Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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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 (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.


Spring 2015

Posted by William Abruzzo on May 5, 2015 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)



The front portion of my vegetable garden 2014

Finalmente! Spring 2015 has Arrived in Virginia.  

We had a long, cold winter here in Virginia, but Spring has officially arrived.  The past month has been a very busy time for me, so I apologize for not posting.  I have tended to my fields, fixed my fence-lines, and planted the vegetable garden and flower beds.  Heaven forbid we have frost!  I will be back to posting recipes shortly.  In fact, I have many new recipes lined up for the Spring and Summer.  By popular request, I will post at least two recipes for wild cardoons. Check back soon!     

Sincerely,  Bill   

Recipe of the Week (March 23, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on March 23, 2015 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (1)



Pogaca (Istrian Country Bread)
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        This week's recipe takes us to Istria, a part of Croatia that was once occupied by Italy. After World War II, Istria was given over to Yugoslavia, and many of the ethnic Italians living there fled to Italy. Today, there is still a strong Italian influence to Istrian cuisine, and many many Istrians speak both Croatian and Italian. Pogaca is a traditional bread popular throughout the Balkan regions, and particularly in Croatia. Unlike traditional Italian bread which is made with water, pogaca is made with milk, butter and sour cream, which lends a unique, rich flavor and soft texture. It is perfect for sandwhiches and dipping in sauces and soup.

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Ingredients:

All Purpose Flour (6 cups)

Eggs (2 extra-large)

Milk (1 cup)

Butter (½ stick -softened)

Sour Cream (1 cup)

Canola Oil (¼ cup)

Active Dry Yeast (1 package)

Sugar (2 tbs)

Salt (1 tsp)

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Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat it on a low burner to dissolve the sugar. Then, transfer the milk to a bowl and allow it to cool to about 100 to 110 degrees. Add the yeast and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes or until frothy. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan and allow it to cool. Beat together 1 egg and 1 yolk. Place the beaten egg, melted butter, sour cream, canola oil, and salt in a free standing mixer equipped with the whisk attachment. Beat the ingredients until fluffy. Next, add the yeast mixture and beat again. Add 3 cups of flour and continue beating. Then, switch to the dough hook attachment and work in the remaining 3 cups of flour. When the dough pulls together, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3 minutes or until smooth and shiny.

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Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly greased with canola oil and brush it lightly on the top with canola oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a dish towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot to rise. When the dough has doubled (about 2 hours), punch it down, shape it into an oval loaf, and set it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Let the loaf sit for 40 minutes and then slash a diamond pattern across the top with a sharp knife. Slash it 3 times diagonally in one direction and 3 times in the other direction. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown. If you prefer a shiny crust, after 35 minutes of baking, brush the top lightly with water.


Recipe of theWeek (February 15, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on February 11, 2015 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (2)


Fior di Zucchine Fritti (Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Caviar and Crème Fraiche)

 

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        This week's recipe takes us to the region of Lazio. In all regions of Italy, zucchini flowers are a favorite springtime treat. Just walk through Rome's famous vegetable market, the "Campo dei Fiori", in early May and you are sure to see bouquets of vibrant orange zucchini blossoms on display. The blossoms are prepared in many different ways. They can be fried until crisp and delicious, stuffed with ricotta cheese, tossed with spaghetti, or cooked into pancakes and omelets. This is my favorite way to prepare zucchini blossoms pulled fresh from my vegetable garden. They are the perfect crispy treat to serve with caviar and creme fraiche.

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Ingredients:

Zucchini Blossoms (2 dozen large)

All Purpose Flour (about 3 cups for dredging)

Eggs (3 extra-large)

Corn Oil (for frying)

Caviar (2 ounces)

Crème Fraiche (6 ounces)

Salt (to taste)

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        Remove and discard the stamens and pistils from the blossoms, tear the blossoms in half, and rinse them gently under cool running water. Pat the blossoms dry and set them to the side. Beat the eggs with ¼ cup of water. Place 3 cups of flour in a deep bowl. Place ¾ inch of corn oil in a large, deep frying pan and set it on a medium high burner. When the oil is hot, dip the blossoms in the beaten egg, dredge them in the flour and fry them on each side until golden brown. Set the blossoms on paper towel to absorb the excess oil and sprinkle them right away with salt. Transfer the fried blossoms to a serving platter. Serve hot with chilled crème fraiche and caviar on the side. Serves 4 to 6 adults.

