Scenes from Our Annual Cucidati Making Day

homemade cucidatiYesterday I spent the whole day with family making Cucidati, Italian fig cookies. We stopped counting at 500 but I think it was actually close to 600 in the end. I figure if you’re going to do this only once a year you might as well go big!
cucidati dough Everything was prepped the night before so when everyone arrived we could get right down to the business of making and baking the cookies, we knew it would be an all day project.heirloom rolling pins My husband has a soft spot for Cucidati, I did a post way back about them. A tender dough filled with figs, dates, raisins, walnuts or almonds, orange peel or marmalade, dark rum or whiskey, some clove, cinnamon and honey he looks forward to them every year, they’re nostalgic and remind him of his mom. So it was fitting that his sister and cousin brought along two special rolling pins, one was his moms and the other, his aunts, they were with us in spirit.pistachio liqueur  They also brought along some of this fabulous pistachio liqueur to sip as we were baking, it’s become our tradition and it pairs perfectly while you’re taste testing the cookies. ( wink, wink!) Besides fig and pistachio are a perfect match!  making Italian fig cookies After a few minutes everyone got in their groove doing their specific jobs, we had the music going and we started pumping them out!fig cookies before frosting Straight from the oven onto my marble dining room table which was a good spot for them to cool down on.lunch break When we got half way through the dough we stopped for a lunch break of lentil soup and a frittata, then back to work!Italian fig cookies The table started filling up fast after lunch so it was time to get them frosted so the glaze would be completely dry before they got packed into containers.making fig cookies A proud moment, waiting for the last two batches in my oven to come out and then every inch on my dining room table would be filled with fig cookies!cucidaticucidatiItalian fig cookies, cucidati  The best part, enjoying the fruits of our labor!

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Delicata Frittata

delicata frittataThis frittata was born from leftover squash that I had in my fridge and it was a big hit, I love it when things come together at the spur of the moment! You could eat this for breakfast, brunch or even dinner with a salad and it’s so quick to put together like all frittatas are.
delicata squash I’ve been experimenting with my new favorite squash, Delicata. It’s smaller in size and has a very thin skin which is all eatable, the flesh is very creamy in texture and rich in flavor. I love the look of the smaller rings when you cut into it with it’s scalloped edges. You can also slice it length wise, remove the seeds, stuff it and eat the whole thing, it’s very tender.

delicata frittataI used freshly grated romano cheese along with and an aged cheddar to flavor my eggs which complemented the squash perfectly. Spinach and tomatoes were also added.
delicata frittata Make sure not to use too many eggs because you want to be able to see the squash sitting up there real pretty, of course it all depends on how big your pan is, I used a 10″ skillet, five eggs, 5 slices of squash.delicata frittatadelicata frittata Every wedge I cut into had one perfectly whole ring of squash nestled in among the eggs and I didn’t even plan it that way!

Delicata Frittata

Ingredients

  • 10 inch oven proof skillet
  • 5 slices of pre- roasted delicata squash (400 degrees for 20 minutes tossed in olive oil turning once)
  • 5 eggs, scrambled
  • a generous handful of baby spinach, chopped
  • 5 sliced cherry tomato halfs
  • grated romano and aged cheddar, enough to sprinkle around the whole frittata
  • olive oil for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Drizzle skillet with olive oil and reheat squash.
  2. Whisk eggs then gently pour all around your squash in pan.
  3. Place tomato slices in the center of each squash.
  4. Sprinkle spinach all around as well as the cheddar and romano.
  5. Cook on medium heat until eggs set slightly.
  6. Finish frittata under the broiler for a few minutes but watch carefully so as not to burn.
  7. Let it rest for 5 minutes before you cut into it.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/11/delicata-frittata.html

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Butternut Squash Ribbons with Spinach Tagliatelle

butternut squash ribbons with pasta

I love adding veggie ribbons whenever I can, I think they make a simple dish look so pretty, especially when used with pasta.  Here I’m using butternut squash for my ribbons along with spinach tagliatelle for a nice contrast in color as well as taste, I also adding some mushrooms for extra flavor along with a light parmesan cream sauce. I’m telling you, this is good!

spinach tagliatelle The key to making nice looking ribbons is to find a butternut squash that has a long neck, you’re only going to be using the top so the longer the better, the shorter stumpier squash won’t work. I recommend either tagliatelle or pappadelle for the pasta as both hold up well against the butternut squash ribbons which tend to be wide.

butternut squash ribbonsI used a medium sized squash, top only, and you’ll would be surprised how many ribbons you’ll get. I used a simple vegetable peeler to make mine, I keep turning my squash as I peel the ribbons off.

roasted butternut squash ribbons Roast them on a baking sheet 375 to 400 degrees but watch them carefully because you don’t want them to burn or dry out. The edges will start to curl but the centers will still be soft and moist, that’s exactly what you want.

squash ribbons with tagliatelleToss them gently into your cooked pasta and sauce then place it all on a nice platter for the wow factor!
squash ribbons with spinach tagliatelle It all looks so pretty as the pasta and squash intertwines together but even better yet you’ll love how it tastes!

Butternut Squash Ribbons with Spinach Tagliatelle

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. spinach tagliatelle
  • butternut squash ribbons created from the neck only of a butternut squash
  • 1 cup of sauteed mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup cream or half and half
  • 1/3 cup of stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • parsley for garnish
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cut the top off of a long neck medium sized butternut squash, peel skin off then make long ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Turn as you peel. Toss into a bowl and drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper all over then place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 375 to 400 until edges start to curl, keep watching as to not burn. Set aside.
  2. Cook tagliatelle al dente.
  3. In a saute pan drizzle olive oil, add garlic and cook until golden.
  4. Pour in the cream, stock and cheese, cook until slightly thickens.
  5. Add mushrooms and gently toss everything together and place on a platter adding more grated cheese, a nice drizzle of olive oil and fresh parsley for garnish.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/10/butternut-squash-ribbons-with-spinach-tagliatelle.html

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Soups On!

meatball and gnocchi soupAs soon as the weather turns cold I’m instantly in a “soup mood”. Nothing says comfort food more to me than a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. I make sure I have my kitchen stocked with everything I need so when I get the urge to make some, I’m good to go. Recently I made three different soups, some oldies but goodies and some new.
meatball and gnocchi soup This recipe above is an old standby, it’s quick and it takes no time at all to make, but I’m always improvising depending on what I have in my fridge. This time I replaced the beans with mini Italian meatballs that I had tucked away and I substituted the pasta which I normally use, with some leftover kale gnocchi I made a while back. So now I’ll call it my Meatball and Gnocchi soup! For the greens this time I used kale, but spinach, escarole, or swiss chard would be just as good, plus you could even use a good store bought gnocchi, just use the basic recipe I linked to above for the base. It’s hearty and it screams comfort!

sausage and lentil soupMy next soup, Sausage and Lentil, is a huge family favorite. I put this recipe on my blog back in 2007 and nothing has changed except my photos, here’s the recipe.  Please don’t let the brown color turn you off, the flavors are out of this world! A bowl of this, some warm crusty bread and dinner is served! I like to garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved parmesan.
sausage and lentil soup Italian sausage and lentils, a match made in heaven!

posole soupI recently made a pot of Chicken Posole something I’ve never made before but became obsessed with after having a bowl of it from Panera. One bite and I was smitten with these puffed up little corn things, so much so I walked up to the counter and asked what it was and they said, HOMINY. Am I the only person in the world who never ate hominy?? It tasted like little polenta balls. I love this stuff, where have you been all my life? Since I never made Chicken Posole before I got the recipe here. To make things easy I used store bought rotisserie chicken,  good boxed chicken broth and canned hominy, my new friend.
posole soup I will be making this over and over again!

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Tart

brussel sprout tartI always keep a box of phyllo in my fridge because I know I can create a quick and easy tart using whatever vegetables I have on hand. In this case I had a bag of shaved brussels sprouts that I got from Trader Joe’s and some leftover roasted butternut squash and before I knew it, a tart was born!
brussel sprout tart prep Phyllo is so forgiving and that’s why I like it, you can wing it, patch it and it still looks beautiful in the end. I usually use five or six layers for my 9″ tart pan, each layer sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with grated romano or parmesan then topped with the cheese of your choice so that all the toppings can sink right into it. I like to use a cheese that melts really good like fontina, gruyere, mozzarella or asiago which happened to be the one I chose for mine. I recommend grating your cheese first then spreading it evenly all over the top, I got lazy as you can see, but it still worked!

brussel sprout tartMy squash was already roasted and the brussels sprouts were quickly sauteed in olive oil until they wilted slightly.
brussel sprout tart Ready for the oven!

brussel sprout tartThe phyllo gives this tart a nice crispy, crunchy bottom which is a great base to hold all your toppings. The sky’s the limit on what to top your tart with, another favorite I love is caramelized onions, butternut squash and kale, try that next time around!

brussel sprout tart All you need is a salad or a bowl of soup along side this tart and it becomes the perfect dinner, lunch or brunch.

Congratulations to Terri of Terri’s Table, you’re the winner of my giveaway and the book, SOUTHERN ITALIAN DESSERTS!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Tart

Ingredients

  • 9" removable bottom tart pan, sprayed or brushed with olive oil
  • 6 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 10 oz. bag of shaved brussels sprouts or shave your own by using the slicing disk on your food processor.
  • 1 cup of diced and pre-roasted butternut squash
  • shredded asiago cheese, enough to completely cover tart pan
  • 1/2 cup or so, grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and prepare tart pan by brushing or spraying with olive oil
  2. You need to wilt the brussels sprouts by either placing them in the oven on a roasting pan drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper or stove top just for a few minutes.
  3. Place the first sheet of phyllo into tart pan, press down and fit it in, spray or brush sheet with olive oil then sprinkle with romano and black pepper, repeat remaining 5 sheets the same way making sure to always cover your phyllo with wax paper while working with it so it doesn't dry out.
  4. Distribute shredded asiago all over.
  5. Spread the sprouts all over the shredded cheese then dot with the pre-roasted butternut squash.
  6. Drizzle top of the tart with olive oil and sprinkle more romano cheese all over.
  7. Place in oven 20-25 minutes or until phyllo is nice and golden.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/10/shaved-brussels-sprouts-tart.html

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Ricotta Filled Baked Pears and a Giveaway

ricotta stuffed pearsI love making desserts using ricotta so when I first saw this recipe in the cookbook, Southern Italian Desserts, I knew I was going to make it!

