08/12/08 Lemony Mushroom Risotto from

"Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca." (The morning [the sun] brings gold in it's mouth. The early bird gets the worm.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Focaccia con Seme di Finocchio e Olive
  -Ziti con Salsiccia e Peperone
  -Risotto ai Funghi e Limone

Enjoy the recipes and the rest of the summer season!


Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

 Cookie of the Week: Traditional Almond Cookies

"Traditional" Almond Cookies: A soft and chewy Italian almond cookie with a crisp outside and tender inside. Made exclusively from our own home grown natural almonds, the freshest farm eggs, flour, and sugar. No preservatives, additives, artificial colors, nor flavors. Serves 5-7.
900 grams (2 lbs.) is only 13.99 Euro ($20.25-$20.75) + Shipping.

Example Order: One order to anywhere in the USA costs 13.99 Euro plus 8.70 Euro for Global Priority Mail shipping (7-8 days) for a total of 22.69 Euro ($33.00-$33.50 U.S. Dollars).

 Recipe: Focaccia con Seme di Finocchio e Olive

Focaccia con Seme di Finocchio e Olive
Fennel Seed Focaccia with Olives


For the Starter:
1 and 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water (95° F to 100° F)

For the Dough:
1/4 cup warm water (105° F to 115° F)
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cool water (85° F to 90° F)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 teaspoons coarse salt
1 and 1/2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
3 2/3 cups (about) bread flour

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives; 2/3 cup chopped, 1/3 cup quartered


Prepare the starter:
Mix flour and yeast in 8 to 10-cup bowl.

Using wooden spoon, stir in 3/4 cup water; beat until smooth soft dough forms, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down sides of bowl.

Cover with plastic; let stand 30 minutes.

Chill overnight.

Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

Prepare the dough:
Stir 1/4 cup warm water and yeast in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add starter and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cool water.

Using wooden spoon, mix starter and water 1 minute (mixture will look milky and foamy).

Mix in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 teaspoons salt, milk and fennel.

Add 3 and 1/3 cups bread flour, about 1 cup at a time, mixing until very soft sticky dough forms.

Knead dough gently on floured surface until dough comes together but is still sticky, sprinkling with more flour and loosening dough from surface with pastry scraper, about 5 minutes.

Return to same bowl. Cover with plastic; let rest until firmer and less sticky, about 20 minutes.

Knead dough gently on floured surface until supple and elastic, sprinkling with flour to prevent sticking, about 5 minutes.

Push dough out to 12-inch square.

Sprinkle with 2/3 cup chopped olives; fold dough over olives.

Knead gently to distribute olives; shape into ball.

Oil large bowl with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

Add dough; turn to coat.

Cover with plastic wrap.

Let dough rise until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Uncover; fold dough edges in toward center.

Turn dough over, releasing some air but deflating as little as possible.

Cover; let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425° F.

Oil 17 x 11-inch baking sheet and line with parchment paper.

Turn out dough onto pan.

Without deflating dough, gently stretch and push dough to cover pan.

If dough springs back, let rest 5 minutes, then stretch.

Repeat resting and stretching until dough stays in place.

Press quartered olives over surface.

Indent dough with fingertips in several places.

Let rise until puffy, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle dough with 1 teaspoon salt.

Place pan in oven.

Spray oven with water 8 times.

Close door 1 minute.

Open and spray several times more.

Close door; bake focaccia 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.

Bake focaccia until golden and crusty, about 12 minutes longer.

Cool focaccia on rack 30 minutes. Makes 1 loaf; 6 to 8 servings.

That's it!

 Recipe: Ziti con Salsiccia e Peperone

Ziti con Salsiccia e Peperone
Sausage and Bell Pepper Ziti


8 ounces ziti or other tubular pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 turkey Italian sausages (about 6 ounces), casings removed
2 cups chopped onions
1 and 1/2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
One 14 and 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice with Italian seasonings

Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese


Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until 'al dente', stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add sausage; saute until brown, breaking up with fork, about 4 minutes.

Add onions and peppers; saute 5 minutes.

Stir in wine; boil 2 minutes, scraping up browned bits.

Add tomatoes with juices.

Reduce heat to medium and cover; simmer until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Add sauce to pasta.

Toss over medium heat until heated through.

Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese and serve. Makes 2 servings; can be doubled.

That's it!

 Recipe: Risotto ai Funghi e Limone

Risotto ai Funghi e Limone
Lemony Mushroom Risotto


2 and 2/3 cups boiling-hot water
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 lb small cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Arborio rice (8 oz)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Pour 2/3 cup hot water over porcini in a heatproof cup and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes.

Lift porcini out of water, squeezing excess liquid back into cup, and rinse well to remove any grit.

Coarsely chop porcini.

Pour soaking liquid through a paper-towel-lined sieve into a glass measure and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring broth and remaining 2 cups hot water to a simmer. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute cremini, stirring, until browned, about 7 minutes.

Add porcini and reserved soaking liquid to skillet and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Cook onion in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

Stir in 1/2 cup simmering broth mixture and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.

Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition become absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender but still 'al dente' and creamy (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.)

Stir in zest, mushrooms, remaining 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, parsley, and pepper to taste. (If necessary, thin risotto with some of remaining broth.)

Serve immediately. Serves 4 (main course) or 6 to 8 (side dish).

