Orecchiette With Grated Squash, Walnuts and Ricotta Salata

•February 22, 2015 • 1 Comment

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Living in Puglia we eat a lot of orecchiette with broccoli rabe, I order it at most restaurants and according to my husband I have perfected the dish in my own kitchen. It is hard to fail perfection when your primary ingredients are so incredible. Though we love “green orecchiette” as my daughter calls them, licking her lips, we don’t want them all of the time and when our neighbor brought us a tray of freshly made orecchiette I wanted to find a recipe that would do them the same honor. This pumpkin and walnut sauce absoultely made the cut.

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Orecchiette With Grated Squash, Walnuts and Ricotta Salata

adapted from The New York Times

  • pound butternut squash (about half of a large squash)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces walnut pieces (about 1/2 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, grated (about 1/2 cup)

Begin heating a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and keep at a simmer.

Meanwhile, peel the squash (I use a vegetable peeler for this), cut it into chunks that will fit your food processor tube fitted with the grater blade, and grate. Alternately, grate with the large holes of a box grater.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the grated squash and salt to taste. Cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the squash has softened. Add the garlic, walnuts and half the marjoram or all of the sage and cook, stirring, for another minute. Turn the heat down to medium.

Add 1/2 cup of the water for the pasta and cook for another couple of minutes, until it has been absorbed and evaporated from the pan. Add another 1/2 cup water and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, or until the squash mixture is tender and moist. Taste, adjust salt, and add a generous amount of pepper. Keep warm while you cook the pasta.

Bring the pot of water back to a rolling boil and add the orecchiette. Cook al dente, usually 10 to 11 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the squash mixture before draining, then drain the pasta and toss with the squash, along with the remaining marjoram and the ricotta salata. Serve hot.

Advance preparation: You can make this through Step 4 several hours ahead. You will have to moisten the squash with more hot water when you reheat in the pan.

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One Year Ago: Insalata di Calamari

Two Years Ago: Fancy Pasta with Grated Fennel, Lemon and Orata, Risotto with Orata, Leeks, Sundried Tomatoes and Saffron & Zuppa di Pesce

Three Years Ago: Trattoria al Gambero, Porto Cesareo (LE), I Secondi della Lanternaia & L’Antro, Crispiano (TA)

Four Years Ago: Reezy Peezy & Kale with Cannellini and Polenta

Five Years Ago: Herb Egg Salad, Lentil Tomato Soup & Spaghetti alla Gricia

Six Years Ago: Farfalle with Portobello Mushrooms, Frittata di Maccheroni, Asparagus and Spinach Risotto, Chicken Tikka with Pomegranate Couscous Salad, Pot Stickers, La Carbonara, Chicken Thighs with Saffron, Green Olives & Mint & Tiramisu

La Genovese

•February 9, 2015 • 1 Comment

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I’m going back to a recipe that I posted in my first years of blogging, La Genovese, which is a classic Neapolitan dish, or dishes for that matter. A roast cooked in the sauce that you dress the pasta with. It is a favorite of my husband and has become one of my favorites too. Continuing, slowly, with the dishes that my mother-in-law prepared when she was here, I couldn’t leave this one out. I had never actually followed the preparation of a genovese by anyone but my husband and I am so pleased that I did.

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I knew that there was an outrageous, tear-streaming amount of onions, but was somehow convinced that the meat that you needed was chunks of stew meat as opposed to a roast, never having attempted to make this on my own. I was also surprised that you don’t brown the meat at all before braising it in the onions, but put it all in the pot together, the result being very tender and deicious bites of meat and a sweet marmalade of onions to dress your pasta with.

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This is serious comfort food. On a recent trip to Naples, we went to a classic Neapolitan osteria above the neighborhood La Sanità called La Mattonella. With tiles on the walls that date back to the 1700’s and a genovese to swoon over. I have to confess though, my mother-in-law’s was far superior.