  

Recipe of the Week (January 20, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on January 16, 2015 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (2)


Paparedelle con Ragu d'Anatra (Pasta ribbons with Duck Ragu)

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This week's recipe takes us to the region of VENETO, where ducks and other waterfowl are hunted along the shores of the Venetian Lagoon. In Veneto, duck is always prepared "alla cacciatore" or hunter's style, roasted with plenty of fresh herbs. Another favorite way of preparing duck is in a hearty ragu which is then tossed with a Venetian wholewheat pasta called "bigoli". It is great with a wide-cut, rustic papardelle too!

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Ingredients:

 Papardelle (1 lb)

 Duck (1 whole - 4 ¾ to 5 lbs)

 Speck (2 tbs diced)

 Duck/Veal Demiglace (8 ounces)

 Red Wine (about ½ cup)

 Chicken Broth (¾ cup -or more if needed)

 Butter (2 tbs)

 Olive Oil (for sautéing)

 Spanish Onion (1 medium)

 Garlic (4 cloves)

 Rosemary (4 sprigs)

 Thyme (1 bouquet -about 1 tbs, chopped, packed firm)

 Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (2 tbs -chopped, packed firm)

 Bay Leaves (3)

 Black Pepper (to taste)

 Salt (to taste)

 Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (for topping)

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          First prepare the duck. Rub the outside of the duck with olive oil and season the outside and cavity with salt and black pepper. Place the sprigs of rosemary in the cavity and place the duck in a roasting pan that has been brushed with olive oil. Place the duck in a preheated 350 degree oven and roast for 30 minutes per pound. When the duck is done, set it to rest on a cutting board. Transfer the juices to a bowl and spoon off all of the fat.

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          Dice the onion and speck. Chop the thyme and parsley. Coat the bottom of a deep, 5 ½ quart frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner, add the diced onions, season with salt, and sauté the onions until caramelized. Next, add the garlic and speck and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes. Then, add the demiglace, red wine, chicken broth and juice from the pan (about ½ cup). If there is not enough juice, substitute chicken broth. Add the herbs, season with black pepper, and simmer on a low burner for 10 minutes.

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          Meanwhile, remove all of the duck meat from the carcass. Discard the skin, fat and any gristle. Shred the meat with a fork, add it to the frying pan, and stir it into the sauce. Next, stir in the butter and continue simmering on a low burner for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. If the sauce is too thin, add more chicken broth or red wine. Set your pasta to boil in plenty of lightly salted water. When the pasta is done, transfer it to the frying pan and toss it with the duck ragu. Serve hot, topped with plenty of grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


Recipe of the Week (December 10, 2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on December 10, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (3)


Vitello con Salsa di Tonnata  (Sauteed Veal Cutlets with Tuna Sauce)        


        This week's recipe takes us to the region of LOMBARDIA. Veal with tuna sauce is a favorite at trendy restaurants in Milan and Turin. It is typically made with slow-boiled veal rump, which is allowed to cool and then sliced paper thin. The veal is then topped with a tuna sauce and served room temperature or lightly chilled. It is the perfect dish to serve at a luncheon or as an appetizer before a fancy meal. Here is my version of this classic northern Italian dish that is sure to make any proud Milanese chef cringe. I like to make it quick and serve it hot! Instead of veal rump, which takes well over an hour to boil, I use veal cutlets that I pound as thin as possible and fry on the stove top. Just one minute on each side and they are done! When it comes to the sauce, I add plenty of butter and warm it on the stove top while the cutlets are frying. Then, I spoon the sauce over the veal cutlets just as they come out of the frying pan and serve it hot.

