I recall having a version of this dish in Greece, and I am sure the Greeks brought it to Sicily, and I am sure the Sicilians brought it to America. I have found it at weddings and on the menus of Italian restaurants across America. It is a great dish for a large party and for a buffet table. I like it best hot out of the oven, but it is also good at room temperature. “Eggplant” is a misnomer; the vegetable is neither white nor shaped like an egg. However, the first eggplants to arrive in Europe were a rare oval-shaped white variety, and the name stuck. When buying eggplants, look for even color and firm feel. The eggplant should be heavy relative to its size; when you pick it up at the market, it should be firm and crisp, not spongy, to the touch.
Swiss chard has only recently become a popular vegetable in the US, but I grew up on it and loved it, and this was my favorite way of cooking it. Chard can be found with beautifully colored stems, which really adds to the presentation of this dish. Traditionally we used regular potatoes, but now I sometimes replace them with sweet potatoes. This dish is especially good when made in advance and reheated.
A beet salad with goat cheese has become ubiquitous on restaurant menus, a favorite throughout America. This version is a bit different, using the beet greens as well—most people think of only the beet bulb itself, but the greens are as delicious and nutritious as the root, and this is a great way to use them in a salad. It is best with small, firm beets with fresh, unblemished greens, a crisp, tart apple, and crumbly goat cheese. Roasting the beets to intensify the sweetness yields the best results.
Broccoli rabe and sausage seem like a match made in heaven. They go well together with pasta or on a loaf of Italian bread. The broccoli and sausage pieces get into the crevices of the pasta, and when they’re served on bread, the olive oil is immediately soaked up. Even though the bitter and unfamiliar broccoli rabe might not have been an American favorite a few decades ago, when it first appeared in California’s Salinas Valley, it certainly has become a favorite ingredient for Italians and Americans today.
Pasta with spring vegetables—or, for that matter, any vegetables—has always been a staple of Italian cuisine. But Sirio Maccioni, the renowned Italian restaurateur who has owned Le Cirque for decades, claims to be the one to baptize it primavera in 1974. Along with Romeo Salta, and the Giambelli brothers, Sirio was at the lead in bringing the fi ne Italian dining experience to New York. Sirio runs a restaurant that is French by name but serves pasta primavera.
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This soup has weathered well with the generations of the Italian immigrant families that have cooked it. As I travel through America and look for the flavors and recipes which the Italian immigrants brought with them, this recipe is a favorite. It is still cooked with nostalgia and reverence and at holidays, specifically in the homes of immigrants from southern Italy. It is one of those recipes that is predominantly shared when the whole family is at the table. While the “marriage” mostly likely refers to the marriage of the ingredients, the soup is also thought to give strength to newly married couple for their first wedding night.
While the word parmigiana literally means "from Parma", a town in Northern Italy, this dish is clearly Sicilian in origin. Here you have the traditional eggplant-parmigiana recipe which everyone loves. It is a versatile dish that can be made in advance and baked when your guests arrive. It reheats great as a left over and makes a great sandwich as well. In Italy, sometimes it is not even baked, but assembled with a generous sprinkling of grated Grana Padano, eliminating the mozzarella, and eaten straightaway. And at Roberto's, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, I found alternating layers of eggplant and zucchini, delicious.
Breaded shrimp is universal, but shrimp parmigiana is distinctly Italian American. I first encountered this dish when we opened Buonavia, our first restaurant, in 1971, and Chef Dino put it on the menu. Shrimp parmigiana was a regular weekly special; people loved it, and it is still a delicious dish today.
Apples grow well in the Carnic mountains in the northern part of Friuli and are used in many desserts. This delicious, double-crusted tart reflects the deep-rooted frugality of cooks in this tough mountainous terrain. The crust is made with bread crumbs taken from stale bread, probably due to the scarcity of white flour and the time it takes to make a refined pastry dough. But the results, in the Carnic spirit, are delicious.
Food is at the very heart of Latin culture. The savory aroma of a favourite dish can transport you back to a time and place half a world away. TLN’s lifestyle shows take you on a culinary tour while serving up the best food and recipes from Italy and Latin America. Buon Appetito! ¡Buen apetito!
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