Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

Food Blog

Recipe of the Week (March 4, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on March 5, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (1)



Crostata di Prugne e' Noce (Rustic Plum and Walnut Tart)

      This week's recipe takes us to the hills of FRIULI-GIULIA-VENEZIA. The small oval-shaped plums known as “Italian Plums” are sweet and flavorful. You can find them in most supermarkets in the United States towards the end of summer. This variety of plum grows throughout northern Italy and neighboring Slovenia and Croatia, where plums are cultivated on a much larger scale to meet the demands for “sljivovica”, a traditional plum brandy. If you travel through the countryside of these regions in late summer, you are sure to see groves of plum trees full of ripe fruit that are shades of deep purple and blue. It is quite a beautiful sight! With firm flesh and soft skin, Italian plums are perfect for baking in a rustic tart called “crostata”. Here is an easy crostata recipe that is sure to please. For a rustic presentation, make an open faced tart by folding the edges up and over the filling. If you prefer, bake the crostata in a pie dish and arrange strips of dough in a fancy lattice pattern on top.

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Ingredients:

 All Purpose Pre-sifted Flour (3 cups)

 Vegetable Shortening (¾ cup)

 Butter (¼ cup)

 Egg (1)

 Salt (1 tsp)

 Cold Water (about 2/3 cup)

 Italian Plums (2 lbs -about 12 to14)

 Walnuts (1/3 cup chopped)

 Cinnamon (¼ tsp)

 Sugar (¼ cup and 1 tbs)

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        Chop the walnuts. Slice the plums in half, remove the pits, toss them with the cinnamon and ¼ cup of sugar, and set them to the side. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and incorporate the salt. Cut the shortening and butter into the flour and work it with your hands until you achieve the texture of oatmeal. Add the cold water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough pulls together into a ball.

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        Next, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will make it easier to transport from your work surface to the baking sheet. Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased baking sheet, and then remove the wrap.

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        Arrange the plum halves, cut side up, in a pattern of concentric circles in the center of the dough, staying about 3 inches in from the edges. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over top, and then 1 tablespoon of sugar. Fold and crease the outer edges of the dough up and over the plums to make a rustic open-faced tart. Place the crostata in a preheat 375 degree oven. After 20 minutes, brush the dough lightly with egg that has been beaten with a splash of water. Continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Serve the crostata at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6 adults.


Recipe of the Week (August 21, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on August 21, 2015 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (2)


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Giuggiulena (Sesame and Pumpkin Seed Brittle)     

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        This week's recipe takes us to the region of SICILIA. On summer nights, Italians take to the streets for a stroll or “passagiata”. They walk off an evening meal, meet up with friend, or head to a gelateria. It is a wonderful tradition. The best place for a "passagiata" is on the “lungomare”, which is a seaside promenade. All seaside towns have a "lungomare".  Here, you will find plenty of cafes, gelaterias and street vendors displaying piles of roasted nuts, candies, dried fruits and nougat. Sesame brittle is my favorite snack to munch on while strolling the “lungomare” with friends. It’s a crunchy honey flavored candy you will surely enjoy. When I make it at home, I always throw in some pumpkin seeds too! 

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Ingredients:

Hulled Sesame Seeds (1 lb)

Shelled Pumpkin Seeds (1/3 lb)

Sugar (3 ½ cups)

Honey (2/3 cup)

Salt (½ tsp)

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        Toast the sesame and pumpkin seeds in a preheated 375 degree oven for 5 minutes, then give them a stir and continue roasting for another 2 minutes or until golden. Spray an 11 ½ by 17 ½ inch non-stick baking tray with cooking spray and set it to the side. Place the sugar, salt and honey in a large saucepan and thoroughly incorporate them together. Place the saucepan on a medium burner, and stir the sugar mixture constantly with a stainless-steel spoon, scraping it from the bottom of the saucepan.

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        After 10 minutes, the sugar mixture will turn to syrup. Continue simmering and stirring constantly for another 3 minutes or until the syrup turns a medium amber color. Next, remove the saucepan from the burner and gently stir the syrup to remove the air bubbles. Then, quickly stir in the sesame and pumpkin seeds while the syrup is piping hot. Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and spread it to an even ¼ inch thickness. While the giuggiulena is still hot, score it with a knife into 1 ½ inch squares. Allow it to cool completely and then break the squares apart. Makes 50 to 60 squares.