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Ingredients:

Veal Cutlets (6 large or 8 medium)

Flour (for dusting)

Italian Jarred Tuna or Canned White Albacore in Oil (12 ounces)

Olive oil (¼ cup)

Butter (6 tbs)

Capers (1/3 cup)

Anchovy Paste (1 rounded tsp)

Lemons (2 large)

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (2 tbs -chopped, packed firm)

Garlic (2 cloves)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

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        Place the tuna, olive oil, capers, anchovy paste, garlic and parsley in a food processor and puree until smooth. Extract the juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup). Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the tuna puree and lemon juice. Season the sauce with black pepper and salt and whisk until smooth and creamy. Allow the sauce to simmer on a very low burner for 5 minutes. If you prefer more lemony flavor, add some or all of the juice of the remaining lemon.

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        Meanwhile, pound the cutlets to ¼ inch thickness or less, season them with salt and black pepper, and dust them lightly with flour. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil and set it on a medium burner. When the oil has heated, fry the cutlets for 1 minute on each side and then place them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Arrange the cutlets on a serving platter and spoon the tuna sauce over top. Serve hot. Serves 6 to 8 adults.


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 October 24, 2014

Posted by William Abruzzo on October 24, 2014 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (3)


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Crostini di Polenta con Ficchi e’ Speck (Polenta Squares Topped with Caramelized Figs & Telaggio Cheese Wrapped in Speck)

        This week's recipe takes us to the region of VENETO, where fine cured hams and polenta are favorite treats. When my wife and I first moved to our farm in Virginia, I said to her, “We need a fig tree!” That spring, as soon as the weather turned warm, I bought one and planted it in our vegetable garden. That summer, the little fig tree grew wide and tall, and by September we had a dozen or so sweet, succulent figs. They were perfect for sautéing. I decided to serve them with Venetian flare; wrapped with a slice of Telaggio cheese in a paper thin slice of speck and set upon a wedge of grilled polenta. The tasty little bundles were a true taste of northern Italy, where figs make there way into all sorts of sweet and savory dishes. Be sure to pair this treat with a glass of red Valpolicella wine from Verona.

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Ingredients:

Polenta (1 batch)

Speck (¼ lb -sliced paper thin)

Taleggio Cheese (½ lb)

Figs (6 large, ripe)

Walnuts (½ cup chopped)

Butter (1 tbs)

Black Pepper (to taste)

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        Prepare a firm polenta following the instructions on the package. Spread the warm polenta  evenly on a cookie sheet to 1/3 inch thickness and allow it to set. Toast the walnuts in a preheated 375 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden. Slice the figs in half lengthwise. Set e frying pan on a medium low burner and add the butter. When the butter has melted, swirl it around to coat the bottom of the frying pan, and then place the figs in the frying pan cut-side down. Saute the figs for 2 to 3 minutes or until caramelized. Then, gently flip them and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes.

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        Slice the cheese into bite-sized squares. Lay a strip of speck on your work surface. Place a fig, cut-side up, on the speck. Sprinkle some chopped walnuts on the fig, place a slice of cheese on top, and then roll the speck around the filling. Continue making bundles with the remaining figs. Then, slice the polenta into squares and place each bundle, cheese-side up, on a polenta square. Transfer the polenta crostini to an ungreased baking tray. Place the baking tray in a preheated 425 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese melts and oozes out of the bundle. Season with black pepper and serve hot. Serves 4 to 6 adults.

 

 

Recipe of the Week (September 22, 2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on September 22, 2014 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Pasta con Tenerumi (Pasta with Sautéed Cucuzza Tendrils & Cherry Tomatoes)

 

 

        This week's recipe takes us to the region of Sicily, where cucuzza squash grow on trellises and arbors in back yard gardens.  The long slender squash are native to Sicily and the regions south of Naples. The leaves and tendrils of this unusual squash are tender and delicious.  When sautéed with cherry tomatoes and tossed with pasta, you have a meal that would make any Sicilian proud.  Add some diced prosciutto or crushed red chili flakes for extra bold flavor. And, be sure to top it off with fresh grated ricotta salata cheese! 

