Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 30... Finishing up in Veneto

I saved Veneto for last because it is my favorite next to Tuscany. Here you will find parts of old and new combined to bring to life a world of well round cultures. This region is best known for its "pasta e fagioli" (pasta and bean soup) and "pesce in saor" (fish in sauce). But since we are ending in the dessert isle we would not be playing fair if we didn't feature one of the best Italian desserts ever, which is Tiramisu. This layered dessert of ladyfingers, coffee, chocolate and mascarpone cheese has stolen center stage in the region.

Tiramisu

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 (12 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup coffee expresso
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate

Directions

  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
  3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl. Brush with coffee liqueur. Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers. Garnish with cocoa and chocolate curls. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  4. To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 29... Fruitful Friulli - Veneziz Giulia

Friulli is renowned for its white wines, prosciutto, and its warm hospitality. The "friulian hearth" is still an essential element in the homes and restaurants in this region. A place for families and guests to gather, stories to be shared and food is still prepared over these open fires. Many stews and soups along with grilled meats and warm cheeses can be found here, but one favorite dessert stands out among all the rest...

Ricotta Pie 

Ingredients for filling

  • 1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  •  2 egg yokes
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel 
    • Ingredients for crust

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter
  •  2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Directions

    1. Beat the eggs,  sugar and vanilla or lemon peel together. Stir in the ricotta cheese and the raisins. Set aside.
    2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease two deep dish pie plates.
    3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together. Cut in the shortening and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in eggs and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Divide dough into 4 balls and chill (if needed)
    4. Roll out 2 of the balls to fit into the pie pans. Do not make the crust too thick as it will expand during cooking and get too thick. Do not flute the edges of the dough. Roll out the other 2 balls of dough and cut each into 8 narrow strips for the top of the crust. Alternately you can use cookie cutters and place the cutouts on the top of the pies. I do not put the crust on top. I use the other two balls of dough for another dessert and add meringue.
    5. Pour the filling evenly into the pie crusts. Top each pie with 8 narrow strips of dough or cookie cut-outs. Brush top of pie with milk for shine. Place foil on the edge of crust.
    6. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 20 to 30 minutes then remove foil. Continue to bake for another 25 or 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 28... Trentino - Alto Adige

We are starting to wind down our tour of Italy, which means that it is getting to be dessert time. The Trentino - Alto Adige regions were linked together in 1948 and because they use to belong to the Austro-Hungarian empire and because of the German influences, their regional cusine is the least recognized as Italian foods. They are known more for their breads and dumplings (Knodeln). Pork is the popular meats of choice there and desserts like strudel and fruit filled crepes fill every corner of the area. Zelten is the traditional dessert prepared in Trentino - Alto Adige regions. The name comes from the German word "selten", which means "seldom" since it is baked only in this special occasion which is Christmas and is usually eaten just before Midnight mass. But now you will find it often in most restaurants and culinary bakeries in this region.

Dried Fruit and Nut Cake (Zelten)


13 dry figs
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
6 tablespoons grappa, brandy or  rum
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 2/3 cup white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk

Cut dry figs in little strips, chop walnuts. Soak raisins in hot water for 10 and drain.
Put these figs in a large bowl, add raisins, the rest of the nuts and the rum. Let this fruit compound macerate for at least 30 to an hour. In the meantime separate the yolks from the egg whites. Beat the yolks with half sugar, till they get  light and frothy. Melt the butter in a kettle. Add this melted butter to the eggs, stirring well. Add the macerated fruits, a glass of lukewarm water or milk (I used milk), continuing to stir. At this point add the sifted flour and baking powder. In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff with the rest of the sugar and add them gently to  the dough. Pour the paste into a oven dish (20x25 cm) previously buttered and sprinkled with flour. Decorate with additional nuts as desired. Brush the surface with a yolk and bake at 160 C for about 90 minutes. If the surface gets too brown, cover with an aluminium foil, riddling it with a fork (to let the steam go out).

I like this recipe as part of our "Thrifty Thursday" Challenges because you can actually use any dried fruits or nuts that you have in the Pantry. Also, There is a great step by step instructions website here... How to make Zelten

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 27... Living Lazy in Lombardy

This north-central region is filled with glorious mountains, plains, lakes, cities and sophistication much like you find in Milan. Rice is one of their most important crops and is grown in the lower Po River plains. The Lombardy provinces are known for there different takes on an old dish known as risotto. So today we bring you...

Roasted Sea Bass with Asparagus Sauce & Risotto

  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed to 6-inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 4 4- to 5-ounce sea bass fillets (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, cut into strips (about 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring broth to boil in heavy large saucepan. Add asparagus; cover and boil until asparagus is very tender, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to cutting board; reserve broth. Cut tips from asparagus and reserve. Coarsely chop remaining asparagus; transfer to processor. Add 1/2 cup reserved asparagus cooking broth and olive oil and puree until smooth, adding more cooking broth if sauce is too thick (discard any remaining broth). Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Return to same saucepan.
Spray baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place fish on prepared sheet. Drizzle lemon juice over fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake fish until just opaque in center, about 10 minutes.
Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat. Divide sauce among 4 plates. Top with fish. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips and roasted red pepper strips. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 26... Detour for Desserts

Happy Birthday to the Momma of the Pantry! and because it is my birthday it is time for Dessert and a couple of my favorite Italian desserts are Cornmeal Cakes and Gelatos. Cornmeal Cakes come mainly from the Piedmont and Vento areas and Gelato's are known all over italy. Today we will feature two of my favorites...