Crushed amaretti cookies, almond paste, candied orange peel, some of the pear that is scooped from the centers, cinnamon and vanilla all mixed into creamy ricotta then stuffed into a pear and baked, what’s not to like?
Southern Italian Dessert cookbook I received this book for review written by Rosetta Costantino she’s also the author of the acclaimed, My Calabria. I was instantly drawn in by the cover photo which was a beautiful watermelon pudding tart, I’ve never seen anything like it. When summer returns to Chicago and watermelon is back in season I’m definitely going to make that!

All the mouthwatering desserts in the book are organized by region, you’ll find Sicilian Cannoli, Zeppole di San Giuseppe which are fried pastries, Sfogliatelle Ricce, a flaky pastry stuffed with ricotta, Zabaione al Limoncello, Biscotti and various other Italian cakes, pies, cookies and candies and gelato. No doubt I will be referring back to this book quite often.

almond paste and ricotta fillingFor the stuffed pears I needed almond paste which I didn’t have, no worries she tells you how to make it in the book along with many other tips. It was actually quite simple to make, blanched almonds, sugar, water and a little almond extract whirled until it forms a paste in the food processor.
hollowed out pears The key is to find firm but ripe fat bottomed pears so you’ll have plenty of room to stuff them with the ricotta mixture.

baked pearsAs the pears are baking the ricotta mixture puffs up inside and over the top. The recipe gives you the option to then eat it as is, or to drizzle the pears with a chocolate sauce.
chocolate coated baked pears Obviously I went with the chocolate!chocolate coated pearsricotta stuffed pear One word…. DECADENT!

Would you like to win a copy of this book? One lucky reader of mine from the U.S. who makes a comment here on this very blog post will be sent a copy directly from the publishers. The winner will be chosen randomly on Sunday 10/13/13 and announced next week. Anonymous comments will not be accepted.

Ricotta Filled Baked Pears and a Giveaway

Ingredients

  • 6 firm-ripe pears
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, well drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup crushed amaretti cookies
  • 5 tablespoons of almond paste, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 tablespoons packed finely chopped candied orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of vermouth or sweet white wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • CHOCOLATE SAUCE
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ALMOND PASTE
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons water, plus 1 teaspoon if needed.

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400F, rack in center oven. Have a 8-inch square pan ready.
  2. Cut off the tops of each pear and set aside. Use a melon baller or a small spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4 inch all around careful not to poke through bottom. Discard seeds, chop flesh and set aside.
  3. Place ricotta into a bowl. Stir in egg, amaretti, almond paste, orange peel,cinnamon and vanilla. Add chopped pears and stir to combine everything.
  4. Place pears into baking pan, fill the cavities with the ricotta filling. Replace the tops on the pears.
  5. Stir together the wine, sugar and water then pour mixture into the pan. Bake until soft and beginning to collapse, mine took a little over an hour. Filling will puff out and brown. spoon some of the sauce over the pears.
  6. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate until cold or overnight.
  7. Serve the chilled pears in shallow bowls, drizzled with chocolate sauce if you so desire.
  8. CHOCOLATE SAUCE is made my heating the cream until the sides start to bubble, turn off the heat and whisk in the chocolate until smooth and shinny.
  9. ALMOND PASTE is made by placing the almonds and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until it looks like fine cornmeal then add extract, water and remaining sugar until a paste forms. This can be frozen but thaw 1 hour before using.
  10. Notes: If you don't have candied orange peel I would use grated fresh orange peel from 1 orange. I used half and half instead of heavy cream for the chocolate sauce and that worked fine. This recipe has been slightly adapted.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/10/ricotta-filled-baked-pears.html

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Scenes from Chicago Gourmet 2013

Chicago Gourmet 2013Beautiful weather set the scene for a perfect day at Millennium Park as I perused my way through Bon Appetit’s Chicago Gourmet 2013. Guests were there to enjoy exclusive tastings from some of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, attend live cooking demonstrations, book signings, learn about the latest food trends, seminars from Master Sommeliers, speak with renowned vitners, spirit makers, breweries from all over the globe and the opportunity to sample some of their finest and latest creations.

Exhibitors lined the walkways with samples of their goods, it’s non stop food and drink, you really have to know how to pace yourself as you walk, taste and sip along the way.
Chicago Gourmet 2013 One of the things I really enjoy doing is attending the live cooking demonstrations, the venue where they have it is very intimate, up front and personal, not a bad seat in the house! Loved this one in particular with Chef Hubert Keller where he transformed a very rustic braised beef dish into something you would have at a fine dining restaurant, I can’t wait to try it myself!Chicago Gourmet 2013 Chef Art Smith and Chef Lorena Garcia became great friends during their time on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” which was very evident from the chemistry they had together. For their demo they fused her Latin with his Southern cuisine and made a masa cake stuffed with an avocado smashed chicken salad, and it was all gluten free.Chicago Gourmet 2013 Chef Sarah Grueneberg is the executive chef of Spiaggia along with Chef Carrie Nahabedian of NAHA, their demo was all about vegetables, they talked about venturing out of our comfort zones, trying different varieties of peppers, squashes, eggplant, beans, okra, mixing them together into a ratatouille or salads, be adventurous in the kitchen you can’t go wrong when it’s all fresh and in season. Oh, FYI, the latest trendy vegetable is…. cardoons! They taste like artichokes, I’m in!Chicago Gourmet 2013 Here’s a view of the culinary stage, I seriously could have spent the whole day there, I really wanted to see Chef Graham Elliot but I was getting hungry and thirsty!Chicago Gourmet 2013 So many choices this doesn’t even scratch the surface, Mexican, Italian, Asian, Southern, French, American, Seafood, Brazilian, I could go on and on! There were several Chef Tasting Pavilions and yes, some had long lines but they seemed to move fairly quickly once they got going, besides it gave you a chance to slow down and digest a bit because in the tasting pavilions you would normally get anywhere from three to seven bites from the various restaurants featured.Chicago Gourmet 2013 Why don’t I make chimichurri sauce more often? It takes a good piece of meat and elevates it to another level!Chicago Gourmet 2013 I’ve learned from the past in order for me to make it through the day when sampling, you must pull off all bread products and just take a few bites, that’s it!Chicago Gourmet 2013 With the exception of a lobster roll!Chicago Gourmet 2013Chicago Gourmet 2013 Desserts were everywhere, sticky toffee pudding, root beer floats, cupcakes, gelato, apple and plum creations along with a separate Dessert Tasting Pavilion, which I didn’t even enter into for fear I might never come out!Chicago Gourmet 2013 There was plenty of charcuterie to nosh on while sampling your favorite drinks, small bites of proscuitto, salami and salty cheese, they even had a “protein bar” that was filled with cups of chili ready to go.Chicago Gourmet 2013 Wine of every variety, champagne, Patron, Stella, sake, whiskies, vodka, cognac, Grand Marnier, again I could go on and on. I encourage you to really sample what you like, mixing too many different things might not be such a good idea and remember to hydrate, there’s plenty of water stations all around.Chicago Gourmet 2013 I’m partial to Prosecco and the two brands that stood out for me were Zonin and Voga although I have to admit I liked Voga brand a little better and their bottles are gorgeous! A great gift for the holidays. I will be making many trips to Binny’s!Chicago Gourmet 2013Chicago Gourmet 2013 Deep blue skies in Chicago, great food and drink, nice crowd, entertainment and education, what more could you ask for on a beautiful Sunday afternoon?Chicago Gourmet 2013 Hope to see you next year!

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Homemade Kale Ricotta Gnocchi

pan fried kale gnocchiI still have so much kale growing in my garden, I think it loves the cooler weather. I’ve already froze a bunch to put into soups, made my kale pesto, and since I’ve had gnocchi on my mind I thought, why not add some in there?
ricer I don’t remember where I got this tip from but if you’re trying to squeeze out all the liquid from frozen or boiled spinach, kale, or any other leafy green, use a potato ricer! Even when I think I squeezed it all out by hand I’m so surprised how much more liquid comes out using the ricer, it’s amazing and it’s key to making this kind of gnocchi because you don’t ever want your dough to be really wet.

kale dough
Same thing goes for your ricotta, especially if you buy it from a good Italian deli. I usually always have some liquid in the container when I bring my ricotta home, that too needs to be drained really well to achieve a good gnocchi dough, in fact I think it is key.

kale dough I like to drain my ricotta in a strainer over a bowl that I keep in my fridge overnight, when your ricotta is nice and cold the dough comes together beautifully, if the ricotta is warm or room temperature it tends to be more sticky and you’ll keep adding more flour which in turn makes your gnocchi heavier, and we don’t want heavy gnocchi do we?

making kale gnocchi
Feel free to replace the kale for spinach or even swiss chard, but I have to tell you this was so good that I’ll be making it again and again!

kale gnocchi Light and tender little pillows of dough filled with ricotta, parmesan or romano cheese and kale, surprisingly quick to whip up!

kale gnocchiI decided to make mine 2 different ways, pan-fried with butternut squash in a brown butter sage sauce, and the more traditional way, boiled and tossed into a light homemade marinara. Please, never use jarred sauce from the grocery store!

pan fried gnocchi Gnocchi takes only a few minutes to cook, toss them into boiling salted water, give them one good stir, let them rise to the top and boil for an additional 2 minutes, scoop them out with a wide hand strainer. Never pour them directly into a strainer for fear they might break, you must be gentle and handle with care.

For the pan-fried version you scoop them out of the water and immediately toss them into your hot and sizzling brown butter sauce, let them get slightly crispy golden on each side.

pan fried gnocchiThis is a perfect dish for the fall season, I added small diced pre-roasted butternut squash and tossed it in with the gnocchi. Finish the dish off with freshly grated parmesan cheese scattered all over the top, perfection!


pan fried kale gnocchi
 Slightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and flavored so good, it doesn’t get better than this, one of my absolute favorites!

kale gnocchiUnless you prefer them simply boiled and tossed into homemade marinara, ( I repeat… homemade!) my husbands favorite way.
kale gnocchi 
Either way you choose you won’t go wrong, I promise!

