Italian

Winter Squash recipe from Lidia's Italy new website

I'm always wondering what to do with all that winter squash. 

It's delicious and nutritious, but I find it a difficult vegetable to get excited about - as an ingredient any way.

There's only so much Roasted Winter Squash Soup you can eat.  And I can only do so much stuffed winter squash. 

So when I jumped over to check out Lidia's newly launched website, I was delighted to see a recipe for Zucca Gialla Marinata or Marinated Winter Squash.

I'm pretty sure it'll be a go-to for fast and fabulous side dishes or appetizers.

Check what Lidia has to say about this Northern Italian standby.

Squash is not one of the most popular vegetables but I love squash and I love cooking with it. It is nutritious, versatile, and delicious. Northern Italy consumes more zucca-winter squash-than Southern Italy, especially in the areas near Modena in Emiglia Romagna and Padova in the Veneto.

This is a great side dish or appetizer. (via Lidia's Italy.com)


You are what you Eataly: Batali & Bastianich slow food mecca

Fifty-thousand square feet of food heaven could be the best way to describe the latest addition to NY's already vast foodcentric culture.

Located in the Flatiron district, Eataly, (200 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10003, 646.398.5100) the ambitious Italian slow food emporium opened three weeks ago. 

Plans include a 300-seat partially covered rooftop biergarten to open in November as well as a cooking school headed by master chef Lidia Bastianich

Choose from more than a dozen restaurants and food stalls for meals and takeaway and shop for everything from housewares to provisions and wines - even a vegetable butcher

Eataly New York is the project of chef Mario Batali and restaurateur and vineyard owner Joe Bastianich,

Eater has the Early Word on the Eataly experience.


You are what you Eataly: Batali and Bastianich slow food mecca

Fifty-thousand square feet of food heaven could be the best way to describe the latest addition to NY's already vast foodcentric culture.

Located in the Flatiron district, Eataly, (200 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10003, 646.398.5100) the ambitious Italian slow food emporium opened three weeks ago. 

Plans include a 300-seat partially covered rooftop biergarten to open in November as well as a cooking school headed by master chef Lidia Bastianich

Choose from more than a dozen restaurants and food stalls for meals and takeaway and shop for everything from housewares to provisions and wines - even a vegetable butcher

Eataly New York is the project of chef Mario Batali and restaurateur and vineyard owner Joe Bastianich,

Eater has the Early Word on the Eataly experience.


I scream, you scream, we all scream for GELATO. That's right. In this house gelato reigns king.

We love ice cream. We do. But one bite of ultra-rich and creamy gelato turned our tastebuds forever.

When we were in Italy, if we felt tired or frustrated because we were the clueless Americans, we headed straight for the gelateria for a cup of happiness. Gelato - any flavor - makes everything all better. The perfect cure for every boo-boo or mishap.

Italian Notebook has more about the history of this wonderful treat.

    Gelato of one kind or another has been popular in Italy for thousands of years. After the Civil War in the     United States, Italian immigrants emerged in large cities as ice cream vendors called Hokey-Pokey         Men.

    The term "Hokey Pokey" presumably evolved from the Italian cry that the Italian vendors used as they         hawked their cheap ice cream. "Ecco un poco" they’d cry (that’s Italian for “here’s a little”), or "O che         poco" (Oh, how cheap). Hokey-pokey actually referred to cheap ice cream or ice milk.

Cool and creamy (photo courtesy of Italian Notebook)

Polenta perfect for cold weather

Polenta and braised chickenCold weather makes me want comfort food.

One of my favorite foods, warming, soothing and satisfying, is polenta.

Today I was wondering what I could cook for dinner that would be wonderful as well as hearty and healthy.  I also wanted a relatively quick meal since my afternoon was busy with work and errands.

Polenta seemed the perfect choice.

A Northern Italian peasant food, polenta reminds me of a Southern staple from my childhood, grits. I loved grits, so polenta with its similar creamy-grainy texture quickly became a favorite.

Ancient origins

The grain dish that would become known as polenta was made from wild grains and later from primitive wheat, faro, millet, spelt or chickpeas.The ground grain was mixed with water to form a paste and then was cooked on a hot stone. This simple meal may have pre-dated leavened bread.

Polenta, or pulmentum as it was known, was the simple and filling fare of the Roman Legions as well as the poor. The Saracens introduced buckwheat to Italy and grano saraceno, with its distinctive flavor, is still popular in Tuscany,

In the 15th or 16th century, maize was brought to Northern Italy from the New World and landlords exploited the new crop forever influencing Italian cuisine.