Cornmeal Cakes with Honey and Walnuts

"Cornmeal replace flour in this dense, moist cake. The center falls a bit as it cooks. From Lo Scoiattolo Restaurant in the small town of Carcoforo, Italy."

Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 3 large egg whites
    • 10 walnut halves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F Butter 9-inch diameter springform pan. Wrap outside of pan with foil.
  2. Mix cornmeal, chopped walnuts, baking powder and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in honey, then 3/4 cup sugar. Stir in cornmeal mixture (batter will be very stiff).
  4. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl to soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 2 T sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter in 3 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Place walnut halves around top edge of cake, spacing evenly.
  5. Bake until cake is deep golden on top, pulls away from sides of pan and tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will fall in center as it cools). (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover adn let stand at room temperature.).
  6. Run sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve.
  7. We like our cornmeal cakes glazed with a light lemon glaze.  Lemon Glaze: 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 3-4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon Lemon zest,  mix together and pour over cooled cakes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 25... Valle d'Aosta

Fontina cheese, with it's buttery flavor and fine melting texture, is the beloved cheese of the Piedmont region and is made in Valle d'Aosta. This area is also known for its hearty soups, meat stews, gnocchi and polenta, enriched with fontina cheese, of course. Just like in the Piedmont, the people of this are work hard, but like to take the time to eat and drink well. Agnolotti is often found as the highlight of their meals. Wonton wrappers are often used by restaurants in place of home made dough for convenience and they are usually always topped with shavings of white truffles.

Agnolotti With Fontina Sage Butter

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces ground beef
4 ounces ground pork
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spinach leaves
1 cup freshly grated fontina cheese
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1 large egg
84 wonton wrappers
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage 

  1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and pork; saute until brown, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and saute until wilted and liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Cool.
  2. Finely chop mixture in processor. Tranfer to medium bowl. Mix in cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in egg.
  3. Lightly flour baking sheet. Arrange 12 wonton wrappers on work surface. Spoon 1 teaspoon filling in center of each. Brush edges with water. Fold each wrapper in half, forming triangle. Press edges together. Using 2-inch diameter ruffled cookie cutter, cut edges to form half-moon shape. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.).
  4. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over low heat. Add sage; keep warm.
  5. Meanwhile, working in batches, cook agnolotti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer agnolotti to shallow soup bowls. Spoon sage butter over and serve.











Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 24...Pastas of Piedmont

Every day and every glorious meal in the Piedmont region is considered a festival, which usually starts with a round of anit-pastas followed by several sizable dishes of meat and pastas then desserts. White truffles and fontina cheeses help to give the haunting, intoxicating and seductive richness to the area's culinary prize dishes. Thick heavy pastas are known world wide from this region as well as the powerhouse of wines. There are so many fun recipes from the region, but being that it is Sunday and we wanted something simple and easy to make on the sabbath, we choose a Spinach Gnocchi.


Spinach Gnocchi with Fontina Cheese

 (GNOCCHI DI SPINACI ALLA BAVA)

  • 1 pound russet potatoes
  • 2 10-ounce packages ready-to-use spinach leaves, stemmed
  • 1 small egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 5 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced

Steam potatoes until very tender, about 35 minutes. Cool potatoes slightly and peel. Mash potatoes in large bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring 2 inches of salted water to boil in large pot. Add spinach leaves to pot and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Drain spinach, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from spinach. Puree spinach in processor, adding reserved cooking liquid 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to help puree and scraping down sides of processor bowl occasionally.
Transfer spinach mixture to bowl with potatoes. Mix in egg, ground nutmeg and enough flour until soft and slightly sticky dough forms. Season dough to taste with salt.
Dust baking sheet with flour. Working in batches and using floured hands, roll 1/4 cup dough on lightly floured work surface to form 12-inch rope. Cut rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece between palms to form oval ball. Lightly flour the wires of a whisk. Using thumb, gently roll each ball down length of wires, making ribbed impressions in gnocchi. Transfer gnocchi to prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling, cutting and shaping of remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13x9-inch baking dish. Working in batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water and cook until gnocchi rise to surface of water, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove gnocchi from water, draining off excess, and transfer to prepared baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup melted butter over gnocchi; toss thoroughly to coat. Top with Fontina cheese slices. (Gnocchi can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bake until gnocchi are heated through and cheese bubbles, about 10 minutes.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 23...Everlasting Emilia-Romagna

This broad, fertile region is both literally and figuratively known as the belly of the country. It is known for its wide quantity and quality of tasty treats and its culinary heritage. There are eight very distinctive provinces that all share the come food source of pasta. Everyday you will find culinary artisans transforming flour and fresh orange-yolked eggs into yellow sheets of dough that will be shaped into all sorts of shapes and sizes of luscious pastas. This region is also famous for its grilled foods, and the aroma of meats sizzling over a wood fire is common in the countryside. In the Bon Appetit Magazine that we are using, it has a whole section with a full meal menu from this region. We prepared the whole meal, but for the sake of time and space here we are going to share the main course of the meal.

