Eggplant Lasagna

eggplant-lasagna-5

This post was actually written and the lasagna prepared last summer, when I was at the height of the Great Eggplant Glut of 2017. At the time, I promised that I’d post the recipe. Well. my birthday is coming next week and I was in need of something to prepare in celebration. Unfortunately, despite recent attempts to stretch the parameters, I’m still rather restricted to soft foods. Just as I’ve done, i could make a soup, or pasta, or soup with pasta but I wanted something a bit more special. Enter eggplant lasagna. Lucky for me, there’s a tray waiting for me in the freezer. Oh, boy!

Now, to be clear, this dish contains my homemade pasta and, therefore, is not gluten-free (GF). If the noodles are to be omitted, I’d rather make eggplant parmesan, this lasagna’s GF cousin. Well, it is my birthday and sometimes I just want a nice plate of good old-fashioned gluten. Sue me but at least send a birthday card before you do.

The recipe is easy enough. You can use any kind of lasagna noodle that you wish. Follow the directions on the package for store-bought noodles. If using “no-bake” noodles, I give them a quick rinse in hot tap water before placing in the tray. That helps to ensure that each noodle gets enough moisture to cook properly. If at all possible, use freshly made pasta noodles, They only require about a two-minute blanch in boiling water before use but the difference in taste is remarkable. Do it once and you’ll be sold.

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ETA: For a slightly different take, one more true to the dish’s Sicilian roots, take a look at Bea’s recipe on her delicious Viaggiando con Bea, Travels with Bea. One can never have too many lasagna recipes.

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eggplant-lasagna-preview

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Eggplant Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

  • medium-sized eggplants (see Notes)
  • cooking spray
  • about 1 quart tomato sauce (Vegetarians use meatless)
  • butter to grease the baking dish
  • pasta sheets to create 3 layers
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 4 oz  Asiago cheese, grated
  • 4 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • fresh mozzarella, cut into rounds
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, for serving

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚ F (230˚ C). Liberally butter baking dish/pan.
  2. Prepare the eggplant(s):
    • Trim off ends of eggplants and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. (See Notes)
    • Place rounds in a single layer on a rack resting upon a baking sheet.
    • Lightly spray each side and sprinkle with salt.
    • Bake for 15 minutes,
    • Remove from oven and reserve.
  3. Reduce oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  4. Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles per package instructions,
  5. If using fresh noodles, par-boil for about 2 minutes before rinsing is cold water.
  6. Assemble the lasagna:
    • Lightly coat the bottom of the baking dish/pan with tomato sauce.
    • Place enough pasta sheets to create a single layer.
    • Add a single layer of eggplant rounds.
    • Cover with a layer of sauce.
    • Sprinkle half of the grated cheese mixture.
    • Sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated Pecorino Romano.
    • Add another layer of noodles, eggplant rounds, sauce, and cheeses.
    • Add the final layer of noodles and enough tomato sauce to cover.
    • Evenly distribute the mozzarella rings and sprinkle the rest of the Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
    • Cover with aluminum foil. (See Notes)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, raise the oven temperature to 450˚F (230˚ C), and bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.
  8. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Be sure to have grated Pecorino Romano available at the table. (See Notes)

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eggplant-lasagna-10*     *     *

Notes

You will need enough eggplant rings to create 2 layers in whatever size baking dish/pan you’re going to use.

When preparing eggplant parmesan, I do not peel the eggplant, the peel adding structure to the dish. In lasagna, the noodles add some structure, so, strips of the eggplant’s peel are removed.

Lightly coating the inside of the aluminum foil with cooking spray will help prevent it sticking to the mozzarella should the 2 come in contact while baking.

Once baking is complete, be sure to give the lasagna ample time to rest and set. It will be easier to serve and will retain its shape far better than if sliced immediately upon removal from the oven.

This past summer, I made a couple extra trays of lasagna and froze them. Once fully cooked and cooled, wrap the trays in plastic wrap before wrapping with aluminum foil. The night before you intend to serve the lasagna, place the tray in the fridge for defrosting. The next day, unwrap and remove the plastic wrap, and place the tray, recovered with foil, into a preheated 350˚ F (175˚ C) oven. Serve when heated through.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

cherry-pie

It’s that time of year again. Every January, I go to the freezer in my basement and retrieve a bag of frozen tart cherries. The current January Thaw notwithstanding, a mid-winter cherry pie reminds me of the previous summer when the cherries were bought and put away, out of sight. Now, while I prepare, bake, and enjoy a cherry pie, I cannot help but dream of the summer to come. Old Man Winter may still claim the outdoors but here, in my kitchen, summer rules once again. And if this doesn’t work? No problem. There’s another bag in that freezer, though it’s contents will be used to prepare cherry muffins. One way or another, summer is coming. (Take that, Jon Snow!)  You can see the cherry pie recipe HERE and the cherry muffin recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

meatloaf-preview

Meatloaf

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Panettone Pain Perdu and Bread Pudding

Panettone

Panettone is a sweetened bread from the Milan area that Italians enjoy throughout the holidays. Containing candied citrus and raisins/sultanas, a piece of panettone served with un caffè makes a great afternoon snack. Later, a slice of panettone with a glass of prosecco – or limoncello – is the perfect ending to any meal during this festive season. That’s not the only way to serve this tasty bread, however.

Over the years, I’ve used day-old panettone to make bread pudding and pain perdu (aka French toast, aka eggy bread). In fact, very often I’ll buy a couple of the loaves and place them directly into the freezer. Weeks later, I’ll retrieve one and treat myself to pain perdu on one morning, with some bread pudding on the next. I’m not much of a breakfast person but I really do enjoy “Panettone Week”. What’s not to love? Anyway, since I so often prepare the dishes back-to-back, and the pain perdu recipe is really quite simple, I’m going to share both in one post. I’ll start with Panettone Pain Perdu — for no other reason than I’m a sucker for recipes with an alliterative title.

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Panettone Pain Perdu

This recipe is pretty straight forward. I would caution you, however, from just slicing a panettone and diving in. Always cut and taste a slice before using it as the base for another recipe. First off, it’s delicious, so, why not? Secondly, not all panettone are created equal. Best to learn what flavors you’re dealing with before adding seasonings of any kind.

We’ve all made variations of this dish, so, there’s really no need to give it the “full recipe treatment.”  This dish is very much dependent upon your own taste.

Pre-heat your oven to 200˚ F (95˚ C).

First off, get your egg mixture together. I usually plan 1 large egg per slice of panettone. To that, I’ll add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or Greek yogurt or cream or milk. Too Pain Perdu on the Griddlecomplicated? Grab that container of left-over eggnog and use it in place of some or all the egg mixture just described. Next, spice it up a bit. I like to grate a little nutmeg into the eggs/nog but have been known to add a little cinnamon, as well. Just be sure to taste the eggnog before adding any more spices. Depending upon how sweet your panettone is, you may want to add a little sugar to the mix, too. Now, give it a good whisk and set aside.

Place equal amounts of sliced strawberries – I’ve also used blueberries but any berry will do – and maple syrup in a small pan and heat over a medium heat. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to a soft simmer and cook for about 5 minutes before turning the heat to very low to keep warm.

Now, for the panettone. You want thick slices, at least an inch-and-a-half (4 cm) thick. Panettone is filled with bits of candied fruit and they may cause thinner slices to fall apart during or after soaking.