Homemade Kale Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of drained ricotta, nice and cold
  • 1/4 cup of grated cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of cooked, squeezed dry, then pulse chopped in a food processor of either kale, spinach or swiss chard.
  • 1 cup or so of unbleached AP flour

Instructions

  1. Place ricotta, grated cheese, salt and pepper into a bowl, whisk egg then add in.
  2. If ricotta is lumpy, which it usually is, take a hand mixer on low to break up the lumps and just to incorporate all the ingredients.
  3. Turn off the mixer and stir in the kale, I know it sounds like a small amount but the kale is damp and it all clumps together, when stirred it incorporates and distributes very well, 3 heaping tablespoons worked for the amount of flour and ricotta I used, but feel free to use more if you like.
  4. Then fold in flour, little by little, you might need less or you might need more, but dough should come together quickly.
  5. Lightly flour your finger tips and a board.
  6. Cut off a chunk then roll it into a round snake, then cut off bite size pieces.
  7. Leave as is or make indention's with a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork.
  8. Toss gnocchi into salted boiling water, let them float to the top and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, taste for doneness, then scoop them out with a hand strainer.
  9. Toss into your favorite sauce and eat immediately.
  10. For pan-fried, drain them and crisp them up in the sizzling butter sage sauce, then add small diced pre- roasted butternut squash and plenty of parmesan cheese.
  11. For my marinara sauce or additional sauce ideas for gnocchi, check out my e-book on Italian Sauces.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/09/homemade-kale-ricotta-gnocchi.html

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Mushroom Marsala with Cipollini and Thyme

mushroom marsalaMy husband is the official taste tester around here so when I see him take a bite, close his eyes, move his head from side to side I know I’ve made something really good, that’s exactly what he did when he tasted this dish! We’re all familiar with Chicken Marsala, Veal Marsala and I even make Pork Chop Marsala, but in this dish there is no meat and you won’t miss it one bit because the star of the show that gets to soak up the creamy Marsala sauce is the pasta, along with some wonderful earthy mushrooms and those adorable saucer shaped cipollini!

DelverdeRecently I was asked to be a part of the La Cucina Italiana Blogger Ambassador panel which was very exciting for me since I have been an avid reader of their magazine for years, and I have the stacks of them to prove it! They also invited me to participate in The Dish your Blog with Delverde Recipe ChallengeThey sent me a sample of three different cuts of pasta and I was to choose one, then create a recipe with the cut of my choice. If I win I get to go to New York City and share my pasta recipe with the world! If I don’t win, guess what, you’re getting the recipe here anyway.

marsala sauceYou can use any mushrooms you so desire for this dish, the more of a variety the better, I hand picked some shitake and crimini so they would all be about the same size but if I would have found some good looking oyster mushrooms I would have added those too. The sauce consists of Marsala wine, garlic and thyme with mascarpone cheese to thicken it up. I also added cipollini, which are small saucer shaped onions, the Italian version of a pearl onion.

mushroom marsala The pasta shape I chose was Delverde’s Mezzi Rigatoni, handmade flavor artisinal pasta half the size of traditional rigatoni. Short and stocky with a nice bite, it was the perfect match for the other bite size ingredients.

mushroom marsalaAll drenched in creamy Marsala sauce, who needs meat?
mushroom marsala 

Mushroom Marsala with Cipollini and Thyme

Ingredients

  • Assorted mushrooms, a dozen of each kind, hand picked to keep them on the smaller size
  • 8 cipollini, small
  • 1 3/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 heaping 1/4 cup, mascarpone cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • fresh thyme and parsley
  • 1/2 lb. cooked Delverde Mezzi Rigatoni

Instructions

  1. Pre boil cipollini for 2 minutes with skins on then submerge in ice bath for easy peeling.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees, then place all mushrooms and cipollini on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive, oil salt and pepper. Cook until caramelized around 10 minutes or so. Set aside.
  3. In the meantime make your sauce by placing the garlic, butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a sauce pan, saute until garlic turns golden then pour in the Marsala and the thyme from one or two branches, let the alcohol cook down for a few minutes then whisk in the mascarpone cheese, reduce heat and slowly let the sauce thicken.
  4. When the sauce thickens then add in your roasted and caramelized cipollini and mushrooms then toss in the cooked pasta, gently stirring to coat everything with the sauce.
  5. Garnish with parsley and more thyme.
  6. DISCLOSURE: This recipe is posted as an entry in the Delverde Dish Your Blog recipe contest to try to win a trip to NYC. Some entrants may have received free sample products in addition to the opportunity to compete for the prize.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/09/mushroom-marsala-with-cipollini-and-thyme.html

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Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Ricotta and Kale and a Lemony Sage Brown Butter Sauce

stuffed cannelloni It’s that time of year when you start seeing butternut squash all over the place, it’s my favorite kind of squash so I usually always have one on hand sitting on my counter ready and waiting for me whenever I need it. I’ve made scones with butternut squash, individual lasagna, stuffed shells, gnocchi, ravioli, tossed it in salads, soups, risotto’s. I made other lasagna, sformato, tarts and even pizza with it, and I’m sure I missed a few, but never stuffed it into cannelloni, until now!cooked squash Fresh ricotta, kale, parmesan and a little lemon zest gets mixed into the tender baked squash for a very flavorful filling.pasta sheets Try to get a hold of some good quality fresh pasta sheets, you could make your own if you like especially if your doing it for a crowd or for the holidays but this is my quick mid-week version.  I like to cut my store bought pasta sheets in half, I find the cannelloni gets too doughy otherwise. So for every sheet of pasta I can make two cannelloni.filled cannelloni Spoon on a generous amount of filling then roll them up and place each one seam side down on a buttered baking dish.stuffed cannelloni

When finished, spoon the nutty brown butter sage sauce that has a touch of lemon all over the cooked cannelloni, tossed together a nice salad, and dinner is ready!

Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Ricotta and Kale and a Lemony Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 package of good quality premade pasta sheets
  • 1 lb. ricotta drained of liquid
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cooked kale, squeezed and drained (swiss chard or spinach will also work)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped and smashed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • xxxx
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 10 sage leaves
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Add squash to a parchment lined baking sheet then drizzle both halves with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until tender and knife tip goes through easily, about 45-60 minutes. Let it cool completely then scoop out the flesh and discard the skin.
  3. Add ricotta, egg, grated cheese, garlic, zest and squash into a food processor and pulse, just until mixed. You can also whip it all together by hand.
  4. Add in the chopped kale little by little folding in between, just making sure the greenness of the kale doesn't overwhelm the ricotta mixture.
  5. xxxxx
  6. Cook pasta sheets for 2 minutes in boiling water, then cool them in an ice water bath. Drain on tea towels.
  7. xxxx
  8. For assembly, cut pasta sheet in half, my package had 8 sheets so I was able to make 16 cannelloni from it. Add filling then roll up placing them seam side down on a buttered baking dish.
  9. xxxx
  10. For the sauce, melt butter in a sauce pan on medium until bubbly and golden brown, throw in all 10 sage leaves, let them sizzle and get crisp.
  11. Take sauce off heat and squeeze in juice from 1/2 lemon.
  12. xxxx
  13. Spoon a tiny bit of sauce on top of each shell and sprinkle each with grated parmesan or romano. Loosely cover with foil and place in 400 oven until filling is cooked, around 15 minutes, remove foil spoon remaining sauce on top along with the crispy sage leaves. Place back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and enjoy!
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/09/butternut-squash-cannelloni-with-ricotta-and-kale-and-a-lemony-sage-brown-butter-sauce.html

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Grilled Onions with Thyme and Cream

grilled onionsEven though summer is winding down there’s still plenty of time for grilling. I made these over the weekend, charred slabs of onions bathing in a shallow pool of cream and garlic. Pure decadence!
grilled onions What is it about onions and cream, they’re such a perfect combo!  I’m now adding this to another favorite onion recipe that I adore and previously did a post on back in 2011, my Roasted Parmesan Cream Onions, they’re always a big hit, so simple to make and a great side dish for the upcoming holidays. I think that’s why I was instantly drawn to this recipe when I saw it in Fine Cooking magazine, it’s similar but with grilled onions.

grilled onions The grilled onions become super sweet when caramelized and then you have the smokiness of the grill which gives this dish a whole other flavor dimension. Who would ever think that the humble onion could transform into something so luxurious! Don’t stress about the cream, for 12 slices you only use 1/2 cup!

grilled steaks Did I mention they are wonderful as a side with steaks or burgers?

 Trust me, they are!

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3 Ways to Use Up Summer’s Bounty!

zucchiniGot zucchini coming out of your ears? No problem, make a huge platter of Zucchini Carpaccio! Thinly sliced raw zucchini that gets slightly “cooked” by a lemon and olive oil dressing.  I recently brought this to a party on the biggest platter I could find. It looks very impressive, quite the show stopper with all the zucchini slices neatly layered on top of each other. I think I used 5 zucchini  and 1 yellow squash. Try and pick squash that is similar in size, it will visually look better on the platter.
zucchini carpacio I used a mandoline to slice all the squash nice and thin, then shaved Parmigiano Reggiano all over the slices, I added chopped fresh basil, parsley, and a little salt and pepper.party tray When I got to the party I dressed the whole thing with a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing that I had pre-made in a jar and brought along. It was a big hit and a great way to use up my zucchini!fresh corn Whether you grow your own corn or just buy a ton like I do during the summer, this is something you just have to make! Grilled Corn Planks with Creme Fraiche and Tarragon. Three simple ingredients that go so amazing together, we just can’t get enough of it, it’s that good!corn planks Use a good serrated knife and cut off your kernels in a sawing motion to assure nice “planks” of corn.creme fresh Even if you don’t quite care for tarragon, ( I admit I was one of those) I promise you, it makes the whole dish spectacular, I can’t imagine it with out!corn with tarragon I found this in Fine Cooking magazine, here’s the recipe. I did not use the vinegar, but followed everything else exactly.  Hurry and make this while sweet corn is still in abundance!

grilling kale I’m ending this post with kale, Grilled Kale, we grow a ton of it. I’ve froze some, made a bunch of salads, made pesto, but sometimes I just get lazy so I walk out to the garden, pick a gigantic bunch, bring it in the house, wash it and pick the tough stems off then pat dry. Throw the cleaned kale into a huge bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss until well coated, then pile it all directly on top of the grill.

grilled kale It only takes a few minutes to cook down and you’ll have a large bowl full to do whatever you want with it. It’s a great way to cook up massive amounts and besides, the nice smoky flavor adds another dimension. I like to saute shaved garlic in olive oil, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, pour it over the grilled kale and toss. Finish it by squeezing fresh lemon all over. I’m going to miss all this goodness!

