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 09/06/11 Chicken with Sherry Wine Vinegar and Herbs

"Uno sciocco e il suo denaro son presto separati." (A fool and his money are soon parted.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -White Bean and Escarole Soup with Spicy Polenta
  -Chard and Salami Frittata
  -Chicken with Sherry Wine Vinegar and Herbs

"Buon giorno" Thanks for being with us again. We sincerely appreciate it. Enjoy this week's recipes!

Arrivederci and grazie again!

Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       


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 Recipe: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Spicy Polenta

White Bean and Escarole Soup with Spicy Polenta
Zuppa di Fagioli e Scarola con Polenta Piccante

Ingredients:

1 cup dried cannellini (white kidney beans)
12 cups water (or more), divided

1/2 cup 1/4-inch dice prosciutto (about 3 ounces)
1 head of garlic, cut crosswise in half
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, divided
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

8 cups coarsely chopped lightly packed escarole leaves (from 1 large head)

Directions:

Place beans in heavy medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches.

Soak overnight.

Drain.

Return beans to pan.

Add 8 cups water and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer gently until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Cool beans completely in liquid.

Place remaining 4 cups water, prosciutto, 1/2 garlic head, and 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds in heavy large saucepan.

Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Strain prosciutto broth into large measuring cup, reserving solids in strainer for soup.

Add enough water to prosciutto broth to measure 4 cups.

Return broth mixture to same saucepan.

Add dried crushed red pepper, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds.

Gradually whisk in polenta.

Bring to boil, whisking constantly.

Remove from heat; cover and let stand 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease large baking sheet.

Spread polenta on prepared baking sheet, pressing with wet hands into 1-inch thick round.

Make 2-inch hole in center to allow steam to escape during baking.

Brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake until crisp at edges, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain beans, reserving 3 cups cooking liquid.

Heat remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.

Add remaining 1/2 garlic head, cut side down, and saute 2 minutes.

Add escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Add beans with 3 cups cooking liquid.

Remove skins from garlic in reserved solids from prosciutto broth; add solids to soup.

Simmer soup 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Season soup generously with salt and pepper.

Discard remaining halved garlic from soup.

Ladle soup into shallow soup bowls.

Cut polenta into wedges. Serve alongside soup. 6 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Chard and Salami Frittata

Chard and Salami Frittata
Frittata di Bietole e Salame

Ingredients:

6 large eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 10 ounces), stems and center ribs cut away, leaves coarsely chopped
2 ounces thinly sliced Italian Genoa salami, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Whisk all the eggs, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl.

Heat olive oil in medium nonstick broiler proof skillet over medium heat.

Add onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 6 minutes.

Add Swiss chard in 3 batches; toss until each begins to wilt before adding next.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Saute until any liquid in skillet evaporates.

Increase heat to medium high; add salami and garlic to skillet and stir 1 minute.

Add eggs to skillet; stir to distribute evenly.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until eggs are almost set but still moist in center, about 4 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cheese over top.

Transfer frittata to broiler and cook just until set in center and beginning to brown, about 1 minute.

Using flexible spatula, loosen frittata around edges.

Slide frittata out onto platter.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 appetizer or 4 main-course servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Chicken with Sherry Wine Vinegar and Herbs

Chicken with Sherry Wine Vinegar and Herbs
Pollo con Aceto di Vino Sherry e Erbe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped assorted fresh herbs (such as Italian parsley, oregano, and tarragon)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 3/4 pounds boneless chicken breast halves with skin, each quartered
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, diced

Directions:

Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl.

Add chicken; turn to coat.

Preheat broiler.

Arrange chicken, skin side down, on large rimmed baking sheet.

Pour marinade over; broil 4 minutes.

Turn chicken.

Broil until cooked through and skin is browned, about 6 minutes.

Transfer chicken to platter.

Add vermouth and cold butter to juices on sheet.

Place sheet over 2 burners on medium heat.

Cook until sauce is reduced to 1/2 cup, scraping up browned bits, about 2 minutes.

Pour warm sauce over chicken. Makes 4 servings.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates & 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:

How Pasta Conquered the Universe

Rome - June 15, 2011 - Pasta has topped a global survey of the world's favorite foods. So how did the dish so closely associated with Italy become a staple of so many tables around the globe?

While not everyone knows the difference between farfalle, fettuccine and fusilli, many people have slopped over a bowl of spaghetti bolognese or dove into a plate of lasagne.

But now a global survey by the charity Oxfam has named pasta as the world's most popular dish, ahead of meat, rice and pizza. As well as being popular in unsurprising European countries, pasta was one of the favorites in the Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil and South Africa.