PPP_ServedWhile you heat the griddle, frying or cast iron pan, or whatever cooking surface you intend to use, dip each piece of panettone into the eggs/nog. Be sure to evenly coat each side of every slice.  Melt a bit of butter on the cooking surface and reduce heat to medium before placing the now egg-soaked panettone into the pan. Cook until golden brown — about 5 to 8 minutes — before flipping to cook the other side. Cook for about 5 minutes more. Place on a platter and keep warm in the pre-heated oven while you cook the rest.

Serve garnished with powdered sugar (optional) and accompanied by a gravy boat filled with the warmed berry-laden syrup.

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For a different take on Panettone Pain Perdu, check out the recipes presented by blogging buddies BAM, of Bam’s Kitchen, and/or David, of Cocoa and Lavender. If you can, take a few minutes to check out each of these 2 wonderful blogs — but eat before you do. You’re gonna be mighty hungry if you don’t.

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Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding Preview

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Admittedly, this dish is a little more involved to prepare but don’t let that stop you, Panettone makes a wonderful bread pudding and who doesn’t love to start the day with a bit arancello-flavored sauce?

Ingredients

for the bread pudding

  • 16 oz (450 g) panettone, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • ½ c (100 g) dried cranberries
  • ½ c arancello + 1 additional tbsp — Grand Marnier may be substituted
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 1 orange
  • butter cut into chunks

for the orange sauce

  • 1 stick (½ cup, 113 g) butter
  • ⅓ c sugar
  • arancello reserved after soaking the dried cranberries in Step 1 — ¼ to ⅓ cup
  • juice of 1 orange
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

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panettone bread pudding pics

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Directions

  1. At least 30 minutes before you begin, combine the dried cranberries in a bowl with 1/2 cup of arancello. Once fully soaked and needed in the recipe, drain and be sure to reserve the excess arancello for use in the orange sauce – Step 15.
  2. Liberally butter a 9 X 13″ (23 X 33 cm) baking dish.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add 1 tbsp arancello, the eggs, and sugar. Whisk to dissolve the sugar.
  4. To the same bowl, add the heavy cream, half-and-half, salt, nutmeg, and orange zest. Mix until fully combined.
  5. Spread an even layer of the cubed panettone into the prepared banking dish.
  6. Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid for use in the orange sauce. Sprinkle the cranberries over the top of the bread cubes in the baking dish.
  7. Give the custard mixture one last whisking before pouring it over the contents of the baking dish.
  8. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
  9. Once the dish has rested, pre-heat the oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  10. Remove the foil cover and place the baking dish in an even larger pan on the oven’s center rack.
  11. Pour hot water into the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the baking dish. Do not allow any water to get into the baking dish.
  12. Tent the larger pan with foil. Cut a few holes in the foil to vent any steam that may develop.
  13. After 30 minutes, remove the foil tent.
  14. Continue to bake the pudding until the custard is set and the top is browned — about 30 to 45 minutes.
  15. Pull from the oven, remove from the water bath, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  16. While the pudding rests, prepare the orange sauce.
    1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter, sugar, arancello, orange juice, and salt. Stir and heat until the sugar is melted and the sauce fully heated.
    2. In the bowl containing the beaten egg, stir the egg as a few tablespoons of the heated sauce is added. (This will temper the egg.)
    3. Once tempered, add the eggy mixture to the sauce, whisking all the while to prevent the egg becoming scrambled.
    4. Once fully incorporated, continue to whisk the sauce until it thickens — 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow to boil.
  17. Bring the bread pudding to the table and drizzle a little of the orange sauce atop each serving.

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Panettone Bread Pudding 4

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Notes

As mentioned earlier, no need to make a batch of arancello. Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored liqueur, may be substituted. For those with children or avoiding alcohol, substitute fresh orange juice for the liquor.

Add 1/4 tsp almond extract if using dried cherries instead of the cranberries

Cooking times may vary depending upon the depth and overall size of the baking dish.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Eggs in Purgatory X

If you liked today’s eggy dishes, how about another? Although we call it Eggs in Purgatory, Uova in Purgatorio, a number of nationalities have their own version and name for the dish. In its simplest form, eggs are cooked in tomato sauce and served. Sound easy? That’s because it is. You can read all about it when you click HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Eggplant Lasagna - Preview

This Year’s Birthday Dinner: Eggplant Lasagna

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End of the Harvest Hot Pepper Relish (GF)

hot-pepper-relish-5

This was not the best year for my garden. You already know about my zucchini troubles but those were only the beginning. My tomato plants, as well as those of my neighbors, just didn’t do well. Yes, I harvested cherry tomatoes but nowhere near as many as I have in prior years. The San Marzano tomatoes were no bigger than 1/4 of their normal size, while the Brandywine didn’t even bloom until mid-August.  I gladly yanked them out of the ground during the 1st week of October.

On the other hand, my eggplants did far better than I ever imagined and I have trays of eggplant lasagna in my freezer to prove it. I picked the last of the eggplant on about Halloween and sadly cleared those plants from the bed.

Left standing were the chile/pepper plants. They, too, produced a great deal right up until the morning of November 11th, when everything was picked from that raised bed but I held off pulling them because there were still peppers ripening. That morning, I took stock of this season’s pickled pepper inventory. There would be no more pepper pickling this year. Great! Now, what?

Well, I did what most of us do under similar circumstances. I called upon Mr. Google. First, I checked to see whether green peppers would be as hot as fully ripened red peppers. I was swamped with every reply imaginable. Yes, green peppers are just as hot. No, they’re much more mild. They’re the same but red — no, make that green — are sweeter. The only response I didn’t see was that young peppers were inedible or, worse yet, poisonous. So, I went searching for a recipe.

I chose today’s recipe because it was so simple to prepare and, best of all, I already had all the ingredients. There would be no mad dash to the grocery today! So, here’s the relish recipe that I followed. To prepare the peppers, all I did was remove the top of each, leaving the seeds and ribs intact. I did nothing to limit the heat of the relish. The result? One spicy relish but not so hot to ruin your palate midway through the meal. Perfect.

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hot-pepper-relish-1

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Hot Pepper Relish

Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs (1600 g) mix of cayennes, jalapeños, and cherry bomb peppers, tops trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1.5 tsp pickling salt
  • 3/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3/8 tsp yellow mustard seed
  • 3/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed

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hot-pepper-relish-3

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Directions

  1. Use a food processor to finely chop the peppers. (A knife may be used to dice them.)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil before simmering for a few minutes. Lower heat to keep liquid warm.
  3. Fill clean, sterile jars with the chopped chile mixture.
  4. Remove the garlic before adding the hot liquid to each jar, filling to 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) from the top.
    • If you like, strain the liquid before using to fill the jars
  5. Seal each jar until “finger tight”. (See Notes).
  6. Place in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Start the timer after the water returns to the boil.
  7. Remove from the bath and place atop a clean kitchen towel away from drafts. Do not disturb for 24 hours.
  8. Store on a shelf in a cool, dark place. Use within 1 year. (See Notes)

Based on the recipe, “Hellish” Hot Pepper Relish, by BKLaRue.

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hot-pepper-relish-6

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Notes

When dealing Large quantities of peppers and chiles, be sure to wear rubber gloves and do not touch your face as long as you’re wearing them. If you choose not to wear gloves and absent-mindedly rub an eye, I guarantee you’ll wear them next time.