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La Genovese

from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz

  • 2 pounds (approximately) chuck roast, tied or a chuck steak, we used spezzatino which is meat cut up for stew
  • 4 pounds onions, halved through the root end and finely sliced, about 12 cups (my husband will often use a mix of red, yellow and white onions, you can use a few onions for this to make a good stew)
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced (or ribboned)
  • 1 large, outside rib celery, finely diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 rounded tablespoons finely cut parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Place the meat in a heavy-bottomed, 7- to 8-quart pot. Surround and cover the meat with the onions, carrot, celery, salt, parsley, marjoram, and 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered over medium-low heat, simmering gently but steadily, and stirring every so often. As the liquid reduces in the pot and the meat becomes exposed, make sure to turn the meat regularly – every 20 minutes or so – so that it cooks evenly.

After about 3 hours, most of the liquid should have evaporated, the onions should be almost creamy, and the meat should be tender. Even if the meat is not as tender as you would like, remove it and set it aside. It can be further tenderized when reheated.

Raise the heat under the onions and add the wine. Boil, stirring frequently, until the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Then continue to boil, stirring frequently, even constantly, until the sauce has reduced and thickened so much that when it is stirred you can see the bottom of the pot for a second. This can take as long as 20 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste at this point and cook another minute. (If, when reheating, the sauce seems too tight, stir in a little water to loosen it.) Season with plenty of freshly ground pepper. Correct the salt, if necessary.

Serve the meat with about 1/2 cup of sauce, save the rest of the sauce for your pasta (tomorrow’s post).

If the meat did not become entirely tender during its cooking with the onions, slice it and layer it with spoons of the sauce in a baking dish or casserole. Cover (with foil if necessary) and reheat in a 325-degree oven until heated through and almost fall-apart tender.

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One Year Ago: frittelle di cavolfiori e baccalà & Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Two Years Ago: Stuffed Squid, Colcannon, Wild Mushroom Risotto & Fancy Pasta with Artichokes and Clams

Three Years Ago: a walk in the country, Gli antipasti della Lanternaia, I Primi della Lanternaia & La Cantina di Papa Ggiru

Four Years Ago: Meatloaf, Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Saffron and Red Wine, Farfalle with Butternut Squash, Olives and Grapes & Gemelli with Cauliflower and Saffron

Five Years Ago: Brasato

Six Years Ago: An interpretation of La Genovese, Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto & Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

Il Gateau di Patate

•January 24, 2015 • 2 Comments

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Neapolitan comfort food. This is a favorite of my husband’s and was a must have when his mother was here. He has attempted this recipe several times and I honestly was never won over by it, not sure what that is about, I love potatoes and all of the goodness that goes into this gâteau, but I was just never feeling it. I have to say that a mother’s touch to certain foods makes all of the difference and this was a gâteau di patate that I actually went back to for seconds.

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My mother-in-law did not use a recipe, she’s got this one, but for simplicity’s sake and the fact that she moves like a ninja in the kitchen, I decided to use the recipe from my Neapolitan bible, Naples at Table. There are a few differences, we used prosciutto cotto instead of salami, due to certain dietary restrictions and only used mozzarella and skipped the smoked cheese, though I think that the salami and the smoked cheese would have really made this potato cake pop. We’ll try it again in a few months.

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Gâteau di Patate

from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz

  • 3½ pounds all-purpose potatoes, preferably yellow-fleshed, washed and peeled
  • 3 cups loosely packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 ounces Neapolitan-style salami or soppressata, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 rounded tbsp finely cut parsley
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 to 2 tbsp butter (for greasing the pan)
  • ¼ cup dried bread crumbs (for the pan)
  • 4 ounces smoked provola, cut into ½-inch or smaller cubes
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, cut into ½-inch or smaller cubes
  • Optional: freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until just tender. Rice the potatoes into a bowl. (Do not mash.)

Add the Parmigiano, butter salami, egg, milk, parsley and salt, stirring only enought to incorporate everything evenly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heavily butter a 10-inch pie dish or cake pan, then coat with bread crumbs.