Making polenta is far easier than it would appear. Traditionally, the dish was made with a round bottom copper pot called Paiolo and required constant stirring and attention. But, soft polenta, achieved with a 3 to 1 ratio of water to polenta, can be made with in a saucepan with occasional stirring with good results.

How to serve polenta

Served simply with grated cheese, polenta can be either a main meal or a side dish.  We enjoy simple braised meats and vegetables with polenta or for meatless meals, we top polenta with sauteed mixed mushrooms. If there are any leftovers, I put them in a rectangular container to mold for later uniform slicing. Sliced polenta is tasty grilled and makes a great side for fish.

Basic polenta recipe

This basic recipe is easy to prepare. For more flavorful polenta, substitute one cup of water for vegetable or chicken stock.


Ingredients

1 cup polenta

3 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stirring constantly, pour in polenta steadily to prevent lumps..While polenta thickens, continue to stir.  Soft polenta is ready when water is absorbed and simmering produces thick bubbles on the surface. The consistency should be loose rather than stiff. Finish by stirring in the butter. Cooking time ranges from 20 to 50 minutes.  Serve immediately in shallow bowls.



Grana Padano D.O.P. sponsors the Virtual Chef Series

Attention Italian food lovers!

Italy’s favorite cheese, Grana Padano D.O.P., will be sponsoring the Virtual Chef Series being held at the Culinary Institute in New York City (462 Broadway at Grand Street) on January 13 and January 14.

The Grana Padano Virtual Chef Series will be offering a free tasting of the foods and wines from a number of Italian companies at the Italian Culinary Academy, January 13, from 3-5 pm. This event is open to the public, but reservations are a must. For this event, please contact: amaxwell@frenchculinary.com.

The International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC), promoted by ITCHEFS-GVCI (www.itchefs-gvci.com) is dedicated to educating the world about authentic Italian cuisine. To demonstrate this theme, celebrated chefs from around the globe will be performing a rare act on Sunday, January 17: Cooking the same dish— Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese —on the same day via teleconference, using Grana Padano exclusively for the “recreation” of this age-old dish.

To find out which chefs and/or restaurants will be featuring this specialty on January 17, please go to this website and click on the various cities around the world: http://www.itchefs-gvci.com/IDIC2010/mapa.htm

Grana Padano has been part of Italy's gastronomic tradition and culture since 1135 when it was created by the monks in the Padana Valley in northern Italy. Based in Desenzano del Garda in the province of Brescia, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Grana Padano was founded in 1954 by a group of businessmen who shared one common goal—to produce a top-quality cheese based on the traditional recipe.

Low in fat compared to other cheeses and lactose-free, Grana Padano is a versatile cheese with a sweet, nutty flavored taste that can be grated over pasta, served as an ‘antipasto’ or eaten as part of an easy, healthy delicious meal. Aged from nine months to 24 and up, Grana Padano pairs well with a variety of cuisines and makes an ideal part of a healthy diet.

“Grana” refers to the grainy and crumby texture of the cheese and “Padano” refers to its origin in the Po River Valley in northern Italy. Grana Padano is a registered trademark around the world, and since 1996 is a D.O.P Denominazione di Origine Protetta cheese awarded by the European Community in Brussels.


Lidia cooks from the heart of Italy

Lidia brings the feasts of Italy to your tableIf you are a fan of Lidia Bastianich's popular public television cooking series, you will find her latest cook book, Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy (Alfred A. Knopf, 411 pp., $35) delightful.

This latest cookbook with 175 regional Italian recipes has the voice, feel and style of Lidia's television broadcasts, which,to those sadly unfamiliar with them, is warm, familial and inviting. 

Lidia makes us feel as if we are one of her brood and that we too can cook deliciously savory and sumptuous traditional Italian meals.

The cookbook, written with daughter, Tanya Manuali, who earned a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance Art History from Oxford and conducts food, wine and art tours in Italy, is as much a guide for cooking as it is a peek into the food culture and history of Italy.

Lidia and daughter take us into the lives and places of the people of Italy, from north to south. With essays that explain food history and its importance to each region as well as glimpses into the places where these succulent dishes derive, from Trentino-Alto Adige to Sardinia, the cookbook reads like both travel guide and cooking compendium. Its lavish photographs by Lidia and Hersheimer & Hamilton depict intimate glimpses of gorgeously prepared food as well as beautiful Italian landscapes.

The cookbook transcends the usual homage to cuisines of Italy's better known gastronomic regions - Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna - presenting recipes from these epicurean giants as well as those from lesser known areas.  

