Italian Rice Salad and a Giveaway

I first ate a rice salad years ago in Italy, prepared by one of my cousins near Piacenza during a particularly hot summer spell. I have since seen them in many places all over Italy, whether served with a vinegar and oil base as I have here, or a mayonnaise base. Either way they’re delicious and they typically include tuna, hard-boiled eggs, peas and many other vegetables. Many even include chunks of ham, but I kept this one vegetarian. The beauty of this salad is how it adapts to whatever you have on hand in your kitchen, and you can add ingredients in whatever quantities you like. It’s a perfect salad to take to a picnic, and tastes even better the day after you make it. But it makes a fine cold lunch or dinner too, since it contains proteins as well as vegetables. Add a green salad on the side and you’ve got a healthy and delicious meal. I used arborio rice and olive oil, both sent to me by  Limone Market. The rice is a brand called “Lucedio,” from a farm in the heart of Italy’s Piedmont region.  The grains are husked only when orders are received, to ensure freshness, and they held up well to all the strong ingredients in the salad. After cooking the rice, make sure to let it cool completely before proceeding with the recipe. The oil is from an estate in Sicily called “Bona Furtuna” and is made from a single, organic variety of olive called biancolillo centinara. The oil has a mild flavor, with a slight peppery taste at the end and would work well with any type of salad, seafood or even cake recipes. Both are available at Limone Market’s online shop.

Now for the giveaway: Limone Market has graciously offered to give one of my readers an assortment of its products – arborio rice and olive oil, that I used in this salad, plus lentils and pasta. The organic pasta is made by Monogramo Felicetti with kamut, an ancient grain that originated in the Middle East. It retains its firm texture, and is an excellent source of protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals, including selenium. Plus the shape — chiocciole (snails), is great for soaking up a sauce. I served it in a meat and tomato sauce, but the next time I use it, I plan to serve it in a lighter, olive-oil based sauce, to highlight its nutty, buttery flavor.

The organic lentils are from the Umbria region, from Casa Corneli.  Although the package recommends pre-soaking them, I found this step totally unnecessary, since they have very thin skins. I used them in a salad and they retained their shape perfectly. They’d be great in a soup or as a warm side dish too.

All you have to do to receive these products is leave a comment telling me your favorite way to enjoy rice. If you’re on Instagram, follow @ciaochowlinda and @limone_market and you’ll get two extra chances to win. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator.

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Italian Rice Salad
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 6.7 oz. jar tuna in olive oil (preferably an Italian brand like Tonnino), broken into pieces
  • 2 eggs hard-boiled and roughly chopped
  • cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup pickled red onions, chopped into pieces
  • ¼ cup pickled or roasted peppers, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 6.5 oz. jar marinated artichokes, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, diced in small pieces and boiled until tender
  • ½ cup frozen peas, used directly from the package (not cooked)
  • minced parsley
  • salt, pepper
  • FOR THE DRESSING:
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large sprigs of basil
  • salt, pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the rice in tthe water for about 20 minutes.
  2. Let the rice cool completely.
  3. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and mix.
  4. Place the dressing ingredients in a blender and whir until all are combined well.
  5. Pour over the rice salad and mix in thoroughly.
 

 

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with streusel almond topping

Here’s hoping you all had a fun and happy Fourth of July, celebrating with family and friends. We spent the day with family, enjoying a delicious clambake, with these blueberry cheesecake bars for dessert. The recipe comes from a website called  Valeries Kitchen, although I gussied it up a bit with the addition of a streusel topping. You could omit that if you like, but it gave it a nice crunchy contrast to the creamy cheesecake filling. Made in a 13″ x 9″ pan, it serves a crowd. I cut it into 20 individual pieces, but you could make your pieces smaller, or larger.

Make sure to chill it unsliced at least four hours, or preferably overnight, to make it easier to slice.

They’re sure to be a hit with any crowd, whether you’re celebrating a holiday or just enjoying an ordinary day at home.

