Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

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Cooking Tip of the Week (February 8, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on February 10, 2016 at 11:55 AM

Grated Lemon Peel Adds Bright Flavor to Any Dish


      The best citrus in the Mediterranean grows in Italy. The region near Sorrento is famous for its lemons, and Sicily is home to vast groves of orange trees. Italians have learned that the peel of citrus fruits is not only aromatic, but full of bright flavor. Finely grated lemon and orange zest is used as a flavoring agent in many sweet and savory Italian dishes. Stirring the finely grated zest of one lemon or orange into your cake batter will add a whole new dimension of flavor. Try doing it with your favorite cheese, pound or sponge cake recipes. A touch of citrus zest also adds brightness to custard and panna cotta.


       In savory dishes, lemon zest can be whisked with olive oil and herbs for a salad dressing or marinade for meat and fish. You can also combine the finely grated zest of 2 lemons with a handful of chopped parsley for a gremolata that can be sprinkled over risotto, pasta, baked or grilled seafood or a classic Osso Buco alla Milanese. In Sicilian cooking, finely grated orange zest, garlic, pine nuts and raisins are added to sautéed vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli for a truly exotic taste sensation. If you want to add zest to a sautéed dish, start by sautéing some garlic and/or onion in olive oil. When the garlic and onion have softened, stir in the zest and then add the rest of your ingredients.

Categories: Cooking Tips

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Reply mariabella
10:40 PM on February 29, 2016 
Hi Bill, just wanted to tell you how excited I am for you that your cookbook will be out in May. Looking forward to reading it. If it's anything like your blog, it is going to be successful. Congratulations!
Reply charluzza
12:21 AM on February 23, 2016 
Great tip. Lemon zest adds an extra brightness to vegetables.
Reply ScampieLover
10:12 PM on February 18, 2016 
Bill your site is so informative. I really enjoy reading everything. You not only give good tips, but tell us how to use them in a variety of ways. Thanks so much.

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I offer private cooking classes for up to six people. Cooking classes are held in my home on Saturday evenings. 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 take a minute to become a member of my website and contact me via internal email at . 

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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