The recipes are often simple to prepare yet complex in texture and taste, creating meals that are steeped in Italian tradition and rich in the flavors of locally sourced foods. The mother-daughter team, with David Nussbaum, showcase many of the little known delights of Italian regional cuisine.

From Abruzzo, there is the renowned Maccheroni alla Chitarra, freshly made strands of pasta serving as the foundation for numerous sauces and from Valle D'Aosta, there is Soup with Bread & Fontina Pasticciata (Seuppa ou Piat), a layered bread and cheese baked casserole served in bowls of hot broth. 

From Le Marche, there is Lamb Chunks with Olives (Agnello 'ncip-'nciap), a piquant and hearty dish; and from Sardinia, there is Flatbread Lasagna (Pane Frattau), the traditional Sardinian shepherd's meal of layered flatbread, tomato sauce, grated pecorino and poached eggs.  

Three things make this cookbook, from a technical standpoint, a beginning cook's pleasure - the way Lidia presents possibilities for variations on recipes, teaching one to cook from intuition and experimentation; ingredient lists where the ingredient text is highlighted in red so cooks can easily see necessary items; and equipment lists suggesting tools needed for recipe preparation.  For more experienced cooks, the commentary on the provenance of particular foods and their uses in the Italian kitchen is invaluable.

Lamb Chunks with Olives

Agnello ’ncip ’nciape

Serves 6 or more

3½ pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup extra- virgin olive oil
7 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the branch

1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons red- wine vinegar
1½ cups brine- cured green Italian olives or oil- cured black Italian olives, crushed and pitted

Recommended equipment: A deep skillet or sauté or braising pan, 11- to- 12- inch diameter, with a

cover

Trim the exterior fat from the lamb shoulder or leg, and cut the meat into 2- inch pieces, removing fat and bits of cartilage as you find them. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels, and season all over with 1 teaspoon of the salt.

Lamb Chunks with Olives

Pour the olive oil into the pan, and set it over medium heat. Scatter in the crushed garlic cloves and peperoncino. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the lamb pieces in one layer, scatter the rosemary on top, and season with the remaining teaspoon salt. When the meat starts to sizzle, cover the pan, lower the heat, and let cook gently, browning slowly and releasing its fat and juices.

After about 10 minutes, uncover the pan, turn the pieces, and move them around the pan to cook evenly, then replace the cover. Turn again in 10 minutes or so, and continue covered cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the lamb is nicely browned all over and the pan juices have thickened and caramelized. If there is a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, tilt the skillet and spoon off the fat from one side.

Stir the wine and vinegar together, and pour them into skillet, swirling them with the pan juices. Turn up the heat, bring the liquids to a boil, and cook them down quickly to form a syrupy sauce. Drop the olives into the pan, all around the lamb chunks, then cover and adjust the heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, again concentrating the juices and marrying the flavors. Finally, cook uncovered for a few minutes, tumbling the meat and olives in the pan, coating them with the sauce.

Serve immediately, right from the skillet, or heap the meat chunks on a platter or in a shallow serving bowl. Spoon out any sauce and olives left in the pan, and drizzle over the lamb.


Cantine Aperte features over 800 wine growers

Explore the wines of Italy this weekend

Wine enthusiasts can look forward to a weekend of sampling fabulous Italian wines from vintners large and small, well known and lesser known, during Cantine Aperte

Taste your way through the vineyards of Italy, May 30-31st, as wine growers all over the country open their cellars during the annual spring festival celebrating the nation's wines.

Over 800 vintners will hold tastings for the public to try wines as divergent as Chianti, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, or the lesser known Sagrantino of Montefalco. (Italian Notebook).


How to prepare fresh pasta dough & a traditional dish






Even if you don't have an old gray-haired Nonna to teach you her secrets, you can learn to make your own homemade pasta. Chef Matteo Carboni of Academia Barilla steps in to show you how. 

Here Chef Carboni demonstrates traditional pasta tools. You can use that pasta machine that's been gathering dust on the shelf since you got it last Christmas or you can buy a pasta machinel here. You can find an authentic pasta ghitarra at Creative Cooks.

 


Finally, we have a traditional pasta with Fava or broad bean sauce using tomato, rosemary and garlic. Simple and delicious.

Holiday menu: Rack of Lamb with Artichokes

 

If you aren't ready for your holiday meal, here's a lovely last minute and super simple yet elegant suggestion from Academia Barilla

The wesbite is a veritable encyclopedia of Italian gastronomic tidbits as well as a market place and cooking school. 

Is there any thing the Italians don't do with understated elegance?