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Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with streusel almond topping
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • From www.Valerieskitchen.com
  • FOR THE CRUST:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (you'll need 14 whole rectangle shaped graham crackers)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • FOR THE CHEESECAKE:
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (reduced fat or regular)
  • ½ cup sour cream (light or regular)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (about 2 cups)
  • STREUSEL TOPPING (optional):
  • 4 tablespoons buttter
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Make the streusel topping by mixing the flour, sugar and cinnamon with the butter, using your fingers to blend the butter with the other ingredients.
  3. Stir in the almonds and set the streusel topping aside while you prepare the cheesecake.
  4. Coat a 13- x 9-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. For the Crust:
  6. Break 14 graham crackers in half and place in the bowl of a food processor.
  7. Process until they are fine crumbs.
  8. Add the sugar and melted butter and process again to combine well.
  9. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down to form an even layer.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.
  11. Remove dish from the oven and let cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
  12. For the Filling:
  13. Add cream cheese and sour cream to a large bowl and using hand or stand mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth.
  14. Add in the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  15. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  16. Blend in the vanilla extract, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Fold in the blueberries gently with a wooden spoon until evenly incorporated.
  17. Pour the mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently spread into an even layer with an offset spatula.
  18. Scatter the streusel topping over the cheesecake.
  19. Bake for 35 minutes or until the center appears to be just set.
  20. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  21. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.
 

Fennel and Leeks Gratinée

I’m not sure why fennel and leeks aren’t as popular in the U.S. as they are in Italy and France, but I’m doing my part here. My husband hadn’t really eaten either of them until he met me, even though he also grew up in an Italian-American family. Broccoli, peas and carrots were more his standard. But fennel is a vegetable that was always on my family’s table when I was growing up. I can remember many holidays when a stainless steel tray, piled with raw fennel, olives, celery and radishes, was served before the main event. We never ate fennel cooked when I was a child, but I’ve made up for that as an adult. It’s one of my favorite vegetables and I’ve been eating it topped with gratinéed parmesan cheese ever since I first had it at a friend’s house decades ago. Leeks are a different story though, since they were never served in our house during my childhood. Even now, I usually buy them only when I want to make leek and potato soup. But they deserved a more starring role for a change, so I paired them with the fennel in this casserole, and the combination was perfect.

Start by cooking the fennel in a gently simmering pan of water. Then drain it, arrange it in a buttered baking dish, and sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.

Do the same with the leeks, then cover everything with shavings of fresh parmesan cheese.

Place it in the oven for a short time, then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese, and decorate with some fennel fronds. Try it and see if you can’t convince more of your friends to try cooked fennel and leeks. I think my husband might finally be onboard. He even took seconds last night. But the leftovers are all mine.

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Fennel and Leeks Gratinee
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 large leeks
  • seasoned salt
  • black pepper
  • butter to smear on the casserole
  • water to cover
  • shaved parmesan cheese (about a half cup)
Instructions
  1. Trim the stalks off the fennel, and cut out most of the hard core.
  2. Slice the fennel into four or five thick slices (about ¼" thick).
  3. Place the fennel gently into a pan with boiling water, to cover.
  4. Cover the pan and let it bubble gently for ten minutes or until the fennel is fork tender.
  5. Remove the fennel and place in a buttered casserole.
  6. Trim the leeks, cutting off most of the top green part, leaving a portion of it on the stem.
  7. Cut in half lengthwise and place under running water to remove any dirt.
  8. Place the leeks in the boiling water cut side down and boil gently for five minutes, covered.
  9. Flip the leeks over gently and cook another five minutes in the water.
  10. Remove the leeks from the water and drain.
  11. Into a buttered casserole, arrange the fennel and leeks, then season with salt and pepper.
  12. Place thin slices of parmesan cheese on the top.
  13. Place in a 475 degree oven for ten minutes, then place under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned.
  14. Keep a careful watch on the dish because it can burn easily.
 