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Lions and Tigers and Pizza, Oh My!

Dorothy from Wizard of OzYou might be wondering, what does The Wizard of Oz have to do with pizza? Well just keep reading and I’ll explain it all to you.. This past weekend was my granddaughter’s 4th birthday and a very special guest attended her party, it was Dorothy and she even brought her little dog Toto too!
ruby red slippers She came complete with her sequined studded ruby red slippers! My granddaughter is a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, she can tell you the whole story from beginning to end, sing all the songs with much enthusiasm , so it was no surprise that she wanted that to be the theme of her birthday party.

Dorothy even brought along her ipod so she would have background music to sing some songs with her. My granddaughter dressed in full Dorothy garb was mesmerized! The expressions on her face were priceless!
mobile pizza truck Here’s where the pizza comes in. My son and DIL hired a company called The Pizza Via, which is a wood-fired mobile brick oven that came directly to their home, set up was right in their driveway where they hand made Neapolitan style pizzas for everyone at the party.

Even the names of the pizzas went along with The Wizard of Oz theme. We had,“I’m Melting”- Cheese Pizza, Ruby Red Slipper-oni- Pepperoni Pizza, The Munchkin Guild- Sausage Pizza, Wicked Witch of the Westo’s- Pesto Pizza, The Cowardly Lion’s- BBQ Chicken Pizza, The Wizard’s-Spicy Hot Italian Beef Pizza, Auntie Em’s- Margherita  Pizza, and a few others that were custom made.

pizza dough The balls of dough were pre- prepped and ready to go, which were made with Caputo “00″ imported flour.

rolling pizza doughAlex Ciciora is the Head Chef who’s earned certificates in Neapolitan and classic Italian pizza. This guy knows how to throw dough!
prepping pizza Anticipation was brewing as the pizzas were being assembled with the freshest of ingredients.

wood fired ovenThe wood fire was at the perfect temperature, 1,000 – degrees, it was time to start cooking. Each pizza only takes a mere 90 seconds to cook up.
mobile pizza oven Chef Alex was quickly cranking them out one by one. The smell in the driveway was out of this world between the aroma of smoky wood and all that dough and sauce cooking together!

wood fired pizzasThe crust was perfect, delicate and crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. One of the pizzas I really liked was the pesto, prosciutto and olive pizza, so good!
Italian beef pizza But of course the Chicago style Italian beef and peppers pizza smothered with hot giardiniera was also a huge hit, us Chicagoans love our Italian beef!

cutting pizzaActually they all were a hit, it’s really hard to choose a favorite because each one was unique in it’s own way. I confess, we loved them all!
making salad They even made a “Tornado Tossed” Greek Salad for us with an amazing feta dressing.

Nutella pizzaAnd then came dessert! “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”- Banana Nutella Pizza, with toasted hazelnuts and white chocolate chips, need I say more?
lemon pizza But this pizza shown above was a real crowd pleaser because no one had ever tried anything like it before, it was called, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” – Lemon Pizza. Thinly sliced lemons baked on top of a crust dotted with butter, when it came out of the oven Chef Alex generously sprinkled powdered sugar all over it. He suggested we wait until it cooled down to eat it for optimal flavor, but no one could wait! We’re still talking about that lemon pizza!

Dark chocolate gelato along with the birthday girls cake ended our pizzeria feast!
 For those of you who live in the Chicagoland area I highly recommend The Pizza Via for your next party or event, it’s something out of the ordinary and your guests will love it! Chef Alex and his assistant were a wonderful, fun, hardworking team, they even made extra pizzas for everyone to take home. For a very unique party experience call Chef Alex at The Pizza Via!

 Our little Dorothy had a very memorable day!

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And the Winner of My 6th Year Blogiversary Giveaway is…….

Gift basket First of all I just have to say THANK-YOU! I was so touched by all your sweet and heartfelt comments, I loved reading each and every one of them! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The winner of my giveaway who is going to receive the beautiful Mediterranean- Santorini gift hamper by Manhattan Fruitier is…. DENISE BROSCH! Congratulations Denise, you’re going to absolutely love it!  I will be contacting you via email today.

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It’s My Blogiversary Today, and a Giveaway!

It’s hard to believe that 6 years ago today I started this food blog called Proud Italian Cook and what a journey it has been from day one! It still continues to be one of the joys of my life. I’m honored to be a part of  a wonderful community of bloggers, many of whom I can truly call my friends. To all my readers, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support with all your comments and personal emails that you’ve taken the time to write. Thank you to all those who “liked” me on Facebook, and a thank you to all my loyal subscribers and those of you who have “pinned” any of my recipes on Pinterest. And last but not least my close family and friends!
 This past year has been full of change for Proud Italian Cook, I really moved out of my comfort zone complete with a makeover! I took the leap and left a free blogging platform and moved forward on to one that I own, and I’m so happy I did! With it came many modern updates that I so wanted to give all my readers. The other thing I did, (and I still can’t believe it myself), I wrote my first e-book on Italian Sauces. Inside you will see what I cook for my own family, special recipes and stories that bring me back to my own traditions from childhood. For all of you who bought my book, thank you, I appreciate it. For those of you who might be considering it, it’s always available for purchase right here on my blog.

What will the future bring? Well one thing for sure I’m not going anywhere yet, this is too much fun, and who knows, there might just be another e-book in the works!

 AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

Recently I received the most beautiful gift basket from a company called, Manhattan Fruitier, in exchange for my honest review. I have to tell you I was so blown away the minute I opened the box. Inside there were two superior quality wicker hampers, which I will reuse at another time, it was tied together like the photo shows above and at the top was a large, wrapped round loaf of walnut bread from Balthazar Bakery.

 The hamper I received from them called, Mediterranean-Santorini was filled with wonderful products such as Emmer farro, Herbes de Provence, capers, preserved lemons, almonds, organic Medjool dates, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Ligurian olives, Ventrusca tuna, seasonal fresh fruit, flowers and 2 dipping bowls. Everything needed for eating the healthy Mediterranean way!

I would highly recommend Manhattan Fruitier if you want to send someone a very special gift, they offer all different price points, something for everyone and you can even customize your own baskets. Please keep them in mind for the upcoming holidays!
 NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS THAT INVOLVES YOU!

Manhattan Fruitier wanted to help me celebrate my 6th  Blogiversary so they are graciously sending ONE of my lucky readers the Mediterranean-Santorini gift hamper!

Unfortunately because there are perishables, shipping is limited to the U.S. Also, for the purpose of the giveaway they can’t serve Hawaii or Alaska.

For those of you who qualify to enter, please leave only one comment per person telling me what recipe or features you like on or about Proud Italian Cook. No anonymous comments will be accepted as I will need an email address to contact the winner. Comments will not be accepted after 11:59 pm central time, Sunday August 18, 2013. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Monday August 19th, 2013

If you are reading this via Facebook you must enter on this blog to win the giveaway, not Facebook.

Disclaimer… I did receive 1 Mediterranean- Santorini gift hamper for review, but as always all opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

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Making Basil Oil

basil oilOne of the absolute joys of summer for me is to walk out into my garden and pick fresh basil leaves when ever I feel like it. I have basil growing all over my backyard, in pots and in the ground. Our seasons are so short here that I have to get it while I can. I’m not the gardener in my family, the husband is, but he takes great direction from me concerning how many plants I want even if I go a little overboard!
fresh garden basil This was a stellar year for basil, all the leaves were vibrant and lush, perfect for pesto and my new found love, basil infused olive oil!

Making basil oil is so simple and the end result is so amazing, trust me you’ll want to drizzle it all over your fish, meat, vegetables, eggs and crusty toasted bread! I had my sweet granddaughter help me in the process picking the leaves, check out her green toes!
making basil oil All it takes is just a few short steps and you’re finished, and a little goes a very long way. Put some in a pretty glass bottle and hand it off to your friends and family, they will love it!

basil oilGive the 3 ingredients a quick whirl in a blender or a food processor until nice and pureed. Check out that beautiful color you can tell by looking at it how good it’s going to taste!
basil oil When it’s finished you can choose to strain it through cheesecloth for a more refined and clear result or just leave it as is, I did it both ways to show you, but either way the flavor is dynamic!

Here it is not strained dripping over a tomato and mozzarella stack sprinkled with flaky sea salt. To-die-for!
 And here it is pictured above strained through cheesecloth, clear and still vibrant green. I made this for breakfast the other day, crusty toasted Italian bread drizzled with basil oil, layered with bacon, sliced tomatoes and a sunny side up egg drizzled with more basil oil. Another to-die-for!  Thanks M-A for the inspiration!