Turn 2/3 of the potato mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth out gently, using a spatula or the back of a spoon, making the layer even. Do not press down. Try not to disturb the bread crumbs coating the pan.

Sprinkle evenly with the smoked cheese and mozzarella cubes, but don’t bring them to the very edge. Season with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Top with the remainder of the potato mixture. Smooth gently again. With a fork, make a decorative pattern on the surface of the potatoes; sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, then dot with 1 tbsp of butter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Serve hot, cut into wedges or spooned out of the pan.

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Two Years Ago: Baccala’ alla Vicentina con Polenta

Three Years Ago: dalla nostra terra

Four Years Ago: Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils

Six Years Ago: pesce all’acqua pazza

Gamberoni al Vino Bianco

•January 20, 2015 • 1 Comment

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I had the best intentions of posting regularly when my mother-in-law was in town or at least after she left, but it has been over 2 weeks since her departure and dust is being collected around all of her recipes.

There are certain houseguests who demand more of you than others and that time to hole away on my own to write, think and relax, just wasn’t available, so those times that I was resting I was either asleep or vegetating in front of the boob tube. After a month with a person who obviously does not enjoy solitude, I realized just how much I cherish it.

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I did enjoy these gorgeous shrimp that she made the first Sunday that she was here. As I have mentioned several times in the blog, shrimp is one of my faborite foods, but I don’t cook it very often because my husband is allergic. So she prepared some just for the ladies of the house, my daughter also loving the pink fish. This was a very simple recipe with white wine and garlic, sauteed in a pan. Delicious and very little prep since you clean them out of their shells after cooking them.

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Gamberoni al Vino Bianco

  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • a few sprigs of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a shallow pan over medium heat, add garlic and sautee for a few seconds before adding the shrimp, placing them in the pan in an even layer. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and pour the wine over the shrimp, cover. Allow to cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes or until the shrimp have changed color. Shrimp in Italy is pink when it is raw as well and becomes a little bit more orange when they are cooked, the color measurement will be easier with grey shrimp which turn pink when they are done.

When the shrimp has reached its appropriate color, remove the shrimp from the pan with tongs and reduce the liquid in the pan to create a sauce. You can plate the shrimp in their shells or peel them before serving, pouring the sauce over the shrimp after they have been peeled.

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One Year Ago: Panettone Gastronomico & Pollo alla Cacciatora

Two Years Ago: La Vigilia di Natale, Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Olives, Polipo al forno con le patate & Pasta al Forno con Funghi Pleurotus e Spinaci

Three Years Ago: Risotto with Salmon, Chanterelles and Chives & Relais Histò

Four Years Ago: Lentil Stew With Pumpkin, Zuppa di Pesce, Farfalle with Portobello Mushrooms and Arugula & Herb Crusted Pork Loin

Five Years Ago: Nasi Goreng & Spaghetti e Vongole

Six Years Ago: Panettone, Alici Fritti, Roasted Fennel Gratin, Zucchini Quiche & Polpo Affogato

Scarole Imbottite

•December 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Stuffed esacarole and escarole pizza are two very important staples at the Neapolitan Christmas table. My mother-in-law has been here since the beginning of December and we prepared a typical Neapolitan feast for Christmas Eve. An antipasto of smoked fish, anchovies and pickled herring, our first course was spaghetti e vongole and we finished the meal off with roasted octopus and a beautiful orata al cartoccio. Where does the stuffed escarole fit in? I am not 100% sure.

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The pizza di scarola is eaten for lunch, keeping it light for the big feast at dinner and I think the scarola imbottita is meant to be served with the antipasti. It is unclear. My mother-in-law bought ten heads of escarole, 5 for the pizza and 5 to stuff. My vegetable vendor was shocked and relieved, he had brought in the specific frizzy escarole specifically for her and she bought almost every one.

