a country that still struggles to come to terms with its rapid transformation.

That discussion has taken some brutal turns. “Kyenge wants to impose her tribal traditions from the Congo,” said Mario Borghezio, a member of the European Parliament for Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League in an April 30 radio interview. “She seems like a great housekeeper,” he added. “But not a government minister.” Even in Italy, a country all too often permeated by casual bigotry, Borghezio’s words went way too far. An online petition calling for him to be sanctioned or evicted from his post has gathered more than 75,000 signatures and the Northern League’s leader, Roberto Maroni, a former Interior Minister, has come under pressure to denounce him.

While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. Dr. Kyenge’s appointment gives cause for hope that things will get better for Italy’s immigrant population. Appearing on an Italian talk show in May, Dr. Kyenge said her proposal will be ready “in the coming weeks.” She’ll soon get a chance to discover what her fellow parliamentarians are made of.

On September 23 representatives of 17 European Union countries gathered in Rome to condemn the “unacceptable” stream of racist insults directed at Cécile Kyenge and called for a new pact to stamp out discrimination across the European bloc. (The Rome Declaration-Pact 2014-2020 for a Europe of diversity and fight against racism.) “The reality is, Europe is made up of people with different skin colors, who belong to different religions or were born elsewhere but have chosen to live here,” said Dr. Kyenge.

Pollo di Modena

Italian Balsamic-Marinated Chicken –  A classic dish from Dr. Kyenge’s home region in Italy.

This simple recipe for balsamic chicken puts the rich flavor of balsamic vinegar to good use. The marinade not only flavors the chicken but tenderizes it as well. Balsamic vinegar was first made in the city of Modena. The region of Emilia-Romagna has a rich and diversified cuisine, often including meats, stuffed pastas and salamis.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces 
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over the chicken. Serve with crusty Italian bread and a salad.

Pollo di Modena Variations:

  • Substitute rosemary for the sage.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to simmer with the chicken.
  • Topped with sauteed pancetta before serving.

Elisabetta Missoni

Elisabetta Missoni is a member of the national association, Le Donne del Vino (The Women of Wine), launched in April 1988 and is made up of wine producers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, owners of wine shops and trade journalists. The association aims to promote the ever-increasing role of women, in what was once a male-dominated environment, and to play a major contribution in the development of women working with wine.

Not surprisingly, for someone who has a strong connection with the fashion industry, wine was never Elisabetta’s first interest. “Before I met Giovanni, I was very much focused on fashion,” explains Elisabetta, who is the niece of fashion designer, Ottavio Missoni. “But Giovanni was passionate about his wines and he knew how to instil that passion in me. The fine quality of our wines reflects our continuous search for distinction and simplicity. That is the part of our lifestyle that we most like to share with our clients and friends.” Elisabetta is behind the Foffani wine label that she produces with her husband, Giovanni Foffani. While Giovanni concentrates on the actual wine production, Elisabetta deals with public relations and customer service. She is also responsible for organising annual events and demonstrations.

The Azienda Agricola Foffani winery is located in Clauiano (Friuli region) which is east of Venice. It was built in the 16th century and is now protected by the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts. Wine production dates back to 1789 and the name, Clauiano, comes from Claudiano, meaning Claudian because the property was given to the emperor Claudius by the Patriarch of Aquileia around 1 AD. The winery produces a selected range of aged red wines and classical Friuli white wines made in steel barrels to preserve their original fragrances. The result is wine that is mentioned in the acclaimed guide “Gambero Rosso” year after year. Every year Elisabetta and her husband take part in the trade fair Colori dei Vini, the ‘Colours of Wine’ show. Emphasising the family fashion ties, the tablecloths are exclusive knitwear designs by Luca Missoni and match the colors of the wines available.

Agnolotti di Pontebba

(Ravioli with Sweet Filling)

The varied landscape and strong Austrian and Central European influences are evident in the Friuli Venezia Giulia regional cuisine that is based heavily on polenta, soups and salumi. The Friulian people aptly merge humble, local ingredients with exotic spices from foreign lands, resulting in a cuisine that, while often surprising in its blend of sweet and savory flavors, please the palate.

Ingredients for 4 people

For the dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

For the filling

  • 9 ounces ricotta
  • 3 1/2 ounces prunes
  • 1 dried fig
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste

Dressing

  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter

Directions

Place flour on a smooth surface and make a well in the flour, add eggs, water and salt and knead until smooth. (You can also do this in a processor or electric mixer.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

In a pot with boiling water, cook prunes and dried fig for a few minutes until soft. Drain, chop and combine with ricotta and sugar.

With a rolling pin or a pasta machine, roll out dough in 1/8-inch thick sheets. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit or ravioli cutter.