Basil Oil

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Wash basil leaves then blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute.
  2. Remove and place in an ice bath to cool down.
  3. Squeeze out water and dry with paper towel.
  4. Place blanched basil, the oil and salt into a blender or food processor and puree.
  5. Let it settle a little then pour into a glass container.
  6. Use immediately or refrigerate. Flavors are even more intense the next day.
  7. Keeps for 1 week refrigerated.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/08/making-basil-oil.html

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Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

lemon risottoHere’s a wonderful summery risotto filled with bright flavors of lemon that has roasted cherry tomatoes folded inside, it’s the perfect side dish for any type of grilled fish!
garden tomatoes Also a brilliant way to use up some of those cherry tomatoes you might have exploding in your garden like me. I’m guaranteed a bowl full everyday from my garden so I’m constantly thinking of different ways to use them up.

lemon risottoThat’s why I was thrilled when I came across this recipe from an old bon appetit  magazine. The original recipe folds in arugula at the end but I opted not to do that, I don’t think it needed it, also the original recipe includes rosemary and thyme, I eliminated those and just added more fresh parsley. While my tomatoes were roasting in the oven at 400 degrees I had a separate pan roasting thin lemon slices for garnish, (watch those they don’t take long!) I also added a little more lemon zest and grated parmesan to the risotto because my theory is, “more is better”. My suggestion to you is, taste as you go!
cedar planked salmon I served the risotto with cedar planked salmon, the bright citrusy flavors paired so well with the smoky salmon.

cedar planked salmonMy daughters favorite way of preparing salmon is brushing it with coconut oil and topping it with salt, pepper, lemon slices and fresh cilantro.
cedar planked salmon This one was brushed with olive oil, finely smashed garlic, salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon slices and chopped fresh parsley. Soak your planks for a few hours beforehand then keep outdoor grill around 400 degrees, the time it takes will depend on the size and thickness of the fish.

This was such a perfect summertime meal!

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Grilled Kale Salad

grilled kale salad Who knew you could grill kale? I didn’t. It wasn’t until I saw this technique done in a book called, Hero Food by Chef Seamus Mullen’s, that I got inspired to do it. Actually, the minute I saw it I knew I had to try it, why not, I grill everything else!

garden kale We grow a ton of kale, we have it all over our garden, three different varieties so I’m always thinking of ways to use it up, as it keeps growing well into the fall. I’ve made kale chips in the past and I have to admit I didn’t like them at all, but I’ve since realized it was the way I made them, they lacked flavor. With a little more seasoning and a little more olive oil I’ve come to love those crispy little chips, maybe it’s an acquired taste I don’t know, but they’re very addicting if they’re made right!garden bounty Our tomatoes are finally getting red, it’s exciting to walk out into the garden everyday to see what kind of loot we have vine ripened and ready to pick. grilling kale Tossing the kale in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic, lemon zest and garlic gives you a nice base for a salad or just to eat as is.grilling kale The kale leaves hold up very well on the grill with the stems and all. Don’t walk away because it just takes one to two minutes per side. You could grill up a large platter in a few minutes!grilled kale Grilling brings out a rich smokey flavor with a texture that is crunchy and chewy at the same time, and it looks quite unique on a platter, something you don’t see often.grilled kale salad  As I said you could eat it right off the grill as a side dish to fish, poultry, beef or pork or you might want to break it up and toss it into a salad like I did.grilled kale with grilled veggies For my grilled kale salad I used vegetables that I had previously grilled, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, corn, yellow and red peppers. In addition to that I added fresh cherry tomatoes and goat cheese to the salad with an extra drizzle of my vinaigrette over the top. Summertime freshness that is so good for you!

Grilled Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • Adapted from Chef Seamus Mullen's
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons, balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bunches of kale, washed and spin dried, any variety with big leaves will do
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat grill.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine olive oil, garlic, vinegar, juice, zest and kale. Toss until well coated.
  3. Lay kale side by side in a single layer on top of the grill until crispy, 1 - 2 minutes per side.
  4. Pile the kale in a big stack on a large platter or break up and place into a salad.
  5. For salad add grilled assorted veggies, goat cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes.
  6. VINAIGRETTE RECIPE to drizzle on top.
  7. 3 parts good olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic, 1 smashed garlic clove, a dollop of Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ground pepper to taste. Whisk everything together.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/08/grilled-kale-salad.html

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Cherry Studded Ricotta Tart and Summer Scenes in Chicago

cherry studded ricotta tartAs promised, I said I was going to post my Cherry Studded Ricotta Tart, so here it is! Creamy, light, slightly sweet and bursting with cherry flavor, all nicely baked into an almond crust. It’s the perfect summer dessert to have out on the patio with a cup of espresso!
Morello cherries Deep into summer cherries are bountiful here right now, so if you don’t mind pitting fresh cherries go right ahead, you’ll need around 23 or so for a 9 inch tart. I must confess pitting is not my favorite thing to do so I cheat a little bit and use these yummy dark Morello cherries I discovered from Trader Joe’s. All you have to do is open the lid, pour them into a strainer and drain them really good.

almond meal crustNormally I would make a graham cracker crust for this tart but I thought I would change it up this time and make an almond crust, since almonds and cherries go so well together.
cherry ricotta tart It was a great choice if I do say so myself!

cherry ricotta tartJust look at that crunchy, nutty crust!

slice of ricotta tart Put the espresso on, grab a slice and enjoy!

ChicagoThis past weekend we had relatives from out of town visiting, they wanted to go into the city to see Millenium Park and “The Bean” so we drove down, parked our car and walked all over town.
Chicago scenes It was a gorgeous summer day, the perfect temperature to dine outside and enjoy the views.

Chicago riverThe river looked exceptionally beautiful that day, the sun was glistening on the water, even the buildings were shining! If your visiting Chicago take the architectural boat tours it’s one of the best ways to see the city.
Chicago scenesChicago BeanWe made it to “The Bean” then sat and people watched by the fountain, I highly recommend it!

Chicago food Of course eating and drinking along the way makes it even more fun!

Cherry Studded Ricotta Tart

Ingredients

  • ALMOND CRUST
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • RICOTTA FILLING
  • 2 cups, drained ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • feel free to add 1 tablespoon of Limoncello if you so desire, optional
  • 24 pitted cherries.

Instructions

  1. FOR CRUST.
  2. Add melted butter to almond meal and sugar, mix well then pat into a 9" tart pan.
  3. Place tart pan on a baking sheet then place into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove.
  4. FOR FILLING.
  5. With a hand mixer blend together the ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, zest and flavorings until smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into the tart pan and place into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove, then carefully studd your cherries on top.
  6. Place cherry studded tart back into the 375 degree oven and continue baking 30-40 more minutes or until toothpick comes out clean in the center.
  7. Let it cool completely, then refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/07/cherry-studded-ricotta-tart-and-summer-scenes-in-chicago.html

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Patty Pan Squash Carpaccio for a Hot Summer Night

patty pan squash carpaccioSometimes on a hot summer night or when I’m just being lazy, I’ll put together a nice antipasto platter and we’ll have that for our main meal. My refrigerator is never without a variety of olives and cheeses and either salami or prosciutto of some sort, so it’s pretty quick for me to whip this up. This is casual dining at it’s best, just open a chilled bottle of wine, add some crusty bread then relax and enjoy!
farmers marketpatty pan squashOver the weekend I went to our local farmers market and couldn’t resist taking home a bag of these tiny saucer shaped squash and a few 8-ball zucchini, even though I had no clue how I was going to prepare them!
patty pan squash I’ve seen these tiny squash stuffed before and roasted, but because it’s been so hot outside I decided to make mine carpaccio style, raw uncooked thin slices tossed in olive oil and lemon with shaved parmesan and parsley, it was the perfect addition to my cool and refreshing antipasto platter. I just love the scalloped edges and the tops on the patty pan squash, it’s all edible and it makes for a nice presentation.

italian antipastoI also made a caprese salad to go along with everything, because in the summer that’s a staple at my house and besides I have basil growing like crazy all over my backyard!
antipasto Aaaah summertime, when the living is easy!  Don’t you love it?

Patty Pan Squash Carpaccio for a Hot Summer Night

Ingredients

  • patty pan squash
  • 8-ball zucchini
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • arugula, optional
  • shaved parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon zest
  • fresh lemon and olive oil dressing

Instructions

  1. Slice the tops off of the patty pan squash with a knife, set aside.
  2. Slice tops off of the 8-ball zucchini, discard.
  3. Thinly slice remaining squash with a mandolin if possible, slices should be thin.
  4. Add sliced squash, plus the tops of the patty pan squash into a bowl and add parsley, zest, shaved parmesan, arugula, use as much as you want, to taste.
  5. Whisk together a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing then pour over the squash and toss very gently.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/07/patty-pan-squash-carpaccio-for-a-hot-summer-night.html

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Rainbow Carrot Ribbon Salad

rainbow carrot saladI couldn’t resist these beautiful rainbow carrots the other day while I was shopping, I quickly stuck them into my cart not knowing what I was going to make with them, but I was inspired by their vibrant colors!
raw rainbow carrots Just look at these beauties! The colors are amazing, deep purple, yellow, red, white, peach and of course orange. I decided to make a salad, shaving the carrots into ribbons using my vegetable peeler so I could showcase all the gorgeous colors inside.

rainbow carrotsAs I was shaving them their deep rich colors were even more pronounced, my favorite was the purple with the yellow center.
shredded carrot ribbons Surprisingly their flavor isn’t all that much different, some of the carrots might taste slightly sweeter than the others but you sure can’t beat the visual! Imagine this on a large platter as a side dish. I served it with grilled salmon, a beautiful healthy meal that needed nothing else!

rainbow carrot ribbonsWorks of art for under five dollars, your guests will be impressed, it’s turns the humble carrot into a very sophisticated dish!
carrot salad Of course I had to make my salad Italian style with ribbons of Parmigiano Reggiano tossed inside, I also added arugula which balanced the sweetness of the carrots perfectly.

rainbow carrot saladFresh basil, parsley and slivers of red onion added and tossed with my homemade vinaigrette, I’m telling you there wasn’t one ribbon left on the platter!
carrot salad Don’t pass these babies up!

Rainbow Carrot Ribbon Salad

Ingredients

  • I'm listing the ingredients, the amounts are to taste. Taste as you go!
  • rainbow carrot ribbons
  • baby arugula
  • Parmigiano Reggiano ribbons
  • slivered red onion
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
  • toasted pine nuts, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • light vinaigrette, recipe below

Instructions

  1. Use a large bowl to toss and coat every thing completely then place your salad on a platter.
  2. VINAIGRETTE RECIPE
  3. 3 parts good olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic, 1 smashed garlic clove, a dollop of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ground pepper to taste. Whisk everything together.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/07/rainbow-carrot-ribbon-salad.html

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Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

SangriaNo recipes today, just relaxing and sipping sangria, enjoying the beautiful weather here in Chicago, and wishing winter never comes back!
steak and vegetable kabobs Many grills will be fired up and good smells will be in the air, some of the things we enjoy grilling are, steak kabobs. It’s not summer without a kabob  of some sort!

