Italian bruschetta: make your SuperBowl red and green!

I was recently approached by Nuts.com to join in on the 1st Annual Healthy Snack Bowl!

Nuts.com has an awesome healthy snacks page full of delicious and nutritious snack options for kids, vegans, and for those of us on-the-go.  You’ll be sure to find a yummy snack over at Nuts.com.

Since, typically during Super Bowl parties, a day’s worth of calories are often consumed in greasy and fried food, I wanted to contribute to the promotion of healthy eating, sharing with you and with Nuts.com a healthy snack alternative to enjoy during the most famous American Sport Event, with a touch of “Italianity”!

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I hope it does not come across predictable, but I want to share with you a recipe for the most famous and popular Italian Appetizer: Bruschetta! It’s a delicious combination of a handful of healthy ingredients, for an explosion of taste and freshness that appeals to almost anyone! And at just 128 calories per serving (50 gr. of bread, 10 gr. olive oil, and a 200 gr. tomatoes)  it’s full of powerful antioxidants (lycopene), healthy mono-unsaturated fat, protective oleic acid, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. It is also super easy and fast to prepare, and quite inexpensive. Italian diets (often referred to as Mediterranean diets) are notoriously full of fresh foods and recipes made from natural ingredients- bruschetta is the perfect example! Italians enjoy bruschetta at all sorts of venues, from the most casual meals at home, to even the most fancy meals at expensive restaurants.

Just to share with you a little about Italian habits, you should know that we eat Bruschetta in two different ways: either toasted bread, rubbed with a peeled garlic clove and brushed with virgin olive oil and dust of sea salt, or toasted bread rubbed with a peeled garlic clove and covered with chopped red tomatoes (dressed in Italian dressing, of course). If I should be asked to choose, I wouldn’t be able to pick, they are both my favorite!!!

I will give you the approximate quantities, per person, for the version with tomatoes, but obviously you can use the same quantities (without tomatoes), to make the plain version of Bruschetta.

Ingredients per person

1 slice fresh baked bread (better if Italian Style)

1 medium sized red tomatoes (ripe but hard, in this season my favorite are on-the-vine tomatoes)

1 peeled clove of garlic

2 leaves of basil (one for the dressing and one for decoration)

1 pinch of sea salt

1 tsp. virgin olive oil

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

 Cut the bread in slices, and peel the garlic. Wash and core the tomatoes, and chop them in small cubes.

Move the tomatoes into a bowl and dress with sea salt, virgin olive oil, vinegar, and the basil leaf, cut in few pieces. Stir the mix and let it rests at least ten minutes for the flavors to mingle.

In the meantime, toast the bread in the oven (at 365 F for about 5 minutes each side), or in the toaster (faster and as good as in the oven).

Now arrange your bruschetta:

a) for the plain version: just rub the warm bread with the peeled clove, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy!

b) for the tomato dressed version: rub the warm bread with the peeled clove, cover the slice with chopped tomatoes, and if you like, decorate it with a basil leaf.

Delicious, healthy, fast and easy… so you can ENJOY YOUR SUPERBOWL NIGHT!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS:

  • If you are planning to make more than a serving, consider that with a couple of garlic cloves you can rub more that 10 slices of bread;
  • If you like the idea, you can add to the tomatoes dressing a tsp. of crushed red pepper (I love a little bit of spice!);
  • Bruschetta of course tastes better if eaten warm, but as an appetizer can be served even when the bread has cooled off;
  • for other healthy idea for your Super Bowl buffet, check my appetizer page, or visit nuts.com:
  • If you think that it would be even healthier to add some protein to this dish, why not serve it with some fresh Burrata! Here how your dish would look:

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 *I was not paid or sponsored for this post.  All content and opinions are my own.  This post is affiliated with Nuts.com to simply provide healthy snack alternatives for the 1st Annual Healthy Snack Bowl/Super Bowl.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Italian Style Cheese cake

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You are probably thinking, “How are you writing about cheese cake on an Italian food blog, considering that the most famous cheese cakes were created in New York?!? In the USA!”  The answer is: “YOU ARE RIGHT!”… but the first cheese cakes were actually made in ancient Greece, before the time of Christ by the Romans. Regardless, even if it never occurred to you, many Italians look around to pick up on other countries’ food traditions (and  I, for sure, am one of those Italians!). And as I have already mentioned, I think Italians have many things to learn from Americans!

