All posts filed under: Italy

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Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

A lump of salt cod (baccalà) just might be everything. To use the tough, leathery fillet – more hide than flesh – the cod must first be soaked in fresh clean water. Gradually the salt leaks into the water and clouds it. A change of water, then more salt comes out. Several more water changes. A couple of days go by. The cod becomes soft. Mild. Tender. Italians know: these steps cannot be skipped or the meal will be ruined. I find myself sifting around for meaning this year. Did you notice that Christmas came with Halloween and Thanksgiving was just a speed bump on the road to black Friday (which actually began before the dishes were done or the meal had settled)?  With all the fuss happening earlier and earlier in the year, the excitement of Christmas feels dilute. But as I sit with this idea, restless in my desire to make the holidays special, I realize dilution – as with salt cod – can be a benefit. As the holiday season leeches into the stores earlier, becoming increasingly consumer-based, it …

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Homemade Balsamic Figs | Entertaining the Italian way

A daydream worth dreaming

Cobblestone alleys flanked by weathered walls. Hilltop churches. Sunlight warm on fig trees and grapevines.  This is the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Deep in the cellars there’s Parmesan, balsamic, and prosciutto aging. They slumber in the dim recesses, the nuttiness and salt growing bolder, rounder. Waiting for the perfect moment to shine.

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Go Global with 8 Edible Hiding Spots for your Easter Eggs

An Easter Tradition Easter Eggs are a thing in our house. We dye them. We decorate them. We gobble them up in two’s (it’s funny how a purple or green shell can make an ordinary egg taste eggstraordinary). When I was little Mom hid these boiled treats in the yard and, after we found them we ate them, still-warm from the sun. Today plastic eggs have taken over – probably because of one too many tummy aches after an overly hot Easter. But the kids don’t seem to notice; they scramble to collect these plastic shells, cracking them open to reveal stickers, coins, and candy. Each year the plastic eggs become more elaborate. Now they aren’t simply eggs, they’re monkeys or giraffes, baseballs or footballs. It’s fun, yes, but also starting to feel a bit… gimmicky. In the spirit of getting back to basics – to those real Easter Eggs of my childhood, I considered safe ways I could “hide” eggs for my daughter to find. Since it was 84F last week I knew the back yard …

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Monday Meal Review: Italy

THE SCENE Many things about Italian cooking involve family. Sharing. Loud conversations while laughing over nothing. But this is not always the case. For example, I waited an entire week to tell Keith ….  a.k.a. Mr Picky … a.k.a. the man with the most hypochondria ever… about the eggs. The raw eggs. In the tiramisu. It was mama’s lil’ family secret all week long. Hear me out – my logic was sound. First of all, I’d made the thing three times. Each time, it became exponentially more fabulous.  My friends at the Girl Scouts practically swooned over the second version – I think the word used was “Luscious” – with a capital L. The third version made our friends Alan and Michelle weep. Well, maybe not weep.  But eyes did roll. And thirds were administered to already full bellies. Right before bedtime. The night before a 6 am fishing trip. Considering the tirimisu contained enough espresso and rum to jump start an entire marching band, this was a miracle of miracles. Anyway – back to Keith and the …

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Tiramisu

Makes one large trifle (Serves at least 8) Your day was hard. Maybe you have a party coming up. Or you are out of ice cream. Perhaps your favorite DVD  got scratched. Or your 20 lb cat left a 1lb hairball on your favorite sweater. I have the answer for everything: make tiramisu. Trust me. After a hard day, tiramisu is easy. It’s the perfect dessert for fancy parties and casual parties. Plus, you won’t ever crave ice cream again. Well… not while tiramisu is hanging out in your fridge. After one taste, you’ll be so in love that you won’t care about the DVD or  the sweater. It’s just stuff, after all. Tiramisu, however, is glory on a spoon. Glory that you can scoop up at midnight, when no one is looking. Plus I have a few little secrets that’ll make it the prettiest tiramisu you’ve ever seen (or tasted). NOTE: Please start this recipe the night before you need it. Also, you can make caster sugar (aka fine sugar) by putting some in a …