Recipe of the Week (May26th, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on May 21, 2015 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)



Sbrisalona (Crunchy Polenta Cookies)

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        This week's recipe takes us to the region of LOMBARDIA. Sbrisolona is a unique traditional cookie from the beautiful medieval city of Mantova. In the dialect of southern Lombardia, “sbrisolona” means crunchy, which certainly describes this unique and tasty treat that dates back to the 16th Century. A simple crumble of cornmeal, flour and sugar, sbrisolona is similar to the streusel topping on a crumb cake. In my verion of this recipe, slivered almonds add even more texture and lemon zest adds depth of flavor. This is one unique treat that your family and friends are sure to love. But be forewarned, snacking on sbrisolona is addictive. Once you start, it’s hard to stop! So make a big batch for your next gathering of family and friends. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

All Purpose Pre-sifted Flour (3 cups)

Polenta (2 cups -fine ground)

Slivered Almonds (2 cups)

Sugar (2 cups)

Butter (1 cup)

Eggs (2)

Milk (¼ cup)

Lemon (1)

Baking Powder (5 tsp)

Salt (1 tsp)

Vanilla (1½ tsp)

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Zest the lemon. Place the flour, polenta, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine them. Melt the butter, allow it to cool, and then whisk it together with the milk, vanilla, salt, lemon zest, and eggs. Next, add the liquid ingredients to the bowl and mix everything together to achieve a loose crumble. Do not knead the dough or work into a ball.

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Sprinkle the crumbles of dough loosely onto a 12 by 16 inch baking pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Do not press the dough into the pan as there should be lots of nooks and crannies between the crumbles. Sprinkle the almonds over top, allowing them to fall into all the nooks. Place the sbrisolona in an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden on top and bottom. Cut the sbrisolona into 1 1/2 inch squares as soon as it comes out of the oven. Makes 3 dozen cookies.


Recipe of the Week (November 4, 2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on November 4, 2014 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (5)


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Torta di Mele e’ Noce (Apple Walnut Cake)

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        This recipe takes us to the region of TRENTINO-ALTO ADIGE, where apples grow abundantly in the Val di Non. Tucked between high alpine regions, the Val di Non has the perfect climate for growing crisp, sweet apples. And the people of Trentino Alto-Adige know just how to prepare them. Sweet apples are baked in cakes and strudels, dipped in batter and deep fried, and tossed into savory dishes. Here is my version of a tradition apple cake from Bolzano. The original recipe calls for grated apple, but find chunky apple sauce works just as well and is more convenient. It is a wonderful, delicious treat!

 

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Ingredients:

All Purpose Flour (3 cups)

Plain Chunky Applesauce -preferably tart (2 ½ cups)

Apples (2 small)

Sugar (2 cups and more for sprinkling)

Eggs (3 extra large)

Chopped Walnuts (1 cup)

Butter (½ cup)

Vanilla Extract (2 tsp)

Salt (1 tsp)

Baking Powder (2 tsp)

Baking Soda (1 tsp)

Cinnamon (1 ¾ tsp)

Nutmeg (¾ tsp)

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         Choose a high quality, thick applesauce. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Melt the butter and allow it to cool. Beat together the eggs, melted butter, vanilla, sugar, salt, and spices until smooth and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture 1 cup at a time and beat well. Then, incorporate the applesauce and walnuts. Pour the batter into a 10 ½ inch diameter by 3 inch deep ring mold that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Peel and core the apples, cut them into ¼ thick slices, lay on top of the cakes in an overlapping pattern, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  

Recipe of the Week (September 4, 2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on September 2, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (4)



Crostata di Prugne e' Noce (Rustic Plum and Walnut Tart)

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     This week's recipe takes us to the hills of FRIULI-GIULIA-VENEZIA. The small oval-shaped plums known as “Italian Plums” are sweet and flavorful. You can find them in most supermarkets in the United States towards the end of summer. This variety of plum grows throughout northern Italy and neighboring Slovenia and Croatia, where plums are cultivated on a much larger scale to meet the demands for “sljivovica”, a traditional plum brandy. If you travel through the countryside of these regions in late summer, you are sure to see groves of plum trees full of ripe fruit that are shades of deep purple and blue. It is quite a beautiful sight! With firm flesh and soft skin, Italian plums are perfect for baking in a rustic tart called “crostata”. Here is an easy crostata recipe that is sure to please. For a rustic presentation, make an open faced tart by folding the edges up and over the filling. If you prefer, bake the crostata in a pie dish and arrange strips of dough in a fancy lattice pattern on top.