Grilled Veal Chops with Rosemary & Potato Parmesan Gratin

For the Chops:

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 8-ounce veal rib chops (3/4 to 1 inch thick)
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
Whisk oil, wine, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper to blend in 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Add veal chops to dish and turn to coat with marinade. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate up to 4 hours, turning veal occasionally.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Remove veal from marinade, shaking off excess. Season veal with salt and pepper. Lightly oil grill. Grill or broil veal to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.

For the Potatoes:

  • 2 1/2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 7 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 1/2 cups)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices with a knife or an adjustable-blade slicer, spreading slices out on a large kitchen towel. Sprinkle with sea salt (1 1/2 teaspoons).
Stir together cream and milk.
Dot bottom of a 3-quart shallow baking dish (13 by 9 inches) with half of butter and pour in 1/3 cup cream mixture. Without rinsing or drying potatoes, divide into 5 piles. Layer potatoes in baking dish, 1 pile per layer, spreading 1/3 cup cream mixture and one fourth of cheese between layers. Drizzle remaining cream mixture over potatoes and dot with remaining butter.
Bake, uncovered, until potatoes are very tender and top is browned, about 2 hours. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 22... Lovely Liguria

Forming a crescent that runs along the Ligurian Sea and wraps its self around the capital city of Genoa. This region has become known as the Italian Riviera. It is known for its wide variety of vegetables, NOT FISH, and pastas with pestos, because as the stories go. This region is still know for the sailors of trade not fishing and when they would return home from their long voyages, they would be sick of eating dried and preserved foods and often their wives would find them physically sick and in need of fresh fruits and nutritious vitamin filled veggies. Their legacies are filled with stuffed vegetables dishes like fritters, frittatas, pesto sauces. And since it is Friday, we wanted to make a dish that we could take and enjoy at the beach, today we are enjoying a terra firma classic...

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans

Ingredients (for the pesto):

6 1/2 ounces  fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Ingredients (for the pasta):

1 lb whole wheat pasta
4 or 5 medium-small boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths
1 Tablespoon butter
1 pesto recipe, above

Instructions

To make the pesto: Combine basil, nuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. finely grind.  With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and let it process until the mixture is relatively smooth.  Add grated cheese and process once more to incorporate.  Adjust taste with salt.  Before adding to the pasta, stir in the cream or milk to loosen it a bit.
To make the pasta: Place the potatoes in a large pot (you'll be using it for the pasta, too) and fill with as much water as you'd use to make pasta.  The potatoes should be covered with a few inches of water.  Generously salt the water, and then bring to a boil.  When the potatoes are close to being tender (usually takes around 8-10 minutes), add the green beans and allow them to cook.  When the green beans and potatoes are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate bowl.  Cover with foil to keep warm.  Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente.
Place the pasta, potatoes, and green beans in a large bowl.  Mix in the pesto to coat everything.  Serve with more parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 21... Tuscany Tradition

Love Tuscany! I could spend a whole month just cooking and sampling all the known recipes from there, but my favorite that I have sampled many times is a Tuscany Tradition. Taverna dei Barbi is a well-known winery in Tuscany. Vin santo is an aged, sweet wine produced in Tuscany. Add the vin santo wine at the last minute so that the wine's rick flavor and aroma do not dissipate before teh chicken is served. So today we bring you...

Chicken in Vin Santo ~ (From Taverna Dei Barbi, Tuscany, Italy) 

  • 1 (4 lb)  chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup sweet vin santo (such as Avignonesi)
  • chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.
  3. Working in batches, add chicken to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes total.
  4. Transfer chicken to bowl.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Add onion and garlic to pot; saute until tender and pale golden, about 8 minutes.
  7. Stir in 3/4 cup dry white wine.
  8. Return chicken and any juices to the pot.
  9. Reduce heat to low.
  10. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  11. Uncover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  12. Stir in vin santo.
  13. Sprinkle with parsley.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 20... Two Days in Tuscany

Tuscany is my favorite part of Italy to study about. It is one of the oldest wine producing regions as well as the home to many traditional Italian dishes. This central region is what most people refer to as Italy. A Rolling countryside dotted with olive and cypress tress, sandwiched in between you will find a bold heritage of Renaissance cities filled with rich history, art and architecture, filled with rustic and refined cuisine, world know oils and superb wines. Interesting new fact that we learned while studing this region was the fact that they are often referred to as "mangiafagioli" (beat eaters). Doesn't fit the picture... does it? The most famous beans in the Tuscany region is called "cannellini" (small white beans). They are often paired with fresh vegetables to make soups and stew like dishes. Another staple to Tuscan meals are breads, often made without salt and served as the spoon for the highly flavored meat dishes.