This recipe resulted in 4 pints of relish but can be easily adjusted to suit the amount of peppers on-hand. Just be sure to maintain the relative amounts of the vinegars, sugars, and salt. The rest of the spices can be changed to suit your own tastes.

When preserving in jars, it is very important to seal the jars but not too tightly. “Finger tight” means to fully tighten the jar and then loosen it just a bit to allow for the contents to expand during processing in the hot water bath. Failure to do this may result in shattered jars. (Been there.)

Relish that has been properly preserved will last up to a year on a dark, cool shelf. Refrigerate after opening, however, and use within a few weeks.

You needn’t preserve the relish. If you prefer, it can be prepared as described and then refrigerated rather than being further processed in hot water. Be aware that relish stored in the fridge will remain good for a few weeks and not a year like its preserved counterparts. On the plus side, relish stored in the fridge will retain its vibrant colors and crispness.

  • Hot Pepper Quick RelishOur weather was most unseasonably warm when I wrote this post so I did not pull my pepper/chile plants right away. In fact, they remained until after the first killing frost during the early morning hours of November 20th. As a result, I had another batch of peppers to pick from which I made 2 half-pints of relish, though neither was processed and preserved. Call them a “Quick Relish.”, if you like but, whatever the name, è finito!

If you find that a jar has not sealed properly during processing, just store it in the fridge and use as you would a jar that you’ve opened.

For information regarding canning/preserving, please refer to the USDA Principles of Home Canning guide.

For information on preserving virtually any/all vegetables, fruit, and berries, be sure to check out the Pick Your Own website.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

honey-mustard-deja-vu

 

A few weeks ago, when I shared our recipe for Olio Santo, that post’s look back took you to our recipe for tomato ketchup. Well, with today’s recipe a relish, why not take a look back at one of the honey mustard recipes that I shared a couple of years ago? It’s a great little recipe and if you prepare gift baskets for the upcoming holidays, these 3 condiments make perfect additions to accompany the Olio Santo. You can see how we make honey mustard by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

red-snapper-preview

Dad’s Red Snapper

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Sweet Potatoes au Gratin (GF)

Sweet Potatoes au Gratin 4

When I look at most of my holiday dinners,  many are of the meat and potato variety. (OK, there’s more likely to be pasta or polenta on the table but they do start with a “p” and that should qualify them.)  Up until several years ago, those potatoes were either mashed or baked au gratin. That’s when I decided enough with the plain potatoes. Sorry, Idaho. Bring on the sweet potatoes!

Initially, I made them as I would my potatoes au gratin: with milk, Swiss cheese, and a little butter. Over time, I swapped out some of the ingredients and in the process these potatoes earned a standing invite to my holiday tables.

The recipe below is the latest version. Earlier editions included  pancetta, bacon, garlic, and/or nutmeg. Although I liked each, the individual flavors worked better with normal potatoes, their flavors being a bit too much for the sweet potatoes. You may feel that way about the onions used here. If too much for your tastes, substitute diced shallots in their place.

One more thing to remember. Do not bring these potatoes from the oven directly to the table for serving. They really do need to sit for no fewer than 10 minutes — 15 is better — so that they set. You want to serve creamy potatoes not a runny mess.

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Sweet Potatoes au Gratin 3

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Sweet Potatoes au Gratin Recipe

Ingredients

  • butter or cooking spray
  • about 1,5 lbs. (680 g) sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced (See Notes)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 to 6 oz (140 – 170 g) Gruyère cheese, grated  (Swiss, Fontina, or Emmental, among others, may be substituted)
  • 6 oz (118 ml) heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot (flour or cornstarch may be substituted)
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 c (25 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Pecorino Romano may be substituted)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Use cooking spray or a tab of butter to liberally grease an oven-proof baking dish.
  2. Make a slurry using 1/2 of the heavy cream and the arrowroot. Once thoroughly combined, add the remaining cream, stir, and set aside,
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C).
  4. Use 1/3 of the sliced sweet potatoes to create a layer covering the bottom of the baking dish,
  5. Cover that layer with 1/2 of the sliced onion.
  6. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Use 1/3 of the grated Gruyère to cover the onions and potatoes.
  8. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6. using all the remaining onion in the process.
  9. Use the last of the sweet potatoes to cover the dish’s contents.
  10. Stir the cream slurry before pouring it evenly over the top of the dish.
  11. Cover the dish with the remaining Gruyère.
  12. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  13. Dot the surface with the butter pieces.
  14. Sprinkle the grated Parmigiano Reggiano to evenly cover the entire dish.
  15. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until the potatoes are nicely browned.
  16. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

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sweet-potatoes-au-gratin-1

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Notes

I used a 9 inch (23 cm) square baking dish and the potatoes weren’t sliced too thinly. (.15 inches, 4 mm). More or less of the posted ingredients may be needed if the size of your baking dish differs appreciably from the one used here.

The recipe, as written, is gluten-free. If you haven’t arrowroot but wish to keep it GF, add an equal amount of cornstarch into the cream. Of course, if you and your guests have no issues with gluten, flour can be used as the thickening agent.

WIth its heavy cream, butter, and cheeses, this is not a low-calorie dish. (That’s why I only serve it on special occasions and holidays.) If you’re looking for something a little more waist and heart-friendly, hop on over to Fanny Reggiori’s blog, foodidies, where she recently posted a delicious, lighter sweet potato au gratin recipe. No matter the recipe you choose to prepare, you really cannot go wrong.

Since we’re talking healthy, which do you think is healthier, baking potatoes or sweet? Click HERE to find out. And if that kind of info floats you boat, go HERE to see a list of similar comparisons. Some of the results may surprise you.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

standing-rib-roast-deja-vu

Since we’re talking holidays, here’s a look back at the method I use to prepare standing rib roast every New Year’s Day. You can catch a glimpse of one in the first photo of this post.) It’s easy to prepare but much depends upon aging the roast in your fridge before cooking it. Interested? You can learn all about it HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

hot-pepper-relish-preview

Hot Pepper Relish

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Olio Santo – The Spicy Peperoncini Oil of Italy

Olio Santo 2

My last post was so recipe-laden that I thought it best to go easy with this one …

I was introduced to Olio Santo during my first visit to San Marino a little over 2 years ago. My cousin Maurizio offered to drizzle a bit of it on my linguine alla vongole, a dish Zia had prepared for me after I mentioned it was a favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the oil and was told that Zia made it and that it was very easy to do. After a brief explanation, I knew that I’d be making it once I got home. I have ever since.

Red peperoncini are grown throughout Southern Italy but primarily in Calabria and Basilicata, the toe and instep of the Italian boot. Come August, you can often see the peperoncini hanging in large bunches, drying in the hot Mediterranean sun. Across the south, their name often contains a reference to the devil – i.e., diavolett, diabulillu, diavulicchuirefers, etc. With that naming convention, it makes perfect sense that an oil made with them should be called holy or sacred. Olio Santo does, in fact, translate to Holy Oil. Yes, perfect sense.

Trying to find the origin of Olio Santo was not such an easy task. It seems that everyone from Calabria to Abruzzo (the region to the south of Le Marche), claims to be the origin of this spicy condiment. I’m not about to take sides. For me, Zia Pina is the creator of Olio Santo. You see, in Zia Pina I trust.