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Ingredients:

Pasta 1 lb

Prosciutto 4 ounces (diced)

Olive Oil to saute

Cucuzza Tendrils & Leaves 1 large bowl (about 2 lbs)

Cherry Tomatoes 1 dry quart

Garlic 4 cloves

Black Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Crushed Red Pepper to taste (optional)

Ricotta Salata for topping

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        Use the top 2 inches of the tendrils and the small leaves that are no more than 2 inches in diameter. Chop the greens and boil them in lightly salted water for 10 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, set the pasta to boil in lightly salted water. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and dice the prosciutto and garlic. Coat the bottom of a six quart frying pan generously with olive oil, set it on a low burner, add the prosciutto and garlic, and saute until the garlic is soft. Then, add the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and spices, and continue sauteeing until the skins on the cherry tomatoes pucker and they release some of their juices. When the greens are tender, strain them and add them to the frying pan. When the pasta is done, add it to the frying pan and toss well. Serve hot, topped with plenty of ricotta salata cheese.

  

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.

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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 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 (June 30,2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on July 3, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (2)


Crocchette di Baccala (Venetian Potato and Salted Cod Croquettes)

 

 

        This week's recipe takes us to the region of VENETO. Cicchetti is a Venetian snack tradition similar to tapas in Spain. After work, Venetians head to the bars to socialize, snack on cicchetti, and have a glass of wine. Typical cicchetti include fried seafood, seafood salads, croquettes, sautéed vegetables, and plates of cured meats, olives and cheese.The varieties are endless. After a long day of sightseeing, hitting a cicchetti bar is a great way to wet your appetite before heading to dinner at one of the seafood restaurants near the Rialto Bridge. Here is a recipe inspired by the tasty croquettes I enjoyed in Venice. They are filled with a mixture of potato, salted cod and spinach. Be sure to fry them until crisp and golden brown and serve them with a glass of Pinot Grigio from the hills of Veneto.

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Ingredients:

Salted or Fresh Cod (1lb)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1 tbs)

Russet Potatoes (2 medium -about 1 lb)

Spinach (1/3 lb)

Garlic (2 cloves)

Green Onions (3)

Egg (4)

Breadcrumbs (4 cups)

Olive Oil (for sautéing) 

Corn Oil (about 2 ½ quarts for frying)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Paprika (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

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If you are using salted cod, soak it in plenty of cool water for at least 48 hours, changing the water at least 3 times daily. The cod will rehydrate and become soft and pliable. Boil the salted cod for 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon thickness, and then remove it from the pot and set it to drain in a colander. If you are using fresh cod, simply place it in a pot or deep frying pan, cover it with water, season it with salt, and set it on a low burner. Allow the cod to poach for 10 to 15 minutes,depending upon thickness, and then set it to drain in a colander.

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Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut them into ¾ inch cubes, and boil them in lightly salted water until tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and transfer them to a large mixing bowl with the cod. Crumble the potatoes and cod with a fork and mix them together. Be careful not to over-work the mixture, as the texture should be coarse, not be pasty. Sprinkle the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over top and set the bowl to the side.

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Next, chop the spinach, green onion and garlic. Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and saute the green onion and garlic until soft. Next, add the chopped spinach and season with salt, black pepper and paprika. When the spinach has wilted, add it to the potato and cod mixture and fold everything together. If necessary, add a few drizzles of olive oil to moisten and re-season with salt and spices.

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Beat the eggs with a splash of water. Shape the filling into 2 inch diameter balls, dip them in the egg and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs. Heat plenty of vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and fry the croquettes until golden brown. Place the croquettes on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Serve warm or room temperature with a wedge of lemon. Makes 14 croquettes. Serves 6 adults.