Disposable Pan Crostate

 

Jam-filled crostate (plural of crostata) are ubiquitous go-to desserts in Italy, from the north of the boot to the south, and are eaten at any time of day – even for breakfast. They’re typically baked in a round, ceramic or removable-bottom metal tart pan.  I’ve posted about them in the past, but I wanted to share with you a revelation I had recently when I baked a couple to take to my Italian chit-chat group’s annual picnic. We had just transferred to the beach house for the summer, and I hadn’t yet brought my tart pans, so I went to the grocery store and bought disposable aluminum pans to use instead. I sprayed them first with a little vegetable spray (PAM) and placed the dough and jam inside, wondering if the disposable pans would work as reliably as my old metal tart pans, although admittedly, even with my metal tart pans, I am sometimes disappointed, with soggy bottom crusts.

I needn’t have worried. I had to be a little more careful in handling the pan while transferring to and from the oven, since it wasn’t as sturdy, but the bottom crusts baked more evenly and more thoroughly than the metal tart pans I normally use. I may have to rethink tart-making from now on. The recipe below makes two tarts — using 7 1/2″ x 12″ disposable pans or two 8″ or 9″ metal tart pans. I filled one with fig jam and one with cherry jam, adding a little amaretto to both the crusts and to the filling.

They slice up nicely too, into square pieces, making them perfect finger food for a party dessert.

Dig in. Bet you can’t eat just one.

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Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ sticks of butter, (12 Tablespoons) at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk (save egg white)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • ⅓ cup to ¼ cup amaretto, grappa, sherry or whatever liqueur you like
  • a few teaspoons of ice water, if necessary
  • fruit preserves (a 13 ounce jar or about 2 cups for each crostata), warmed to spreading consistency
  • ⅛ cup amaretto (or other liqueur of your preference) to add to the fruit preserves (for each crostata)
  • two disposable 7½" x 12" aluminum pans, or two 8" or 9" round ceramic or metal pans
Instructions
  1. Place flour and sugar into food processor and pulse for a few seconds.
  2. Add the butter in small pieces and pulse again, until it resembles coarse sand.
  3. Add the egg(s) and liqueur to the food processor, pulsing until the mixture starts to form a ball.
  4. Add a little ice water, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary.
  5. If you don’t have a food processor, mix by hand with pastry cutter or spoon.
  6. Let it rest for about ½ hour.
  7. Divide the dough into ⅔ for the bottom and ⅓ for the strips.
  8. Roll the bottom onto a floured surface and fit it into a buttered tart pan, letting any excess hang over the edge.
  9. Fill the crust with jam.
  10. Roll the remaining ⅓ of the dough on a floured surface and cut into strips.
  11. Place them lattice-fashion over the jam, attach them to the dough along the rim, then trim the edges of the crostata.
  12. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the dough is golden brown.
  13. I place the crostata on a cookie sheet that has been preheated in the oven to 425 degrees, then lower it immediately to 375 degrees.
  14. It helps ensure the bottom crust is cooked thoroughly.
 

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is one of those throwbacks that always reminds me of the 1970s, when the recipe emerged as a standard dessert in my repertoire. Although I loved it then, it was a bit heavy and weighed-down with ingredients, including crushed pineapple and shredded coconut. So I omitted those ingredients and made this version instead, which I have to admit, I like even better. More importantly, so did my husband, who couldn’t wait to dig into it (after an unnamed amount of ravioli) for his birthday yesterday.

You don’t have to make it as a layer cake (but oh my, is that cream cheese frosting ever delicious). You can bake it in two 8″ square pans (and freeze one for later), or one long 9″ x 14″ pan, and just dust with confectioner’s sugar when it’s cooled. You can also omit the raisins if you’re not a fan, or the nuts too if you want, making it a purely carrot cake.

You don’t have to make these cute carrot decorations either, but if you decide to gild the lily, they’re a snap to create with almond paste and food coloring. The stems are just some snips of chives that are in full bloom in my garden right now. Even a small piece of celery would work.