Prosciutto & White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb of white beans - Canellini or Great Northern
2 quarts of water
2-3 lbs of prosciutto, ham shanks or ham hocks
1 cup egg noddles
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoon of dried chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley and thyme

Method

1.  Soak the beans in at least 2 quarts of cold water over night. Drain the water.
2.  Put the prosciutto or ham shank pieces in a large pot, add chicken stock and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about an hour. Add the chopped vegetables and beans. Cook for another hour, until the vegetables are soft and the ham meat easily pulls away from the bone. Add egg noddles and cook until noddles are tender.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a pinch of chopped fresh parsley and thyme. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 19... The Marches

        The mountainous area to the east of Umbria is known as "the Marches". It is known as the home of black truffles, white truffles and several less familiar varieties known as summer truffles. This region is marked by two distinct culinary types. The first is the coastal region where seafood dominates. The seafood soups are legendary throughout Italy. Inland the cuisine is home to the truffle, mushroom and olive. While looking through the "Bon Appetit" magazine that we are using a the base guide for this tour, we couldn't find any recipe that was specifically for the region known as the "Marches". But in reading some other research info we have come to learn that the region is known for it's "little bites". One thing We learned in our research was that fritters seem to be among the favorite as we travel around the "Isle of March" So today... We are making Frittelle di Riso, or rice fritters, both versions. First recipe is a savory recipe, second is a sweet recipe. They are both very tasty.

Sweet Risoto (Rice) Fritters

Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cups rice --
  • 1 quart  whole milk
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (100 g) flour
  • Oil for frying
  • Preparation:

    Begin by cooking the rice until it's thoroughly cooked in the milk, together with the sugar, lemon zest, and butter. Let the mixture cool, and stir in the three yolks. Stir in the vanilla. Whip the whites and fold them in, then fold in the flour.

    Heat oil in a fairly deep pot and fry the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, removing the balls from the pot when they become golden. Drain them on absorbent paper, dust them with granulated sugar, and serve.

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 18... Unbelievable Umbria

    Umbria  is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked. It is second only to Tuscany in terms of historical hills towns and beautiful countryside. Along with Tuscany and Sicily, Umbria has sizeable cypress forests in addition to pine and chestnut. One of Umbria's abundant ingredients are the awesomely famous black truffles, often found just tossed into rustic pastas and cooked into golden frittatas, (an open-faced Italian style omelette made by combining vegetables, cheese, meat or other filling ingredients with the beaten eggs, then cooking over direct heat until browned on the underside. Often a frittata if finished under the broiler to set and brown the top).

     Green & Golden Frittata

    4 tbs. olive oil
    2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and finely chopped
    1 lb. mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced (or 1 tablespoon grated black truffle)
    1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 medium onion very thinly sliced
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed
    6 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups swiss, gruyere or sharp cheddar, grated
    2  large tablespoons sour cream
    2  large tablespoons Caponata
    1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

    In a 12″ nonstick pan with an ovenproof handle, heat the olive oil.  add the leeks and saute until softened but not browned, about 3 mins.  add the mushrooms and saute for 2 mins., and then add the red pepper, garlic and onion, cook for a few more mins., until the pepper is slightly softened. season with the salt and pepper.  preheat oven to 425; in a bowl, whisk eggs until well-blended.  stir in 1 1/4 cup of the cheese and spinach.  pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bottom of the mixture is lightly browned, about 5 mins.  sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  transfer the skillet to the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the frittata is puffed and browned, about 10-15 mins.  remove it from the oven and invert onto a plate; invert it again onto a serving platter, so the browned top faces up.  arrange a large dollop of sour cream and Caponata in the middle, garnish with fresh parsley.  serve immediately.  you can also serve the frittata right out of the pan, or cut in wedges.


    To turn this recipe into a Make-Over Monday Recipe, you could always use just egg whites or 2 cups of egg-beaters, to help reduce the calorie count.

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 17... Lazy Day Lasagna

    It's Sunday and it's Father's day, which means for us here at the pantry a Lazy Day of celebrating our TOP MAN of the house. We think you are the best and we love you. And keeping with Harris tradition the kids took Dad (and Mom) out for dinner, so for the topic of Italian we wanted to post Dad's favorite lazy day dish....


    Lazy Day Lasagna

    Makes 4-6 servings


    1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce ( .99 on sale)
    2 cups water (free)
    4 large cloves garlic, minced ( .12)
    4 cups egg noodles, uncooked (.89 a box)
    1 cup Ricotta Cheese (for better savings I use Cottage Cheese @ .62 a cup)
    3 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Basil (.46)
    1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese (.78... I buy my cheese in bulk bricks and grate my own)
    3 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan Cheese (.42)


    I love this recipe from Kraft, I use it all the time.
    It can be made on the stove top or mixed all together and baked.

