Friday, March 23, 2007

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbs. olive oil
11/2 tsp. salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups bread flour

1. Mix yeast with 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl, and set aside until yeast begins to foam, for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Add remaining water, olive oil and salt, and stir to combine. Using a portable or standing mixer, add flour by cupfuls until a sticky dough comes together. Knead by machine, or put dough on lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Put dough in a bowl, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 11/2 hours, or until doubled.

3. Punch dough down, and form into equal-sized balls for 2 large or 4 small pizzas. Spray pizza pans or baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray, or rub with olive oil. Let dough rest for 30 minutes, shape into pizza crusts and place in pans or on sheets. Makes 2 Large or 4 Small Crusts.

Vegetarian Times: Whole Wheat Pizza Crust 05/01/2004 p46

Skillet Pizza

When shopping for pesto, choose refrigerated tubs instead of cans or jars; they have the most flavor and the least sodium.

8 oz. chilled pizza dough (1/2 of 16-oz. pkg.)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. prepared refrigerator pesto
1/2 cup shredded low-moisutre part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 Tbs. low-fat ricotta cheese
1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

1. Set rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 500F.

2. Stretch dough into 10-inch round. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over high heat. Cook dough round 3 minutes, or until brown and crisp on bottom. Turn dough over in skillet using 2 spatulas. Remove from heat.

3. Spread 2 Tbs. pesto over crust in skillet. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Top with dollops of ricotta, spaced well apart. Set zucchini rounds around ricotta.

4. Place skillet in oven; bake pizza 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Spoon remaining pesto over zucchini rounds, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Cut into 4 wedges, and serve. Serves 4.

Vegetarian Times: Skillet Pizza 05/01/2006 p42

Tortilla Personal Pizza

If you’re not a fan of feta, dollops of ricotta cheese or slices of fresh mozzarella make luscious substitutions.

1 whole wheat tortilla
1 Tbs. prepared pesto
1 large tomato, sliced
1/4 cup artichoke hearts in water, rinsed, drained and sliced
2 oz. low-sodium feta cheese
2 tsp. pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread pesto over tortilla. Top with tomato, artichokes, cheese and pine nuts.

2. Bake 12 minutes, or until tortilla is toasted around edges. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Times: Tortilla Personal Pizza 05/01/2006 p69

Lentil-Walnut Spread

French bread slices go great with this flavorful spread. Alternatively, stuff it into a whole-wheat pita along with paper-thin slices of red onion and crisp romaine lettuce.

3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
1/4 cup walnut halves
1 Tbs. flaxseed oil or olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely minced arugula, spinach or watercress leaves
3 Tbs. vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground coriander

In small saucepan, combine lentils and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until lentils are tender and water is absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to small bowl.

In small food processor or blender, process walnuts and oil to smooth paste. With rubber spatula, scrape mixture into bowl with lentils. Mash to paste with fork.

On cutting board, cut garlic in half; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. With flat side of knife, mash together. Add to lentil-walnut mixture along with arugula, broth, cumin, coriander and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. Makes 2 1/2 cups -- Dairy-free

Vegetarian Times: Lentil-Walnut Spread 01/01/2000 p43

Spicy Peanut Noodles

For milder noodles, start with 1 tsp. chile paste. If you want more spice, add a dab at a time, tasting as you go

8 oz. linguine
1/3 cup low-fat creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 to 2 tsp. chile paste with garlic
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 medium-size red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup chopped seeded cucumber
3 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
4 lime wedges, optional

1. Cook linguine according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, 1?4 cup water, soy sauce, vinegar, chile paste and sugar in large bowl; whisk until blended. If sauce seems too thick, thin it with a little water; it should have the consistency of cream.

3. Add linguine, bell pepper, cucumber and green onions, and toss well. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

30 minutes or fewer; Serves 6
Vegetarian Times: Spicy Peanut Noodles 04/01/2006 p42

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bangkok Noodles

This noodle dish is a favorite in restaurants and in homes throughout all of Thailand. Our version is flavorful yet light and easy to prepare.