By the way, this recipe has been in my recipe book forever, so I’m not sure exactly where it comes from or its true historical origin.

What I know for sure is that once you really like a certain dish, you try many alternative ways to make it, and become a connoisseur of sorts. So even if I believe this cheese cake is SUPER DUPER DELICIOUS,  I don’t have the vanity to say that it is the best of all cheese cakes ever. But, if you enjoy cheesecake, I humbly beg you to try out this recipe- you will not be disappointed! And, if you would leave me feedback after trying it, I would greatly appreciate it!!

Making this cheese cake takes three steps, and about one hour of cooking: first preparing the base; second, preparing the cheese cake batter, then last to bake it. Easy, pretty fast, and foolproof!

 

INGREDIENTS for a 12″ round cake (10-12 servings)

2 packs graham crackers (or other plain butter cookies)

2 blocks of cream cheese (8 oz each, softened)

1 pint (473 ml) heavy whipping cream

4 oz. or 1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 stick melted unsalted butter

3 tbs. all-purpose flour

canned cherries (or chocolate or caramel) for garnishing

 

DIRECTIONS
For the crust :
Put the crackers or cookies into a food processor bowl, and pulse until finely ground.

Move the ground crackers into a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Knead by hand to allow the butter to be evenly absorbed, but expect the mixture to remain grainy.

Line a 12-inch diameter round pan with parchment paper. (Ideally, use a spring-form pan, where the sides release from the base.) Then press the cracker-crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, flattening it evenly.

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For the cream:

Whip the whipping cream and save it for later (remember to keep it refrigerated!)

Separate the three eggs yolks from the whites and, using an electric whisk, whip the whites until stiff (keep the whites aside for later).
With the same electric whisk (no need to rinse), beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they become fluffy and shiny.

Incorporate the cream cheese using an electric mixer. (I use a hand mixer with a rigid wire whisk/ beater, like those in the picture below, but if you are using a flimsy/ flexible electric whisk, you will need to switch to a more rigid whisk/ beater.)

Now fold in the egg whites- by hand, always gently and from the bottom to the top, to avoid the cream becoming watery.

 

Finally fold in the whipped cream, always stirring gently. Finally- only at the end- you stir in the sifted flour.

 

To arrange the cake:

Spread the cream evenly on top of the graham cracker crust.

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Bake in preheated oven at 320 F. (160 C.).
After 20 minutes, increase the temperature to 365 F (180 C.) and bake until the cake rises and becomes golden.

Before serving:
Let the cheese cake cool completely. Release the sides of the spring-form pan, then carefully peel off the parchment paper and arrange the cake on a nice dish.

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Garnish it with whatever you like- canned cherries or other fruit, jam, syrup, caramel, or melted chocolate.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours before serving.

Serve the cake cold or at room temperature, according to your taste (my family likes it better cold).

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

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Tips: –  Since this cheese cake is rich in taste and calories, I suggest serving it in small slices.  You may have the occasional friend who asks for a second slice, but most will be satisfied with just a little bit of this decadent dessert.

–  This cheese cake, if kept refrigerated, tastes even better the day after (so don’t hesitate to make it in advance) and can last up to a week. I would discourage freezing it, because the cream cheese tends to change consistency and ruin the taste.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

Semifreddo al torrone: how to get rid off “extra” Torrone

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Since Italians love food, and Italian food (as everybody knows) is absolutely delicious, it is pretty common that for Christmas, Italian friends and families exchange edible gifts. Usually these gifts consist of big, beautiful boxes or baskets decorated with Christmas themes and full of goodies such as deli, coffee, chocolate, wine, Panettone and more. One that’s never missing is Torrone (o Mandorlato).

When I lived in Italy, it often happened that during Christmas Holiday I received 4-5 packs of Torrone (or Mandorlato), and it was always hard to eat it all without feeling sick by the end!!

Thank goodness my grandmother (probably because SHE also was overwhelmed by huge quantities of Torrone at Christmas time 😉 ), used to prepare this really, really delicious dessert to get rid off the extra Torrone. And although most Americans will probably not have an excess of Torrone at the holidays, it can be found easily in many stores here in the U.S.  Plus, this absolutely stunning dessert is easy to make, not requiring any particular baking or cooking talent! But the best part of this dessert is the fusion between the frozen creamy compound and the warm chocolate used for garnishing… absolutely heaven!