    To make:
    BRING spaghetti sauce, water and garlic to boil in large skillet. Stir in noodles; cover.
    COOK on medium-low heat 12 min. or just until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir.
    MIX ricotta and basil; drop spoonfuls over noodle mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; cover. Let stand 5 min. until mozzarella is melted.



    Total cost of this meal for is $4.28 (served with Homemade Bread sticks... $5.46)

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 16... Pasta Power!

           Like I was explaining in yesterday's post, we have learned the most offten pasta is a dish served just before the main meal, like you here in America serve salad. Italy salad to usually served right after the meal course and just before first course desserts. It has been estimated that there are over two hundred pasta shapes and sizes and each has a different name bases on the region where you dine upon it. Most often the root word of the pasta gives you a hint at what it's shape is, for examples, look below at some of the pasta featured and the root word and shape is explained.

    Spaghetti: is a long, thin, round style pasta made of semolina or flour and water.  Traditionally, most spaghetti was 20 inches long, but shorter lengths gained in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century and now spaghetti is most commonly available in a variety of lengths. Spaghetti is the plural form of the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning "thin string" or "twine."



    Capellini: Like spaghetti, it is rod-shaped, in the form of long strands.  literally "thin hair" with its diameter between 0.85 mm and 0.92 mm[1] is a very thin variety of Italian pasta.

    Capelli d'angelo: a form of Capellini which literally means angel hair has a diameter between 0.78 and 0.88 mm[2] is an even thinner variant of capellini and they are often sold in a nest-like shape. Capelli d'angelo has been popular in Italy since at least the 14th century. As a very light pasta, it goes well in soups or seafood and light sauces.



    Fettuccine: is a popular pasta that resembles spaghetti in appearance. It is normally cooked with creamier sauces. This pasta is found largely in the south and central part of Italy. The name has a meaning of "little ribbons."




    Farfalle: are commonly known as "bow-tie pasta," the name is derived from the Italian word farfalla "butterflies." This pasta dates back to the 16th century. It originated in Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. Farfalle come in several sizes, but have a distinctive bow tie shape.




     

    Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped pastas. The word fusilli presumably comes from fusile, archaic or dialectal word for "rifle", referring to the spiral-grooved barrel of a gun. It can be found in plain or whole wheat varieties, and other colours can be made by mixing other ingredients into the dough, which also affects the flavour, for example, beetroot for red, spinach for green, and cuttlefish ink for black.





    Penne: is usually a cylindrical shaped pasta cooks well with meatier sauces. The meat and sauce seep into the hollow center as it cooks. Its shape is derived from the metallic pen used during World War II, called a "pennino."

    Rigatoni: is a pasta made for baking, it has a ridged edge that is expert at capturing sauce. Preparation can involve stuffing it with meat, cheese or other ingredients. It is very popular in southern Italy and its name comes from "rigato," which means "ridged."








    Rotelle: is the pasta resembling wheels with spokes. It is similar to Fiori and it's name derives from the Italian word for little wheels. They are also known as wagon wheels. Fact: Rotelle was once a popular product sold in Ohio supermarkets by the former Ippolito's Ideal Macaroni Company of Cleveland, Ohio, under the name "Choo Choo Wheels".
     



    Anelli:  are small, thin rings of pasta that are generally used for soups and pasta salads.

     
    Gemelli is a type of pasta that derives from the Italian for twins. Even though it is not twin tubes twisted around one another, as they may appear to be, but rather a single s-shaped strand twisted into a spiral.
    Gemilli is also sometimes called 'Unicorn Horns'.




     Lasagna: this versatile pasta can be baked with layers of sauce and meat in-between. It can also be rolled around ingredients such as meat or cheese and cooked. Each region in Italy has its own variation of lasagna.

    Gnocchi: a small dumpling is comprised of dough made from potatoes. The round shaped dough is boiled and is mixed with various sauces and in soups. They can also be made from wheat or rice flour.



    Orecchiette: is a kind of home-made pasta typical of Puglia or Apulia, a region of Southern Italy. Its name comes from its shape, which reminds one of a small ear. In Southern Italy, you will often see women sitting outdoors in the spring and making the dough  and forming it into small cylinders, which they cut into little cubes. Then they press down each cube with their right thumb, dragging it on the board, thus making it curl slightly. Then they insert their thumb on the reverse side, making it pop out with a little convex bulge.


    And since the focus of today was all about pasta, we thought we would give you the recipe for our favorite Bolognese sauce, that could be enjoyed over any of the pasta from above.