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 1/2 tsp. curry powder, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped scallions (white and light green parts)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 small hot green chile pepper, minced (seeding is optional)
4 oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup mung bean sprouts
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
6 oz. rice vermicelli, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained

1. In small bowl, mix broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, curry powder, scallions and black pepper. Set aside.

2. In large wok or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir-fry garlic, ginger, and chile until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add tofu, and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in soy sauce mixture, and bring to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup bean sprouts, spinach and noodles, and stir-fry, about 30 seconds.

3. Add remaining bean sprouts, but do not mix into noodles.

Bangkok Noodles (Recipe of the day - March 20, 2007)

Pasta Primavera with Breadcrumb Topping

Hand-twisted noodles called pinci (also known as pici) are a Tuscan delicacy. Luckily for time-pressed cooks, curly pasta noodles work too.

8 oz. fusilli or rotini pasta
3 Tbs. olive oil
1⁄2 lb. green beans, trimmed
1⁄2 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 medium-sized zucchini (about 1⁄2 lb.
total), trimmed and julienned
2 large red bell peppers, julienned
1⁄4 cup finely chopped basil
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to boil; add green beans and parboil 3 minutes. Transfer beans to colander and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking.

3. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in very large skillet over medium heat. Add green beans, onion, garlic and crushed red pepper, and cook, covered, 3 minutes. Add zucchini, peppers, basil and oregano, and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes, or until vegetables are just al dente; do not overcook. Season with salt to taste.

4. Warm remaining 1 Tbs. oil in second skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.

5. Add drained pasta to vegetables and toss to blend; sprinkle with breadcrumbs, cheese and olive oil, and serve (Serves 6).

Pasta Primavera with Breadcrumb Topping

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Vegetable Soup


Acquacotta means “cooked water,” but that doesn’t begin to describe how delicious this soup is! It also freezes beautifully, so double the recipe if you like. Adding a Parmesan cheese rind to the soup while it’s cooking is a clever Italian method for deepening flavors.

1 lb. Swiss chard or kale 4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup tomato purée
2-inch Parmesan rind
6 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Rinse chard in several changes of water until completely free of grit. Drain, stack leaves on cutting board and finely chop.

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir in salt, crushed red pepper and tomato paste; cook 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add 8 cups water, tomato purée, Parmesan rind and chopped greens. Cook, partially covered, 45 minutes, or until very thick, stirring occasionally; add more water if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove rind.

To serve, place slice of bread in bottom of each bowl. Fill with soup, sprinkle with cheese, drizzle with oil and serve.

Recipe from the Mar. '06 issue of Vegetarian Times.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Pomodori Imbottiti di Riso (Makes 6 servings)

Description: [...] In addition to stirring the fresh basil into the filling, shred as much as you like and scatter it over the tomatoes after you put them on a plate...

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
½ cup arborio rice
6 medium tomatoes (about 2 ½ pounds), ripe but firm
1/2 cup diced mozzarella, preferably fresh, or provola cheese
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 1-quart saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups salted water, 2 tablespoons of the oil and the bay leaves to a boil. Stir in the rice and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to a lively simmer and cook the rice, unovered, until al dente, tender but firm, about 12 minutes. Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the texture of the rice is creamy. Drain any excess liquid from the rice and transfer the rice to a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375˚ F. Cut a 1/2-inch slice from the top of each tomato and set aside. Scoop out the pulp and seeds with a teaspoon and drop into a strainer set over a bowl. Press on the pulp in the strainer to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid and discard the pulp in the strainer.

Toss the rice, mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the basil together in a small bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Gently stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture, dividing it evenly. Top each tomato with the reserved slices. Using some of the remaining oil, brush a baking dish into which the tomatoes fit comfortably. Set the stuffed tomatoes in the dish. Add the strained liquid from tomatoes and, if necessary, pour in enough water to come about ¼ inch up the sides of the tomatoes. Drizzle the remaining oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle them with the remaining 1 tablespoon grated cheese. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes.