  

Recipe of the Week (1/14/2013)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on January 14, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (1)


Risotto con Calamari

 

     This recipe takes us to the region of Veneto.  Whenever I travel to Venice, I search out a seafood restaurant where I can order seafood risotto.  My favorite is risotto with tender baby squid or cuttlefish.  If I am lucky, the chef will prepare it "al nero" or with the ink stirred into the risotto,  to make it extra special.  Here in the US, whole squid is very difficult to find.  It usually comes pre-cleaned, with the ink sac removed.  Here is a tasty recipe which calls for pre-cleaned squid.  It is a true taste of Venice.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

Arborio Rice (2 cups)

Pre-Cleaned Squid Tubes and Tentacles (2 lbs)

White Wine (1 ½ cups)

Light Fish or Seafood Broth (7 cups)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1/3 cup)

Olive Oil (for sautéing)

Spanish or Vidalia Onion (½ small)

Garlic (3 cloves)

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (3 tbs -chopped, packed firm)

Butter (4 tbs)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

 

First, prepare the squid. Pat the squid dry with a dish towel, slice the tubes into small rings, and place the tubes and tentacles in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the squid with olive oil, season with paprika, black pepper and salt, and toss so that everything is coated. Brush a baking tray lightly with olive oil and spread the squid evenly on top. Roast the squid in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until firm and opaque. 

 

Next, prepare the risotto. Set the broth to simmer in a saucepan. Dice the onion and garlic. Coat the bottom of a deep frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner, and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Then, add the rice and continue sautéing for 2 to 3 minutes or until the rice is opaque, stirring constantly. Then, season the rice with salt and black pepper. Next, add the wine ½ cup at a time. Stir constantly and add the next ½ cup after the wine is absorbed by the rice. Continue by adding ladles of hot broth in the same manner, stirring constantly and adding the next ladle after the rice has absorbed the broth. 

 

After 20 to 25 minutes, the rice will be tender. Next, stir in the butter, grated cheese, and parsley. Then, stir in the roasted squid. Adjust the consistency to your liking by adding more broth if the risotto is too thick or sautéing a minute longer if it is too thin. Depending upon the tenderness and consistency desired, you may or may not use all of the broth. Transfer the risotto to individual serving bowls and serve hot. Serves 4 adults.

   

Recipes of the Week (10/21/2012)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on October 25, 2012 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (1)


Pizza con Ficchi, Speck, e’ Rucola (Pizza Topped with Figs, Prosciutto, Fontina, Walnuts & Baby Arugula)

      This week's recipe takes us to the region of  EMILIA ROMAGNA, where pizza is a favorite afternoon snack.  Here is a tasty pizza I enjoyed while wandering through the arcaded streets of Bologna, where the snack bars, delicatessens and cheese shops offer the finest products that northern Italy has to offer.  

 


Ingredients:

Pizza Dough (1 batch -preferably fresh, from an Italian bakery)

Fontina Cheese (1 lb)

Prosciutto or Speck (¼ lb -sliced paper thin)

Figs (14 large)

Baby Arugula 2 handfuls

Walnuts (¾ cup -chopped)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese for topping (optional)


 

       Slice the figs into quarters and shred the fontina cheese. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface and place it on a lightly greased 11 by 16 inch baking tray. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil, spread over the fontina cheese, arrange the figs in an overlapping pattern on top, and sprinkle over the walnuts. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and bake in a preheated oven at 500 degrees for 15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown underneath. Meanwhile, toss the arugula with a drizzle or two of olive oil. When the pizza is done, sprinkle over the arugula and arrange the sliced prosciutto on top. Serve hot. Serves 4 adults.

 

Recipe of the Week (6/17/2012)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on June 19, 2012 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (2)


Pasticciata di Polenta con Mele (Polenta Casserole with Sauteed Apples, Speck, Fontina Cheese and Crispy Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Topping)

     This recipe takes us to the region of Trentino Alto Adige where apples and fine cured hams make their way into simple rustic dishes. Here is a polenta casserole that goes well alongside roasted or grilled pork, chicken and sausage. Be sure to make it with crisp fresh apples. The sweetness of the apple pairs nicely with the creamy Fontina cheese and smoked ham. It is something you might find at a trendy osteria in the chic ski resort of Cortina D’Ampezzo or an upscale Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Serve it as an appetizer with a glass of red Barbaresco wine from Piemonte or a red Merlot from Veneto.