Zia uses dried red peperoncini from Calabria to make her Olio Santo. She grinds/chops the peperoncini, places them in a bottle, fills it with good quality olive oil, and caps it before setting the bottle in the sun for 3 days. After sunbathing, the bottle is stored in a cool, dark place for at least a week. Feel free to use it after that. (See Notes) It really is that simple and the recipe I’m about to share adds quantities to the ingredients just mentioned.

Although Zia uses Calabrese peperoncini, you may not be able to source them. For some time, I had a devil of a time finding them and eventually turned to Amazon. Of course, you needn’t go to such lengths but can easily use the more readily available chilies from this side of the Atlantic. I’ve used dried Chile do Arbol with a dash of red pepper flakes when peperoncini aren’t available. The preparations taste the same and affect the same area of the palate. I honestly doubt whether anyone would notice a difference.

Once made, use it as a finishing oil for just about any pasta dish to add a little zip to the plate. I’ve used it as a base for spaghetti aglio e olio, as well as a dipping oil for some crusty Italian bread. You may want to add a bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano to that plate, too. Remember the pinzimonio? A dash of Olio Santo to the dipping sauce will bring a bit of heat to your veggies. Make a batch of this flavorful oil and I think you’ll be surprised to see just how many uses you’ll find for it. And we’ll have Zia Pina to thank.

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Olio Santo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 oz dried Calabrese peperoncini
  • 1 quart (1 l) good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the dried peperoncini into a food processor and pulse until thoroughly chopped.
    1. Alternately: use a sharp knife to chop the dried peperoncini. Wear gloves to limit the risk of a burning eye.
  2. Place the chopped peperoncini into a clean & dry glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Add the olive oil, stir to combine, and place the lid on the jar.
  4. Once sealed, place the container into a sunny spot, where it will remain for 3 days.
  5. Once “cured”, place the jar into a cool, dark place for at least 1 week. (See Notes)
  6. Place the Olio Santo into bottles more suitable for serving. You can include some of the peperoncini bits in each jar, if you prefer. (See Notes)
  7. Olio Santo will keep for months, although it never lasts that long.

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Olio Santo 3

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Notes 

I stir the peperoncini in the oil several times while it sits both in the sun and in the dark. Not only will this ensure that all trapped air bubbles are released, I think it gives all the chopped peperoncini equal access to the oil.

I always include some chopped peperoncini in each serving bottle I fill from a batch of Olio Santo.  If you don’t wish to do so, just pass the oil through a mesh strainer as your fill the bottle.

Using a small ladle, I remove any bits and seeds that may float to the surface of my Olio Santo. If allowed to remain, they may block the bottle’s pourer, only to release at a most inopportune time.

Your Olio Santo will keep for 6 months, even longer if you continue to refill it with oil after you fill the serving bottle(s). Once soaked, however, I never allow the chopped peperoncini to be exposed to the air. When the level of oil in the bottle drops that low, either add more oil or toss that batch’s remnants. It’s easy enough to make a fresh batch.

Some prefer to keep the Olio Santo in the fridge. If you choose to do that, keep in mind that the olive oil will thicken considerably when cold. You can get around this by substituting a neutral-tasting vegetable oil for an equal amount of the olive oil, or, by removing the serving bottle from the fridge about 30 minutes before it’s needed.

There are other ways to prepare Olio Santo. Some use chopped, fresh peperoncini, while some recipes steep the peperoncini in heated — not boiling — oil. Never having tried any of them, I cannot say much more about them. I can say, however, that I’m sticking with Zia Pina.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Ketchup Look Back

One good condiment deserves another, eh? A few years ago I made my first batch of ketchup and haven’t bought a bottle since. It’s good enough to have earned a permanent spot in my Christmas gift baskets, too. Better still, it’s not just for fried potatoes or burgers, as I’ll prove in a soon-to-be shared meatloaf recipe. Take this LINK to see the recipe and then you’ll have no excuse for not being prepared to make a killer meatloaf in a few weeks.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

zucchini-blossoms-pasta-preview

Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms & Cream

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The Incredible Edible Eggplant

Eggplant Blossom

Such Promise

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It all started innocently enough, with a blossom identical to the one pictured above. I had learned my lesson well, or so I thought. See, last year’s 2 eggplants were just about smothered by my tomato plants. The tomatoes quite literally took over my then-new raised garden bed as if the soil had been smuggled out of Chernobyl. I picked only 1 eggplant and it was a Japanese variety, not at all what I had expected. This type of thing has happened enough times to convince me that there are people who delight in swapping name tags between differing varieties of the same vegetable. This spring’s cuckoo was a jalapeño masquerading as a cayenne pepper.

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Growing Up Eggplant

Growing Up Eggplant

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This year, I planted 3 eggplants with the conviction that I would keep my eye — and pruning shears — on the neighboring tomato plants. I won’t bore you with the details but I was partly successful, with two plants growing nicely. The 3rd, well, is now engulfed. All facts considered, I really cannot complain. The 2 remaining plants have managed to produce more of the bulb-shaped vegetables than I thought botanically possible. (I really must get that soil tested.) As a result, I’ve pulled out every eggplant recipe at my disposal in trying to stay ahead of these 2 overly productive plants.

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The Day's Eggplant Harvest

The 1st Eggplant Harvest 

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Here are the dishes that I’ve prepared thus far. I’ve supplied the recipe for the first dish and links for the rest, the exceptions being the eggplant lasagna and a pickled eggplant. Both of those recipes are in the works.

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Grilled Eggplant & Tomato

Grilled Eggplant & Tomato

Pre-heat the barbecue or grill pan. Slice the eggplant into approximately 3/4 inch (2 cm) rings. Cut the plum tomatoes in half, removing the seeds if you like. Use a pastry brush to sparingly coat the eggplant with olive oil. Lightly drizzle the tomato halves with olive oil and then season everything with salt and pepper. Giving the eggplant slices a head start, grill both vegetables until cooked to your satisfaction. Remove to a platter. Garnish the vegetables with a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, basil, and parsley. Season with salt & pepper before adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or Olio Santo (See Coming soon … ).

This vegetarian dish may be served hot, warm, or at room temperature, and will make a great light lunch or tasty side for any meal.

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Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

A favorite of Sicily, this eggplant & tomato sauce was created in honor of the Bellini opera of the same name. You needn’t travel to Sicily nor the nearest opera house to enjoy this dish, however. Just take this LINK to see the recipe that I posted.

The recipe calls for a garnish of ricotta salata. If you cannot find this cheese, crumbled feta is a great substitute and more readily available.

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Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Also originating in Sicily, caponata is another dish that celebrates the eggplant. Today, it is found throughout Italy with ingredients that often vary from region to region. I’ve shared Mom’s recipe, which you can find HERE.

Don’t forget to make more than needed. Add a few beaten eggs to the leftovers to make a tasty frittata the next day.

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Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

Grandma served this dish to her girls, Mom & Zia, when they were young. You can well-imagine my surprise when my Zia in San Marino also served stuffed eggplant during my recent visit. The recipe for this tasty contorno — and popular in both sides of my family —  can be found HERE.

Any of the stuffed vegetables in the linked recipe can be used to make a great tasting sandwich for your lunch the following day.

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Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant Lasagna

A layered dish, eggplant lasagna features pasta sheets, baked eggplant slices, and a tomato sauce, with or without meat. Oh! I almost forgot the cheeses. Asiago, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano combine to make this one flavorful main course.

True confession time: I had thought that I’d already published this recipe and was surprised to learn that I had yet to share it. Not to worry. That oversight will be corrected in the weeks to come.