Uncover the dish and bake until the tomatoes are very tender and the tops are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove tomatoes from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Carefully transfer the tomatoes to a serving platter, or individual plates. Swirl the juices in the pan to incorporate the oil into the juices and spoon the pan juices over and around the tomatoes. The tomatoes are best when served warm, with some of the pan juices drizzled over each serving.

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Tomato Sauce

Salsa di Pomodoro (Makes about 3 ½ cups, enough to dress 6 servings of pasta)

3 pounds ripe fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded or one 35 ounce can of peeled Italian tomatoes, seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup finely shredded peeled carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery (including leaves)
4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried bay leaves
Crushed red pepper

Directions: Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Heat the oil in a 2 to 3-quart non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the food-milled tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and red pepper if necessary.

Tomato Sauce

Classic Pesto

1 pinch coarse sea salt
60 small or 30 large fresh basil leaves, dried
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons pignoli, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, fresh, finely grated
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh, finely grated
3 - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions: In a mortar:
Start with salt and few leaves of basil. Crush with a pestle, keep adding leaves a few at a time, then add garlic and pound until the mixture becomes a paste. Add pignoli and work into a paste, then add cheese and slowly pour the olive oil. Work all into a creamy consistency.

In a blender:
Add basil, salt and garlic. Work into a paste, add pignoli and slowly pour half of the olive oil. Add cheese and the remaining olive oil. Blend until it becomes a homogenous, creamy paste.

To make the sauce, pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonreactive skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the pan. Cook, shaking the pan, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, stir in the crushed red pepper and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to simmering and cook until lightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour in the clam juice and cook an additional 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Slip the agnolotti into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently as you add them. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until the edges are tender, about 4 minutes after the water returns to a boil.

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and agnolotti, fish the agnolotti out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and add them directly to the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the agnolotti gently and return them to the pot. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil, stirring gently to coat the agnolotti with sauce. Drizzle the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil over the pasta and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary and serve immediately.

Classic Pesto

Fennel Spinach Soup

Minestra di Finocchio e spinaci.

Ingredients: 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and dice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large diced carrots, shredded
5 fresh bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
pinch of red pepper
1 pound fennel, diced fine ( leave the green part )
10 ounces corn kernels, frozen if needed
2 pounds spinach, shredded
10 ounces fresh peas, or frozen
2 tablespoons fresh basil or marjoram, chopped

Directions: In a large pot, lightly sauté the garlic and potatoes in the olive oil until golden, add the carrots and sauté 10 minutes longer. Add 6 quarts of boiling water, bay leaves and bring to boil. Add salt, freshly grounded pepper and red pepper and boil for 30 minutes. Add fennel, corn and cook an additional 15 minutes. Then add spinach, peas, and herbs and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Fennel Spinach Soup

Ziti with Basil and Mozzarella

Ziti alla Caprese

1 cup Basil leaves – shredded
4 cups Lidia’s Flavors of Italy Tomato and Basil Sauce
1 lb. Ziti
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 lb. Bocconcini Mozzarella di Bufala – cut in half
(If using regular mozzarella, cut in 1” cubes

In a skillet bring Lidia’s Flavors of Italy Tomato and Basil Sauce to a boil.

While the sauce is heating, cook the ziti in 5 quarts of salted boiling water until al dente (tender but still firm), about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Stir in the basil, mozzarella and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, toss well, and serve immediately.

Ziti with Basil and Mozzarella

White Bean Garlicky Soup

Ingredients: FOR THE BEANS
1 pound (about 2-1/2 cups) dry cannellini or other small dried white beans, soaked overnight or quick-soaked
4 quarts cold water plus more if needed
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt plus more if needed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 big cloves garlic, sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes

Drain the soaked beans and put them in the pot with the water, bay leaves, and olive oil. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. When the water is at a full boil, set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to maintain a steady gentle boiling and cook for an hour more, until the beans are tender.