Place one spoonful of ricotta filling in the middle of each circle and close to form crescents.

Seal edges with your fingers. Cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Carefully drain with a slotted spoon to avoid breaking the agnolotti.

Arrange in pasta bowls and serve with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Catherine DeAngelis 

Last November Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., received the Special Recognition Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is given to leaders in academic medicine for extraordinary achievements in the field. The award honors DeAngelis’ numerous lifetime accomplishments, her long-standing commitment to academic medicine and her decade-long tenure as editor-in-chief of “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)”, one of the oldest and most revered medical journals in the world. DeAngelis became that publication’s first female editor-in-chief and the first pediatrician to hold that title.

In her role as the first woman editor, Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., has made a special effort to publish substantive scientific articles on women’s health issues. The journal plays an important role in bringing new research to light and featured articles can lead to fundamental changes in treatment. Under her editorship, the journal published a landmark study questioning the benefits of hormone replacement therapy in 2002. She also served as editor of the”Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, from 1993 to 2000.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Catherine DeAngelis was born and raised in a coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania. She grew up in Old Forge, the middle child of three in a poor family. Her mother, the late Mary DeAngelis, worked as a waitress and her father, the late Sandy DeAngelis, worked in a silk mill. Both her parents only had an eighth-grade education.”We were poor, but we were happy,” Dr. DeAngelis said during a recent telephone interview. “We had a big garden and my parents canned what was in the garden. My dad hunted and fished.”

At first medical school was not financially possible, so she went into a three-year program to become a registered nurse. Following her graduation in 1960, she was accepted into Wilkes University. During her undergraduate years she worked as a nurse and set up an infirmary at Wilkes. She also worked in a laboratory, gaining valuable experience in immunology research. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, again doing lab work, teaching student nurses and working in the V.A. hospital medical library to help cover her expenses.

After medical school, DeAngelis began a pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Working four hours a week at a free clinic in Baltimore, she began thinking about scientific ways to address the general problems she saw there. She had heard about Harvard University’s program in health law and economics and realized that she could apply for a master’s degree in public health fellowship with a stipend from the National Institute of Health.

After DeAngelis earned herdegree, she worked at the Roxbury, Massachusetts Comprehensive Community Clinic. While there, she noticed that many patients were not receiving basic care, primarily because of access and financial problems. With a little more training for nurses, she thought, some of these problems could be addressed. To solve the problem, she wrote a textbook for nurse practitioner-medical resident teams, Basic Pediatrics for Primary Care Providers, published in 1973.

From 1973 to 1975 she worked as a faculty member at the Columbia College of Physicians on improving health care systems in Harlem and upper Manhattan in New York, using physician-nurse practitioner teams. She then took a position at the University of Wisconsin organizing a system for children’s health care for the next three years.

In 1978 DeAngelis decided to move back East, where she became chief of the new Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Hopkins Medical Center. She went on to become deputy chair of the department and was appointed vice-dean for academic affairs in 1994.

When she was made a full professor in 1984, Dr. DeAngelis was only the twelfth woman in Hopkins’s 94-year history to receive that rank. 68 percent of all women, who have been made professor since the founding of Hopkins, received their promotions while DeAngelis was vice-dean. Her success there is especially ironic, as her application to attend Hopkins’ medical school was rejected years earlier.

Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna

Italian American food is based heavily on the traditional food of southern Italian immigrants, most of whom arrived in the United States from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many Italian Americans, who identify their food with their locale and the home areas of their ancestors, the food is based on staples such as dry pasta, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • Three 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 18 sheets lasagna, each about 10 inches by 2 inches, parboiled
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)

Directions:

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Using a food mill, purée plum tomatoes directly into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of the coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to about 41/2 cups.

In a small bowl mix ricotta, egg, 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

Butter generously the bottom and sides of a baking pan, 11 inches by 9 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Take 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and spread on the bottom of the pan.

Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a heaping 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce on top of this layer. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella. Repeat this 4 times.

Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Afua Preston

Afua works as Assistant Director for Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting Programs at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies and she has a unique ancestry. She was born in Ghana, West Africa, to an Akan mother and an African-American father. She came to America when she was less than 1 year old and her Father re-married. Her stepmother is Italian-American whose family is Abruzzese from Sulmona and Roccacasale. Afua calls her stepmother, Mother, because she was raised by her, but Afua also keeps in contact with her birth Mother’s family.

The Italian side of her personality comes out, she says, “in my cooking, sense of style, love of art and devotion to my family. I’m fiercely protective. People say that I have a sort of casual reserve called “cool orsprezzatura” — depending on which side of my family is speaking. When I cook, I’m always mixing in more garlic in my paternal Grandmother’s recipes or taking an Italian dish and making it more southern. The music in my life also has cultural collisions. I am a big fan of Italian singer, Lorenzo Cherubini Jovanotti, who mixes sounds of Italy, black America and Africa.”