    Ragu / Bolognese Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
    • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
    • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
    • 1/2 large eggplant
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
    •  salt and papper
    • 3 pounds ground combinationof Italian sausage, beef, salami and turkey or chicken
    • 2 cups whole tomoates squished
    • 1 cup hearty red wine
    • 2-4 cups Water or beef stock
    • 3 bay leaves, crushed
    • 1 bunch thyme, pulled from stems
    • 1 pound favorite pasta
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

    Directions:

     Chop the onion, carrots, celery, eggplant and garlic into a coarse small chunks.In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the diced veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.
    Add the ground meats and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE MEATS! Brown food tastes good. Don't rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
    Add the whole squished tomates and cook  about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.
    Add water to the pan until the water or beef stock is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don't be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
    During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn't matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
    While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.
    Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 15... Aquiring Info in Abruzzi

    Up to this point not many of our dishes have included pasta. And what I am finding out that in most Italian regions pasta is used as either as a dish to be enjoyed just before the main meal or as a side dish, much like we use rice. But here in Abruzzi, Saffron is featured in many of the dishes and almost every dish consists of some sort of pasta, usually served very simple and on the bottom "underneath all the good stuff". Even though Abruzzi's traditional products are saffron and liquorice, over the past decade, tourism has increasing, mostly because of castles and medieval towns, especially near the town of L'Aquila, So... often many of the dishes featured in this region are served altogether in one dish.

     Abruzzi-Style Lamb with Saffron Risoto

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
    1/4 cup chopped onion 
    2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped 
    1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 
    1/2 pound boneless lamb or mutton for a stronger flavor, cut into bite sized chunks. (great way to use up the leftover lamb from day 13)
    Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 
    1/2 cup dry white wine 
    1 large can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes with their juices, coarsely chopped 
    1 pound rice  ( penne or maccheroncini pasta works also) 
    Large pinch of saffron (20 threads) 
    8 cups water or chicken stock
     1/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
    1. Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. And the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
    2. Add the lamb and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, about 10 minutes.
    3. Put in the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, about 15 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 8 cups of water or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil. Add the rice or pasta and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil, then uncover and cook the rice or pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
    5. Drain the rice or pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the Saffron, lamb sauce and the cheese. Serve at once; pass additional cheese at the table. We like to serve ours with Lamb Meatballs.
    Make Ahead The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 14... Moving through Molise

    Molise is the second smallest and newest Italian region, since it was established in 1963, when the region Abruzzi e Molise was split in two. It became effective only in 1970. Molise for the most part is uncharted country, the wines from there are little known. The food is very clean and often served in soup style.


    CHICKPEA AND PASTA SOUP


    A wonderfully satisfying soup for a cold winter night. A salad and bread complete the meal. We love it pureed and served as a dip with homemade polenta chips. It can be prepared a day or two ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator and made with either 1/2 lb chickpeas, soaked overnight or 1-15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained.






    1 1/2 lbs chicken wings, necks and back, or cut-up whole chicken
    2 stalks celery, in 1/2-inch pieces
    1 large onion, quartered
    2 medium carrots, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, halved
    3 bay leaves
    Parsley-fresh, 2 or 3 sprigs
    Salt
    1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 peperoncino crushed, more or less to taste
    1/2 lb conchigliette (small shells), broken up fettuccine, any small pasta will do
     
    Place the chicken in a large heavy saucepan. Cover with cold water to a depth of 2 inches.
    Bring to a boil.
    Skim the surface till clear.
    Add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till chickpeas are tender.
    (If using canned chickpeas, cook chicken and vegetables for about 1 hour and then add the chickpeas for 15 minutes.) Use canned chicken broth to save time. The taste will, of course, suffer, but it is still good.
    Remove chicken pieces and the bay leaves with a slotted spoon.
    If you like bits of chicken in your soup, remove what chicken meat you can off the bones. Add to the broth.
    Add the pasta and cook till tender, about 12 minutes.
    In a bowl, mix 1/4-cup stock with the olive oil and peperoncino.
    Serve soup into individual bowls and then pour a small amount of the hot oil mixture over each serving.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 13... Lamb in Lazio

    We love this recipe. Here, lamb chops are presented atop a salad that was inspired by the flavors of Lazio and Sardinia. A perfect first course or a light main course. When studying the region of Lazio, it is usually combined with the other two neighboring regions of Abruzzi and Molise. These three central regions are as "natural as wool" , as stated by the author. Their legacies of tending flocks and herds are still a big part of their world today. Not much has changed, Lamb is still a big part of their mainstay as well as living off the natural and fresh elements of the land around them and often eaten with out embellishments. Their food is easy to prepare and very portable. In the Rome-dominated parts of Lazio, much of the food is dictated by the city's unique culinary repertoire. Much like the recipe found below.

    Honey Roasted Lamb with Arugula Salad

    For Lamb
    2 tablespoons honey
    8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    3/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped  (thyme, parsley, oregano, savory or rosemary)
    1 1 1/2-pound rack of lamb, trimmed 
    1 tablespoon dry red wine
    For Dressing and Salad:
    • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
    • 2 teaspoons fresh Lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
    • 6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
    • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

       Combine honey, 3 tablespoon oil, and 1/2 cup of chopped herbs in heavy small saucepan. Stir over low heat until just warm. Remove from heat. Pour 2/3 of honey mixture into small bowl. Place lamb on rack set in roasting pan; brush with half of honey mixture from bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or can be leftover night. 