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I love le scarole imbottite, this entire head of veg stuffed with delicious contrasting flavors. I love that it is an old Neapolitan tradition and was enthusiastic to finally have the opportunity to watch her make it. It doesn’t actually seem as hard as everyone always made it out to be. She still makes them the same way that her nonna made them, and probably many other women in her family before her.

We didn’t actually eat them on Christmas Eve but waited until Christmas day to enjoy them with our bourbon glazed ham, they were the perfect pairing.

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Scarola Imbottita

  • 5 or 6 frizzy escarole, small heads, depending on how many people you are serving
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup salted capers, rinsed
  • 1 anchovy fillet per escarole
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • butcher’s twine

Clean the escarole in many changes of water, they tend to be pretty dirty. Remove any outside leaves that are browned or shriveled, do not remove the stem of the escarole, holding all of the leaves together. Shake all of the water out of the escarole and place them open on a clean countertop, you will need lots of space, they spread out pretty big, even if they cook down to nothing.

In the center of each escarole, place about a tablespoon of black olives, a teaspoon of capers, a teaspoon of pine nuts and a heaping teaspoon of raisins, with one anchovy fillet on top. Drizzle about a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil on all of the stuffing.

This is the tough part. Gather the ends of the leaves together, closing all of the goodies inside. Wrap the butcher’s twine around the middle of the escarole a few times and tie a knot tightly so that nothing falls out.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a wide pot and place the escarole on their sides, they can squeeze in there pretty tight because they will reduce as they are cooking, providing more room for movement. Place the pot over medium heat and let cook for at least an hour.

You can prepare these a day ahead of time, covering them and reheating them before you eat them.

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Four Years Ago: Risotto with Pumpkin and Olives

Rugelach

•December 26, 2014 • 2 Comments

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We have very generous neighbors, they bring us delicious fresh ricotta, farm fresh eggs, jarred tomatoes and their own wine. I am always at a loss as to what I can give them as a treat to return the favor and at this point, they may be tired of my banana bread, though who could ever tire of banana bread?

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I had made rugelach for the first time for my Rosh Hashanah feast and after realizing that even though they appeared to be a complete disaster, they were actually delicious and not as ugly as I had feared that they would be. I decided that I would give it a try again, doubled the recipe for an army and made apricot and rasberry rugelach for all of my neighbors and the teachers at my daughter’s school.

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Who knows if they ate them, Italians have blinders when it comes to food, the batch that I made for my own family have been sitting there and I can attest to the fact that they are delish, I ate several during the cooling process.

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Rugelach

from epicurious.com

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup apricot preserves or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup loosely packed golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts (1/4 lb), finely chopped
  • Milk for brushing cookies

Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined well. Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then flatten (in wrap) into a roughly 7- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill until firm, 8 to 24 hours.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of a 1- to 1 1/2-inch-deep large shallow baking pan with parchment paper.

Cut dough into 4 pieces. Chill 3 pieces, wrapped in plastic wrap, and roll out remaining piece into a 12- by 8-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment, then transfer to a tray and chill while rolling out remaining dough in same manner, transferring each to another sheet of parchment and stacking on tray.

Whisk 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon.

Arrange 1 dough rectangle on work surface with a long side nearest you. Spread 1/4 cup preserves evenly over dough with offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins and a rounded 1/4 cup walnuts over jam, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.

Using parchment as an aid, roll up dough tightly into a log. Place, seam side down, in lined baking pan, then pinch ends closed and tuck underneath. Make 3 more logs in same manner and arrange 1 inch apart in pan. Brush logs with milk and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of remaining granulated sugar. With a sharp large knife, make 3/4-inch-deep cuts crosswise in dough (not all the way through) at 1-inch intervals. (If dough is too soft to cut, chill until firmer, 20 to 30 minutes.)

Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool to warm in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes, then transfer logs to a cutting board and slice cookies all the way through.

