"Buon San Valentino!!" Welcome to another recipe edition from Angela's Organic Oregano Farm!
This week's Italian recipes:
Try the "Salsa Amatriciana" with a nice wide pasta like fettuccine or a thick one like perciatelli. Enjoy the recipes and the complimentary news article report from "Only In Italy.com".
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Zuppa di Piselli e Zucchini
Italian soups are distinctly thick. In this recipe we pulse-chop the cooked vegetables in a food processor and add more peas at the end. Frozen petit pois work just as well. You can choose either chicken or vegetable stock cubes for this soup. We use chicken.
Trim the ends of the zucchini, cut them in half lengthways, and then into 1/2 inch pieces.
Peel and chop the garlic.
Grate the Parmigiano cheese.
Dissolve the stock cubes in 3 cups of boiling water.
In a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and fry the garlic until soft. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until soft.
Add half the peas, stir and then add half the stock. Cook until the peas are tender. Put into a food processor and pulse-chop to a coarse puree.
Bring the remaining peas to the boil in the remaining stock, and cook for five minutes.
Scoop out the peas with a slotted spoon, and stir into the soup, adding a little of the stock if the soup is too thick.
Serve with torn basil leaves and grated Parmigiano cheese.
Amatriciana has intense flavors of salty pancetta bacon, peperoncino (red cayenne pepper) and red onions brought together with tomato and lots of virgin olive oil.
Start by chopping up half a red onion into thin slices and adding them to a large frying pan.
Next add in half a cup of extra virgin olive oil to the pan and let simmer on a low heat.
While that's simmering cut up the pancetta bacon into small cube like pieces. Often pancetta is sold in round slices at the deli counter, if you can't find it try using un-smoked normal bacon.
Check the onions to see if they're transparent, if they are it's time to add in the pancetta bacon and stir everything together.
Shake in some peperoncino, red cayenne pepper, add more if you like it really spicy.
Raise the heat a little and add in some more extra virgin olive oil, it's important that the pancetta doesn't look dry and that you have a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan.
Stir everything together for 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp, lower the heat if it’s cooking-sizzling too much.
Once the bacon is crisp and deep brown in color take a straining spoon and remove it from the pan setting it aside. make sure to leave the olive oil in the pan, you probably won't see much of the onion left.
Now slice up the whole canned tomatoes into smaller pieces and add them to the frying pan, also add the tomato juice that was in the can and let simmer on low to medium heat.
Stir everything around and add a pinch or two of salt for seasoning.
After about 10 minutes of simmering when some of the liquid has reduced or evaporated turn off the heat and add the pancetta bacon back in. Make sure to stir it in well.
To serve put a couple table spoons of amatriciani sauce on top of your favorite pasta, then some grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Servings for 4.
Palermo Sweet Fig and Nut Cake
For the Dough:
Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Grease baking trays.
Chop the figs into small pieces and put in a bowl. Finely chop the candied orange peel, chop the hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts, and add to the figs with the raisins. Add the cloves and apricot conserve, mix well together, cover and set aside.
To make the dough, sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Finely chop the pared lemon rind and stir into the flour with the sugar. Add the milk and the 4 beaten eggs and mix until a smooth dough is formed.
Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and lightly knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a 12 inch (30 cm.) round.
Spread half of the filling to within 1/2 inch (1 cm.) of the edge. Roll up like a Swiss roll, making sure that the roll sits on its seam. Bring the two ends together to form a ring. Place on the prepared baking tray. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
Brush with the remaining egg and bake in the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown, firm to the touch and crisp and golden on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.
"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates and reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure, a sample of today's edition:
Romantic Berlusconi Amuses Italians Once Again
February 1 - "Dear Editor," began a letter published Wednesday on the front page of La Repubblica, the newspaper that Silvio Berlusconi hates most. The scalding letter demanded a public apology from Berlusconi and it was signed by his wife.
And so, a nation bored and a little down at its return to semi-normal politics woke to a truly juicy news cycle with an inescapable conclusion: In or out of power, Silvio Berlusconi may be reprehensible, but Italy cannot keep its eyes off him.
It turns out that the 70-year-old former prime minister, who recently had a pacemaker implanted, attended an awards ceremony last week and was overly friendly with two young and beautiful guests.
"If I weren't already married, I would marry you right now," he reportedly told one. And another: "With you I would go anywhere."