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Jamie Oliver’s Pickled & Marinated Eggplant

Marinated Eggplant

Jamie has done it again. In his recipe, eggplant is chopped, bathed in a pickling liquid, and then marinated in herbed olive oil. Best of all, this same technique may be used with mushrooms, onions, small peppers, zucchini, and fennel, with each vegetable having its own suggested herb to include. You can check them all out by taking this LINK.

I did make one substitution to his recipe. In place of oregano, I used marjoram. For those unfamiliar, marjoram is related to oregano but is a bit more mild and is favored in Le Marche, the ancestral home of the Bartolini.

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Indian-Style Pickled Eggplant

Indian Pickled Eggplant - Preview

Looking for something with a bit more heat? Well, with my cayenne pepper plants competing with my eggplants for top honors, I went web surfing for recipes. With many to choose from, the final recipe is an amalgam, using ingredients that I had on-hand or that could be easily sourced. The result was a spicy dish that I really enjoy. Best of all, it’s reduced my eggplant AND cayenne pepper inventories. A bit too involved to be shared here — this post is long enough already — I’ll publish the final recipe in the weeks ahead.

This eggplant dish supplies the heat that Jamie’s pickle was missing.

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Baba Ganouj

Baba Ganouj 1

Can you detect which has been garnished with a drizzle of Olio Santo?

Although I’ve enjoyed baba ganouj far too many times to count, I’ve never actually prepared it, relying instead on one that I purchase from my favorite Middle Eastern grocery. Well, with a glut of eggplant filling my vegetable crisper, baba ganouj seemed like yet another great use of the melanzane and I sought help from the blog of our resident Middle Eastern food expert Sawsan, The Chef in Disguise. Her blog is brimming with delicious recipes and you can view her baba ganouj recipe HERE.

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And there you have it. This is my way of handling 2 incredibly productive eggplants. If you think I’ve eaten plenty of eggplant lately, well, you’d be correct — and you haven’t even seen the inside of my freezers. I’ll be enjoying(?) eggplant dishes for months to come.

If I’ve missed an eggplant dish that you’re particularly fond of, or, you prepare a tasty variation of one of the recipes that I’ve just highlighted, don’t be shy. Please share the recipe or link in the Comments section below. These plants just won’t quit!

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You may have noticed …

… My recent absence from the blogging world. This is Honey Time in Michigan’s Thumb and my Cousin and his Wife graciously offered to open Zia’s home so that I could get honey for my friends and neighbors. That’s the official explanation. In reality, my Cousin – aka “The Max Whisperer” – hadn’t seen Max in about a year and missed their “nature hikes”. In the photo above, the 2 BFFs are returning from their last hike of the visit. Also above is a photo of 2 of the 3 cases of the honey that I brought back. All told, our little group of honeycombers purchased about 6 cases of honey that day.

As luck would have it, my Cousin found a baseball-sized puffball growing in the yard. When picked 3 days later, it had grown to the size of a cantaloupe. As of this writing, I’ve yet to prepare it — but I will!

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is the one dish in my repertoire that I’ve yet to prepare using the current harvest. Having made 2 trays of eggplant lasagna – one of which is still in my freezer – I took a pass on eggplant parmesan. Who knows? If we don’t have a killing frost soon, I just may turn to eggplant parmesan to help me deal with this surplus. Worse things could happen. You can see the recipe that I’ll be following simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Olio Santo - Preview

Olio Santo

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If it’s Mid-Summer, it’s Time for Pinzimonio!

Pinzimonio 2

I remember this dish every year — but around Thanksgiving, long after the gardens have withered and the farmers markets have closed for the season. Sure, you can make this dish anytime but it’s best when the vegetables are freshly picked. So, what is pinzimonio?

It’s a variety of fresh vegetables served raw with a side dressing of olive oil and vinegar that’s seasoned simply with salt and pepper. (Yes, that’s crudités but I hesitate to bring a third language into the discussion.)  It’s easy enough to prepare and a great way to take advantage of summer’s bounty.

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Pinzimonio 1

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When I was a boy, Mom would serve pinzimonio just about every Sunday starting in July, when the first of our garden’s crop ripened. As we gathered for dinner, there would be a platter of cut, raw vegetables in the center of the table waiting for us. You might find bell peppers, fennel, celery, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and scallions, along with whatever caught Dad’s eye when he took Sis & I to the grocery that morning. Rounding out the antipasti/insalati, she’d also serve a platter of freshly picked, sliced tomatoes (See Déjà Vu).  But wait! There’s more.

At each of our places at the table, Mom would have a ramekin with our own dipping sauce which she would cater to our age and preference. All contained oil and red wine vinegar but those for Sis and I, being the youngest, contained just a touch of salt & pepper. My brother, being so very much older (this is one way to see if my siblings read the blog), was allowed more salt and pepper in his dipping sauce. Mom, having a life-long aversion to pepper, gave herself barely a few pepper flakes with the salt in her ramekin. Dad had no such issues and you could see a thick layer of salt with another of pepper covering the bottom of his little dish. Each of us helped ourselves to whatever we wanted on the platter and dipped it into our own ramekins. No need to pass this or that and, best of all, we could double, triple, or even quadruple dip without so much as a raised eyebrow from Mom.

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Pinzimonio 3

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Now, as for a recipe, well, I’ve pretty much explained the dish already. Gather together any fresh vegetable that you would serve dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing. Clean and trim each in such a way to accommodate their serving and arrange them on a platter. Next, place oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in ramekins or small dishes, one per place setting. Although Mom always used red wine vinegar, I’ve used balsamic and loved it.

No matter the vinegar used, you’ll find that pinzimonio is a great way to take advantage of the bounty of summer, while adding more vegetables to your diet. Not only that but if, like me, you have meatless days, pinzimonio makes a great lunch or dinner, especially when summer’s heat renders the stove off-limits.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Tomato Antipasti - Deja Vu

I could hardly write about pinzimonio without offering you the link to Mom’s Tomato Antipasti. This time of year, both dishes were usually served side-by-side, much to the delight of all seated at that table. Best of all, it’s an easy dish to prepare and, like pinzimonio, no stove is required. Here’s the LINK to one of my family’s favorite summertime antipasti.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Squash with Seafood Preview

Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Seafood

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Our Italian Holiday

This being such a short post, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity and share a bit of our holiday last spring.

Bologna

My trip began in Bologna, a wonderful town with an incredible history. It is home to the world’s oldest continuously operating university and the center of what many believe to be the heart of Italian cuisine. With my nephew arriving the next day, I had barely enough time to check into my room, take a walk, break my camera, have a great dinner, and get lost on my way back to the hotel. Yes, you read that correctly. My camera was out of commission for the entire trip. Let me apologize now for the quality of the pics to follow. Truth be told, I hadn’t planned on posting many because most would be very similar to those posted 2 years ago. Even so, it would have been nice to have had a good camera with me.

Many of Bologna’s walks are covered and the “pavement” is marble. The city is meant for the casual promenade. Besides several churches and the university, there are a number of sites to see: the Two Towers, the Piazza Maggiore (site of my camera’s untimely demise), the statue of Neptune, and of course, my prosciutto store, La Prosciutteria. How I love that place!!!  Here are a few photos. Click on any one to see a full description.

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That day ended with one of the best restaurant meals that I was served.