BBQ baby back ribsOf course ribs are a given. We make no claims here to be rib masters, we just cook them low and slow then slather on some really good bbq sauce.
beer brats The hubby makes his famous beer brats. Sweet onions, butter and beer flavor perfectly grilled brats!  A nice side for all this would be my red, white and blue potato salad.

cherry ricotta tartAfter a heavy meal a nice light dessert goes well like my cherry studded ricotta tart, I promise I will get this recipe on the blog soon, it’s that good!
fireworks Have a great day and enjoy the fireworks!

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Olive Crusted Cod in Foil

olive crusted codNext time you’re making fish consider wrapping and cooking it in foil. You can either bake it in the oven or stick it on the grill, which ever way you choose you’ll love how these foil packets lock in all the moisture and flavor of the fish, and clean up is a breeze!
fresh cod I bought a beautiful fresh filet of Alaskan cod the other day from Whole Foods, I’ve always been a fan of cod I love the texture, the mild flavor and those big moist flakes. I’ve made cod this way, and this way before but this time I wanted to try something a little different.

After a little Google research I got my inspiration from a Jacques Pepin recipe. I was sold when I read that the assertive ingredients used in this crust is just right for flaky and mild flavored cod. I made mine slightly altered but the basic ingredients are the same, briny olives, sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and scallions rough chopped and drizzled with olive oil.
 I placed my olive crusted fish on top of a layer of zucchini ribbons then drizzled the whole thing with a lemon and olive oil dressing that I whisked together. Extreme flavor!

It was a hot day and I didn’t want to turn on my oven so I decided to make individual foil packets for the grill, something I do often anyway. Easy cleanup and it takes less then 15 minutes to cook!
 Just look at all that flavorful juice! Here is my version for the grill.

Olive Crusted Cod in Foil

Ingredients

  • 1lb of fresh cod
  • 3/4 cup of mixed olives, kalamata, nicoise, and green
  • 1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, dried or drained of oil
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 3 scallions
  • 3/4 cup of parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • zucchini ribbons, optional

Instructions

  1. Rough chop the olives, sundried tomatoes, garlic,scallions and parsley in a food processor.
  2. Use heavy duty foil and cut it large enough to be able to enclose fish without leakage.
  3. Drizzle bottom of foil with olive oil, place zucchini ribbons first and then fish.
  4. Spread olive mixture all over the top of the filet.
  5. Whisk together the juice of 1 lemon and olive oil and drizzle that on top of the olive crusted fish.
  6. Crimp foil to enclose fish.
  7. Place on hot grill at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/06/olive-crusted-cod-in-foil.html

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Caprese Style Portobellos

caprese stuffed portobellosI love the large portobello mushroom caps because basically you can stuff them with almost anything you want resulting in a beautiful meal that you created in no time. You don’t need a bunch of ingredients to make them and you feel totally satisfied after you’ve eaten them.
stuffed portobello We often eat these as a main course during the week along with a nice big salad but if you want to make them as a delicious side dish next to grilled chops or a steak, I’m here to tell you they go perfectly together!

caprese mush
What’s not to like? All the flavors of a caprese salad all plopped into a large portobello cap! It’s good, it’s really good.

caprese mush11One of the reasons this tastes so good is that you cut and prepare your cherry tomatoes ahead of time letting them sit in a bowl for a few minutes with your olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper, letting all the flavors meld together. Good tomatoes are the key of course!

caprese mush9And lastly, and I wouldn’t say this unless I meant it, but if you really want to take the whole flavor experience over the top, finish it off with this!

Caprese Style Portobellos

Ingredients

  • large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • shredded or fresh mozzarella ( although I've tried both I prefer the dryer shredded version for this because of the moisture factor seeping out)
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up.
  3. Brush the caps and rims with olive oil on each mushroom.
  4. Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half, place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, add chopped basil, salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
  5. Place your cheese on the bottom of the mushroom cap, spoon on the tomato basil mixture and bake until cheese melts and mushrooms are cooked but not overcooked.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/06/caprese-style-portobellos.html

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Grilled Fennel Salad with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan

grilled fennelWill you be firing up the grill for Father’s Day? If so, I’d like to suggest a platter of grilled fennel as a side! It goes wonderful with steaks, chicken, fish and my absolute favorite, a Tuscan grilled pork roast. Those of you who have been on the fence about fennel because of it’s slight licorice/anise flavor, please give this grilled version a try.
grilled fennel platter Cooked fennel doesn’t taste licoricey at all, it’s delicate and mellow and has a natural sweetness with a texture that is similar to bok choy.

Fresh herbs combined with lemon, lemon zest, olive oil and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano makes for the perfect topping to enhance the flavors even more.
grilled fennel salad You can grill your fennel ahead of time either outside or on an indoor grill, just don’t flip them until you get a nice char on each side and they’re tender to the touch. I like to keep my grill on medium, watching closely. They take about 5 minutes per side.

 Then all you have to do is drizzle on the dressing and watch them disappear!

Grilled Fennel Salad with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan

Ingredients

  • fennel bulbs, sliced
  • olive oil
  • fresh herbs like basil, parsley and thyme and some fennel fronds
  • lemon juice and zest
  • Parmigiano Reggiano shavings

Instructions

  1. If your fennel bulbs have stalks and fronds on them, then you'll want to trim them off.
  2. Cut off any hard and inedible outer parts.
  3. Trim a tiny bit off the bottom, the core helps to keep your slices in tact.
  4. Holding your fennel bulb upright cut 1/4 inch slices vertically from top to bottom.
  5. Brush each side with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  6. Place slices on a medium hot grill turning until you get a nice char on each side and fennel is tender to the touch.
  7. Whisk together the lemon, olive oil, herbs and zest adding salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle all over.
  8. Garnish with the shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
  9. Delicious slightly warm or at room temperature.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/06/grilled-fennel-salad-with-fresh-herbs-and-parmesan.html

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Summer Salad Sides

Italian saladIf you’re having a BBQ then your going to need some side dishes, here’s a few that I’ve been making lately. When I make a salad I don’t fuss about exact measurements, I just grab a bowl or a platter, the size of which is always determined on how many people I’m feeding, then I just start cutting and tossing in all my favorite ingredients. If you love artichokes like me then add more, if you’re not crazy about onions, don’t add any. If I’m adding chickpeas I might want to start with a handful at first adding more as I go. That’s how I make a salad, so for these four salads I’m featuring I’m giving you the combination of ingredients I used but not the exact amounts, you can be the judge according  to your tastes!

For my ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD  which is also great as a starter because of all the antipasto ingredients. I added romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, green and black olives, red onion, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, diced provolone cheese, salami and cooked ditalini pasta. Vinaigrette dressing.

zucchini ribbon salad ZUCCHINI RIBBON SALAD with ASPARAGUS and CORN. Everything here is raw except for the grilled corn, After you dress it let it sit for an hour so all the flavors meld together.  It includes yellow squash and zucchini ribbons, ( that I make with my vegetable peeler) slices of baby zucchini, tender small asparagus cut diagonally, grilled corn, parmesan chards, (the more the better), toasted walnuts, basil and chopped chives. Vinaigrette or lemon olive oil dressing.

grilled potato saladGRILLED RED POTATO SALAD. This is a tasty side for steaks, ribs, pork and chicken. Pre-grill some red potato slices by cutting the top and bottom off of the potatoes then cutting into planks, toss in olive oil and place on your grill until tender. Grilled red, yellow and orange peppers, chopped bite size, Nicoise olives, sliced grape tomatoes, chopped green onion and fresh parsley. Vinaigrette dressing.
Italian vinagrette I get asked many times how I make my Vinaigrette so here it is,  3 parts good olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic, 1 smashed garlic clove, a dollop of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ground pepper to taste. Whisk everything together. I always have a jar sitting in my fridge at all times!                                                                                                                                                                                                   quinoa saladGrilled Veggie Quinoa Salad. A great healthy lunch as well as a side. For this I used a tricolored quinoa that I precooked according to the package then I just added assorted and chopped grilled veggies, yellow squash, zucchini, onion, eggplant, red, yellow and orange peppers, chopped basil and lemon zest. Lemon slices for garnish. Lemon and olive oil dressing.
 How could something so simple taste so good? Fresh Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing. This simple dressing is one of my favorites! Fresh squeezed lemon juice plus a little zest, a small smashed garlic clove, whisk in some good olive oil, add salt and pepper, done! I taste as I go along checking for the right balance of juice vs olive oil, you’ll know when you get it just right!

Enjoy!

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Grilled Vegetable Skewers

grilled vegetable skewersGrilling vegetables is nothing new but when you put them together on a skewer they transform into an eye-catching little side dish! Who could resist all those colors and combinations? They look so pretty on a platter and a little goes a long way!

I cut up all my veggies first and place them into a big bowl tossing them in a generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever herbs I feel like using, either dried or fresh.

The more color the better, red onion, cherry tomatoes, corn, zucchini, yellow squash, multi colored peppers of red, yellow, orange and green. I like to use a Japanese eggplant when making these because it slices into nice rounds for skewering. I also added crimini mushrooms and small red potatoes into the mix. Try to keep all the slices the same size around 1 1/2 inches so everything cooks at the same pace.

grilling vegetables Assemble them in any order that appeals to you, you can get very creative with all the different colors. I parboil the potatoes just a little ahead of time so they won’t take so long to cook on the grill. Cook on a medium turning often until slightly charred and cooked through.vegetable skewersVeggie skewers are the perfect option for entertaining because you can assemble all your skewers way ahead of time, even the night before. Refrigerate until you’re ready to throw them on the grill.

grilled artichokes Of course at my house we always make extra room on the grill for my stuffed grilled artichokes, I make them pretty regularly in the summer, so easy, so good!grilled shrimp I served my veggie skewers with grilled shrimp that I marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, a pinch of red pepper flakes and fresh parsley. I love those flat wooden skewers, the shrimp doesn’t move and flip around when turning, everything stays in place.shrimp skewers A touch of grilled lemon squeezed over the top was the perfect finish to the shrimp. The finishing touch on my veggie skewers will always be this, what can I say, they just go hand in hand!