Stir in the salt, uncover and continue cooking at a bubbling boil for another hour or more, until the beans and broth have reduced to 3-quarts. Lower the heat as the liquid evaporates and the soup base thickens, stirring now and then to prevent scorching.

When the soup base is sufficiently reduced, make the soffritto. Heat the olive oil and the sliced garlic in a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or so, shaking the pan now and then, until the slices are sizzling. Drop in the peperoncino, stir with the garlic and cook another minute or until the garlic is just starting to color.

From the soup pot, ladle out a cup of the simmering bean broth and pour it into the skillet. Let it sizzle and start to boil, shake and stir up the soffritto, and cook it for a couple of minutes in the broth. Then pour it all back into the bean pot, scraping in every bit of the soffritto or just rinse the skillet out with more broth. Simmer the soup base for another 5 minutes, with the soffritto, then remove from the heat.

The base is ready for a finished soup now or let the whole pot cool; pick out the bay leaves and discard. Keep the soup refrigerated for 3 or 4 days or freeze, in filled and tightly sealed containers, for 4 to 6 months.

[Tip Box]
Best bean types: Imported cannellini beans from Tuscany, in particular the Sorana (hard to find variety) variety, are the ones to use for white bean soups and any dishes with cannellini. If you can’t find them , substitute any of the small white bean varieties, such as Great Northern, pea beans, or navy beans.

The borlotti bean is the Italian red kidney bean and one of my preferred varieties for the hearty bean and potato soup base. A close relative is our cranberry bean, a smallish bean with mottled pink skin—is a good substitute for the borlotti.

Long Soaking Beans: An overnight soak is the easiest way to rehydrate dried beans before cooking: first pick out any bits of dirt or stones from the beans, then rinse them. Put the beans in a large bowl or pot with cold water covering them by 4-inches or more. Most beans are sufficiently soaked in 8 hours; old beans (from the back of the cupboard, perhaps) take longer. Soak them up to 24 hours until plump and not wrinkled. Skim off any floating particles, then drain well before cooking—don’t cook beans in the soaking water.

Quick soaking beans: If you don’t have time for long soaking, put the rinsed beans in a large pot with hot water to cover by several inches and set over high heat. When boiling, cook for 1 minute; remove from the heat and let the beans sit in the water (uncovered) for 1 hour. Drain and proceed to cook the beans.

White Bean Garlicky Soup

Tuscan Style Tomato and Bread Soup

Pappa al Pomodoro (Servings: 8)

Five ½ inch thick slices Italian bread with crusts removed, approximately 3 cups
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus another 3 tablespoons for drizzling
1 cup finely sliced summer onions
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cubed
4 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 basil leaves
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano.

Directions: Remove all crusts from the bread and soak the white part of the bread in a large bowl of water for approximately 5 minutes. Squeeze the bread with your hands until all of the water drains out.

In a 4-5 quart pot, heat the three tablespoons of olive oil over medium meat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook together until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then add the 4 cups of water and cook for approximately ½ hour. Then add the bread. Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the basil leaves and then adjust the level to heat so that the soup simmers. You should cook the soup for another ½ hour, whisking occasionally to break up the pieces of bread until the soup becomes dense.

Salt and pepper to taste, serve in warm bowls, drizzled with the remaining 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the Parmigiano Reggiano.

Tuscan Style Tomato and Bread Soup -- Recipe by Fortunato Nicotra, Executive Chef of Felidia Ristorante, NYC

Traditional Pizza Margherita

Pizza alla Margarita (Makes four 12-inch pizzas)

Ingredients: Pizza Dough

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Neapolitan Pizza Sauce
Coarse cornmeal
½ pound fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated and drained in a sieve
20 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips
If you want a really crispy, evenly baked crust, take the time to squeeze the tomatoes of excess liquid when you make the sauce and drain the mozzarella briefly in a sieve before you put the pizzas together.

Directions: Prepare the pizza dough dividing into four portions after the first rising.