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:

Nine Lazy and Worthless Milan Tram Operatives Fired

Milan - June 11, 2008 - It seems there are one or two confirmed shirkers in normally industrious Milan. Yesterday ATM, the Milan transport enterprise, which is wholly owned by the municipal authority, started dismissal procedures against nine work-shy operatives.

It has to be said that the nine were not short of imagination. One was in charge of a workshop at a tram and bus garage, which he had converted for his own ends. The windows were darkened to keep out prying eyes and inside, his colleagues were busy making dog kennels.

In another case, an office worker left one building to deliver documents to the head office. Since the papers failed to arrive, search parties were sent out and the man was found tucked away in a bar, completely drunk. This anthology of sub-prime productivity continues with stories of workers disappearing for months at a time without so much as a doctor’s note.

ATM prefers not to comment. Instead, transport enterprise chair and CEO Elio Catania made an early-morning (6:30 am) visit to the garages. Backing up the enterprise's top executive is the Milan municipal authority. "The dismissal procedures initiated at ATM show that our subsidiary is rigorously, correctly, pursuing the objectives of efficiency and productivity", boasted deputy mayor and National Alliance (NA) senator, Riccardo De Corato.

"Municipal authorities that have loss-making public transport companies should take a leaf out of our book", Mr De Corato went on. "It is no coincidence that in 2007, ATM make a 2.8 million-euro profit".

Currently, employees of the Milan transport enterprise take fourteen days' sick leave each year, which is the precise average for workers in the sector as a whole.

"The striking thing is not the nine dismissal procedures but the fact that this behavior has been tolerated for years by the enterprise's management. You can't make dog kennels at the workplace without attracting managers' attention", says amazed employment law expert, Michele Tiraboschi.

The union is careful not to contest ATM's actions over individual cases.

"The enterprise is right to punish unlawful behavior. Individual workers will have their say before the tribunal. The crucial thing is that intervention should be equally robust at all levels", requests Nino Cortorillo, general secretary of the Lombardy FILT, the CGIL-affiliated transport union.

"It's a storm in a teacup", says Roberto Rossi, general secretary of the Lombardy FIT-CISL union.

"ATM dismisses about thirty-five workers every year. Where's the news?"

At the same time, the unions spring to the defense of Milan's tram, bus and metro drivers.

"We're talking about an enterprise that clocks up nearly two million hours' overtime every year", says the CGIL’s Nino Cortorillo.

"Enough to justify hiring another thousand workers. Does it sound like these workers are afraid of hard graft? Perhaps this is not so much a crack-down on shirkers as a witch hunt".

The Milan transport enterprise employs 8,670 people, of whom 5,235 drive trams, buses and metro trains. It has ambitious plans in the pipeline. A feasibility study regarding the possible merger of Milan’s ATM with GTT, its sister company in Turin, will be ready before the end of summer. If the respective boards give the thumbs up, the new company will begin operations next January.

Meanwhile, dismissal procedures are a long way from over. In compliance with the 1934 royal decree that disciplines the sector, approval for the dismissals will have to come from an internal disciplinary committee made up of three union representatives, three company nominees and one independent member.

In the end, the number of people fired may well be much lower than nine.

"Porca di quella puttana, where's the bus?"

Italy is now one of the most expensive and bizarre places in the world to run a business (especially if one also takes into account the country's mesmerizing byzantine bureaucracy, personified by an army of highly-paid arrogant notary publics, and the poor telecommunication infrastructure, personified by millions of Italians who have never sent nor received an email).

In the meantime, Italy has raised a class of professional non-working jackasses who manage to get a salary from the incredibly befuddled government without working: an impressive percentage of the population does not work but receives money from the government (early retirements, unemployment benefits, handicap and stupidity insurance).

Believe it or not, a 40 hour week is considered standard in Italy. Italian employees do not receive a gross salary out of which they would pay taxes: employers already deduct state taxes out of all paychecks.

Salaries are always paid not weekly but in more than 12 installments, usually in 13 or 14 installments or sometimes even in 16 installments over the year. If salaries are paid in 13 installments, employees may receive two paychecks in December, if they are paid in 14 installments, they may receive an additional paycheck in June and December.

Workers receive a minimum of 4 weeks of undeserved paid holidays, although many receive up to 6 weeks.

Usually, employees are granted two vacation days per month, amounting to 24 holidays per year. And the kick in the "coglioni" is, if employees do not use all of their vacation days by the end of the year, they may carry them over to the following year. Companies may decide to cancel part of their employees' yearly vacation, but in that case they would have to pay their employees dearly for those days in addition to an overtime salary.

Finally, there are also a further 10 days of public holiday, with additional half day holidays and feast days for local patron saints.

Those who do work have a dream and that's to retire as soon as they get offered a so-called deal: Italian pensions are among the most generous in the world (especially if they have reached the aristocratic and utopian level of "dirigente" (manager), which entitles one to a monthly payment many times higher than the monthly payment of an ordinary person).

Face it! Italians are not going to change.

They may change the government, but any new government will be governing over the same Italians, and therefore will simply do more of the same:

- More salary increases,
- More pensions,
- More subsidies,
- More sub-prime productivity,
- More mass transit delays,
- More paid holidays,
- More sick leave,
- More missing drunk employees,
- More dog kennels.

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