Before we go ahead with the recipe, you should probably know what Torrone is! 🙂 Well, it is a treat typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with nuts or toasted almonds  (in which case it is called Mandorlato), and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake. It is frequently consumed as a traditional Christmas dessert in Italy, Spain and countries formerly under the Spanish empire as well, particularly in Latin America.

The Torrone I’ve  found shopping here in US looked like this, and it tasted mostly like the Italian one:

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INGREDIENTS for about 6 small cups of semifreddo 

7 0z. torrone – 200 gr. torrone (hazelnuts or almonds)
2 eggs – 2 uova
7 oz. whipped cream – 3 dl. panna da montare
2 oz. (or 1/4 cup) sugar – 50 g. zucchero
5 oz. dark chocolate – 150 g cioccolato fondente
chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish

(if your Torrone has few nuts inside, consider using an extra handful of nuts)

DIRECTIONS:

First of all, grind the Torrone (and any extra nuts, if using) in a food processor.

Separate the yolks from the whites and put them in two separate bowls. Whip the whites with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks.

Measure out and whip about 2/3 of the whipping cream.

Beat the sugar with the yolks for few minutes to obtain a light and fluffy compound.

Fold into the beaten yolks the whipped cream and the egg whites, a little at a time, stirring gently from the bottom to the top.

Then, add the crumbled Torrone  and nuts, again stirring gently until you obtain a homogeneous mixture.

Portion out into 6 ramekins, lined with plastic wrap. Then transfer into the freezer for about 3-4 hours.

Before serving the dessert, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or microwave) and mix it with the remaining whipped cream.

 

Flip the frozen desserts onto plates and garnish with the chocolate sauce, and chopped hazelnuts or nuts.

Your guests will be very impressed by the beauty and deliciousness of this dessert!

LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tip: If you don’t have small ramekins you can use a pudding mold instead.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

Italian Flag Colors Sandwich: an impressive appetizer!

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As much as I like cooking, I love parties even more! Unfortunately, it is uncomfortable going to parties at someone else’s house if you have young kids to bring along. And sometimes, those same young kids also makes it difficult to prepare really delicious food for friends you might invite over to your house. So, I have found that the alternative to becoming an hermit until your youngest kid reaches an appropriate age, is to have an arsenal of recipes that you can make in advance, and that also look and taste amazing. That is why I LOVE this recipe!

This is a really, really fancy and tasty appetizer, which can be prepared even a couple of days in advance, and will make a buffet absolutely attractive and colorful: the “Italian Flag Colors Sandwich.” With just a few easy ingredients- like white and whole wheat bread, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, some herbs, and a slice of salmon- you can create this impressive loaf of deliciousness!

This recipe doesn’t belong to my family tradition, but instead comes from one of my favorite Italian Food Websites (Giallo Zafferano), and since I really like this different way to arrange a sandwich, I made some modifications, I translated the quantities for you, and, of course, as usual I’m showing you how I make it step by step!

Please, give this sandwich a shot… you (and your family and friends) will love it!

INGREDIENTS for a loaf pan size sandwich

1 bag white bread

1 bag whole wheat bread

1 slice frozen or fresh salmon

2 to 3 tbs. tomato sauce (better if concentrated)

 9 oz. cream cheese for herbs sauce

5 oz. ricotta cheese for salmon sauce

7 oz. ricotta cheese for pesto sauce

5 oz.  Genovese pesto

2 tbs. thyme (better fresh)

2 tbs. parsley (the Italian one, better fresh)

2 tbs. chives (better fresh)

salt

DIRECTIONS

For the “herbs sauce”

Chop chives, parsley and thyme as thin as you can and mix it very well with 9 oz. cream cheese. Save this herbed cream cheese for later.

Do not rinse the food processor, and go ahead and use it for the next sauce.

For the salmon sauce

Boil the salmon in half a inch of water. In the food processor combine the salmon with sea salt (to taste) and two tbs. of tomato sauce (better if concentrated) and 5 oz. ricotta cheese. Keep the sauce apart for later.