When the dough has risen for the second time, place the oven rack in the lowest position, center a pizza stone over it and preheat the oven to 475 F. (See below for notes on baking pizzas without a stone.)

Roll or stretch the dough balls out to a 12-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick with a slightly thicker border around the edge. Brush each circle lightly with some of the olive oil. Working with one crust at a time, sprinkle a pizza peel or flat baking sheet generously with the cornmeal. Place the circle of dough on the cornmeal and spoon 1/4 cup of the pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a thin border around the edge. Scatter one fourth of the mozzarella over the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the pizza lightly with salt and scatter some of the basil over it. Drizzle a little of the remaining olive oil over the cheese.

To Bake the Pizzas on a Pizza Stone: Pull the oven rack out partially and slide the pizza onto one side of the stone. The best way to do this is to bring the peel down to the stone and lift the peel until the pizza starts to slide. Once the crust makes contact with the stone, pull the peel quickly from the pizza. Make sure you center the peel and pizza over the stone so the pizza doesn’t overhang the stone when you remove the peel. Push the rack back in, close the oven and bake until the pizzas are golden brown underneath and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. (If you are using two stones, you may bake two pizzas at a time. Position the stones on racks in the lowest and highest positions before heating the oven.

Check the pizzas as they cook, they may brown differently from stone to stone.) Remove the pizzas as they are done by nudging them onto the peel with a spatula or pair of tongs. Allow a few minutes for the stone to reheat before cooking another pizza on it.

Traditional Pizza Margherita

Tomato and Bread Soup

Pappa al Pomodoro (Servings: 8)

For this dish, the ripeness and flavor of the tomatoes is imperative. Therefore, make the soup when the tomatoes are abundant and ripe and at their best-in late summer. This "zuppa" is delicious warm or served at room temperature on a hot summer day.

Five 1/2 inch slices Italian bread, crusts removed
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely diced onions
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juice reserved or one 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice, juices reserved
4 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375° F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook , stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the toasted bread and stock and return to a boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the basil leaves and adjust the level of heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, whisking occasionally to break up the pieces of bread, until the mixture is dense and silky, about 40 minutes.

If desired, remove the garlic cloves and basil leaves. Pass the soup through a fine sieve, forcing the solids through with a ladle. (If necessary, first pass the soup through a food mill fitted with the fine disc). Correct the seasoning. Serve in warm bowls, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato and Bread Soup

Penne with Yellow Tomato, Eggplant and Basil

Penne Con Pomodori Gialli, Melanzane e Basilico (Serves 4)

Ingredients: For sauce
8 vine-ripened yellow tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup minced white onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 fresh basil leaves, minced
For pasta:
1 eggplant , cubes (Sicilian preferred)
6 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
¼ pound dry aged ricotta, grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano can be substituted)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound penne

Directions: For sauce
If using fresh tomatoes, begin with step 1. Otherwise, start with step 2.
1. With the point of a paring knife, cut out and discard the stem bases of the tomatoes, removing small cones about 1/4” deep, then lightly cut X-shapes on the tomatoes’ opposite ends.

Bring water to boil in a large saucepan, drop in the tomatoes, and cook 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a colander, run cold water over them, and slip their skins off with your fingers.

2. Pass tomatoes through a food mill. In a nonreactive saucepan, lightly sauté the onion in the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, crushing each directly over the pan as it is added. Add the reserved juice if the tomatoes have been seeded. Season to taste and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil before serving.

For pasta:
Fry the cubed eggplant in oil until golden. Strain it and remove more oil with paper towels. Add the eggplant to the sauce, then add a few basil leaves. Add grated aged ricotta and stir well. Serve over penne cooked al dente in salted water.

Penne with Yellow Tomato, Eggplant and Basil

Potato Gnocchi with a Pesto Green Bean Sauce

1 ½ pounds baking potatoes
¾ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten well
½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ pound green beans

Directions: Boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender when poled with a fork. Don’t let them overcook to the point that their skins split. Drain as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and put tem through the ricer or vegetable mill, using the medium disk and letting the shreds fall onto a large baking tray or board. Spread them out, sprinkle on the salt and let them dry out and cool for at least 20 minutes.

