Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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Cooking Tip of the Week (February 25, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on February 25, 2016 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (3)

In Recipes that Call for Fried Eggplant, Try Roasting it Instead! 

 

       Frying is a common preparation for eggplant. However, the spongy flesh of eggplant tends to absorb much of the oil during the frying process. This means that many eggplant dishes can be greasy. One solution, of course, is to dip the eggplant in a protective coating of egg and breadcrumbs. But what if your recipe doesn’t call for breading? For dishes such as caponata, ratatouille, eggplant rollitini, and spaghetti alla norma (eggplant and tomatoes), roasting is the solution. Here is how it is done.

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       Slice the eggplant lengthwise into½ inch thick pieces, brush them lightly with olive oil and season them with salt and black pepper. Place the eggplant on a baking tray that has also been lightly brushed with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray. Roast the eggplant in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes and then flip the eggplant and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes or until soft and golden on both sides. Then, cut the eggplant slices into cubes and add them to your ratatouille, dress them with your caponata sauce or toss them with spaghetti and diced tomatoes. You can also leave them whole and wrap them up with ricotta in the center for a delicious eggplant rollitini.

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       Roasting the eggplant is quick and easy, alleviates the mess and hassle of frying, and saves you a whole lot of olive oil. It is also a healthy and delicious way to cook. Roasting allows caramelization which brings out the sweetness of the eggplant and develops its wonderful flavor.


Recipe of the Week (January 26, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on January 25, 2016 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (3)

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Polenta in Forno con Funghi e’ Fontina (Baked Polenta Casserole with Sautéed Mushrooms and Fontina Cheese) 

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This week’s recipe take us to the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, where the Julian Alps rise above a coastal plain that stretches towards the vast Venetian Lagoon. This area lies northeast of Venice, where corn is an abundant crop on the coastal plains. Here, dried corn is milled into a meal called polenta. The polenta is then turned into a porridge and eaten as a starchy side dish. The polenta can also be cooked firm, spread flat to 1/2 inch thickness, and then sliced into squares.  The squares can then be grilled, deep fried or simply eaten. A bowl of polenta topped with melted cheese or a hearty beef ragu is the perfect meal on a cold winter day in Friuli. Here is a quick and easy recipe that you are sure to love. The polenta is prepared soft and topped with sautéed mixed mushrooms and plenty of creamy, delicious Fontina cheese. Enjoy it with a glass of white Pinot Grigio wine from the mountains of Friuli or a hearty Istrian red.  

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Ingredients:

Olive oil for sautéing

Green Onions 4 (chopped)

Garlic 2 cloves (chopped)

Mushrooms -Cremini, Shitake & Oyster 2 lbs (sliced)

White Wine ¾ cup

Thyme 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Butter 2 tbs (softened)

Instant Polenta 1 box

Fontina Cheese 2/3 lb (shredded)

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       Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner and saute the green onions and garlic until soft. Next, add the mushrooms, white wine and herbs, season with salt and black pepper, turn the burner to medium and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are soft and most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed back into the mushrooms (about 15 -20 minutes). Then, stir in the butter and remove the frying pan from the burner. 

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       Prepare a batch of soft polenta (enough for 4 to 6 individuals) following the instructions on the box. Spoon the polenta into individual, oven-proof casserole dishes, filling each dish about 2/3 full. Then, top with plenty of mushrooms and fontina cheese. If you prefer a crispy topping, sprinkle over some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Place the casserole dishes in a preheated 425 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fontina cheese has melted or the top is crisp and golden.

Recipe of the Week (June 15, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on June 16, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (3)

Sauteed Okra with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic, Basil & Chilies

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       This week's recipe takes us to the hills of Calabria, where fresh vegetables are sauteed with olive oil, vibrant cherry tomatoes and plenty of spice.  In Calabria, a few generous pinches of crushed red chili flakes are tossed into all sorts of dishes for added flavor. The Calabrese are known for their bold cuisine, and this dish is typical of the regional cooking style.  Use any vegetable you like -even fresh okra! 

