Have you ever dreamed of exploring Italy, visiting the cities and countryside, and eating as the Italians do? Join me on a culinary tour. For the next two issues, we’ll be dining on Italian foods. Just choose a recipe and start cooking. By cooking and sharing regional dishes, we can experience some of the colors, flavors and traditions of Italy.
Spuma di Tonno
This smooth tuna spread is incredibly simple, yet has great depth of flavor. Serve it with bread sticks (grissini) or crostini and sparkling wine.
1 (7-ounce) can oil-packed tuna, drained
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Italian parsley, to garnish
Capers, to garnish
Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break up the fish. With the machine running, add the lemon juice, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Add the butter and blend until smooth, then stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Season to taste with pepper and then blend again. Add the heavy cream and pulse to blend. (Be careful not to over-process once the cream is added or the mixture may break.) Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley and capers. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
Italian Sausage and White Bean Soup
Cannellini beans are white Italian kidney beans. They’re available in both dry and canned forms.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
1 small onion, diced
2 (16-ounce) cans navy beans
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini or great northern beans
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Drain on paper towels. In a Dutch oven, bring chicken broth to a boil; add carrot and onion and cook until tender. Stir in beans and tomatoes; do not drain; heat through. Stir in cooked sausage. Season with oregano and pepper. Heat through. Stir in parsley before serving. Serves 10 to 12.
Bocconcini are small nuggets of fresh mozzarella cheese. They’re about the size of cherry tomatoes and come packaged in plastic tubs filled with liquid
containing whey or water.
½ loaf artisan-style baguette, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, quartered and sliced ½-inch thick
½ medium red onion, diced
1 cup basil leaves, julienned and loosely packed
8 ounces bocconcini (baby mozarella cheese balls)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, undrained
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread cubes on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until dry and golden brown. Remove and cool. While bread is cooling, prepare vegetables and cheese; place in salad bowl. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, capers, garlic and salt; whisk in olive oil. Toss vegetables and cheese with bread. Pour dressing over top and toss until evenly coated. Serves 10 to 12.
Italy’s famous limoncello is sunshine in a glass! Limoncello should be served icy cold. It’s great used in mixed drinks, splashed onto desserts or enjoyed as a late afternoon treat. This easy recipe makes a great gift, too!
4 cups vodka
1½ cups sugar
2 cups water
Wash lemons before using. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, remove the yellow skin of the lemons. Avoid the bitter white flesh under the peel. Place the lemon peel in a large glass jar and add vodka. Seal jar with a lid and let lemon flavor infuse for 7 days at room temperature. The mixture will turn a light yellow color. After 7 days, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil for 12 minutes without stirring. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature. Pour lemon-infused vodka through a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, into the cooled syrup. Pour the filtered mixture into a glass bottle and seal. Store at room temperature. Before serving, place bottle in the freezer and serve ice-cold. Makes 4½ cups.
The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of two cookbooks, Gold Medal Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 525-0350 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.