      Preheat oven to 400. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil with 1/4 cup of chopped herbs and 1 tablespoon wine, pour over lamb and Roast lamb 12 minutes; brush with remaining honey mixture from bowl. Continue to roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125°F for medium-rare, about 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to cutting board. 

       Meanwhile add dressing ingredients  and remaining 3 tablespoons oil to honey mixture in saucepan. Stir over low heat until just warm. add pinenuts if desired. Season with salt and pepper. 

      Cut lamb between ribs into chops. Divide arugula and tomatoes among plates. Top each serving with lamb chops. Drizzle warm dressing over and serve warm.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 12... Sailing to Sardinia

           I loved the opening historical story that lead us to Sardinia. The facts of the matter is that the inhabitants of the island of Sardinia do not like fish, as one would assume that they might as being from one of the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Fact is they don't like the sea at all and the reason is very simple. "The island's coastline was a marshy breeding ground for Malaria as well as happy hunting ground for marauding pirates." Most shore dwellers of old fled inland and became shepherds. Those who ended up staying out on the coast lines ended up becoming know as "Outsiders". Most of the simple tastes and flavors of Sardinia come from the mountainous ares where you will find that their diets are mainly based on meats, cheeses and crispbread. I love the recipe we are sharing today, very simple and goes well with any dish.

    Sardinian Crispbread

     "This famous Sardinian crispbread, called Carta di Musica ("music sheet" crispbread), gets its name because the bread comes in thin, unleavened leaves and often develops long cracks that suffest the lines of a musical staff."

    Ingredients

      • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
      • 2 cups semolina flour
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water ( about)
      • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil ( about)
      • sea salt, to taste

    Directions

    1. Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Slowly mix in enough lukewarm water to form moist soft dough. Knead in bowl until dough is no longer sticky. Knead dough on lightly floured work surface until smooth, about 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hours.
    2. Preheat oven to 450°F Very lightly dust 2 large baking sheets with whole what pastry flour. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Pat 1 piece into disk (keep remaining dough covered). Roll out disk to 13-inch round, lifting and turning often. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until edges begin to turn up and bread is still malleable, about 3 minutes. Turn bread over and bake until bread bubbles in spots and is golden in places, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to rack.
    3. Brush oil over bread. Sprinkle with sea salt.
    4. Repeat with remaining dough.


    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 11... Crossing Campania

       Many of the residents of this south-western region live in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and even though it is currently considered dormant, the people love to approach life with a sense of spontaneity. The volcano is also one of the major contributors to the vast richness of the soil in this region, providing produce the is colorful, intense and packed with flavor. Even though the soil is rich the people have been traditionally poor. Their diet is usually eaten fresh and raw, preserved, pickled, fried or baked in a pizza or calzoni. pasta is often served as a side dish to the many fruits and vegetables the may line an evening table. Tomatoes are their specialty and most dishes include tomatoes in one form or another, usually in the form of sauces, slices or stuffed. The most favored of these dishes is the Insalata Caprese. Campania is also know for it's coastal cuisine, where fresh fish and shellfish is the stars, often prepared simply and dressed with juice from the famed Amalfi Lemons, olive oil and herbs. So in staying with the regional flare the recipe for today is...

    Shrimp & Scallops in Garlic Lemon Sauce


    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced
    1 small shallot, finely minced
    1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
    1 tablespoons butter
    12 medium sea scallops
    12 medium shrimp, cleaned and devained
    1/2 cup roasted or fresh tomatoes, sliced thick
    2 Tablespoon sherry wine
    3 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    2 Tablespoon heavy cream
    fresh cracked black pepper to taste
     4 servings of steamed Asparagus
    2 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced for garnish

    Melt 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft. Add scallops and saute for 2 minutes, turn scallops over add shrimp and roasted red peppers and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and scallops are opaque. With a slotted spoon, remove seafood and vegetables and arrange on top of the plated steamed asparagus.

    To the skillet add rest of butter, sherry, lemon juice, heavy cream and cracked pepper. Heat until starts to bubble, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour sauce over Seafood and vegetables. Garnish with parsley and serve.


    The original recipe for this was for a Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce, calling for 1 cup of heavy cream instead of the sherry and the dish was served with rice...
     * Original Recipe 680 calories / Make-Over Recipe 320 calories

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 10 ... Apulian Artichokes

           Occupying the heel of the Italian boot, Apulia produces more wines than any other region in Italy. And the region is know to be heavily influenced by the Greeks and the Arabs. It is said to be the richest of the southern regions and it is home to the "Trulli" (unique conical white structures.) This region is also known for the the most distinctive pastas in the land called "orechiette" which means "little ears. This pasta is still made by hand in most areas of Apulia by the older women, who like to sit outside in the warm weather shaping the noodles on wooden boards. These noodles are especially designed to hold the hearty Apulian sauces that are simply, barely cooked and usually made from vegetables. The Apulian people are known to eat pasta everyday.
            But in keeping with the spirit of Sunday, we have decided to keep things simple and carefree. The dish featured today is actually a dish that could be made a day ahead. They were very tasty... We couldn't find any baby artichokes, so we went ahead and used large ones. They worked okay, just a lot more cleaning was involved and I think the next time we make them we will reduce the white wine, but none-the-less they were very delicious. This dish can also be mashed down and served over orechiette pasta.