 

Ingredients:

Instant Polenta (1 batch) 

Asiago or Fontina Cheese (¾ lb)

Speck (¼ lb slab)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (about ½ cup)

Butter (8 tbs)

Apples (4)

Walnuts (2/3 cup)

Spanish Onion (½ large)

Garlic (3 cloves)

Sage (½ tbs -chopped, packed firm)

Cinnamon (½ tsp)

Black pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

  

     Prepare a firm polenta following the instructions on the package.  Then, transfer it to a baking tray, smooth it to ½ inch thickness, and slice it into 3 inch squares. Toast the walnuts in a preheated 375 degree oven for 5 minutes or until golden. Dice the onion, garlic and speck and chop the sage. Place the butter in a frying pan, set it on a medium low burner, add the onion and garlic, season with black pepper, and saute until soft. Next, add the speck and sage, and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes. Then peel, core and chop the apples, add them to the frying pan with the walnuts and cinnamon, and continue sautéing until the apples are tender, but still firm. If necessary re-season with salt and black pepper.

     Brush the inside of a 14 by 9 ½ inch baking dish with softened butter. Next, add a layer of polenta, fitting the pieces snugly in the casserole dish. Spoon the apple mixture and all of the sauce from the pan evenly over top. Then, add a layer of asiago cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Tent the casserole with aluminum foil and bake it for 20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. Then, remove the foil, raise the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for another 7 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve hot. Serves 6 adults.



Recipe of the Week (1/01/2012)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on December 4, 2011 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (3)

Happy Holidays to all!



I will be back to post new recipes in late February . I will be busy over the next few weeks Christmas shopping, baking, cooking, and making my famous liquors!  

Buon Natale!  from Bill and Jen :)

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.

 

Recipe of the Week (12/01/2011)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on December 1, 2011 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (5)

Pollo in Forno con Spinaci, Prosciutto e Fontina (Roasted Chicken Breasts Topped with Spinach, Prosciutto and Fontina Cheese)


This recipe takes us to the region of EMILIA ROMAGNAWhen one thinks of chicken served with spinach, the Italian-American classic “Chicken Florentine” certainly comes to mind. It is a tasty combination of pan sautéed chicken medallions served over a bed of spinach and topped with a cream sauce. Although the name implies that this is the glorious specialty of Florence, it is actually an Italian-American classic. So, when you visit Florence, do not expect to find it a restaurant serving traditional Florentine fare. You will have to search it out on a tourist menu at one of the restaurants near the Ponte Vecchio. This recipe is my take on the classic combination of chicken and spinach. I top boneless chicken breasts with layers of prosciutto, sautéed spinach and fontina cheese and then finish them off with crispy breadcrumbs. 


 

Ingredients:

Chicken Breasts (8 -boneless, skinless)

Prosciutto (4 ounces -sliced paper thin)

Fontina Cheese (1/2 lb)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1/3 cup)

Country Style Italian Bread (4 thick slices)

Olive Oil (for sauteeing)

Butter (1 ½ sticks)

White Wine (¾ cup)

Chicken Broth (about 1 ½ cups - as needed)

Flour (2 tbs)

Spinach (2 lbs)

Garlic (5 cloves)

Spanish Onion (½ small)

Rosemary (1 sprig)

Parsley (3 tbs chopped)

Paprika (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

Salt (to taste)


 

Chop 3 cloves of garlic. Coat the bottom of a large deep frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium burner and sauté the garlic until soft. Add the spinach and some water which will allow it to steam. Season the spinach with paprika, black pepper and salt, and sauté it until wilted and tender. Transfer the spinach to a colander and gently press out most of the liquid with the back of a wooden spoon. Chop the spinach, place it in a mixing bowl, and stir in the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


Butterfly the chicken breasts, place them cut side up on your work surface and season them with black pepper and salt. Place a layer of prosciutto on top of each chicken breast and then a scoop of spinach. Use a wooden skewer to pinch together the ends of each chicken breast in one spot at the center. Transfer the chicken breasts to a greased baking dish and tent it with aluminum foil. Bake the chicken in a pre-heated 415 degree oven for 40 minutes or until fully cooked.