Pour the beaten egg over the potatoes, and the 1 cup of the flour. Gather the mass together and knead, adding a little more flour as necessary to make the dough hold together. But keep it light; the more you work the dough, the more flour you’ll need, and you don’t want to incorporate too much or the gnocchi will be heavy and dry. A good criterion: slice the mass in half and examine the texture. Ir should look like cookie dough peppered with small holes.

Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Roll out each portion into a broomstick about 18 inches long, then cut crosswise into 2/3-inch pieces and toss them lightly in flour. You should have about 72 gnocchi.

Take one piece of gnocchi and place it, cut side down, on the tines of a fork, then with your lightly floured thumb press into it, at the same time pushing it off the end of the fork and onto a floured board. The gnocchi should have an indentation where your thumb was, and ridges from the fork tines on the other side, Repeat with all the remaining pieces, and cover with a clean towel. At this point they should be cooked immediately or quickly frozen.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Drop the gnocchi, five or six at a time, into the boiling water-the larger the pot, the less time they will take the return to the boil.

Once they have, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they plump up and float to the surface; when done, they will have a softer feel and will no longer thump against the side of the pan as you fish them out with a strainer or slotted spoon. Drop them gently from your strained into the waiting sauce.

Potato Gnocchi with a Pesto Green Bean Sauce

Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

Gnocchi Alla Gorgonzola (Makes 8 servings)

"I love Gorgonzola cheese--eaten as is or in a sauce for pasta or gnocchi." Gorgonzola comes in three grades: dolce (sweet), medio (medium) and piccante (piquant). Depending on your preference, any one of the three can be used for this sauce.

Pick the type of Gorgonzola cheese you use for this recipe according to your preference. Dolce or dolce latte will give you a sweeter sauce; piccante a sharper sauce.

Gorgonzola continues to age as it is stored in the refrigerator, intensifying in piquancy as it does. To slow this process down, wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. This sauce is a good way to use left over Gorgonzola cheese.

Ingredients: Potato Gnocchi
6 large Idaho or russet potatoes
2 tbs. plus 1 tsp. salt
Dash of freshly ground white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups unbleached flour
Grated Parmigiano for serving

Gorgonzola Sauce:
1/2 cup [Vegetable] Stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Gorgonzola
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions: Gnocchi
Boil the potatoes in their skins about 40 minutes, until easily pierced with a skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel and rice the potatoes, and set them aside to cool completely, spreading them loosely to expose as much surface as possible to air. (The reason for this is to allow as much evaporation of moisture as possible to avoid the need of additional flour, therefore keeping the gnocchi light).

Before proceeding further, bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tbs. of the salt to a boil. On a cool, preferably marble work surface, gather the cold potatoes into a mound, forming a well in the center. Stir the remaining 1 tsp. salt and the white pepper into the beaten eggs and pour the mixture into the well. Work the potatoes and eggs together with both hands, gradually adding 3 cups of the flour and scraping the dough up from the work surface with a knife as often as necessary. (Incorporation of the ingredients should take no longer than 10 minutes. The longer the dough is worked, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become).

Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with flour and cut the dough into six equal parts. Continue to dust dough, hands, and surface as long as the dough feel sticky.
Using both hands, roll each piece of dough into a rope 1/2” thick, then slice the ropes at 1/2” intervals. Indent each dumpling with a thumb, or use the tines of a fork to produce a ribbed effect. (This facilitates adhesion of the sauce).

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. (If you plan to cook the gnocchi as soon as they are formed, put the water on to boil while the riced potatoes are cooling. If you are cooking previously frozen gnocchi, make sure the water is boiling before you remove the gnocchi from the freezer.)