.

Ingredients:

All Purpose Pre-sifted Flour (3 cups)

Vegetable Shortening (¾ cup)

Butter (¼ cup)

Egg (1)

Salt (1 tsp)

Cold Water (about 2/3 cup)

Italian Plums or Regular Round Plums (2 lbs -about 12 to14 Italian or 6 medium round)

Walnuts (1/3 cup chopped)

Cinnamon (¼ tsp)

Sugar (¼ cup and 1 tbs)

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        Chop the walnuts. Slice the plums in half, remove the pits, toss them with the cinnamon and ¼ cup of sugar, and set them to the side. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and incorporate the salt. Cut the shortening and butter into the flour and work it with your hands until you achieve the texture of oatmeal. Add the cold water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough pulls together into a ball.

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        Next, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will make it easier to transport from your work surface to the baking sheet. Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased baking sheet, and then remove the wrap.

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        Arrange the plum halves, cut side up, in a pattern of concentric circles in the center of the dough, staying about 3 inches in from the edges. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over top, and then 1 tablespoon of sugar. Fold and crease the outer edges of the dough up and over the plums to make a rustic open-faced tart. Place the crostata in a preheat 375 degree oven. After 20 minutes, brush the dough lightly with egg that has been beaten with a splash of water. Continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Serve the crostata at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6 adults.

 

 

Recipe of the Week (12/08/2011)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on December 1, 2011 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (3)



Giuggiulena (Sesame and Pumpkin Seed Brittle)

This week's  recipe takes us to the region of SICILIA.  “Passagiata” is an Italian tradition that I adore! On summer nights, Italians take to the streets for a stroll or “passagiata”. They walk off an evening meal, meet up with friend, or head to a gelateria. Whenever I visit my friends in Sicily, we always head to a nearby seaside town to stroll down the waterfront promenade or “lungomare”. This is always the best place for a “passagiata”. There, you will find plenty of cafes and gelaterias. There are also sure to be street vendors displaying piles of roasted nuts, candies, dried fruits and nougat. They are tempting treats and I can never resist buying a bag! Sesame brittle is my favorite snack to munch on while strolling the “lungomare” with friends. It’s a crunchy honey flavored candy you will surely enjoy. When I make it at home, I always throw in some pumpkin seeds too! If you don’t like pumpkin seeds, use whole almonds instead.


 

Ingredients:

Hulled Sesame Seeds (1 lb)

Shelled Pumpkin Seeds (1/3 lb)

Sugar (3 ½ cups)

Honey (2/3 cup)

Salt (½ tsp)

 


Toast the sesame and pumpkin seeds in a preheated 375 degree oven for 5 minutes, then give them a stir and continue roasting for another 2 minutes or until golden. Spray an 11 ½ by 17 ½ inch non-stick baking tray with cooking spray and set it to the side. Place the sugar, salt and honey in a large saucepan and thoroughly incorporate them together. Place the saucepan on a medium burner, and stir the sugar mixture constantly with a stainless-steel spoon, scraping it from the bottom of the saucepan.


After 10 minutes, the sugar mixture will turn to syrup. Continue simmering and stirring constantly for another 3 minutes or until the syrup turns a medium amber color. Next, remove the saucepan from the burner and gently stir the syrup to remove the air bubbles. Then, quickly stir in the sesame and pumpkin seeds while the syrup is piping hot. Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and spread it to an even ¼ inch thickness. While the giuggiulena is still hot, score it with a knife into 1 ½ inch squares. Allow it to cool completely and then break the squares apart. Makes 50 to 60 squares.

 


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Cooking Classes

I offer private cooking classes for up to six people. Cooking classes are held in my home, or if suitable, yours. I specialize in all aspects of Italian regional cuisine, including soups, vegetables, pasta, risotto, meat, seafood and desserts. I will design a cooking class around whatever interests you –whether it is a specific recipe you wish to learn or a skill such as pasta-making. For more details, please go to the "Catering/Cooking Classes" page or take a minute to become a member of my website and contact me via internal email at Recipesandramblings.com . 

Bill's Cooking Tip of the Month


Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients


 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

Just Picked From My Italian Vegetable Garden!

 Zucchini Blossoms 

My Italian Heritage

 My Great Grandparents, Vita and Onofrio Abruzzo, from the town of Santa Margherita di Belice, Sicily pictured here with my grandfather Vito "Bill" in the center.

Great reads for the Italophile!

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