Afua can speak Italian. Listening to her Great-Grandmother Mamma Adele speak to her Grandmother Mamma Dina made Afua want to learn Italian and, eventually, she earned a B.A. in Italian Language and Culture. She studied in Florence and learned to speak Italian. “The sounds of the language are beautiful. Not to mention, it helps to know Italian when ordering Italian food”, she said in a recent interview.

Afua said she retains her Italian side, “through food, art and music. I cook Italian food often. My Nonna says that I am the best pizzelle maker in the family. I read “Cucina Italiana Magazine” all the time. Both my parents are art historians, so I was always a lover of art. But it was especially after my semester in Firenze, that I came back to New York and had a new appreciation of the beautiful architecture and the stone and marble work in buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights.”

She feels lucky to have grown up with two well-educated parents and two grandmothers who worked very hard in life to raise themselves up from their poor origins through education. Her paternal Grandmother Millie, especially, raised her to believe she could be anything she wanted to be. Afua said, “I never looked at color as an obstacle for me to do what I wanted in life. But many children of color do have real obstacles and, therefore, feel that they could “never” be what they want to be. I’m kind of a zuppa mista. I don’t identify with any one group. Although my skin is black, I can’t really define myself totally. I would like to explore my African roots more though. My face and name are Ghanaian, my voice is very NY American and my soul is black-Italian American.”

Zuppa Mista di Legumi

A dish Afua likes to prepare – bean soup. Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used

Ingredients

  • 8 oz mixed dried legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas)
  • 7 oz spelt
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, heated
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

As a first step to prepare this soup you need to soak the dried beans in warm water overnight, then drain them and use them in the preparation according to the recipe.

Chop celery, carrot, garlic and onion and put them to fry in a pan with a little olive oil.

When the garlic is golden, add the dried beans and the farro, stir with a wooden spoon and start cooking the soup slowly adding the hot broth.

Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally. The time required for cooking and to thicken the soup varies from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the quality of the beans.

Season with salt and add a little olive oil.

Article Sources: 

Italy Magazine

Johns Hopkins Medicine

i-Italy Digital Magazine


 

While no recorded history appears to exist on the origins of pancetta, there are shipping records from as early as the 15th. century that note the purchase of cured meats for long voyages. Most likely, cured meats were developed for just such a purpose. Two well known pancette (plural form) are the Piacentina (D.O.P.) from Emilia-Romagna and pancetta Calabrese (D.O.P.), although very good pancette are made in many other regions as well. The Calabria and Piacentina producers enjoy “Protected Designation of Origin Status” from the European Union, which consists of regulations made to protect local products from competition from unauthentic products made by foreign producers. 

Simply, pancetta is dry salted, cured pork belly. There are two basic forms of pancetta that can be found in Italy: pancetta stesa, a flat shaped meat similar to American bacon. The other is pancetta arrotolata, a rolled version. Variations of these two basic forms of pancetta can also be found regionally throughout Italy, each influenced by climate, breed of pig, seasonings and the tradition of local production. Pancetta stesa is made by curing pork belly with salt and additional spices/seasonings. Curing time is between 5-7 days, then an additional 14–21 days, so the product can be hung in a cool / humid environment to dry and develop its unique flavor. Pancetta arrotolata is produced in the same fashion as stesa. Once the pancetta has cured, additional seasonings are added before rolling the meat into a log shape. It is tied and hung up to dry. The texture is softer, more delicate and has more moisture than pancetta stesa.

Regional Favorites:

Piacentina is a regional pancetta and the pigs that are used must be from Emilia-Romagna or Lombardia and the processing can only take place in the province of Piacenza, specifically in Colli Piacentini. The curing process will last from 10-15 days with black pepper and cloves added for a unique flavor. Once cured, it is tightly rolled into a cylinder, tied and hung to dry for up to 3 months. One obscure fact about pancetta piacentina is that its manufacturing can not take place in an altitude any higher than 3,281.5 feet. Stagionata is another pancetta from the Emilia-Romagna region, located northeast of Bologna, situated near a branch of the Po River. The unique combination of salt, garlic, black pepper and rosemary intensify during the 6 month curing process. From the province of Trento (Trentino), which is part of the Alto-Adige region on the Switzerland/Austrian border, one can find smoked pancetta. The curing process takes place in a saline bath that includes garlic, white wine, cinnamon, cloves, juniper and lemon. The curing process lasts about 3 weeks before rolling the meat into a cylinder and smoking it over juniper wood.

Rolled Pancetta

Proscuitto

What is the Difference Between Pancetta and Prosciutto?