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The Republic of San Marino

My nephew’s plane arrived on time and soon we were on our way to San Marino, where Zia Pina greeted us with open arms, Waiting with her was her grand-daughter & husband, and the newest member of our the family, the soon to be one-year-old Viola. Zia is a wonderful cook and the highlight was when she served cappelletti for the entire family. This just so happens to by my nephew’s favorite dish and one he hasn’t enjoyed since his Grandma, my Mom, passed away 14 years ago. The following day, she took us both for a tour of the city of San Marino, and the seat of the republic’s government atop Mt. Titano. The next day, Sunday, we attended a mass that Zia had arranged to honor our family’s departed. Afterward, we re-assembled at a restaurant In Riccione, on the Adriatic shore, for a fantastic seafood feast. I would go back there in a heartbeat! Here are just a few of those photos.

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Venice

Before leaving San Marino, my nephew and I “kidnapped” a young cousin for a day trip to Venice and Murano Island. It was a chilly day with showers, so, we timed our lunch and a caffè for the worst spells — or so we tried. Although we knew it was the Italian Liberation Day holiday, we didn’t know that it was also St. Mark’s feast day, he being the Patron Saint of Venice. We learned of our oversight upon setting foot upon St. Mark’s Square. Even so, we had to keep moving and, after a water taxi ride to Murano Island for a bit of souvenir shopping, we ended our day with a fine supper. Then it was a dash across Venice for a train ride back to Rimini where a cousin would take us to Zia’s. (I won’t mention that our arrival was delayed because we missed our train and, consequently, were stowaways on the next.) Thankfully, our “chauffeur” was very kind and waited patiently for our eventual arrival. These next photos are by committee. Oddly enough, each of our phones, ran out of power as we traversed Venice. Mine was the first to go, only to miraculously revive — its vibrating giving me quite a start — on the train as we approached the station in Rimini.

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Don’t let the blue skies fool you. We were drenched by the time we reached the piazza and there wasn’t a soul seated in any of the cafés that encircle it.

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Rome

The next morning, my nephew and I boarded a train bound for Rome, with Zia and 2 cousins accompanying us. What fun! Our flat was about 100 yards from the Pantheon and once we settled in, we were off for a little sightseeing around the Piazza Navona. That night, we enjoyed a fine dinner in celebration of my nephew’s graduation and, as we soon learned, my cousin’s wedding anniversary. The next morning, we walked to the Vatican to meet another cousin and her husband. Unable to get into the Vatican because the Pope was awaiting a diplomat, we took taxis to the Colosseum, stopping along the way for lunch. Well, by the time we made it to the Colosseum, it was far too crowded with tourists to enter. We headed back to the flat, said our goodbyes, and our cousins headed to the train station for their ride back to San Marino. Alone now, with only 2 days left, we planned the rest of our stay. We would spend one morning revisiting the Colosseum, with the Vatican occupying the second. The afternoons would be spent seeing everything on his “must see” list, as well as a couple of sites that I tossed into the mix. Of course, a fantastic meal would end each day.

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Corinaldo

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was time for us to part company. My nephew returned home but a few weeks earlier I had decided to extend my holiday. I wanted to take a few days to visit Corinaldo, the Bartolini ancestral home. So, as my nephew boarded a plane, I caught a train to Ancona, where I rented a car for the drive to Corinaldo. It’s a quaint little village nestled in rolling hills. The very center of the town is totally encircled by walls that were built during the 1300s. Unlike similar towns in Italy, these walls have been maintained and are in excellent condition. There is but one entrance and one exit, the knowledge of which might have saved me the hour I spent circling the area, not to mention one ill-fated attempt of entering through the exit. (Ah! The joys of travel.) Once situated, my flat was quite nice with a terrace facing west and I was anxious to watch the sun set over the Italian countryside. Well, that was the plan but the clouds had made previous reservations, apparently, and I never did see a sunset. No worries. I still enjoyed my time there, walking from one end of the village to the other — make that “carefully walking”. It rained intermittently and the cobblestone streets are quite narrow. I rushed for a doorway or hugged a wall whenever I heard a car approach. Luckily, that didn’t happen very often. There is no rush hour in downtown Corinaldo. There is, however, a great little restaurant on The Stairs and they served me my final meal in my Grandparents’ hometown.

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Terrace view

The terrace view

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Fiumicino

I left the next morning taking a route to Ancona that would allow me to travel along the Adriatic coast for a spell. To get to the coast, I travelled along narrow roads that carried me over the hills, through the beautiful Marche countryside. I dropped off the car and made my way to the train station. With an early morning flight, my destination would be Fiumicino, a small town about 30 km outside of Rome and home to the city’s international airport. Lucky for me, there was a wonderful restaurant just down the street from my hotel. My holiday ended with one last fantastic meal, albeit a filling one.

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Along the way to Fiumincino during the last train ride.

Along the way to Fiumincino during the last train ride.

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One thing more

Unbeknownst to me, I spent my holiday walking with a stress fracture of my left ankle. It had bothered me before I left but I made a variety of excuses about it. In fact, even upon coming home, the excuses continued. Finally, about a week later, I decided to have it checked and I was given this fancy boot to wear for the next 4 weeks. WIth the boot now gone, I am happy to say that things are back to normal, whatever that means.

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Stress Fracture

You won’t find this at Ferragamo’s.

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Our holiday was memorable in so many ways, and during the course of which, my now-adult nephew and I became re-acquainted. We were treated royally, with our family members freeing up their schedules so that they could spend as much time with us as possible. I’ve read that when we put to paper an objective, the odds of accomplishing it increase by 40%. With that in mind, I do not know how or when but I will be returning to San Marino. I must. I’ve promised to kidnap another cousin for a day trip somewhere.

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Break Out the Pasta Machine! Today We’re Making Corzetti.

Corzetti Fatte in Casa

Yes, the Kitchens are open once again! I’ve decided to go ahead and publish a recipe that I had planned to post upon my return from San Marino in May. It involves a gift I brought to my “Zia P” in San Marino — but I’m getting ahead of myself …

Corzetti pasta has a long lineage. According to one legend, the pasta disks originated in 13th century Liguria and were intended to mimic gold coins of the Crusades era. The word corzetti, in fact, is said to be derived from the image of the Cross that some coins bore. Over the years, the disks had less to do with coins as they became symbols for wealthy Genovese families who often stamped them with their family crests and served them to their dinner guests. Today, the stamps are made with a variety of designs. If you’re lucky enough to find a craftsman, you can have them made to order with the stamp of your choosing.  This is where I come in.

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Corzetti Pasta 7

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Several months ago, once my trip to Italy was assured, I began to look for a gift to bring my Zia P in San Marino. You don’t arrive at your host’s door empty-handed. Mom said so. I was browsing Etsy when I stumbled upon a woodworking site,TheWoodGrainGallery, owned and operated by Johanna and Brian Haack. Here you can find wood carvings and engravings of all kinds. Have something particular in mind? They’ll do their best to accommodate you.

Not only do the make corzetti but they’ll custom make a stamp for you. Wishing to bring something unique to my Zia, I contacted the wood shop with my design. Within hours I received a mock-up to approve. Once they received my approval, the custom stamps — I ordered 2 — were in my hands within days and I couldn’t be more pleased.