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Homemade Pasta Dough

Makes 1 large batch. Enough for at least 150 standard ravioli & more noodles than you know what to do with. Slap. Roll, roll, roll, roll. Slap! My great grandmother, Assunta, made pasta dough with the strength of a hundred Italian sailors. Mom, just a kid then, was not allowed to touch. Instead she was told to sit quietly and watch. She remembers how, as Assunta rolled the dough thinner and thinner, it gradually swallowed up the table and heavy oil cloth covering. Eventually, all you could see was the giant sheet of dough – thin enough for spaghetti, linguine, tortellini or – as was typically the case – ravioli. I’ll tell you right now… The secret is in the slap. By occasionally slapping the dough down onto the table, the gluten relaxes, making it easier to roll out without springing back. That and generously dusting the dough as you go. Ingredients: 5 cups flour 4 large eggs water (about 1/3 cup, or as needed) Method: Find yourself a lovely Italian villa with an outrageously …

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Italian Stuffed Artichokes

As far as I’m concerned there’s only one way to enjoy a movie: cuddled up to a plate of stuffed artichokes. I’ve already managed to brainwash the rest of the clan into agreement. I started young with Ava – at 10 months old she became enamored when I found one the size of her head. Today – at just two years old – she’s an artichoke eatin’ pro. To enjoy your next movie with an artichoke, you just need three accessories: a giant bowl for the discarded leaves, napkins, and a small bowl of melted butter with fresh lemon juice squeezed in, if you like that sort of thing. My husband doesn’t…I do… So we have separate dipping bowls. This recipe has been passed down in my family for generations – although everyone makes it different. Mom actually never wrote her version down, so I had to watch and try to memorize her steps. Lucky for me, it’s really easy – just stir everything together, pile onto the trimmed artichoke, steam for 45 minutes-1 hour and enjoy. …

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Alfred’s Pork Ravioli

Makes enough filling for at least 150 standard ravioli I have fond memories of curling up on the basement stairs, hanging over the railing, watching my great-great, very distant I’m-not-quite-sure-how-we’re-related cousin, Alfred, make ravioli. I’ll never forget the way the ravioli rolling pin zipped out dozens of ravioli in a heartbeat. Alfred lived to 103 and I attribute that partly to the fact that he continued making ravioli two-three times a year, well into his nineties. He’d make a few hundred at a time, spreading out the work over several days (you can read his letter below to see exactly what he did). Here’s my recommendation: Day one: Eat pork chops for dinner. Save leftovers. Day two: Make the dough and filling. Refrigerate. Day three: Roll the dough and make the ravioli. Dry overnight, turning once. Day four: Freeze. Ingredients: 3 bone-in pork chops, grilled and cooled 1 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted 4 large eggs 1 cup plain breadcrumbs 1 cup Parmesan 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 1/2 tsp pepper 1/4 cup whole milk 1/4 cup …

Ava-Eats-Italy

Menu: Italy

This week I can shut my eyes and dream my way to Italy.  All I need is to dust my hands with flour, slap around some pasta dough, and fill the house with the scent of steamed artichoke. In an instant, I’m there. Just knowing that I’m making recipes that my family has made for hundreds of years (in some form or another), brings a smile to my face – it’s like a mini vacation from the unknown so common in this adventure. Then, as I watch Ava help me cook and enjoy the food, my heart triples in size because I know – the recipes will live on. What sounds good to you? Homemade Pasta Dough [Recipe] This dough is soft, like a baby’s bottom – made with nothing more than flour, eggs, and a splash of water.  The secret is to let it rest before trying to roll it out. That and slapping it around a lot. Seriously. Alfred’s Pork Ravioli [Recipe] Alfred lived to 103. He kept himself young by making these pork ravioli …

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About the Food of Italy

Mom proudly calls the Italian side of our family peasants. The old-fashioned word makes me laugh, but she insists that’s exactly what they were. They weren’t nobility. They weren’t merchants. They were peasants. Farmers, if you will. More specifically, they worked the mushroom fields in Cicagna, Italy – a bumpkin-sized town near Genoa. From what I understand, our family left behind a mountainside villa and acres of mushrooms for a passport to Ellis Island. In their absence, my great-grandparents allowed a family to stay at the villa for free, as long as they worked the fields and shipped mushrooms to them, in United States, every so often. After thirty years without a visit and some political mumbo jumbo, the villa automatically transferred to the renters. Lost. And so, too – decades before I was born – my dream of living in an Italian mountainside villa was lost. Still, mom made sure I was thoroughly steeped in our Italian heritage – going so far as to give me my grandmother, Dorothea’s, maiden name – Foppiano. And what a pretty name …