Bring the stock, cream and butter to a boil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season lightly with salt and pepper and boil until the sauce is lightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the gorgonzola until dissolved.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook just until they rise to the surface and roll over, 2 to 3 minutes. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and gnocchi, gently scoop the gnocchi out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and add them directly to the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the gnocchi gently, return them to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and gnocchi to a boil, stirring gently to coat the gnocchi with sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

Peach Lasagna

For the peach layers, 3 pounds ripe peaches
Grated peel and juice of 1 small-medium lemon
¾ cup sugar
For the bread layers,
8 slices (approximately 5 x 3 ½ inches) country bread cut, not too thick, from a round country loaf
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons butter)
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
For the crumb topping
1/3 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped almonds

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the peaches and cut them into approximately ¼ inch wedges. Toss them in a bowl with the lemon rind and juice and ¾ cup sugar.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet and lay in half of the bread slices. Brown them lightly on one side, then turn them and brown the other side. Repeat with the remaining butter and bread slices and when all are done, sprinkle the 1 ½ tablespoons sugar over them.

Line the bottom of a shallow baking dish (approximately 8 x 10 inches) with half the bread slices; they should just cover the bottom. Spoon half of the peaches and half of their juices on top, then arrange a second layer of bread slices over the surface, and a final layer of peaches and juice.

Prepare the topping by tossing together in a bowl the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and mix them with the dry ingredients, using your fingertips or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter but not too thoroughly—leave small, flakey pieces of butter throughout. Fold in the chopped almonds.

Sprinkle the topping even over the peach lasagna and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Test after 50 minutes; if the peaches were very ripe and juicey, it will be done. Otherwise, it will take the full hour or a little more; the peaches should be tender, the juices bubbling all around, and the top nicely browned. If the peaches seem done (and you don’t want them to dry out) but the crumb topping is still pale, slip the dish under a hot broiler for a minute or two. Serve warm.

Peach Lasagna

Zucchini and Country Bread Lasagna

Ingredients: For the Zucchini
2 pounds firm, unblemished zucchini (6 small or 4 medium)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For Assembling the Lasagna
2 tablespoons soft butter, for the baking pan
12 or so day-old slices of country bread (from a 1-1/2 pound loaf)
6 cups Tomato Sauce
2 cups grated Grana Padano

Directions: Rinse and dry the zucchini, slice off the stem and trim the blossom end. With a sharp long bladed knife (or a mandolin if you have one) cut very thin lengthwise slices, about an 1/8-inch thick. Put them in large bowl, sprinkle over the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the 2 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat the slices with the seasonings. Assembling the Lasagna
Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400. Cut the crusts off the bread slices. If they are soft and fresh, you can dry them briefly in the oven but don’t let them get crisp or brown.

Butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan generously. Spread a cup of the tomato sauce in a thin layer in the bottom of the pan. Cover the bottom with a single layer of bread slices. Trim the slices and cut them in pieces so they fit close together and lie flat (but you don’t have to fill every small crack or hole). Spoon about 2 cups of sauce onto the bread and spread it evenly.

Make a layer of zucchini (or sautéed eggplant), using half the slices. You can lay them crosswise or lengthwise in the pan, whichever way fits best. Overlap the slices as necessary to make an even layer that completely covers the sauce. Press down gently to condense the lasagna and make more room in the pan, then sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese evenly over the top.

Now repeat the layering: Arrange another layer of bread slices and trimmed pieces. Cover the bread with 2 more cups of sauce, spread evenly. Lay out the rest of the zucchini slices in an overlapping layer. Sprinkle another cup of cheese (or more!) in a generous layer over the top of the lasagna.

Cut a sheet of aluminum foil about 2 feet long-preferably from a wide roll of heavy-duty foil. Press the foil so it hugs the sides of the pan and bend it to make a "tent" over the lasagna that doesn't touch the surface anywhere.

Bake the lasagna covered for about 45 minutes, giving the zucchini plenty of time to cook. Remove the pan from the oven; carefully unfold the foil from the sides of the pan and lift it off completely. Don't get burned by the pan or the steam that is released and more importantly don't let the foil mess up the cheesy topping!