Fire up your grill and make this colorful and healthy meal for your next cookout!

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Plank Grilling with Cheese

planked cheeseI’m a big fan of plank grilling, I love the subtle smoky flavor that the different woods infuse. I’ve planked salmon and other fish many times, also scallops and portobello’s but never tried cheese, until now. Wow, have I been missing out! I have to say this is a spectacular appetizer, just open up a few bottles of wine and let the party begin! This would be perfect to start off your Memorial Day weekend BBQ’s.
outdoor gourmet Whatever flavor board you decide to use just make sure you soak them really good, I went with cedar and maple since I wanted to do a a sweet and savory version. Make sure you anchor the boards under the water, I soaked mine for 3 hours and I never got a flare up thanks to Outdoor Gourmet, they have great products! Brun-uusto cheese I had every intention of using some sort of an Italian cheese for my first try, I already knew that a wheel of Brie would work but I was afraid I might have puddles of cheese dripping down the board. I wanted a cheese that was a little more sturdier so I asked my cheesemonger who gave me quite a few suggestions one being a special romano, but then he insisted I try this Brun-Uusto cheese from Brunkow Cheese in Wisconsin. It’s known as a “bread cheese” because the crust on the cheese is similar to toasted bread. He just went on and on how good it was, and he was right!

If you can’t find this cheese in your area you might want to try a halumi type, but if you live in the Chicagoland area this cheese will be available at Whole Foods, Standard Market, farmers markets and possibly Trader Joe’s, although I can’t confirm that.

It’s meant to be eaten warm and is delicious with sweet or savory toppings.

 I purchased everything so it was easy to put together, I bought a jar of sour cherry preserves for the sweet topping and for the savory I picked up a container of sundried tomatoes that were tossed in olive oil, garlic, oregano and capers. I toasted a loaf of crusty bread and bought assorted crackers and a brioche toast.planked cheese with tomatoes This cheese melts perfectly, it doesn’t ooze out all over it stays contained but yet it’s still creamy and soft with a nutty flavor and the cedar infusion takes it over the top!  Crusty toasty bread, warm creamy cheese plus savory tomatoes makes this a match made in heaven! For the sweet version I used a maple board which added a delicate smoky flavor to the warm cheese.

 The sour cherry topping combined with the nutty warm cheese spread on brioche toast was truly amazing! I think this was my favorite!

I hope I inspired you to plank some cheese.   Happy Grilling!

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Veggie Bundles Wrapped in Phyllo

veggie bundle in phylloThis is such a great lunch or even a light dinner. You could use leftover veggies either roasted or grilled and all you’ll need is a box of phyllo, a little bit of cheese and some muffin tins. Crunchy on the outside with cheesy flavorful veggies on the inside.

It’s an individual take on something I make quite often at my house, which is this.
roasted vegetables I always have roasted veggies in my fridge and now that the weather is staying warm I’ll be stocking up on grilled instead. Any combination will do, use whatever you like, you’ll only be using 1/2 cup per muffin.

veggies in phylloIn the past I was always afraid to use phyllo dough, but now I never go without a box in my fridge and use it for both sweet and savory dishes. I love to work with it because it’s so forgiving. My kind of dough!
 I also like the free form look of the finished product, no matter how you fold the phyllo up over the veggies it always looks pretty in the end. Serve with a nice salad and some roasted red pepper sauce on the side, so good!

 

Veggie Bundles Wrapped in Phyllo

Ingredients

  • precooked grilled or roasted veggies of your choice
  • 5 sheets of phyllo
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese like asiago, mozzarella or fontina
  • olive oil for brushing
  • roasted red pepper sauce or marinara for swiping bundle in
  • muffin tin
  • makes 6

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil muffin tins.
  2. Layer 5 sheets of phyllo on top of each other brushing olive oil on each individual sheet.
  3. Cut into 6 squares.
  4. Press one square into each muffin cup and fill with 1/2 cup veggie mixture.
  5. Top with grated cheese, then fold over the corners to secure filling.
  6. Brush tops with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Bake at 375F until golden, around 30 minutes.
  8. Cool for 5 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.
  9. Best eaten same day or otherwise reheat in a 400F oven until crispy again.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/05/veggie-bundles-wrapped-in-phyllo.html

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Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon

 I’m so happy grilling season is back in full force! This is one of the things I made recently, Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon,  it’s the perfect side dish for all your summer grilling events.

 Grilled asparagus, grilled red pepper slices, creamy and slightly tangy goat cheese layered between grilled potato slices topped off with nicoise olives and a rich balsamic glaze to swipe it all in. I spoke about Mandarano Balsamic Glaze before, it’s a staple in my kitchen, I use it all the time and many times on this blog. I adore it and highly recommend it!

Once you get a bottle you’ll never want to be without, it’s that good!  Good news, all my readers will get a discount at checkout using the code, PIC.
 I did three stacks of potato slices here but two stacks would work as well especially if your serving a bunch of other side dishes. It looks impressive, the flavors are amazing, it’s a win, win!

Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon

Ingredients

  • Amounts will vary depending on how many you will be making and whether you have a 2 or 3 high stack. This will be a guideline.
  • I used large baking potatoes which need to be precooked until tender but not mushy. You could either steam, boil or bake After they are cooked cut off the ends and make 1/2 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil then finish cooking on grill for a few minutes. Be sure to get some nice grill marks!
  • Asparagus, pre grilled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Goat cheese log, cut into rounds
  • Red pepper slices, pre grilled
  • Nicoise olives and balsamic glaze for finish
  • Light vinaigrette or fresh lemon olive oil dressing

Instructions

  1. Have everything ready for assembly,
  2. Potato* goat cheese round* red pepper slice* asparagus pieces* a few olives.
  3. Drizzle layer with either a light vinaigrette or fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.
  4. Repeat!
  5. When napoleon is made, garnish with more dressing, olives, asparagus pieces and a healthy swirl of luscious balsamic glaze around the plate.
  6. better served either slightly warm or room temperature.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/05/grilled-potato-and-asparagus-napoleon.html

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Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake with Citrus Vanilla Glaze

olive oil pound cakeHave you ever been instantly attracted to the title of a recipe? It happened to me the second I read the words olive oil and Chardonnay pound cake, and ever since I’ve been obsessing about making this cake!

I’m so glad my obsession turned into a reality because we loved this cake! It’s super moist from the olive oil with hints of chardonnay throughout, and the glaze was bright and bold.  A very special cake for a special occasion, this would be a wonderful addition to your Mother’s Day table that would cater to all the adults.
ingredients for a pound cake And the best part is it’s such a breeze to make! Easy prep with few ingredients, my kind of baking!pound cake batter It’s a nice bubbly batter created by the chardonnay addition and you can actually smell the chardonnay as it’s baking in the oven, your kitchen will smell so good!frosting dripping I found this recipe on the Jordan Winery website, the original recipe finishes the cake off by brushing it with cognac, I wanted to try something different. Since chardonnay has notes of citrus and vanilla I decided to make a glaze using the zest of a lemon, lime and a mandarin orange along with vanilla. If I do say so myself I think the glaze took this cake way over the top! The flavors all blend amazing together, this is a cake for special summer events. It’s golden brown with a nice moist crumb and the chardonnay and citrus compliment each other perfectly. It’s very impressive!slice of pound cake I will be making this cake over and over again!

Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake with Citrus Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chardonnay
  • 1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • FOR THE GLAZE
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • the zest of 1/2 a lemon, lime and mandarin orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Squeeze the juice of all 3 citrus fruits until you get the right consistency for your glaze, slightly thick but still runny.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, I used glass.
  2. With a mixer, beat eggs. Gradually add sugar and beat until batter is light and creamy. Slowly add extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay. Stir to combine.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Fold flour mixture into the egg mixture. Spoon batter into your buttered cake pan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Let cake cool for ten minutes then remove from pan.
  5. Let it cool down a little before you pour the glaze on, cake should be warm but not hot.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/04/olive-oil-and-chardonnay-pound-cake-with-citrus-vanilla-glaze.html

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Spring Green Pasta with Parsley Walnut Pesto

parsley pesto pastaThe spring weather reached havoc here in the midwest with major flooding all around us last week. As I drive through my neighborhood I see piles and piles of peoples belongings in dumpster after dumpster, many homes are uninhabitable just a few blocks from me, one of them a close friend of mine. For some reason my house was spared and not a drop of water came in. I feel guilty and grateful all at the same time.
parsley walnut pesto Yesterday was a comfort food kind of day, something simple and easy but full of bright flavors. The key to this pasta dish is the parsley walnut pesto. Fresh parsley, toasted walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice all swirled with extra virgin olive oil, you could slather this on anything and it would be good!

zucchini stripsI decided to slather it all over spaghetti along with strips of yellow squash and zucchini, peas, asparagus and spinach. This is what I call cozy and delicious spring comfort food!
The pesto clings to the warm pasta, every bite has intense flavor!
 
Toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan tops this dish off, all you’ll need is a bowl and a fork!

Spring Green Pasta with Parsley Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

  • For the Parsley Walnut Pesto
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil
  • For the Pasta
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 medium zucchini julienned
  • 1 yellow squash julienned
  • 1 lb. small asparagus cut on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • a good handful of fresh baby spinach
  • reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water

Instructions

  1. For the Parsley Pesto, place parsley, garlic and toasted walnuts in food processor bowl, pulse until well incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients and process until you get a nice smooth consistency
  2. For the pasta, prepare your squash first by making thin strips julienne style, you can do this with a mandoline, a julienne vegetable peeler, or by hand cutting planks and then making the strips with the tip of your knife like in the photo above. When finished, quickly saute until slightly wilted, a minute or two.
  3. Saute the peas and asparagus together in a little olive oil just until al`dente tender. set aside.
  4. Cook pasta and reserve some of the pasta water. When finished, toss hot pasta into a large bowl along with all the other vegetables, the peas, asparagus, squash and spinach. Add 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of the pesto, adding more if needed and to your taste. If you want to thin it out add some of the pasta water.
  5. The leftover pesto keeps well in the fridge.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/04/spring-green-pasta-with-parsley-walnut-pesto.html

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Italian Sauces, My Way – The E-Book!