And figures from the International Pasta Organization show Venezuela is the largest consumer of pasta, after Italy. Tunisia, Chile and Peru also feature in the top 10, while Mexicans, Argentineans and Bolivians all eat more pasta than the British.

Global sales figures reflect the world's love affair with pasta - they have risen from $13bn USD (8bn BP) in 2003 to $16bn USD (10bn BP) in 2010. The analysts at Datamonitor predict it will hit $19bn USD (12bn BP) by 2015, despite rising wheat costs.

So how did pasta become so popular? It's because it is cheap, versatile and convenient, says Jim Winship, from the UK-based Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association. A sauce to go with it can be made from simple ingredients.

"You can create lots of different dishes with it. It tastes good and it's filling. It also has a long shelf life, so you can keep it in the cupboards until you need to put a meal together."

But that's only part of its success. Pasta is also relatively easy to mass produce and transport around the world, making it a popular product with food companies as well.

"It's always been an industrial product," says John Dickie, professor in Italian Studies at University College London and author of Delizia! A History of the Italians and their Food.

"It is definitely one of the things that has contributed to its success - it's easy to transport and has a long shelf life. It has commercial genes."

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London, says technological advances in the 19th Century allowed pasta to be produced on a big scale. But the Industrial Revolution did that for everything else, he adds, and the reason pasta had been particularly successful was because people liked it and the Italian way of life.

"It's a cultural phenomenon, not an industrial phenomenon," he says. "People like the Italian way of life and their simple, staple foods."

Pasta has always had a global aspect as its origins are not purely Italian, which is unsurprising considering it can be made with just wheat and water.

The Greeks and Romans had pasta-like foods but they tended to be baked, not boiled. Ancient China had dumplings, but it's a myth that the Venetian explorer Marco Polo returned from China with pasta in 1295.

The most accepted theory is that the Arab invasions of the 8th Century brought a dried noodle-like product to Sicily. This early pasta was made using flour from durum wheat, which Sicily specialized in. Under Italian law, dry pasta (or pasta secca) can only be made from this type of wheat, and the vast bulk of pasta is still made in Italy.

And despite being considered a cheap meal now it was the preserve of the rich in the very beginning, says Prof. Dickie.

"We tend to think of pasta like potatoes but it has never been viewed as a bland staple. It's been associated with prestige. People used to buy votes with pasta."

The first reference to pasta in Italy was noted in 1154 and it was about an export factory in Sicily, he says.

He says its breakthrough as a common food came in Naples in the 1700s, when it was recognized as "a good way to feed a large part of the populace".

But pasta popularity outside of Italy really took off at the turn of the 20th Century with large-scale Italian immigration to the New World. This is when it started to become known as Italy's national dish, he says.

Italian restaurateur Antonio Carluccio said pasta may have a long history, but the Italians made it their own by eating it with tomatoes.

He says most pasta is spaghetti outside of Italy but there are actually 600 different types and shapes and each region cooks it differently. He says its appeal is in the taste and its nutritional value.

"It is pleasurable with a good sauce, but it should just be coated, otherwise you lose the taste of the pasta. It is a complex carbohydrate which releases all the goodness slowly and you feel satisfied for a long time.

"I don't know one person who doesn't like pasta. It is very similar to bread - both are made with flour and water and they both need an accompaniment."

He's clearly not met food critic and broadcaster Giles Coren, who described pasta as "overrated gloppy stuff" that appeals only to children.

"Ask a footballer what they can cook and they always say spaghetti. It is what you reach for when there is nothing else left in the cupboard. It's poor people's food and it's unsophisticated. It's the same as bread - you just boil it instead of putting it in the oven."

So as popular as it is, pasta hasn't conquered everyone in the world.

Hmmm...interesting.

- The dried noodle-like food the Arabs introduced to Sicily in the 8th century is most likely the origins of dried pasta and was being produced in great quantities in Palermo at this time. Today with the invasion of the Mafia, the mass quantities of pasta produced has been replaced with that of cement, threats, and bullets.

- Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing pasta to the United States. It appears that he fell in love with a certain dish he tried in Naples, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. In fact, he quickly ordered crates of "macaroni," along with a pasta-making machine, to be sent back to the States before the garbage crisis prevented his ship from leaving port.

- Whether you like it or not, it takes about a half a gallon of water to cook pasta, and about a gallon of water to clean the stupid pot.

- Cook pasta until it is 'al dente', firm to the teeth yet tender. Many Americans cook pasta until it is too soft. It does not have to resemble Chef Boyardee pasta. A minute or two less of cooking time will do wonders for your pasta dishes and create less embarrassment. By the way, Chef Boyardee canned pasta products is named after its founder, Italian-American immigrant Ettore Boiardi.

The pasta line began production in the United States in the 1920s as a practical joke...unfortunately, many Americans took the joke seriously.

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