It’s that time of year! Is your garden bursting at the seams with fresh produce, like eggplants? Or perhaps, you’re like me, and your garden isn’t really thriving this year because of too much rain? That’s the case for me this year, so instead, I’m visiting my local farmers markets weekly. That’s what I have been doing since last month, and enjoying someone else’s hard work, while supporting these lovely small businesses instead. It’s a win-win! I can still enjoy fresh produce, and I’m supporting local farmers in the process! Plus, my dog loves to go to the farmers markets and get some social time with other pups. One item that I recently purchased are eggplants. They’re just wonderful this time of year and I cook them a variety of ways, including the ‘labor of love’ dish of parmigiana. It’s delicious, and if you’ve made it before, you know it’s a bit of work. Do you love the flavor of eggplant parmesan but not the work involved? Than I am here to propose to you an easier dish, with similar flavors: Eggplant Pizza! This dish takes all the flavors of the traditional Sicilian dish and diminishes the work completely. These lovely pizzette are perfect straight from the oven, but also wonderful served at room temperature or even cold. A great way to get the kids to eat more vegetables, this is a wonderful family recipe that’s perfect for a quick week-night supper, or even just as a snack! In addition to being quick, this dish is also vegetarian! Try it this summer with the bounty of fresh eggplants!
Serves 3 - 4
¾ cups fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium eggplants, sliced to ¼ inch slices
Sea salt to taste
Olive oil for drizzling
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup shredded mozzarella or fresh mozzarella slices
Sweet or savory, soft or crispy, sugared, or with black pepper or anise seeds, taralli are an institution in itself in southern Italy and just about every household has their own version, in fact, each household likely has several versions! These are a specialty of the Puglia region, but also prepared in Sicily and Calabria. The savory kind are used as appetizers, to be enjoyed with antipasti such as cubed cheese, salami or olives. The sweet version, such as these, are enjoyed with a cup of espresso for breakfast or afternoon snack to tie one over until dinner.
This recipe yields anywhere from 32 to about 38 cookies, depending on the size and thickness of the rings. These are dairy free, as there is no butter in them, so perfect for anyone on a dairy-restricted diet. A sweet or sparkly white wine such as a Spumante from Asti will pair nicely with these little taralli.
Anise Wine Rings
Yields 32 - 38 Cookies
3½ cups flour + more for shaping
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons anise seeds (or more, depending in preference)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar + extra for dusting
½ cup light tasting olive oil
1 cup dry or sweet white wine
This time of year always brings me back to Italian Street Festivals, celebrating one Saint or another. Did you visit these festivals growing up too? They’re a tradition both in Italy, and in the Italian – American neighborhoods here in the US. While growing up in Italy, I recall how all summer long, each week-end was devoted to a particular Saint. The small town I grew up in would celebrate in great fashion including a band, a procession, fireworks, street vendors, and of course, food trucks of various types selling their particular dishes. Now, living only a few minutes away from Boston’s North End, one of America’s best Italian neighborhoods, I occasionally visit the small neighborhood during a festival, if I am not traveling in Italy, that is.
One of the foods often sold by eager food carts during these festivals, both here and in Italy, is the classic dish of Italian sausage, peppers and onions. The smell of these ingredients frying always brings me back to summers in Italy. And I recreate it at home pretty often. It’s a traditional street food of festivals and its deliciousness is adored by all. But if you’re not going to Italy this year, and not visiting an Italian-American neighborhood, you can easily make this at home. It’s easy, requires just one pan, is dairy, gluten and nut free, and makes the perfect dish for picnics, to take to the beach, or to enjoy on your patio or back yard. While you can use all various colors of peppers, I find red ones to be sweeter and to cook faster than other colors. Freezing the sausages for an hour before preparation will make slicing them easier. And did you know that while cooking this on the stovetop is faster, you can also add all the ingredients to a baking dish and cook at 375°F for about 40 minutes? A wonderful alternative for when you have a bit more time, and don’t want to stand behind the stove!
Italian Sausages, Peppers, and Onions
Serves 4 - 6
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 sweet red or green bell peppers, seeded, thinly sliced
2 small yellow or white onions, diced
1 ripe tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dry Italian herbs
6 Italian sausages (sweet or hot), diced
It’s rather unfortunate that these delicious and light meringue cookies have such an unsavory name, but brutti, ma buoni, or “ugly but good” deserve a place on your cookie platter, despite their outwardly appearance. Believed to originate from Piedmont, the largest hazelnut-growing region in Italy, and birthplace of Nutella, these cookies have just a few ingredients, are not labor intensive and are very tasty! Prepared at home and also sold at many pastry shops, these mounds of deliciousness come together in well under an hour from start to finish, are light and crunchy at the same time, and as a bonus, they’re gluten free! They also call for just a handful of ingredients! It might just become your new favorite cookie. While great with a cup of espresso or tea, these delicious treats are also wonderful to end a meal. Pair them with some Vin Santo from Tuscany or Marsala wine from Sicily for a heavenly match.
Brutti Ma Buoni
Yields 32 - 34 cookies
1½ cups toasted hazelnuts
1 cup sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
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