Feb 25

Although Italy may be the most famous for these sphere-shaped meat concoctions, the meatball’s origin is not clear. Most likely some type of meatball originated in many different areas of the world. Hundreds of years ago meat was a rare commodity and no part of then meat was wasted; meatballs were a great way to use up the cooked leftover pieces. Today’s meatball took shape with the invention of the meat grinder, which made it possible to use fresh, uncooked meat to create a meatball.

Here are two meatball recipes, one for a basic, but flavorful meatball, and another one for a new way to serve meatballs as an appetizer.

Aromatic Meatballs

1 pound ground meat (beef, chicken or veal)
1 egg yolk
6 juniper berries, crushed
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1 bunch parsley, chopped
4 basil leaves, chopped
salt
3 1⁄2 tablespoons butter
flour for dredging
1⁄2 cup white wine

In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg yolk and juniper berries and mix well. Add the nutmeg, parsley and basil and season with salt. In a skillet over medium heat, warm the butter. Form the meat into walnut-sized balls. Dredge the meatballs in the flour and shake off any excess. Add the meatballs and the wine to the skillet and fry until they are cooked all the way through. Serves 4

mini meatballs

Lemon-Wine Glazed Mini Meatballs

2 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg
2 scallions, minced
1⁄4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
salt
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
flour for dredging
1⁄2 lemon, juice only
1 cup red wine
1 bunch arugula
1 lemon, zest only for garnish

Soak the bread in the milk until soft, about 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and crumble into pieces. Place the beef in a large bowl, add the bread, egg, scallions, Parmigiano and season with salt. Mix the ingredients together with your hands until the mixture is just combined. Form the meat into walnut-sized balls and set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until very hot. Dredge the meatballs in the flour, shaking off any excess, and transfer to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until cooked through and lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook until it evaporates. Remove the meatballs from the skillet and keep warm. Add the wine to the skillet and cook over high heat until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Add the meatballs and toss well to coat. Serve the meatballs on a platter of arugula along with toothpicks. Serves 6 to 8

Feb 17

 

Shrimp are great for fast and easy cooking, not only because they only take minutes to prepare, but also because they are so versatile. Whether they are small or jumbo, sautéed, grilled, or baked they can satisfy your hunger, please your palate, and make you happy to answer the question “What’s for dinner tonight?”

Peeling Shrimp

1. Firmly hold the shrimp in one hand. With your other hand, grab the shrimp legs and pull them off.
2. Peel back the shell to remove it, being careful if you want to leave the tail on.

shrimp step 1-2

Deveining Shrimp

1. Using a paring knife, carefully run it along the back of the shrimp, pressing lightly through its flesh.
2. You can either run the shrimp under water to remove the black vein, which may be very small depending on the size of your shrimp, or use your fingers or a paring knife to pull it out.

shrimp step 3-4

Butterflying Shrimp

1. After peeling the shrimp, use a paring knife to slice along the inside of the shrimp (where the legs were) until you reach the tail, then remove the vein.
2. Finish by pressing the shrimp flat to open completely. You can also butterfly shrimp by cutting along the backs, after following the steps above to devein them.

shrimp step 5-6

Feb 10

Venice is world-renowned for Carnevale, which takes place each February and marks the last celebration before Lent. But it’s not the only place that puts on an extravagant jubilee. The Tuscan seaside town of Viareggio holds its own Carnevale festivities, which have been captivating visitors for 134 years. Viareggio has built a reputation on its parades of spectacular floats, whose creators, called “papier-mâché wizards” by the press, work year-round, always trying to top last year’s designs.
These floats stand out for two reasons: first because of their objective, which is to mock politicians and celebrities and second, because of their construction.

Many of the floats are immense in size, standing up to 50 feet tall and weighing up to 40 tons. As these animated papier-mâché effigies glide down the street and move in all directions, the costumed people on board each float dance to music and shoot silly string into the crowd. This legendary celebration takes place over the four weekends preceding Carnevale, during which there are numerous parades, masquerade balls, festivals, shows and special menus available at local restaurants.

For more information, visit .
Cartellata
Cartellata

A festive cookie served during Carnevale.

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
peel of 1 lemon or orange
6 cups flour, plus extra
1⁄4 cup white wine
1⁄4 cup anisette liqueur
canola oil for frying
3 tablespoons honey
colored nonpareils

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the lemon or orange peel and cook 1 minute, being careful not to burn the peel. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, discard the peel and pour the oil into a large bowl. Add the flour, wine, and anisette and mix together until a dough forms. If the mixture seems dry, add a little warm water. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough into 1⁄2-inch wide strips. Roll up each strip into a rosette shape and place on a floured surface. Let them sit out, covered with a dishtowel, for a day to dry.

The following day, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 2 inches of canola oil. Carefully lower the rosettes into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. In another saucepan over low heat, warm the honey. Dip the cartellate in the honey, so only the top is coated. Arrange on a serving tray and sprinkle with the nonpareils. Set aside to cool and serve. Serves 6

 

Feb 3

 

 

Vinegar in Italy is always made from wine. Ordinary vinegar is fermented and produced in less than 6 months. Wine vinegar is made from high-quality vintage wines and takes about a year and a half to produce. Balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from the boiled-down must of Trebbiano grapes.

Balsamic vinegar is used for more than just drizzling on a salad. Try it with beef in the recipe below.

beef scaloppini

Beef Scaloppini with Balsamic Vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 beef flank steaks, about 4 ounces each, pounded to 1⁄4-inch thickness
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 sprig rosemary, leaves only
2 cups arugula leaves, cleaned
1⁄2 cup shaved Grana Padano

In a grill pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Sauté for 3 minutes. Flip, add the vinegar and rosemary and sauté until cooked through. Serve with the arugula and Grana.  Serves 4