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Carrot Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1⅓ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ tsps. vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1½ tsps. salt
  • 1 pound of carrots, grated
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FOR THE CARROT DECORATIONS:
  • ¼ cup almond paste
  • four drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  • powdered cocoa
  • chive stems
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CAKE:
  2. Grease and flour two 9" round pans (or two square 8" pans or one 9" x 14" pan) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs together until pale yellow.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together and add to the wet ingredients. Grate the carrots, either with a food processor or by hand, and add them to the batter with the raisins and walnuts. Mix well.
  6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
  7. I also use a toothpick to test. Poke it into the center and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  8. Frost with the cream cheese frosting and decorate with the almond paste "carrots" if desired.
  9. Alternately, dush with confectioner's sugar.
  10. FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  11. Beat the frosting ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and use about ¼ of the frosting for between the cake layers, then spread the rest on the sides and top of cake.
  12. Decorate with crushed walnuts along the bottom of the frosted cake, and with the almond paste "carrots" on top.
  13. TO MAKE THE ALMOND PASTE CARROTS:
  14. Use ¼ cup of almond paste and mix with the food coloring.
  15. Shape into small carrot shapes.
  16. Using a toothpick, dip it into some cocoa, then make little indentations on the carrots to simulate "dirt."
  17. Poke a hole in the top of each carrot, and insert a short piece of a chive stem.
  18. Place the "carrots" on top of the cake.
 

 

Banana Muffins

Have you got leftover bananas rotting on the counter? This is a delicious and quick alternative to the ubiquitous banana bread baked in a loaf pan. The texture is much finer than a traditional banana bread and for some reason, it’s a much lighter bake, but filling at the same time (well, if you eat two of them in a row, that is. But I’m not naming names.)

The recipe, from King Arthur Baking, says it makes 12 muffins, but I got 11. When I originally made it, I thought the recipe omitted baking powder, so I added 1/2 teaspoon, since it said they don’t rise very much. On a later reading, I realized the original recipe does indeed include baking powder — a full 2 teaspoons, which is not really necessary. They rose beautifully even with only 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.  I didn’t have the oat bran called for in the recipe, so I took some old-fashioned oats and whizzed them in the blender to break up the texture. It worked perfectly.

Serve with a cup of espresso or a pot of tea and bite into the crispy, crunchy topping. You’ll won’t miss that banana bread one bit, and you might even find yourself having a second muffin too!

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Banana Muffins
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Batter
  • ½ cup (113g) yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup (50g) vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups (340g to 369g) mashed banana, 2 to 3 large bananas
  • ¾ cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (113g) oat bran (I used old-fashioned oats that I whizzed in the food processor)
  • 1½ cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Topping
  • ¼ cup (53g) brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (23g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) soft butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a standard muffin tin, or line with papers and grease the papers.
  2. (I got 11, not 12 muffins from this recipe.)
  3. Combine the yogurt, egg, oil, mashed banana, sugar, and oat bran in a bowl.
  4. Whisk together and set aside for 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.
  6. Work the topping ingredients together until the mixture is crumbly.
  7. Whisk the banana mixture into the flour mixture.
  8. Scoop into the prepared muffin cups, filling them almost full.
  9. Sprinkle muffins with the topping.
  10. Bake the muffins for 20 to 24 minutes, until the muffins are set and browned. Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and enjoy warm.
 

Sole in Parchment

Now that spring is here in the U.S., summer is not far away, and of course, that means swimsuit weather. If you’ve gained a few too many pounds during the Covid pandemic, here’s a recipe that will help trim some of that expanding waistline. Not only does it taste delicious, it’s a snap to prepare ahead of time, making it an ideal dinner for company. Just pop it in the oven while you sit down for drinks and a chat, and in 15 minutes, you’re ready to eat.  Start by cutting out pieces of parchment paper in the shape of a heart — a large heart. Slice the vegetables into julienne strips, and toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs. In this case, I used leeks, zucchini, carrots, red pepper and cherry tomatoes cut in half, tossed in olive oil, with salt, pepper and minced parsley. But use whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you slice everything into uniform strips.