I always had a passion for cooking. I remember way back to my high school days in public speaking class when our first assignment was to give a live presentation on something that excited us: the topic I chose was, “How to Make an Italian Salad.” It turned out to be a big winner, I fed the whole class and got an “A”!Fast forward as a young bride where my skills in the kitchen didn’t always produce such flawless results, like the time I almost landed my dear husband in the hospital due to my lack of cooking talents.  Ahem.

When I became a new mother, convenience foods were all the rage and quite often Hamburger Helper would be served on my dinner table, but deep down inside I was determined not to feed my family from a box, instead I honed in on the recipes of my past, recreating those smells in the kitchen that were near and dear to my heart, the ones that I wanted to share with my kids, the ones that continue to link generations to one another no matter how much time has passed.

I wrote this book on Italian Sauces because to me they have always been the foundation for so many memorable meals. I encourage you to use this book as inspiration, a guide or reference book to help you showcase your own special food traditions!Italian Sauce Recipes E-book

The recipes I’ve included are not complicated or fussy, they’re user friendly plus you can have the confidence that they’ve been tried and tested over the years to make sure they came out just right!  I like to say I worked out all the kinks for you.  I also took into consideration the very busy lifestyles of today by creating shortcuts for those who want a quick homemade dinner instead of take out during the week, using fresh ingredients and things you have on hand.

Italian Sauce Recipes

When time is not an issue and you crave that slow cooked meal, I’ve given you personal family favorites, traditions from my home, because honestly, nothing beats a huge pot of sauce simmering on the stove all day, the smells enticing you with anticipation of the meal ahead.

Italian Sauces Ebook

This book, a collection of some of my favorite sauces as well as some of the dishes you’ll be using them with, will provide you with all that you need for creating a special dinner for guests, a romantic meal for two as well as the ultimate comfort meal for one, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cook.

Italian Sauces My Way Ebook

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What People are Saying…

Italian Sauces My Way Testimonials

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The kitchen is the heart of the home. Take these recipes and put your own twist on them, you can never go wrong! Cooking is about having fun in the kitchen, getting creative, making memories and sharing with those you love. I hope you enjoy Italian Sauces My Way!

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Grilled Meatballs Stuffed with Fontina and Some Exciting News!

grilled meatballsThis past weekend the weather finally felt like spring so it was time to clean the grill and fire it up for the first time since winter.
Fontina stuffed meatball I decided I was going to try grilling meatballs, I’ve been wanting to try it, something different. I mixed them up the way I always make them minus the breadcrumbs. I cubed up some Fontina cheese and placed a hunk right in the middle. For my grilled meatballs I used ground turkey because that’s what I had, but you could use any ground meat mixture that you like. Just make sure your grill is nice and clean, rub some oil on the grates and because I used ground turkey I sprayed my meatballs beforehand with olive oil. I had no fancy gadgets I just plopped them right onto the grill, but here’s the thing, don’t get anxious and start moving them, let them form a crust on the bottom. For extra precaution I checked the bottom using a sharp edged spatula before I flipped them over.

I have a gas grill and I put all my burners on low. I made a roasted tomato and garlic sauce to serve with my meatballs, a great combination that enhanced all the flavors of the entire dish. We loved how they tasted! The slightly smokey flavor the grill added was a plus along with the nice crispy outer crust that formed. Moist and flavorful inside with gooey Fontina cheese oozing out. This would be great for a party, you could even make them as kabobs!

 And now for my exciting news! I wrote an ebook/cookbook! I can hardly believe it myself but I really did! Within a couple of days I will be releasing it here on my blog. So please come back and read all about it, I can’t wait to share it with you!

Ironically, and I didn’t even plan it this way, both my favorite meatball recipe and the sauce I made here will be featured in my ebook. So feel free to use your own  special meatball recipe along with your favorite sauce, but I really encourage you to make some meatballs on the grill next time next time you fire yours up, I promise you will love them!

If you haven’t already done so please “like” my Facebook page or share my post over there, I’ll be giving away 10 copies to my Facebook friends. In the very near future I’ll also be having a giveaway right here on my blog for some free copies.

Thank you all for your support!

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Spring Vegetable Frittata with Brie

frittataOver Easter weekend I made three different frittatas, one with potatoes and eggs and another with every vegetable you can think of, but this spring vegetable frittata is by far my favorite one of the moment!
Ingredients for a frittata Everything about it reminds me of spring, fresh shaved asparagus, tiny fresh peas and those cute baby zucchini. I also like to add in tomatoes and chopped green onion, delicate flavors that really pack a punch!frittata

I always cook my frittatas in a nonstick oven safe skillet. My aunt taught me how to make frittatas, she never flipped them and neither do I, I tried it once and it wasn’t a pretty sight! The key is to let the eggs set in the skillet on the stovetop forming a slight crust on the bottom and then you finish it off under the broiler, but you can’t walk away, you have to keep opening the door and checking so as not to burn it!

spring frittataI always flavor my eggs with grated parmesan or romano it gives a nice base for all of the other ingredients, and with the addition of Brie here it really takes it over the top!
frittataBy placing it under the broiler for a few minutes your frittata will become perfectly golden as well as puffy and fluffy and that’s exactly what you want!
frittata

While the frittata is still warm I like to dot it with additional brie cheese because it melts so fast and besides I love how it looks when it oozes out.

slice of frittata

I served my frittata with fresh pea shoots tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing with shaved parmesan. The perfect breakfast, brunch, lunch, or midnight snack!

Spring Vegetable Frittata with Brie

Ingredients

  • I used a 10" nonstick skillet
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 cup or more grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to coat pan
  • 4 asparagus shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 baby zucchini cut into rounds or the smallest zucchini you could find
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or defrosted peas
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 5 or 6 grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 3 oz. of Brie cheese, rind removed
  • parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Beat your eggs in a bowl with the water, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat skillet on medium high with a nice drizzle of olive oil and very quickly saute the zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, peas and scallions. Leave half of the veggies in the pan, remove the other half.
  3. Pour in egg mixture and reduce heat to medium low and let the eggs set so it's not so runny, then place the rest of the veggies all around with half of the Brie.
  4. Make sure your broiler is on and place the whole oven safe skillet under it, this will not take long, a few seconds maybe a minute or so, keep checking, sometimes I turn the pan to make sure it is evenly cooked.
  5. When frittata is nice and golden remove and dot with the remaining Brie and garnish with parsley.
  6. You can eat this hot or at room temperature.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/04/spring-vegetable-frittata-with-brie.html

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Limoncello Cookies Made From Homemade Limoncello

limoncello cookiesOh my, I’m so excited to share this cookie recipe with you! If you don’t have a bottle of limoncello in your home right now please go out and get one so you can make these cookies for Easter. Let me see if I can describe them to you, buttery, crunchy, refreshing, bright with an explosion of  lemon flavor! The perfect cookie to welcome in spring.
Making limoncelloFortunate for me I still had a bottle of homemade limoncello that my daughter, her friend and her cousin made back in September. It was quite a project and fun for me to watch since I’ve never ever made it myself. Much planning went into it beforehand, she was on a mission to find the best organic lemons she could find, lemons free of chemicals and wax because the peels would be soaking in alcohol for weeks.
Making limoncelloPeeling the yellow skins off the lemons take time and patience, it’s something you can’t rush because you have to be careful not to get any of the white pith beneath it otherwise your end result will be bitter, and you don’t want bitter limoncello. Their goal was to have it all completed and ready to sip for the holiday season. I’m happy to say they reached their goal.

As you can see even her dog was there for moral support!Homemade limoncelloThe essential oils of the lemon peels infusing with the alcohol is such a dynamic combination, creating the most vibrant liqueur. I don’t want to sound like a bragging mother but this was the best limoncello I’ve ever had! It tasted so fresh with a wonderful smooth finish to it. After giving out some bottles as gifts they now have people begging them to make more. Homemade limoncello I hoarded one last bottle, it was hidden away in my freezer, making limoncello cookies was a good excuse to bring it out!Sipping limoncello Of course I had to sip some while I was baking!glass of limoncello Look at that color, liquid gold, slightly thick and perfectly sweet. It screams blue skies and sunshine!frosted limoncello cookiesThe limoncello is mixed right into the frosting so with every bite you take you’ll have a burst of lemony flavor. I promise you, these will be devoured if you make them for Easter, but you need to double or triple this recipe for sure!
frosted limoncello cookieThe dough is shaped into a log then refrigerated for a while, sliced and baked. I tried to shape my log into an oval so they would look like eggs, or you could just cut them rounds.limoncello cookiesMelt in your mouth goodness! Happy Easter to all!

Limoncello Cookies Made From Homemade Limoncello

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • ICING
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon for garnish on frosting

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine salt and flour. Set aside.
  2. With a mixer cream together butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined, then vanilla and the zest.
  3. With mixer on medium low, slowly add the flour/salt combo. Mix until the flour starts to incorporate. Don't over mix, cookie will be tough.
  4. roll dough into a 2"x 12" log, ( it will be soft at this point) or oval to resemble eggs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. ( refrigeration is key, dough needs to be firm).
  5. When ready to bake remove wrap and slice dough into 1/3 thick cookies, place on parchment and bake at 350 for 13-17 minutes. You want the edges to become golden. Cool before icing on wire racks.
  6. FOR THE ICING:
  7. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, limoncello and lemon juice. Stir until fluid but thick.
  8. Brush or dip cookies into frosting, garnish with zest and allow to dry about 10 minutes.
  9. Makes 24 cookies but I would double or triple this recipe!
  10. Recipe adapted from, In Sock Monkey Slippers
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/03/limoncello-cookies-made-from-homemade-limoncello.html

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