The difference between pancetta and prosciutto is similar to the difference between American bacon and ham, in that they are both preparations of different cuts of pork.  For most food lovers to understand the difference between pancetta and prosciutto, it is typically easiest to compare how each type of meat is prepared.

Pancetta is essentially Italian bacon, which comes from the belly of the pig and is cured.  Pancetta is the same cut of meat used to make American bacon and the two foods are somewhat similar. The pork belly is typically cured using a combination of salt and curing salts that often contain sodium nitrate. This curing process changes the meat so that it becomes an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria.  After the pork belly has been cured for about a week or so, it is hung in a cool, damp room for several weeks, so that it can dry sufficiently. This gives the pancetta a signature flavor, which is somewhat similar to American bacon. Unlike bacon, however, the pancetta is not smoked after it is cured and dried, which gives it a different flavor from American bacon.

Prosciutto is Italian ham taken from the pork leg, cured and dried for a period of time, typically between several months and up to two years. Prosciutto is prepared in a similar way to the one used for pancetta, though there are noteworthy differences. The cut of pork used to make prosciutto is typically a hip and the curing process takes several weeks longer than pancetta, due to proscuitto being a thicker cut of meat. Once cured, the prosciutto is hung and allowed to dry and age like pancetta, but this process often goes for years.

This means that the major difference between pancetta and prosciutto is that each comes from different portion of  a pig and they each require different curing and drying times. While both pancetta and prosciutto are cured and aged, the process is much longer for prosciutto and that produces two pieces of meat with substantially different flavors. The pork belly used to make pancetta is also much fattier than the leg used in prosciutto, which results in different flavor and texture. Another major difference between pancetta and prosciutto is the way in which they must be handled prior to eating. Pancetta needs to be cooked before it can be safely eaten, while prosciutto is frequently eaten uncooked, it can also be an added ingredient to a cooked entree.

Pancetta is an alternative to bacon, in any recipe where the meaty flavor of bacon is desired, without the smokiness. An almost indispensable ingredient in the Italian kitchen, pancetta is used to add flavor to vegetables and pasta. Roast it with potatoes, Brussels sprouts, squash or radicchio. Add it to any pasta dish for extra flavor. Wrap it around scallops or drape it over fish before grilling. Mince it into stuffings, or fry it crisp and sprinkle over soups.

Pizza prepared with sliced rolled pancetta

Pancetta’s calories are high and, since it is made from pig meat, also high in cholesterol. ( 2 ounces of pancetta add up to 200 calories.) If you wish to use a substitute, I would suggest turkey bacon. However, there are many Italian recipes that are made with pancetta and the flavor of the dish is based on this ingredient. Again, moderation is the key. I always use the least amount I think a dish needs of an ingredient that requires moderation. Start by cutting the amount in half, as I have done in the recipes below. You can always add more if the taste requires it.

Antipasto Course

Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus with Orange Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound medium asparagus
  • 1/4 pound very thinly sliced pancetta
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

1. Tightly wrap each asparagus spear in a slice of pancetta and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.

2. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, stir the orange zest and juice with the mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus over moderate heat, turning often, until they are just tender and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the asparagus to a platter and drizzle with some of the dressing. Sprinkle with the thyme and serve.

 

First Course (Primo)

Pasta With Onion and Pancetta

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni or any other tubular pasta
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 2 onions, sliced very thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

In a large, deep skillet, sauté the pancetta in the olive oil, and after a minute or two, add the onion. Cook until golden. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.  When the pasta has a minute or two left to cook, drain it, retaining 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Add the drained pasta to the pancetta and onion in the skillet and mix well. Add reserved pasta water and cook for a minute. Place pasta into a serving bowl and add the cheese and a generous amount of black pepper. Salt only after you’ve tasted it, since the salt may not be necessary due to the saltiness of the pancetta.

Second Course (Secondi)

Trout Wrapped with Pancetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 thin slices of pancetta
  • Lemon juice
  • 4 small trout
  • 2 tablespoons garlic paste
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut half the lemon into 4 thin slices and reserve the half. Place the fish in a greased baking dish, squeeze the remaining lemon over each side of the trout and brush each with a 1/2 tablespoon of garlic paste. Season the fish with cracked black pepper. Top each fish with thyme and a lemon slice. Wrap the pancetta around the fish holding the slice of lemon and thyme in place. Bake the fish for about 20 minutes, making sure the fish is cooked through. Serve the fish with herbed Italian cannellini beans or green beans.


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

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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.

vinegar6

Chicken with Balsamic Tomato Sauce

Balsamic vinegar and tomatoes make a delicious sauce to serve over chicken breast and pasta.

4 servings

  • 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

Directions

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

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions:

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. 



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