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Ingredients:

 Okra (1 1/2 lbs)

 Cherry Tomatoes (1 1/2 dry pint)

 Spanish Onion (½ small)

 Garlic (4 cloves)

 Basil (2 tbs chopped, packed firm)

 Paprika (to taste)

 Crushed Red Pepper (to taste)

 Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

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        Chop the onion and basil, and slice the garlic. Slice the okra into 1 inch pieces. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Coat the bottom of a deep frying pan with olive and set it on a medium low burner. Saute the onion and garlic until soft and then add the okra and season with salt and spices. Continue sautéing for 3 minutes or until the okra is tender but still quite firm. Then, add the cherry tomatoes and sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes or until the cherry tomatoes pucker and release their juices. Serves 4 to 6 adults.

Recipe of the Week (May 18, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on May 18, 2015 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (2)



Carduni e’ Pomodori in Grattinate (Cardoon and Tomato Casserole with Crispy Breadcrumb Topping)

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        This week's recipe takes us to Sicily. Cardoons are a type of thistle related to the artichoke. Thye are native to the Mediterranean basin and are a popular vegetable in Italy. In fact, the cardoon has been cultivated on the Italian mainland and Sicily since the days of the Roman Empire. The cardoon looks like an enormous bunch of celery with pale green stalks and feathery leaves. You are sure to see them on display for sale at Palermo's famous Ballaro and Vucciria marketplaces. If you find them at your local vegetable market, be sure to take some home. For a taste of Palermo, try them baked in a casserole with tomatoes and topped with breadcrumbs.

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Ingredients:

 

Cardoons (1 large bunch -about1 ¾ to 2 lbs)

 

Country Style Italian Bread (3 thick slices)

 

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1/3 cup and more for sprinkling)

 

Eggs (3 extra large)

 

Flour (for dredging)

 

Olive Oil (for drizzling)

 

Corn Oil (for frying)

 

Whole Peeled or Diced San Marzano Tomatoes (1 can -28 ounces)

 

Spanish or Vidalia Onion (1/2 small)

 

Garlic (3 cloves)

 

Basil (1 ½ tbs -chopped, pressed firm)

 

Oregano (1 ½ tbs -chopped, pressed firm)

 

Black Pepper (to taste)

 

Salt (to taste)

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        Chop the onion, garlic and herbs. Coat the bottom of a medium sauce pan with olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Then, add the diced tomatoes and all of the juice from the can. Slosh ¾ cup of water around in the can and add it to the sauce pan too. Add the herbs, season with black pepper and salt, and simmer the diced tomatoes on a low burner for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, grate enough bread for 2 cups of crumbs loosely packed. Place the crumbs in a mixing bowl, stir in 1/3 cup of grated cheese, and then drizzle with olive oil. Toss the breadcrumb mixture so that it is uniformly moist and fluffy and set the bowl to the side.

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        Next, prepare the cardoons. Remove the stalks from the bunch and discard the hard inner core and small inner shoot. Strip all of the large leaves from the stalks. Use a paring knife to scrape the small leaves from the edges, and then peel off all of the stringy outer fibers (just as you would do with celery). Chop the stalks into 3 inch chunks. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water boil, add the cardoons to the pot, and boil for 25 minutes.

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        Drain the cardoons in a colander and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Place the cardoons on your work surface, gently press them flat, and then pat them dry. Beat the eggs with a splash of water. Dredge the cardoons in flour, dip them in egg, and then pass them through the flour a second time. Place ½ inch of olive oil in the bottom of a large deep frying pan. When the oil is hot, fry the cardoons until golden brown, and then set them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

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        Spread some tomatoes on the bottom of an 11 by 8 ½ inch, 2 inch deep, baking dish. Add a layer of cardoons, spread some tomatoes overtop, sprinkle lightly with grated cheese, and then add a second layer of cardoons. Spread over the remaining tomatoes, and then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over top. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve hot. Serves 4 to 6 adults.



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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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