Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions.

Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preserving Garden Herbs - Conservare le Erbe del Giardino

What makes those summer dishes flavorful are the fresh garden herbs. To relish those flavors all year long, I preserve my garden herbs.


All photos - Copyright - ©2011 - La Casa e Il Giardino – picasaweb

We cultivate these culinary herbs: sage, rosemary and mint.  In mid summer, I pick them at their peak and hang to air dry in a warm dry place until they are crunchy to the touch.  I then place each dried herb in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

How can my leg of lamb or pheasant dish be flavorful without the rosemary?
How can the string beans, pasta maritata and zucchini fritters taste spring-like without mint?

Basil

Basilico sott'olio
Basil can be preserved two ways - dry and in oil. I prefer the oil method. 



Remove the basil leaves from the stalks, wash them, dry them with a cloth and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. To keep the basil in oil take a glass jar with a wide opening and fill it completely with dry basil leaves, spreading and overlapping them well. Add olive oil, pressing the leaves so that they remain under the thread of the oil. Close the jar and keep in the refrigerator.  Basil kept in oil retains much of its fragrance. Use basil to make savory sauces and on baked fish.

  Celery Leaves

Celery is not just for salads but great to spice up foods.  Celery leaves from our garden are worthwhile leaves with intense flavor that fall somewhere in the scent category between cilantro and parsley.
Like basil, wash the celery leaves, dry them with a towel and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. 

Place the dry celery in a zip-lock bag and freeze. 

Celery is excellent with zucchini and potatoes, baccala', chicken soup and a must in bird stuffing.



Buon Appetito!










Monday, August 15, 2016

A Bountiful Harvest from Our Vegetable Garden

We are celebrating this year’s bountiful vegetable crop thanks to a glorious early summer here in the North East.

Pears - Pere


All photos - Copyright - ©2016 - La Casa e Il Giardino

Yes, it required some workseeding, planting, mulching, fertilizing, watering and weeding.
Swisschard









Cabbage





Some plants required special attention - 

Pole beans

Tomatoes on the vine



....keeping an eye on the pests






such as staking up the tomato and bean vines  














Eggplants


........but look at the harvest

Cucumbers

Dandelions
Jersey tomatoes


Italian flat beans




In my opinion, eating vegetables that you have grown yourself is an experience everyone should enjoy. They taste so much better than anything you can buy in a grocery store. 
  

Monday, August 1, 2016

50 Years of Wedded Bliss

Today as both of us look back with happiness and pride upon the 50 cherished years that we've spent side by side.




Where has the time gone!


St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church


So many years later, I remember many details so well.  Such journeys one never forgets.


Our first dance: Love is Many Splendored Thing
Our first honey-moon night at The Plaza Hotel, NY
Flew out the following morning to Rome. 
Our stay at the Villa d'Este, Lake Como.
Back to Casalbordino (Abruzzo) to celebrate with family and friends


Vasto - 1966





If I were to describe our marriage in a nutshell, I would say, it’s practical, unpretentious and precious. It’s not marked by grand displays of affection, the giving of lavish gifts or romantic getaways but one built on solid foundations of shared morals and values.












Over the years, we have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty but we have managed to understand our differences, accepted and then adjusted to them.
Who said marriage was easy? It's not. Never was, never will be.

Spanish Steps, Rome
Piazza di Spagna, Roma
I stumbled upon this beautiful quote today and couldn’t agree with it more!

“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.” F. Burton Howard



St Mark's Square, Venice
Piazza San Marco, Venezia

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sustainable Eating - Means Branching Out

Changing one's eating habits is not easy. You need a diet that you can't "break" - one that's flexible enough to adapt to new changes.

Try a fruit or vegetable that you did not think you liked when it's in season or at its peak. I have seen people converted to foods from zucchini to asparagus just by tasting them freshly picked and simply prepared.


Pasta with Asparagus - Fettuccine con Asparagi


Ingredients
1 lb. thin asparagus
2 cloves of garlic chopped
4 ripe tomatoes or 1 can plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil for sauce
1/4 cup of olive oil to saute' asparagus
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. fettuccine pasta

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces.  Throw away hard ends.
In a pan add 1/4 cup olive oil, add cut asparagus, salt and pepper and saute' for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.
In a medium pot, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and chopped garlic. When garlic is golden, add tomatoes and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, add the asparagus, and simmer few more minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper.
In the meantime, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta and drain. Pour sauce with asparagus over pasta and serve.


Asparagus are not limited to fettuccine.  We also love them with rigatoni.







Sunday, January 31, 2016

SPLIT PEA SOUP

Split pea is one of our favorite soups.  Who can resist the smoky flavor of the ham bone?   The flavor of salty pancetta adds a wonderful punch.





