Month: March 2010

Italian Easter Ideas

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Here are a few ideas for adding Italian touches to your Easter celebration.

Italian Easter feasts feature any number of the following dishes: lamb, goat, ham, turkey, egg dishes (from hard boiled to deviled to frittatas to rustica), pastas, potatoes, vegetables, salads, lots of breads, and of, course, numerous sweets – specifically pastries and cakes. 

Italian Easter sweets and baked items include: braided Easter bread with the eggs baked inside (pictured above), called pani festivi, and a dove-shaped bread (also pictured above) called Colomba, tortas, pastiera, cannoli, zeppole, rum cakes and assorted cookies.

Another nice touch for the dessert table that you can find at many Italian markets is Perugina chocolate (pictured above).  Often made in the shape of a bunny or a hollowed egg with a prize inside, these favored Italian goodies make wonderful gifts.

Here are some sources for Easter goodies – from breads and pastries to chocolates and other gift items:

Bunny Hop Pasta:

http://www.pastashoppe.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=151&c=49

Italian Chocolate Easter Eggs

http://www.premiumchocolatesoutlet.com/

http://www.confettipelino.com/site/epage/30870_552.htm

Mini Easter Pizza (candy, great to put in Easter basket)

http://www.sugar-plum.com/Mini-Easter-Pizza-p/mepizza.htm

Italian Easter Cake

http://www.amazon.com/Bauli-Colomba-Verona-Italian-Easter/dp/B001UPAAAY

http://www.harrods.com/HarrodsStore/find/c/foodhall,foodhalls-easter-2010/p/000000000002082679

http://www.mediastorehouse.com/pictures_1171792/colomba-italian-easter-cake.html?PHPSESSID=9b545146c05f7c23a9dd5a142c870b4f

Italian Cookies

http://www.cookiesitalian.com/

Easter Table Setting

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Above: Easter lamb cake

Twice Baked Broccoli Potatoes

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Above: Prior to twice baking; Below: Twice-baked broccoli potatoes

(For 4 servings)

2 medium russet potatoes

4 tablespoons butter

½ cup sour cream

1 small can cream of broccoli soup

1 ½ (or more, depending on how cheesy you want them) cup grated cheddar cheese

2 cups broccoli, cut into small florets

Preheat oven to 350.  Scrub potatoes and poke several times with a fork.  Bake potatoes for 1 ½ hour.  Meanwhile, steam broccoli florets until just tender (about 3 to 5 minutes), then cool under running water, drain, and set aside.  Remove potatoes from oven, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop most of potato out of skin (leaving about ¼ inch or less layer in skins) and place skins aside.  If you plan to twice bake potatoes right away, turn oven up to 400.

Mix in a large bowl: potatoes, butter, sour cream, cream of broccoli soup, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (save ½ cup for sprinkling on top), until somewhere between chunky and smooth (or desired consistency).  Then, stir in broccoli.  Place hollowed potato skins in a baking dish.  Scoop potato mixture into skins.  Sprinkle ½ cup cheddar cheese on top. You will have leftover mixture (which you can heat and have cheese and broccoli mashed potatoes at some later time).  Either twice-bake potatoes right away in 400 oven (for about 15 minutes), or refrigerate for up to a day, and cook later (at 400, for about 15-20 minutes).

Italian Springtime Favorite: Frittatas

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Frittatas are a popular Italian dish, associated with springtime and with Lent.  They are eaten at any time of the day, and can be made with a wide variety of ingredients.  In addition to eggs, they usually feature cheese and often some kinds of vegetables.  Instead of being folded over like omelets, frittatas are served open-faced, usually sliced like pizza or pie.  You start out cooking them on the stove and then transfer them to the oven to finish cooking.  Here is a basic frittata recipe followed by some ingredients to add to this recipe to make a variety of themed frittatas.

Basic Frittata Recipe

8 eggs (more or less as you choose)

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

½ cup shredded cheese of choice (such as mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

About 1 cup of additions of choice (see below)

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare additional ingredients as needed (see below), and set aside).  In a large bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper.  Mix in cheese and additional ingredients.  Heat olive oil or butter in skillet on stove.  Pour egg mixture into pan, cover and cook about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the pan (don’t stir or flip mixture).  Once the edges are cooked and the top is still slightly runny, remove pan from stove, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, place uncovered pan in oven, and cook about 10 minutes (or until the top is set and the frittata looks nice and fluffy).  Remove from pan, slice, and serve.  Optional: top with sliced avocado.

Here are some variations on the classic frittata.  Add these to the above recipe:

Fall Harvest Frittata – 1 small squash, ½ eggplant, 1 zucchini, ½ cup mushrooms, ½ white onion, all chopped

Frittata Primavera – 8 asparagus spears, 1 red bell pepper, ½ white onion, all chopped, 1 cup broccoli pieces, ½ cup peas

Frittata Milanese – ¼ cup mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1 teaspoon saffron, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 cup prepared risotto, ¼ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup grated Parmesan, ¼ cup chopped celery, ¼ cup chopped scallions, top with additional grated Parmesan

Tuscan Frittata – 1 cup chopped tomatoes, ¼ pound chopped prosciutto (or ham), ½ cup chopped mushrooms, ½ cup spinach, ½ cup pecorino cheese (plus more to sprinkle on top)

Roman Frittata – 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts, 1/3 cup chopped onions, 2 to 3 cloves minced garlic, ½ teaspoon rosemary, ½ teaspoon sage, ½ teaspoon bay leaves, 1 cup prepared and crumbled pancetta (or bacon), 1/3 cup pecorino cheese (plus more to sprinkle on top)

Frittata Napoli – ½ chopped eggplant, ½ cup sundried tomatoes, ½ cup chopped artichoke hearts, 1/3 cup sliced black olives, ½ cup chopped salami or pepperoni, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon rosemary

Pizza Frittata – 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 cup chopped pepperoni, 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon basil, 2-3 cloves minced garlic, more shredded mozzarella to sprinkle on top

Italian White Bean and Vegetable Salad

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This is a light, refreshing, healthy, simple, and springy/summery dish.  Mix the following:

1 can White Northern Beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup Artichoke Hearts, drained and quartered

1 cup Pine Nuts, toasted

1 each: green, yellow and red bell peppers, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup diced black olives

Splash of your favorite Italian or vinaigrette dressing