S. Marino Coat of Arms

Source: Wikipedia

So what design did I choose? Well, I did some checking and my family crest changed with each website I queried, leaving me doubt the veracity of each.  Besides, isn’t the fact that our ancestors survived far more important than whether they brought a coat of arms with them?  So, after that reality check, I looked to San Marino for inspiration. At the very center of the tiny republic, atop Monte Titano, is a fortress which contains 3 main towers. These towers are represented in the Republic’s coat of arms. I could think of no better design for our corzetti stamps than this coat of arms.

Each stamp has 2 parts that perform the 3 functions needed to create the pasta disks. The base is two-sided. One is used to create the round pasta disks and the other creates the design on their backside. The remaining part is the actual stamp. These 2 pieces will ensure that every pasta disk is identical and imprinted on both sides. This is important because the raised patterns will help your sauce cling to each pasta disk. When it comes to pasta, the Italians have thought of everything!

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Corzetti Stamp 1

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Today’s post is more tutorial than recipe. So, let’s get started. To begin, as I’ve done with almost all homemade pasta posts, make a batch of Mom’s Pasta Dough. Her recipe will produce about 1.5 pounds of dough but can easily be halved should you find that to be too much dough. By whatever means you prefer, roll the dough but not quite as thin as you would for, say, linguine. You want the sheets to be thick enough to see the imprint but not so thick that you’re eating pasta pancakes. (See Notes)

Spread the dough sheet across your work surface and, using the bottom of the stamp set, cut circles in the sheet. Pull away the excess and reserve. It can be combined with the remaining dough and re-rolled.

One at a time, place a dough circle on the other side of the stamp base and, using the stamp, press the dough circle. A pasta disk with both sides imprinted will result. Place on a lightly floured surface. Work quickly. The more the dough sheet dries, the harder it will be to imprint the design.

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(Click on any image to see the photos enlarged.)

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If you’re not going to cook them immediately, there are a few ways to store them. If you’re going to use them within an hour or two, cover them with a clean kitchen towel until needed. Cover and refrigerate them if you intend to cook them that evening. Longer than that, place them in a single layer of baking sheets and either freeze them or allow them to dry. Once frozen or completely dry, store in airtight containers. Return the frozen corzetti to the freezer.

Once made, the only question that remains is how to dress them. Well, I chose to dress my corzetti with Pesto Genovese. (When in Genoa …) You can just as easily dress your pasta with a meat sauce, brown butter sauce, or the traditional walnut sauce. I wouldn’t suggest a cream sauce, however, because that is better used to dress the ribbon pastas — i.e., fettuccine, and the like. Not so fast, however, if there are photos to be taken.

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Corzetti with Pesto

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Attempting to photograph the finished dish proved to be the hardest part of this post. Directly above, are photos of corzetti dressed with Pesto Genovese (l) and Pesto Trapanese (r). What little of the stamped imprint shown through the pesto was completely obliterated by the obligatory “sprinkling” of cheese. My third attempt, and the dish that was featured, is corzetti dressed with a sauce of cherry tomatoes quickly sautéed with garlic and anchovies in butter and olive oil, and seasoned with red pepper flakes. Best of all, the anchovies meant that I received a cheese dispensation and so none was used. Not only did the finished dish prove to be photogenic, it was damn tasty, too!

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Corzetti Pasta 6

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Notes

My pasta rollers are at their widest when set to 1. I’ve found that the best corzetti are made when the dough is rolled to no more than the 5 setting. More than that and the dough is too thin to create a good image from the stamp. Worse yet, in my experiments, disks cut too thin cracked and broke into pieces as they dried. Although you will get a better image with a setting of 4 or less, the pasta disks will be too thick, at least for my tastes. I’ve found a setting of 5 makes dough that is corzetti perfect.

There is no Bartolini walnut sauce recipe to draw upon for this recipe, so, I chose to use another. If you’re interested, there are many walnut sauce recipes on the web.

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Please note that I received no compensation of any form from TheWoodGrainGallery. I paid for the corzetti stamps before requesting permission to use their business’s name in this post.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Agnolotti Served X

It’s already been a year since I last shared directions for making a pasta. That post detailed how to make agnolotti using a filling that a very generous Sous Chef in Bologna shared with me. Since I’ve just returned from my trip to Italy, I thought now would be a good time to revisit that post.  You can read it just by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Soft Shell Crab Po' Boy Preview

Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boys

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The Spiralizer Chronicles, Chapter 1: Zucchini “Noodles” with Walnut Pesto

Like many, several weeks before the holidays each year I make a list and budget for the gifts I intend to buy for family and friends. (Sorry, but there’s something seriously wrong with people who proudly declare that their shopping is done on September 1st.) At the very top of my list is the same name each and every year. That name is mine. Most years, I buy myself a gift before buying anyone anything. You want to get into the Christmas spirit? Buy yourself a gift first thing. Works like a charm.

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Zucchini Pesto Pasta 6

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This year I really didn’t know what to buy myself. I had just survived a rather expensive period and didn’t want to splurge on anything major. I had seen a spiralizer attachment for my stand mixer but it seemed a little expensive and I wondered if I’d really use it. The internal debate ended when the piece of equipment was on sale for 25% off with free shipping. It wasn’t long thereafter that it arrived and, well, it was love at first sight. We’ve   been happily at work together ever since.

Before getting into today’s dish, understand that hand-cranked spiralizers are available and can easily be found on the internet. I’ve no experience with any of them but I do enjoy using my stand mixer’s attachment. In less than 10 minutes I have a large bowl of vegetable noodles and the removable parts can safely be washed in the dishwasher. All of its parts fit into a form-fitting box that can be easily stored on a shelf or in a cupboard. In short, I like it far more than I thought I would.

Though I’ve tried several recipes, we’ll start with the simplest of dishes, Zucchini Noodles  with Pesto.

To begin, make your pesto. If you haven’t a recipe, you can check out my recipe for Pesto Genovese. In today’s recipe, not wishing to pay the exorbitant prices for imported Italian pine nuts, I used an equal amount of roasted walnuts instead. I saved a few more for garnish, as well. I also use less oil than most recommend and that will affect things later in the recipe.

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Zucchini Pasta Combo

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With the pesto made, now turn your attention to the zucchini. I’ve found that it’s best to buy squash that are as straight as possible and medium-sized. The instructions for my spiralizer recommend using pieces of vegetable that are about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, although I’ve used lengths a little more than that. There’s no need to peel the squash so you should pick vegetables with relatively unblemished skins. I’ve used both yellow squash and green zucchini but, to tell you the truth, it’s not easy to tell which is which in the finished dish, especially when dressed with pesto.

All that’s left to do now is to assemble your dish. First, take a handful of halved cherry/grape tomatoes and toss them into the bowl of noodles. Since my pesto is thicker than most, I sprinkle a little olive oil – about 1 tablespoon – over the bowl’s contents and gently toss until evenly coated. Now all that’s needed is the pesto. Add as much as you would to any pasta dish but, initially, it’s better to add less pesto than you think necessary. More can always be added but there’s nothing to be done once too much pesto has been added to a dish.

Prior to bringing the bowl to the table, garnish with the reserved toasted walnuts and some grated Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted, as can grated vegan cheese, depending upon what was used to prepare the pesto).

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Zucchini Pesto Pasta 3

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This dish could not be easier to prepare and if you’ve pesto on-hand, it can be prepared and served from the same bowl. As one who lives alone, I cannot tell you how very appealing that latter statement is. From kitchen to sofa in 15 minutes, with a clean kitchen in 5 minutes more. Hard to beat that!