For the soup:
1 pound dried green split peas
Ham bone
Pancetta, diced, 1/4 cup
1 small onion, chopped

Leeks, chopped 1/2 cup
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water




Rinse the dried split peas and place with cold water in a pot to soak overnight.

In a skillet heat pancetta and olive oil.  Add onion, carrots, celery and cook for 10 minutes or until soft.  Add to the peas.

Add ham bone and seasonings.  Cover and bring slowly to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

Remove the ham bone.  Strain and press the vegetables through sieve and add to liquid.

Remove any meat from ham bone and add to the hot soup.  Stir the soup to incorporate the peas and broth, taste, and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Add 1/2 cup of milk if desired.

Monday, December 28, 2015

NEW YEAR'S EVE MENU

I thought I would post my menu for New Year’s Eve!


I want it to be traditional but yet stylish and refined.


I like to start with an appetizer:

Smoked Salmon Salad


Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  •  6 cups baby greens
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
Procedure
Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl to blend well. Season with salt and pepper.
Place greens in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat lightly. Place greens over a large plate.  Fold smoked salmon slices and arrange over greens . Drizzle more dressing over salmon. Sprinkle salmon with capers. Garnish salad with red onion.


Lentil Soup

Pancetta or Cotechino may be substituted for the ham.




Stuffed breast of Veal - Punta di Vitello farcita


Ingredients

1 1/2 lb. Veal belly or breast
4 eggs
1/2 cup grana padano cheese or alternate
2 cups cooked spinach
1/3 lb. speck or prosciutto
Sprig of rosemary
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Procedure

With the eggs, cheese and some of the black pepper make an omelet and save.

Flatten the veal belly with meat pounder, cover with speck or prosciutto, add the omelet and finish with the chopped spinach.  Roll and tie with butcher's string.

Place the veal roll into a roasting pan.  Add salt and pepper, sprig of rosemary, wine and the rest of the olive oil.  Bake in a 325 degree preheated oven for 2 hours.

I believe I came up with a menu which is both tasteful and easy to make.  What do you think?

WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Saturday, December 19, 2015

    Christmas Eve Traditional Dinner at Our Home


    According to family tradition, on Christmas Eve, our dinner includes “lean” dishes. In fact, the main ingredients are fish and vegetables, foods rich in vitamins and minerals, in addition to being lightweight and good for you. The only exception are those fried desserts (scrippelle, caggionetti) , that absolutely one cannot do without.

    Here is the menu we enjoy with family at home, awaiting the midnight arrival of Christmas.
    Buon Appetito!

    Pasta with Clams - (Linguini con vongole)


    Fried Fish -(Pesce fritto)




    Stuffed Squid (Calamari ripieni)


    Broccoli di Rape



    Stuffed Baby Artichokes - (Carciofi ripieni ) (See below for recipe)



    Stuffed Baby Artichokes
    All photo Copyright - ©2010 - La Casa e Il Giardino - picasaweb

    I love baby artichokes because with just a little trimming you can eat the whole thing. Unlike fully mature artichokes, baby artichokes haven’t developed the fuzzy portion of the choke in the center. Baby artichokes are a seasonal size and availability does vary throughout the year, but the month of May is the peak volume month for this size artichoke.

    Ingredients

    9 or 10 baby artichokes
    1/2 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons for sauteing artichokes
    2 cups of water
    2 cloves of garlic, sliced
    Sprig of parsley
    1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
    1 tablespoon red pepper conserve or tomato paste

    Stuffing
    2 cups day-old bread crumbs
    2 eggs, slightly beaten
    1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino
    1 tablespoon chopped parsley
    2 cloves chopped garlic
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    Start by rinsing and brushing off the baby artichokes under cold water.



    Then, snap off the outer layer of petals of the baby artichoke until you reach the pale, yellow-green layer of petals. With a sharp kitchen knife, trim off the stem and remove the rest of the dark green stem that can cause a bitter taste if not removed.  Cut about one half inch off the top of the baby artichoke.  Place artichokes in water with some lemon juice to prevent them from darkening.

    Prepare stuffing by combining all ingredients and mix well. 
    Drain artichokes and stuff them.



    Take a small skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Briefly saute' artichokes face down until the stuffing gets golden, and remove.


    In a large pot, add 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic, salt, black pepper, teaspoon of hot pepper flakes (optional), and 1 tablespoon of pepper conserve (alternate tomato paste).  Bring ingredients to a boil, add the stuffed artichokes, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Taste for tenderness of outer leaves. 

    Stuffed artichokes


    Traditional Christmas desserts

    Caggionetti