For the “pesto sauce”

Combine the 5 oz. pesto with 7 oz. ricotta cheese and stir very well until smooth. Keep this sauce, in few minutes you will use it!

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To arrange the sandwich:

Once you are done preparing the sauces, you are ready to build up the sandwich.

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Cover the loaf pan with abundantly plastic wrap (once the sandwich loaf is assembled, you will need the extra plastic to wrap it up).

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Remove the crust from the loaves of bread. Then cover the bottom of the pan with several slices of whole wheat bread. Spread the salmon sauce evenly over the top.

 

Now is the turn of the white bread. After removing the crust, make a layer with this one and spread evenly the herbed cream cheese.

 

Now again make another whole wheat bread (no crust) layer and cover it with the pesto sauce.

Finish your loaf by covering with a layer of white bread.

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Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the loaf and let it rest in the coolest part of your refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving, or not more that a half-hour in the freezer.

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Before serving, flip the loaf onto a cutting board, and cut it into 1/2 inch slices using a very sharp serrated knife.

If you like, arrange it in a nice tray and ENJOY!!!!

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LEARN IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

TIPS:

  • If kept refrigerated this sandwich loaf can last up to 4 or 5 days.
  • Serve the sandwich slices still cool.
  • This sandwich variation could be a fun way to entice your kids to eat salmon, as well as an excellent addition to your lunch box menu!
  • If you have leftovers, keep them refrigerated and enjoy later!

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia

 

Fennel and Pear Salad, not really Italian, but definitely awesome!

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With the cold season right ahead of me, I don’t know why, but my body seems to beg me for carbs. Yes, I’m sure you agree, in this period of the year, eating healthy is much harder than any other time of year. To fool my irrepressible craving for high calorie and high carb food, I try to be creative and find new recipes to make my meals more appealing (without increasing my love handles too much 😉 ).

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of “cooked fennel” because in my opinion its anise-like flavor becomes too strong once it’s cooked.  Eating fennel raw, instead, helps to  keep its taste light and delicate, and perfect to be mixed with sweet ingredients.

Be very careful when you buy fennel, because it could have two different shapes (and different consistency). The so-called “Male Fennel (finocchio Maschio)”  looks more rounded and swollen, and is more meaty and less fibrous, and is better suited to be eaten raw (the one on the left of the picture)The “Female Fennel (Finocchio Femmina)” instead, looks more stretched and fibrous and is definitely better cooked (the one on the right of the picture).

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Choose a “male fennel” for this salad, to get the best result!

Honestly this dish is not exactly something I’ve invented, but just a dish that many years ago I ate in a “multiethnic” restaurant and that they described as a Lapland dish. Well, frankly speaking, I haven’t found any website that has confirmed the authenticity of this information, but what is it for sure is that this salad is absolutely delicious, low in carbs, and sweet enough to calm down my seasonal (or periodic, I would confess) sweet tooth.

Just two ingredients, a typical Italian dressing (which I choose but not sure is what I ate that time), and in few minutes you will enjoy a new super healthy food!

I would add that this recipe looks very fancy, so you can decide to make it as an appetizer or a side dish at any kind of party!

 

INGREDIENTS for a big salad bowl

1 fennel – 1 finocchio

1 pear (soft but not too ripe) – una pera (morbida ma non troppo matura)

a dust of black pepper – una spolverata di pepe

sea salt to taste – sale quanto basta

2 tbs. olive oil  – 2 cucchiaini di olio di oliva

2 tbs. wine vinegar – 2 cucchiai da tavola di aceto di vino

DIRECTION

Clean up the fennel, cutting down the small leaves and the steams and wash it one-piece. It has to look like this.

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Sliced the  fennel as thin as you can (if you own an electric slicer, don’t hesitate to use it!)

Peel the pear and cut it in cubes or small pieces.

Mix the two ingredients together and dress with salt, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper.

Now sit down, and enjoy it. No regret. You are eating clean 😉

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LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!

Tips: – Fennel is super healthy, and if you would like to find out all its good properties, click here.

            – Cut the pear in pretty big cubes if you want to be able to distinguish the taste of the pear from the fennel while you eat the salad. To have a perfect fusion of the tastes, cut the pear  about 1/4 inch thin.

I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,

share it, like it, leave a comment, subscribe, and help support my blog!

Much thanks,

Silvia