Cooking some spiralizer noodles can result in quite a bit of excess water in the pan. I avoided the problem here by using raw zucchini noodles. In some instances, baking the noodles will help to rid the noodles of the excess water, as will sautéing so long as the pan remains uncovered. To be sure, this issue will resurface in future recipes.

Oh! One last thing to consider. 1 ounce (28 g) of raw zucchini with the skin has about 5 calories and 1 gram of carbs. Compare that to 1 oz of dry spaghetti which has about 126 calories and 24.5 grams of carbs. And that, my friends, is about as close to a negative comment about pasta that you’ll ever get from me — unless it’s over-cooked.

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We’ve only just begun …

In the weeks and months ahead, be sure to come back to see how this love affair continues. Beets, squash, (sweet) potatoes, zucchini, and apples are but a few of the ingredients to be transformed into salads, “noodles”, and casseroles.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Zucchini Penne

Admittedly, vegetarian main courses aren’t everyday occurrences on this blog. Since one such recipe was shared today, why not send you back for another, Jamie Oliver’s Zucchini and Penne? Unlike today’s gluten-free noodles, however, Jamie’s dish combines real penne and a close facsimile, smartly cut zucchini. It’s another great dish and one that you can find simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Spaghetti alla Gricia Preview

Spaghetti alla Gricia

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Mom’s Strawberry-Banana Pie

Strawberry Pie 1

I really cannot explain why this recipe was overlooked for so long. Granted, it wasn’t one that Mom prepared frequently — we were a strawberry shortcake family — but she did make this pie at least once a year. And how I loved it! I was walking around the farmers market, looking at all the fresh strawberries, when I remembered this treat. After buying a quart of strawberries, I rushed home, stopping along the way at a grocery to buy the rest of the ingredients. It wasn’t very much later that I had a strawberry-banana pie chilling in my fridge. A few weeks more and I prepared another while visiting Zia. Now, several months later and with my birthday looming in the near future (it’s Sunday, you know), I thought this the perfect time to share the recipe for Mom’s strawberry banana pie — and my personal favorite. Happy birthday to me!

The recipe I’m sharing is memory-based, for there is nothing written to follow. As you’ll soon see, however, the recipe is easy enough to reconstruct, although I did make a couple of changes. In the first place, I believe Mom used a pudding mix — sometimes vanilla, other times banana — and I do not recall her make pudding from scratch for this pie. The recipe I initially followed was printed in the recipe book that came with my first microwave, bought after I moved to Chicago in 1980. Never throw away a cookbook.

Then again, there are times when maybe you should toss a cookbook. When I prepared its vanilla pudding recipe, it was far too thick and not nearly as creamy as remembered and, therefore, not worthy of Mom’s pie. So, I made a couple of adjustments. I cut the amount of cornstarch, used 3 egg yolks instead of 2 whole eggs, and used less vanilla. The result was a pudding fit for Mom’s pie, just thick enough not to be runny yet creamy enough to wash over your palate. I, like the pudding, was all set.

I could not recall what, if any, glaze Mom used with the strawberry topping. I chose strawberry flavored gelatin, thinking it would both set the berries in place and prolong their shelf life. I did consider making the pie without the strawberry topping, using fresh berries to garnish each piece when served. If you prefer to do that, you should cover the pie with plastic wrap to prevent a film forming on the pudding.

It’s my idea to add a thin coating of chocolate to the pie crust. Living alone, my pie will not “disappear” as quickly as Mom’s did. The chocolate coating will prevent the pie crust from getting soggy as the pie sits. (I can say, with some certainty, that from my earliest days I have never liked a soggy bottom.)

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Strawberrhy Banana Pie

Dessert at Zia’s

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Strawberry-Banana Pie Recipe

Ingredients

for the pie

  • 1 pastry crust large enough to cover a deep, 9″ (23 cm) pie dish – store-bought may be substituted
  • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • vanilla pudding, recipe follows
  • 12 oz (340 g) fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and halved or sliced
  • strawberry flavored gelatin, instructions follow
  • whipping cream for serving
  • shaved chocolate for garnish (optional)

for the vanilla pudding

  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

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Directions

to prepare the vanilla pudding

  1. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt before adding ½ cup of milk. Continue whisking until fully combined.
  2. Add remaining milk and microwave on high for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pudding should be smooth and thick.
  3. Temper the eggs by adding a few ounces of the hot liquid to the eggs, stirring all the while. Begin stirring the hot liquid as you add the egg mixture to it.
  4. Microwave on high until the pudding just begins to boil, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the butter and vanilla to the pudding, stir well, cover with plastic wrap (see Notes), and set aside to cool.

to prepare the pie crust

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450˚ F (230˚ C).
  2. Use whatever type of pasty crust that you prefer — homemade or store-bought — and use it to cover a deep, 9 inch (23 cm) pie plate/pan.
  3. Use a fork to puncture the pie crust before baking for 10 to 12 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Crust should be golden brown. Remove to cool.
  4. Once the crust has cooled somewhat, melt the chocolate chips and warm the milk.
  5. Add the milk to the melted chocolate and whisk to create a ganache (see Notes.)
  6. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the bottom of the pie crust with the melted chocolate.

to prepare the gelatin

  1. Follow the package directions to quickly prepare the gelatin using both boiling water and ice cubes.
  2. Once the gelatin is dissolved and the ice cubes have melted, add the halved/sliced strawberries and gently stir.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

to assemble the pie

  1. Once the pie crust has set and the chocolate coating hardened, coat the chocolate with a bit of pudding.
  2. Evenly space the sliced bananas across the pie’s bottom.
  3. Use as much pudding as is necessary to coat the sliced bananas. Be sure to leave room on top of the pudding for the strawberries. Use an offset spatula to even the top of the pudding.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to place the strawberries atop the pudding. Carefully pour the gelatin to cover the pudding and coat the strawberries.
    • Place excess gelatin and strawberries into serving bowls. Once set they may be served to those poor unfortunates who do not like pie.
  5. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the pie fully set. The longer the better.
  6. Serve garnished with freshly whipped cream and shaved chocolate (optional).

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Strawberry Banana Pie 6

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Notes

You can make this pie any number of ways, from the very simple — use store-bought pastry and instant pudding mix — to the more involved — make your own pastry, pudding, and strawberry glaze. No matter how you choose to prepare it, you’ll find this pie makes a fine dessert.

I bet that a few of you gasped and clutched your pearls when you read that I had prepared the pudding in the microwave. Release the pearls! Martha Stewart’s vanilla pudding recipe is a good one and is prepared in a more traditional way.

Whatever type of pudding you prepare, be sure it is on the firm side so that the pie doesn’t collapse as the runny pudding fills the empty place left when you serve a piece of the pie.

Although I like the chocolate coating for the pie’s crust, you’ll create new problems if the chocolate is rock-hard when solid. Remember you’ll have to cut through it to serve the pie. Use enough milk to make a ganache that will stiffen without getting too hard. Either that or make the chocolate coating as thin as possible.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Blueberry-Lemon Slice copy

Since today’s recipe was a dessert, why not end this post with another? This Blueberry-Lemon Slice is the perfect combination of tart and sweet and not at all difficult to prepare. It’s also a tasty way to use some of those blueberries if, like me, you freeze a couple quarts every summer. You will see the recipe when you click HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Zucchini Pesto Pasta Preview

Zucchini “Noodles” with Walnut Pesto

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