Season the fish with salt and white pepper, then dab some butter on top.

Layer a couple of slices of lemon over the buttered fish, then scatter some herbs on top. I used more parsley plus some fresh thyme.

Seal the packets by crimping all along the sides, starting with a fold at one end and continuing all the way around.

Here’s what they should look like after they’re completely crimped. Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes if you’re cooking thin pieces of sole, like mine were.

They come out of the oven a slight beige color.

Serve directly on each person’s plate, with some rice on the side. Entertaining and eating a healthy meal was never so easy!

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Sole in Parchment
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • filet of sole or flounder - 2 pieces or about 6 ounces per person
  • vegetables, julienned (carrots, red or green peppers, zucchini, leeks, etc. - whatever you like)
  • olive oil to mix with the vegetables
  • salt, pepper
  • parsley, thyme
  • butter
  • lemon slices
Instructions
  1. Julienne the vegetables thinly and mix with the olive oil, salt, pepperr and parsley in a bowl.
  2. Place a portion of the vegetables in the parchment paper and put fish on top.
  3. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and top with a dab or two of butter, then with a couple of lemon slices.
  4. Crimp edges of the parchment paper, starting at one end and going around to the other end.
  5. Finish crimping and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.
 

Paglia e Fieno with Prosciutto, Peas and Parmigiano Cheese

Paglia e fieno literally translates to straw and hay in Italian, and it’s not hard to find these “nests” of green and yellow pasta already made in specialty stores or good supermarkets where I live. However, like most things, homemade is best, so if you have the time and inclination, make your own pasta. I made a big batch of both regular egg fettucine and spinach fettuccine on Easter Sunday, which is when we ate this dish. If you want a recipe for making spinach pasta, click here.   For plain egg pasta, the fine OO flour from Italy is best, combined with fresh eggs. You can make a well on a board and mix it the old-fashioned way, but these days, I mostly use a food processor and dump the flour and eggs in there, starting with about 1 1/2 cups of flour and two eggs. Add more flour until it forms a ball in the food processor bowl, then remove it and knead it some more, adding a little flour if necessary. When it’s smooth as a baby’s bottom, cover it and let it rest for at least a half hour, then roll it out with a pasta machine, or by hand, and cut it in the fettuccine shape.

The sauce is a classic — and also a waist expander, but if it’s a special occasion, who cares? It’s worth every calorie. Sorry I don’t have any photos while I was making the sauce, but it comes together so fast and we were all so hungry that I failed to snap any photos. You make the sauce while the pasta is boiling in the water– it’s that quick to do. Start by cutting up the prosciutto into bits and cooking it briefly in the butter. Add the cream and peas and let the cream reduce a bit. However don’t let it thicken too much because  the parmesan cheese will naturally thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta, but retain a cup or more of the pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce. Add the drained pasta to the cream, prosciutto and peas and bestow it a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Swirl everything around and if it seems too thick, add some of the pasta water and swirl a bit more. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, incorporating it into the dish. Serve with additional parmesan grated on top.

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Fettucine Paglia e Fieno
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds paglia e fieno pasta
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
  • ¼ pound (or more if you like) prosciutto, cut into small bits
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in ample salted water and drain, but save about a cup of the pasta water.
  2. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  3. Cut the prosciutto into small pieces.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the prosciutto bits until they start to crisp.
  5. Add the cream and the frozen peas and cook a couple of minutes.
  6. The cream will start to reduce.
  7. Don't reduce it too much.
  8. It will thicken more when you add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, sprinkling with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.
  10. Swirl the pasta in the sauce.
  11. If need be, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
  12. Turn off the heat, and add the parmesan cheese.
  13. Swirl to blend it through, then add more once on top once it's in the serving dish.
 

Cioppino

In a recent episode of Stanley Tucci’s “Searching For Italy,” when he was on the Tuscan coast that borders Liguria, he ate a seafood stew called cacciucco, prepared by chef Fabbio Picchi, who owns the restaurant Cibreo in Florence. Picchi followed the cacciucco with a pasta dish tossed in the leftover sauce after the seafood had been polished off. Here I am, chatting with Picchi on a trip to Florence when travel to Italy was relatively easy.