Meanwhile, grate the bread in a food processor, transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl, toss them with a drizzle of olive oil, and set the bowl to the side. Grate the fontina cheese and set it to the side. Next, prepare the sauce. Coarsely chop the onion, parsley and remaining garlic. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low burner, sauté the onion and garlic until soft, and add the wine and herbs. Simmer for 7 minutes and then remove the saucepan from the burner and set it to the side. Place the flour in small frying pan and moisten it with enough olive oil to create a roux. Set the frying pan on a medium burner, sauté the roux until golden, and set it to the side.


When the chicken breasts are done, transfer them to a lightly greased baking tray and top each breast with plenty of fontina cheese and breadcrumbs. Tent the tray with aluminum foil to keep the chicken warm and set it to the side. Next, complete the sauce. Transfer the juices (1 ½ cups) from the baking dish to the saucepan. If there are not enough juices, add some chicken broth. Season the sauce with paprika, black pepper and salt, simmer for 7 minutes, and then strain the sauce through a mesh sieve. Press the aromatics left in the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid. Return the sauce to the saucepan, set it on a medium burner, whisk in the roux, and simmer for another 5 minutes, whisking all the while to thicken the sauce.


Turn the temperature of your oven up to 475 degrees. Remove the aluminum foil from the tray and set it in the oven for 2 or 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and serve it accompanied by the sauce. Serve hot. Serves 8 adults.

 

Cooking Tip of the Week (927/2011)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on September 21, 2011 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (1)


A Few Words About Cooking with Black Pepper and Crushed Dried Chili Flakes


       Salt and black pepper are the two basic components that bring life to any savory dish.  To put it simply, without these ingredients, any savory Italian dish will taste flat. In southern Italy, crushed dried chili flakes called "pepperoncino" are also added to savory dishes.  Crushed dried chili flakes add “heat”, whereas black pepper adds “bite”.  When used together, they add great depth and character to any savory recipe. When using crushed dried chili flakes or black pepper in a sautéed dish, I always add it while the onions and/or garlic are sautéing in olive oil. Allowing the pepper to sizzle in the oil  for a minute or two helps to develop the flavor.

       For the best quality and flavor, purchase whole peppercorns and grind them in a peppermill  as you cook. Pre-ground or pulverized black pepper will lose its bite while sitting in your spice rack. Hot dried chilies can be purchased whole and ground with a mortar and pestle as needed. The pre-crushed chili flakes tend to keep their flavor better than pre-ground black pepper.  However, if it sits in your cupboard too long, it will lose some of its zing.

 


Cooking Tip of the Week (9/6/2011)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on August 9, 2011 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)


A Few Simple Tips for Prepping Artichokes


       Artichokes are available in several different sizes. Globe artichokes can be as large as a softball, whereas oblong Tuscan artichokes are somewhat smaller and baby artichokes are no more than 2 1/2 inches long.  Preparing them for your favorite recipes is quite simple.


        For large globe artichokes : Use a paring knife to remove all of the leaves from the artichokes, and then remove the inner chokes. This will leave just the heart and stem. Then, use a potato peeler to remove the stringy outer fibers of the stems, and cut the artichokes in half.


        For baby artichokes: Remove the outer leaves until you reach the soft, pale inner cone, and then cut off the top 1/3 of the cone and peel the stem with a potato peeler.  If you wish, cut the artichokes in half. As the artichokes are small, the chokes are tender and do not need to be removed.


       After you prepare the artichokes, be sure to place them in a bowl of cool water acidulated with the juice of one lemon. this will prevent the artichokes from browning. When you are ready to cook them, simply rinse them under cool running water and then pat them dry.

       


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Private Cooking Classes

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!

Coming Soon!

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