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 03/03/09 Cream of Asparagus With Saffron from CookiesFromItaly.com

"Chi scopre il segreto perde la fede." (Who uncovers a secret, loses faith.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Spinach, Prosciutto and Red Bell Pepper Crostini
  -Cream of Asparagus With Saffron
  -Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomato, and Ricotta

All of us at the bakery here in Santo Stefano Quisquina sincerely hope you enjoy this week's recipes!

Arrivederci e a presto!

Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       


 Italian cookies for the Easter Holidays

Make this Easter Holiday a memorable one by adding an assortment tray of our scrumptious Italian "dolce" at the table.
Enjoy them with a cup of espresso or a bottle of Prosecco. It will give a wonderful touch to your holiday feast, a proper ending with a touch of Sicilian sunshine.

If you would like to order for Easter Sunday (April 12) please keep in mind the following deadline: All orders must be placed by Wednesday, April 1, at 12:00 PM EST.
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 Recipe: Spinach, Prosciutto and Red Bell Pepper Crostini

Spinach, Prosciutto and Red Bell Pepper Crostini
Crostini con Spinaci, Prosciutto e Peperone

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips
One 10-ounce package fresh spinach, stemmed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
1 tablespoon whipping cream

12 1/2-inch-thick slices cut from French bread baguette
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Directions:

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.

Add bell pepper and saute until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Transfer pepper to small bowl.

Heat same skillet over high heat.

Add spinach and saute 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and saute until spinach is tender, about 2 minutes longer.

Cool in skillet.

Transfer spinach to work surface; chop spinach. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in same skillet over medium heat.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add prosciutto and saute 30 seconds.

Add chopped spinach. Saute 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Mix in cream.

Preheat broiler.

Arrange bread slices on large baking sheet.

Broil until lightly toasted. Turn bread slices over.

Brush top of bread slices with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Broil until lightly toasted. Cool. (Components can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover spinach mixture and bell pepper strips separately; refrigerate. Store toasts airtight at room temperature.)

Spoon generous 1 tablespoon spinach mixture atop each toast.

Arrange bell pepper strips atop toasts.

Sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese.

Broil crostini until cheese bubbles and spinach mixture is hot, about 2 minutes.

Transfer crostini to plate and serve. Makes 12.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Cream of Asparagus With Saffron

Cream of Asparagus With Saffron
Crema di Asparagi Allo Zafferano

Ingredients:

4 and 1/2 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/3 cup shelled natural pistachios or pine nuts
3 and 1/2 lbs asparagus (about 3 large bunches)
1 large russet (baking) potato
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saucepan bring 1/2 cup broth to a boil and remove pan from heat.

Stir saffron into hot broth and steep, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

In a dry heavy skillet toast nuts over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant.

Chop nuts.

Trim asparagus and cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving tips separately.

Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water blanch tips 2 minutes, or until crisp-tender, and transfer with a slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking.

Drain tips well and pat dry.

Peel potato and cut enough into 1/2-inch cubes to measure 1 and 1/2 cups.

In a 4-quart kettle cook asparagus stalks in margarine over moderate heat, stirring, 3 minutes.

Stir in potato, saffron infusion, and 4 cups broth and simmer, covered, until vegetables are very tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes.

In a blender or food processor puree mixture in batches until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids).

In kettle stir together puree and enough of remaining broth to reach desired consistency.

Add half of asparagus tips and bring soup to a simmer.

While soup is heating, chop parsley. Season soup with pepper and salt.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with remaining asparagus tips, nuts, and parsley. Serves 6.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomato, and Ricotta

Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomato, and Ricotta
Rigatoni con Melanzane, Pomodoro e Ricotta

Ingredients:

1/2 lb rigatoni or other large tubular pasta
1 onion
1 small eggplant (about 1 lb)
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup water
One 16-ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup ricotta cheese

Directions:

Fill a 5-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for pasta.

Chop onion and cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Mince garlic.

In a large deep heavy skillet heat olive oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute onion, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add eggplant and salt and saute, stirring frequently, until eggplant is lightly browned.

Add 1/2 cup water to eggplant mixture and cook, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, adding more water, 1/4 cup at a time, if mixture becomes dry, until eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juice and simmer, stirring vigorously to break up tomatoes, 5 minutes, or until mixture has a sauce-like consistency.

Stir in garlic and basil and season with salt.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta in boiling water until 'al dente' and drain well in a colander.

Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat.

Divide pasta between 2 bowls and serve with dollops of ricotta on top. Serves 2.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates and reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure:

And the Italian 'Woman of the Year' Award Goes to Amanda Knox

Rome - January 2, 2009 - Amanda Knox, 21, was voted the most popular woman in the poll held by a television news program, beating US vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin and French first Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

The University of Washington student, who shared a cottage with Miss Kercher, 21, in the historic hill town of Perugia, came fourth in the internet poll, one place behind US President- elect Barack Obama.