    Apulian Artichokes  "Braised Baby Artichokes"

    • 12 baby or 6 large artichokes 
    • 1 lemon, halved
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon sour cream
    • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

    • Garnish: chopped fresh mint
    • Special equipment: a melon-ball cutter
    Keep stem attached and, at opposite end, cut off top inch of 1 artichoke with a serrated knife. Bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to base, then discard several more layers of leaves in same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves with pale green tips.
    Cut remaining leaves flush with top of artichoke bottom using a sharp knife, then pull out purple leaves and scoop out fuzzy choke with melon-ball cutter. Trim dark green fibrous parts from base and sides of artichoke with a sharp paring knife, then rub cut surfaces with a lemon half.
    Cut 1/4 inch from end of stem to expose inner core. Trim sides of stem (still attached) down to pale inner core. Rub cut surfaces with same lemon half.
    Trim remaining artichokes in same manner.
    Put water and oil in a 4-quart heavy pot.
    Mince and mash garlic with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then mix in mint. Rub one sixth of garlic paste into cavity of each artichoke, then stand artichokes upside down in liquid in pot. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon salt over artichokes, then simmer, covered, over low heat, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
    Transfer artichokes to a serving dish and boil cooking liquid, Add sour cream and mayonnaise, whisking, until emulsified and reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Pour sauce over artichokes and serve warm or at room temperature.

    Saturday, June 9, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 9 ... Basking in Basilicata

           Right above Calabria is Basilicata, also known as Lucania, and in Italy the locals usually don't refer to one without referring to the other. Basilicata is know also for it's mountain areas and it's spice for peppers, but unlike Calabria, it is more commonly know for it's decedents from the Oscan and Samnite tribes and is most famous for Luganega, which is a peperoncino-spiked pork sausage. Also Olives and wines are also commonly found in this region. 
          Today we wanted something easy to make, travels well and we could take it with us to enjoy at the beach. The recipe we are featuring today is...

    Luganega Caponata

     For the caponata


    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 cup cooked  peperoncino-spiked pork sausage
    •  1/4 cup chopped peperoni 
    • 1-1/2 cups 1/4-inch dice unpeeled eggplant (about 1-1/4 pounds)
    • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
    • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
    • 1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives
    • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped dates
    • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
    • 3 tablespoons pine nuts,
    • 2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch diced (about 1 cup)
    • 1 half lime juiced.
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leafed parsley leaves
    • 12 slices of warm  country-style Italian bread

    Make the caponata: In a heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until it hot but not smoking, in it cook the sausage and peperoni, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is tender, and transfer it to a bowl. To the skillet add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and in it cook the eggplant, the onion and the celery over moderate heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add all the rest of the ingredients, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and the celery is tender, add meat mixture, cook stirring for 2 minutes and transfer it to the bowl. Stir in the parsley, let the caponata cool, and chill it, covered,overnight. Season the caponata with salt and pepper. Serve on warm bread.



    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Tour of Italy ~ Day 8 ... Camping in Calabria

    Calabria is a very long and narrow peninsula located at the "toe" of Italy. It is mainly a mountainous region that is very isolated and mainly inhabited by tradion-bound people. The cooks of this region are known for their love and use of the hot red pepper known as peperoncino. Along with the variety of peppers the people of this region enjoy a basic diet of fresh and dried pastas loaded with fresh vegetables of the season along with fish and many cured meats, fresh usually being used only at big occasions. Calabria is nearly surrounded by water and the heritage descends from the Greeks. So, since we have decided to go camping in Calabria, we have chosen a "one pot wonder"  to make today...

     

    Spinach with Tomatoes and Provolone 

    (traditionally this dish is made in one pot and served between soup and pasta, but we decided to add the two together and enjoy it, along with Sardinian Crispbread, as our main course.)

    Ingredients:

    1/4 cup Olive Oil
     1 medium oinion, chopped
    2 large garlic cloves, chopped
    2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
    15 ounces of fresh spinach leaves (washed)
    1 cup grated or 1/4 inch pieces provolone cheese

    Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, (or small  fire if you are camping), add oinon and garlic, stir 2 minutes. Add tomatoes; simmer until onion is translucant and the liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes. Add spinach to pot. toss gently until wilted, about 3 minutes. Mix in cheese. Cook until cheeses just begins to melt, this will be really quick if you use grated cheese. Sir occasionally, season with salt and pepper and serve. We like this dish for camping because you can add a little precooked pasta, grab a fork and eat it right out of the pot. Clean up is so easy and the dish is very filling.