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One Year Ago: Merano / Meran, Alto Adige / Südtirol & Marketing for our Christmas Feasts

Two Years Ago: Latkes, Creamy Carrot Soup with Poppy Seeds & Rigatoni with Octopus and Artichokes

Three Years Ago: Classic Meatloaf & Pasta al Forno with Collards and Baked Eggs

Four Years Ago: Brasato alla Birra, Torta di Riso e Zucchine, Risotto ai Funghi Porcini, Spaghetti With Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes and Olives & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Five Years Ago: Swedish Meatballs, Penne alla Boscaiola, What to do with Leftover Meatballs! & Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake

Six Years Ago: Cotolleta alla Milanese, Polpo alla Luciana, Calamarata with Octopus Heads and Clams, Ligurian Shop Windows, Puntarelle, Ristorante in Lavagna, Spaghetti with Calamari and Artichokes & Cornetto Salato with Prosciutto di San Daniele

 

Umbria

•December 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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We spent a long weekend in Umbria this past weekend, a lovely fall getaway where we could finally see some fall color, the leaves of olive trees don’t change, remaining a silvery green all year long. Umbria is a very special region, with its beautiful medieval hilltop towns and an infrastructure that despite the many earthquakes, has kept everything spit spot. We spent an afternoon in Assisi, making pilgramage to San Francesco’s basilica at the bottom of the hill, and we spent an afternoon in Perugia, famous for its chocolate, but should be more famous for the incredible public transportation of getting from one level of the city to the next, escalators, elevators and mini metros.

We ate porcini mushrooms, truffles and lovely bean stews for the most part, but since we were staying on Lago Trasimeno, we decided that it was a must to try some of the fresh water fish that the region is known for.

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We went to a restaurant called I Bonci in San Feliciano, right on the lake, which looked like nothing from the outside and seems to have a very slow business during the cooler months, but were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful things that they brought us to eat. We started with an antipasto di lago, smoked eel served over ricotta with a drizzle of honey, a crostino with carp roe, a potato and smoked fish gratin, crawfish with green salsa and a frittura of some teenie lake fish. I should have taken better notes, but it was all absolutely delicious. Those crawfish were out of this world, and lucky me, I only had to share a few with my daughter, she was more into popping the little fried guys in her mouth, though we had to pull the tails out because she was going to eat those too.

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I only made it through the first course, leaving no room after all of those crawdads for the second course and had egg tagliolini with a persico ragu which was heavenly and really a ragu in every sense of the word. My husband went for the gnocchi and had room for a seond course with a spiedino of baked persico, apparentlt very good, but I could barely look at it I was so full.

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We didn’t have any dessert that evening, but did enjoy looking in all of the chocolate and pastry shops in Assisi and Perugia. I was able to find chocolate letters for Sinterklaas, a Dutch tradition, my Oma used to bring me and my sister chcocolate letters from Holland every year to put in our shoes on December 6th. A tradition I was happy to be able to continue this year for my little girl.

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One Year Ago: White Bean, Fennel and Barley Stew

Two Years Ago: Francavilla Fontana Thanksgiving, Risotto with grated Fennel, Monkfish and Pistachios, Pranzo di Domenica& Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms

Three Years Ago: Fettucine alla Crema di Carciofi, Moroccan Chicken with Apricots, Almonds and Couscous & Mushroom and Fig Risotto

Four Years Ago: Summer Squash Curry, Cappuccino Cheesecake, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Apple Puree & Turkey Tetrizzini

Five Years Ago: Phyllo Sweeties, Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Pomegranate Glaze, Blackbean, Pumpkin and Leek Soup, Focaccia & Linguine con Finocchio e Sarde

Six Years Ago: Mushroom and Celery Salad, Risotto alla Milanese, Ricotta and Spinach Pie, Roasted Cauliflower, Raisins and Anchovy Vinaigrette, La Sicilia I, La Sicilia II, La Sicilia III, Fusilli with Swordfish and Pistachios, Salsicce sulla Pietra Ollare & Sfogliatella

 
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