The internet poll was won overall by Roberto Saviano, the Italian investigative journalist who wrote a best-selling book, Gomorrah, about the Naples-based Camorra mafia, since turned into a film tipped to win an Oscar.

Knox and her Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24, are due to go on trial in a Perugia court on Jan 16, charged with stabbing Miss Kercher to death in what prosecutors claim was a group sex game turned violent.

The mystery over who killed Miss Kercher and why has gripped Italy since the Leeds University student was found lying in a pool of her own blood in the whitewashed cottage in November 2007.

Knox and Sollecito, with whom she had a brief relationship, have been behind bars ever since.

Miss Knox has appeared on the covers of Italian magazines and in countless newspaper stories, her blonde hair, fresh complexion and good looks earning her the name "angel-face" from the Italian media.

Hundreds of journalists from Italy, Britain and the US are expected to cover the trial, which is likely to last for months.

Knox and Sollecito both deny any involvement in the killing, with their lawyers arguing that they had no motive for murder and that DNA evidence against them is flawed and unreliable.

"Mamma mia", this doesn't look good for Amanda...or Italy!

Perugia is the chocolate capital of Italy with a paranoid population of 160,000. It has endured a number of invasions through the ages: first, the Etruscans, followed by the Romans, Goths, Napoleon...and Amanda Knox. It appears Amanda was the straw that broke the mule's back and they have intentions of making her pay for it all.

Now, we're not going to defend nor condemn Amanda for the unspeakable crime for which she was arrested. After all, we weren't there. We have our own problems (like trying to convince Zio Goffredo that no one is siphoning the diesel fuel out of his tractor)!

Instead, we're going to put the interrogation hot lamp on the Italian legal system and watch it sweat.

The case is not going well...because there is no case.

You see, our incredibly brilliant legal system stems from the "Inquisition" and also from medieval law. What this means, in effect, is that justice in Italy is based on the supremacy of the prosecution. In other words, you're guilty until proven innocent...cazzo!

How did it all start? Brace yourselves... Three days after the murder, the dazzling senior police investigator on the case woke up one morning and decided it was time to get cracking on the case. He sought out Amanda and Raffaele (two normal, never in trouble, classic middle-class college students) to question them. When he discovered them casually eating in a pizza restaurant, he grew suspicious. "AHHH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Soon after, they were arrested.

After her arrest, Amanda was detained by the Italian Wyatt Earp and his deputies and interrogated for 14 hours. Amanda, who (shockingly) wasn't fluent in Italian at the time, was provided with neither a professional interpreter nor a lawyer. In a state of confusion and exhaustion, she ended up signing a confession. "Porca miseria", it's amazing they didn't make her admit to the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby.

And to make matters worse, the police performed a blitz on themselves. Amanda also implicated her boss at a local bar where she had worked. A 38-year-old Congolese man called Patrick Lumumba was held for nearly two weeks, then released; Amanda later revealed that it was the interrogators who suggested him as a possible suspect in the crime.

After the interrogation, Amanda and Raffaele were sent to jail...but not charged! You see, in our lovely country, a suspect can be held for 12 months without being charged.

Since then, the police investigation has not been exactly sparkling and quick-witted. For instance, take the alleged murder weapon, a cooking knife that belonged to Raffaele. Amanda's DNA was found on the handle. "AHHH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" It's a shame she used it regularly for cooking, though.

Officials said Meredith's DNA had been found on the blade. "AHHH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" But new DNA evidence released shows that after 183 attempts to match the material on the knife to Meredith's DNA, there is only a 1 percent chance that it is hers. So, another 900 attempts will probably be made until they eventually get tired of the wind whistling through their heads.

Meanwhile, back at Gotham City, the senior prosecutor on the case, Giuliano Mignini, 58, an obese, balding man who should have abandoned vanity at 260 lbs, is himself under investigation for abuse of power, with a trial scheduled for November. He's been charged in a case involving wiretapping the phones of police and journalists, among other things. But we're in Italy! Even if a fat prosecutor reeks of ziti and sardines and suspicion, it is not mandatory to remove him from a case.

Not surprisingly, Amanda's defense lawyers, who finally realized NEVER talk to the Italian press, were denied the "evidence" against Amanda for months. Then, according to what was communicated to Amanda's parents, the prosecution said they could gain access to it for a mere 50,000 euros (around 66,000 USD). After loud protests from the lawyers, the prosecution gave in.

"Porca Miseria!"
"Buona fortuna Amanda..."

"Only In Italy" Subscribe today and you'll discover why the last improvements to Italy were made by Julius Caesar and why it's been downhill ever since!  Click Here to Subscribe!



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