The dishes he prepared and that show in general, had me dreaming about going back to Italy. Since that’s not possible in this pandemic, I had to do the next best thing — cook something like it at home that might transport me for a little while to la bell’Italia. Having just returned from a vacation in the Caribbean where I ate seafood every day, I felt driven to keep up the seafood vibe and decided to make cioppino – an Italian American seafood dish with origins in San Francisco that is similar to cacciucco. So many cultures have versions of seafood stews, and aside from cacciucco, Italy also lays claim to brodetto, a fish stew from the Abruzzo region,  that’s slightly less soupy and tomato-y than cacciucco or cioppino, and is cooked in a clay vessel. I helped prepare this brodetto several years ago while on a trabocco (small wooden fishing piers that jut into the Adriatic) along Abruzzo’s coastline. To read more about trabocchi, click here.

To make the cioppino, start by softening the vegetables in olive oil — onion, garlic, celery, carrots, green pepper and some fennel.

Next add the tomatoes, white wine and seasonings. Be very generous with the basil and parsley. You can make this in a Dutch oven, or in a more shallow pan, like this one. This recipe includes seafood amounts for two very generous servings, but intentionally makes enough sauce for a whole lot more. After we scarfed down all the seafood the night I made this, there was still plenty of leftover sauce to serve over pasta the next day.

After the sauce has simmered for about aan hour, add the shellfish and the rest of the seafood. You don’t have to use the same amounts or types of seafood I did. It’s a very fluid recipe and you can substitute whatever you like and eliminate whatever seafood I’ve included that you don’t like. I used cod but haddock or halibut would be great too. The cost of all this seafood can get a little pricey, but it’s a delicious splurge and would be perfect for a Lenten Friday (or Christmas Eve).  Put the shellfish in after you’ve put the rest of the seafood in, to try to keep them from getting submerged too much and hinder their opening. Place the lid on the pot and keep it at a simmer for 15 minutes, without checking or removing the lid.

After 15 minutes, check to see if the fish is cooked through. If not, put the lid back on for a few more minutes until everything is cooked properly. Some of the clams and mussels might still be closed, so put those aside in a separate pan and place it over a low heat by itself, while you portion out the cioppino, either in the pan where you cooked it, or in a tureen, gently lifting the seafood. The cod will easily fall apart unless you use a large spoon to scoop it up whole.

Serve in bowls with crusty toasted bread, smeared with olive oil and salt, or over polenta.

I made some homemade pasta to toss with the leftover sauce. It was perfect for the next evening’s meal. If I can’t have Italy right now, at least I can have pasta and cioppino!

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Cioppino
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • The amounts for the seafood are for two very generous servings. If you add more seafood to serve more people, you don't need to increase the amount of sauce. This recipe provides enough sauce for at least three or four more servings. In fact, after we had eaten all the seafood from the Cioppino one night, my husband and I used the leftover sauce the next day and served it over homemade pasta, and there was still plenty of sauce left in the pan that I didn't use.
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, minced
  • ½ of a large fennel bulb, sliced roughly
  • ½ medium carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 26.46 oz. box of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 26.46 oz. box of strained tomatoes
  • (or use all strained tomatoes, or all finely chopped tomatoes if you prefer)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup water (use it to swish out any remaining bits of tomato from the tomato box, jar or cans you use).
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ pound halibut, cod or similar fleshy white fish
  • ½ pound fresh shrimp
  • ½ pound fresh scallops
  • 6 squid bodies, cut into "rings"
  • a dozen mussels
  • a dozen and a half clams
Instructions
  1. Sauté onion, green pepper, celery, carrot, fennel and garlic in olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pan until limp.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, bay leaf, parsley, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.
  3. Heat to boiling and add the white wine.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. Simmer one hour, then discard the bay leaf.
  6. Cut the cod, or whatever white fish you're using, into two large pieces.
  7. Scrub the clams and mussels thoroughly, removing any "beard" from the mussels.
  8. Cut the squid into rings, and shell and devein the shrimp.
  9. Add the clams and the mussels to the pan, then add the rest of the seafood to the tomato sauce -- the squid, the shrimp, the scallops and the cod.
  10. Put the lid on and let everything cook together at a simmer for 15 minutes, WITHOUT STIRRING and WITHOUT LIFTING THE LID.
  11. If you stir, you will break up the codfish, which flakes apart easily when cooked.
  12. Check it after 15 minutes and if the fish is all cooked, serve the cioppino in the pan you cooked it, or remove it gently to a serving tureen.
  13. If some of the shellfish haven't opened, let them continue cooking in a separate pot, which should take only a few more minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with parsley and serve in bowls with plenty of toasted crusty bread smeared with olive oil and salt, or over polenta.
 