Return the lasagna to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is deep golden-brown. Let the casserole settle for a few minutes before serving (it will stay hot for some time). Cut in squares or rectangles of whatever size you like, and lift out individual pieces with an angled spatula.

Zucchini and Country Bread Lasagna

Ricotta Cheesecake

Torta di Ricotta (Makes 8 servings)

3 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
Softened butter
Fine dry bread crumbs for the pan
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
Grated zest of 1 large orange
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pine nuts

Place the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and place the sieve over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap and let drain in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or up to one day.

Combine the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Soak, tossing occasionally, until the raisins are softened and have absorbed most of the rum.

Brush an 8-inch spring form pan with enough softened butter to coat lightly. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the butter to coat generously. Shake out the excess crumbs. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt with a whisk until pale yellow. Add the drained ricotta, lemon and orange zest and beat until blended thoroughly. Beat in the cream. With a rubber spatula, fold in the pine nuts and the raisins and rum, blending well. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer or wire whisk until they form firm peaks when a beater is lifted from them. Add about one fourth of the egg whites to the ricotta mixture and gently stir them in. Add the remaining egg whites and fold them in, using a large rubber spatula to scrape the batter from the bottom of the bowl up and over the whites. Fold just until a few streaks of white remain. Do not overmix. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is golden brown on top and set in the center, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool the cake completely before removing the sides of the pan. Serve the cake at room temperature or chilled.

Ricotta Cheesecake

Semolina Gnocchi Roman Style

Gnocchi alla Romana (Makes 8 servings)

This is a traditional Roman dish. In Rome it is dressed with Pecorino Romano and butter or salsa bescemella (bechamel sauce). I love Gorgonzola cheese, eaten as is or in a sauce for pasta or gnocchi, so I decided to use it here. Gorgonzola comes in three types which are determined by how long the cheese is aged. Dolce or dolce latte (sweet or sweet milk) is the youngest, with a mild bite and creamy texture. Medio Dolce (medium) is lightly aged, slightly tangy and firmer in texture. Piccante (piquant) is aged the longest and is quite tangy with a crumbly texture. Depending on your preference on intensity, any one of the three can be used for the sauce. Gorgonzola continues to age as it is stored in the refrigerator, intensifying the piquancy. This sauce is a good way to use left over pieces of Gorgonzola cheese.

For the gnocchi:
5 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coarse semolina flour
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

For the Gorgonzola sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup [Vegetable] Stock...
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine the milk, 4 tablespoons butter and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Place over medium heat and gradually add the semolina, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps. When the mixture comes to a boil, adjust the heat to simmering. As the mixture cooks, it will begin to thicken rapidly. If you prefer, you may switch to a sturdy wooden spoon for stirring once the mixture starts to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring vigorously until the mixture is very thick and begins to pull away from the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and marjoram (or sage).

Divide the gnocchi mix between two ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pans and, working quickly, spread the mixture with a rubber spatula into an even 1/2-inch layer right up to the edges in each pan. Dip the spatula in water frequently to make spreading easier. Cover the gnocchi mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface and chill until firm, about 1 1/2 hours. The gnocchi mixture can be kept refrigerated up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Grease a very large – about 14-inch oval – baking dish with one tablespoon of butter and set aside. (Alternately, you may bake the gnocchi in two smaller – about 8- to 9-inch oval – dishes.) Combine the cream, stock, Gorgonzola and remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Stir until the Gorgonzola and butter are melted and the sauce appears smooth.

Season to taste with pepper and, if necessary, salt.

With a 2-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out as many circles as possible from the two trays of gnocchi mixture. You should have around 48 circles. (Save the scraps; you may either cut them into small pieces and add them to soups, or use them in the next step.)

If you are using the gnocchi scraps in this dish, cut them into rough pieces and spread them over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the gnocchi rounds evenly in the dish, overlapping them as necessary and using all the rounds. Spoon the gorgonzola sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle them evenly with the grated cheese. Bake until the tops of the gnocchi and the cheese are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Semolina Gnocchi Roman Style