10/13/09 Apricot Crostata

"Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire." (No matter where you go, your house is always there waiting.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Adriana's Italian Bakery!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Mint Dressing
  -Sea Bass and Spicy Tomato Sauce Over Braised Fennel
  -Apricot Crostata

"Auguri e saluti" to all our readers. Enjoy this week's recipes!

Arrivederci e a presto!

Yours Truly,              
Adriana Ciccarello       

 Italian cookies for your Thanksgiving

Italian Thanksgiving? According to the fine pilgrim tradition, our Italian ancestors went over to the New World, America, celebrated and gave thanks for their new found fortune, freedom and prosperity. However, they were very reluctant to give up the traditions of their own, that is why they still serve manicotti, lasagna or stuffed shells prior to the turkey. Afterwards, you top off the feast with fine Italian pastries and cookies with espresso,

Why not order a scrumptious batch of Italian cookies for your Thanksgiving feast? They're perfect to adorn any Thanksgiving table and delicious to enjoy. If you would like to order in time for the Holiday, please keep in mind the following deadline:

All Thanksgiving orders must be placed by Saturday morning, November 14, at noon EST. Click here to order!

 Recipe: Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Mint Dressing

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Mint Dressing
Prosciutto e Asparagi alla Menta


1 lb thin asparagus, tough ends trimmed
2 thin slices prosciutto (1 oz total), halved crosswise
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Peel asparagus with a vegetable peeler starting 2 inches from tips, then cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain in a colander, then transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.

Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Divide asparagus among 4 plates and wrap each pile with a slice of prosciutto to form a bundle.

Blend together mint, garlic, broth, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender, scraping down sides frequently, until smooth.

Drizzle dressing over asparagus. Makes 4 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Sea Bass and Spicy Tomato Sauce Over Braised Fennel

Sea Bass and Spicy Tomato Sauce Over Braised Fennel
Spigola e Salsa Piccante di Pomodoro Sopra Finocchi Brasati


2 large fennel bulbs, preferably with fronds (sometimes called anise; about 2 lb total), fronds reserved and stalks discarded
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, one half cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch-thick slices and the other half chopped
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 and 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 (14-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
4 (5-oz) skinless sea bass fillets (3/4 inch thick), bones removed


Chop enough fennel fronds, if using, to measure 2 tablespoons.

Quarter fennel bulbs lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch-thick slices.

Cook fennel bulbs, sliced onion, and anchovy paste in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until coated, about 1 minute.

Season with salt and pepper, then add broth and braise, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove lid and boil, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Transfer fennel mixture to a 1 and 1/2-quart shallow gratin or other shallow 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish.

Preheat oven to 450F.

While fennel mixture is braising, cook chopped onion, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste in remaining teaspoon olive oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juice and simmer, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon and stirring occasionally, until very thick, 15 to 20 minutes.

Arrange fish fillets on top of fennel mixture and season with salt.

Spoon tomato sauce over fish.

Cover with a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper, then cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake in middle of oven until fish is just cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with fennel fronds. Makes 4 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Apricot Crostata

Apricot Crostata
Crostata di Albicocche


1 and 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, finely grated

1 cup fine-quality apricot preserves (11 oz)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon almond extract


Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Beat in egg and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and mix in flour, salt, and lemon zest until mixture just forms a dough.

Shape dough into 2 balls, 1 slightly larger than the other.

Flatten each ball into a 5-inch disk, then wrap each in wax paper and chill 30 minutes.

Stir together preserves, lemon juice, and extract in a small bowl.

Roll out thicker piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) between 2 sheets of wax paper into an 11-inch round.

Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into a 9 by 1-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom.

Peel off paper and fit dough into pan, trimming side to 1/4 inch below top of rim.

Chill shell.

Roll out remaining dough in same manner and remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1 inch-wide) strips.

Slide strips on wax paper onto a baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Spread apricot filling in tart shell and arrange 5 strips across filling (about 1 inch apart), trimming excess dough at ends of strips.

Arrange remaining 5 strips on top (about 1 inch apart) to form a lattice (do not weave), trimming ends.

Press ends onto edge of tart shell and bake crostata in middle of oven until golden, 40 to 50 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack. Makes 6 to 8 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:

Berlusconi: "You Know, It Just Came to Me. Eluana Could Have a Child."

Rome - February 6, 2009 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that one of the reasons he supported an emergency decree to stop doctors from ending Eluana Englaro's life was because she "could in theory have a child".

"She is not brain dead but breathes in an autonomous way. Her brain cells are alive and send electrical signals and she is a person who could in theory have a child," he said.

"She is in a vegetative state that could change, as has been seen several times," he said.

Eluana, 38, has been in a vegetative state for 17 years since a car crash when she was 22.

The all-knowing prime minister of minestrone to the rescue!

Why do we have the strange feeling that this man couldn't care less of this poor woman's fate? In fact, he doesn't.

It's not a moral question of whether Eluana should continue to live or not. Most of us in southern Italy are in a vegetative state. (Stop by any piazza in southern Italy in the afternoon around 4 pm. You could swear all the old men are comatose.)

It's a question of a chuckle-faced hump in a semi-vegetative state who doesn't know what to say and when.

How did we come to the point of a need for an emergency decree? The President of the Republic, Napolitano, had not signed the law by decree. So, the Italian Cabinet is bypassing him by proposing a Bill that is identical to the original decree. The Bill will be proposed to the Parliament of Berlusconi's monkeys who will approve it immediately.

Is the Bill unconstitutional? Hmmm...could be, your highness.
Well then, "vaffanculo!" We'll just change the Constitution! After all, we have to give the chance to procreate.

It is not enough for us to defend ourselves against the collapse of the economy or deal with the thousands of everyday problems. Living in Italy is exhausting and humiliating for us. The rest of the world is trying to find a way to confront this unbelievable crisis. Our politicians could do the same to help us...

They're breathing in an autonomous way. Brain cells seem alive. You could tell when they wipe the drool and pick fleas off themselves.

"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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