 

 

Braciole

I’m not sure why it took me so long to post a recipe for braciole, because it’s something my mother-in-law Mary made almost every time we visited, during my marriage to my late husband. Mary, who was from Abruzzo, had a limited repertoire of dishes, but whatever she served was delicious. There was almost always spaghetti with meatballs and braciole, followed by a roast chicken and potatoes. Many recipes for braciole are more elaborate than hers, including ingredients like prosciutto, or hard-boiled eggs. Those are delicious practically as meals in themselves, but Mary’s braciole was a simple roll of meat, seasoned inside with only parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. They were a perfect accompaniment to the pasta that was dressed with the long-simmering sauce from the braciole.  For these braciole, I have added a bit of grated parmesan cheese to add a little more flavor, something Mary didn’t do if I remember correctly, but it’s essentially the same recipe as hers. You need a very thin piece of beef for this recipe, and you can either purchase it already sliced (as I did from my local grocery store), or buy a piece of top or bottom round, or flank steak. Slice it thinly and pound it until it’s even thinner. If you freeze the beef slightly, it’s easier to slice. Then season it with salt, pepper, minced garlic, parsley and a grating of parmesan cheese.

Roll it tightly and secure with toothpicks (or string if you prefer).

Sauté in some olive oil until browned.

Then add it to your favorite tomato sauce recipe and simmer for about two hours. This photo was taken while my kitchen was being renovated and I was using a hot plate to cook most meals. I love cooking with a gas stove, but this induction-heating hot plate worked remarkably fast and well as a temporary cooktop.

Serve the braciole with pasta of your choosing. In this case, I used cavatappi, but rigatoni or even spaghetti would be great too.

By the way – Italian language lesson for the day – the correct pronunciation is bra-CHOH’-leh, not bra-ZHUL’, as you might have heard in some films featuring Italian Americans. Braciole is the plural of braciola. In most places in Italy, you’ll find a rolled and stuffed piece of meat or swordfish called involtini. The term braciole most likely is derived from the Italian word “brace” meaning coals or embers, and if you order braciole from a menu in much of Italy, you’ll most likely be served a grilled piece of meat. What is called involtini in Northern Italy became braciole in southern Italy — a dish made of tougher meat that was pounded and simmered for hours in tomato sauce to make it more tender. Since the majority of immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were from Southern Italy, the term braciole took hold here. To complicate things even further, small rolls of braciole, like those I made, can be accurately called “braciolette” or little braciole – not to be confused with “braccialetti” or bracelets. Whatever you call them, they are delicious and the perfect Sunday (or any day) meal.

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Braciole
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • a few pieces of top or bottom round
  • salt, pepper
  • minced garlic
  • minced parsley
  • grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Slice the meat thinly and pound to make it even flatter.
  2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, the minced garlic and parsley and a scattering of parmesan or pecorino cheese.
  3. Roll up and secure with toothpicks or string.
  4. Sauté in olive oil, then add to your favorite tomato sauce recipe and simmer for two hours.
  5. Serve with pasta.