"These are statements I consider damaging to my dignity," wrote Veronica Lario, 50, who has been with Berlusconi for 27 years. She said his remarks could not be "reduced to jokes."
"To my husband and to the public man, I therefore ask for a public apology, not having received one privately."
In divining what this could mean, Italians barely knew where to start.
Feminists called it an overdue rallying cry to Italian women like Lario, who has endured years of supposed infidelity (and no end of crude sex jokes, as when Silvio Berlusconi opened a political conference by praising the legs of the women in the front row). Political analysts said Berlusconi, who wants a third turn as prime minister, could never again win the votes of women and so was finished.
Then in the early evening, Berlusconi, who can never be counted out, wrote his own public letter: "Your dignity does not matter: I will guard it like a precious material in my heart even when thoughtless jokes come out of my mouth," he wrote. "But marriage proposals, no, believe me, I have never made one to anyone.
"Forgive me, however, I beg of you, and take this public testimony of private pride that submits to your anger as an act of love. One among many. A huge kiss. Silvio."
In the end, it seemed an especially spicy episode in the long and complicated relationship not only between Silvio and Veronica, but between Silvio and Italy. The private drama of Italy's richest man, its shrewd, shady and irrepressible personification, became something public, possibly even relevant politically and psychically.
"We have for eight months a notably boring government," said Giuliano Ferrara, an editor and informal aide to Berlusconi, referring to the responsible and restrained stewardship of Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who beat Berlusconi in elections last spring.
"And right now there is an explosion of strange and weird vitality, the heart that keeps on pumping. People miss very much that style. It's not healthy, but it's Italian."
Indeed, Italy's top three evening talk shows devoted their entire programs to an unusual public exchange of letters between a married couple. Beppe Severnigni, one of the most prescient commentators on Italian mores, quickly churned out a column for Corriere della Sera summing up its import.
"The man is a walking oxymoron, but it has not stopped him from working his way up," he wrote. "Why? Simple: because he embodies the Italian dream of being everything, of pleasing everyone (and indulging himself in everything), without giving up anything."
Perhaps all marriages are mysteries on some level, but the drama also shed light on one of Italy's most visible but ambiguous couples. They met in 1980, when he was a budding, and married, builder and she was a beautiful B-movie actress appearing in a play in Milan. He saw her onstage, the story goes, and fell deeply in love.
He left his first wife, married Lario and they had three children (he already had two).
He grew richer, entered politics in the mid-1990s, and the two seemed somehow together yet increasingly apart.
No small amount of his public persona was linked to his constant, earthy joking about women and his mastery of them, amid rumors that monogamy was not among his virtues.
"I lost my hair because I had too many girlfriends," he once said (he has since had implants).
Through it all, Lario remained largely silent, a fact she noted acidly in her public letter on Wednesday. "I chose not to leave space for marital conflicts, even when his behavior created reasons to do so," she wrote.
But not entirely: She made no secret over the years that her personal political views were more to the left than to her husband's right.
Maria Latella, an Italian journalist who wrote a biography of Lario, "Tendenza Veronica," recalled that during Silvio Berlusconi's first term as prime minister in 1994, a newspaper article appeared saying that every day he sent flowers to someone.
He contended they were to his wife. But Latella noted that Lario sent the newspaper a brief letter saying that, in fact, she never received flowers from Palazzo Chigi, the seat of government.
Lario also spoke candidly in the biography, saying that she rarely saw him but that she considered their marriage stable and herself "the perfect kind of wife for the kind of man Silvio is.
"He can concentrate on himself and his work knowing his wife won't create a fuss if he's away from his family," she said in the biography.
As fate would have it, on the very same day that Lario fired off her letter, part of an interview was published with her husband, also given to Latella for her magazine, A.
"She has never made me look bad, never, while the wives of certain other politicians," he said. "And then she is so indulgent. What more could I want?"
"Ahhh! Viva Silvio! The Presidente of Pepperoni; our hero!
This is not the first time he has "pooped plenty" when opening his mouth.
- At the launch of the 2006 campaign: "I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone." When he lost the 2006 elections by 24,000 votes, Jesus Berlusconi was quoted saying, "Father, forgive the Italians, for they know not what they do."
- At the Brussels summit, at the end of Italy's EU presidency, in December 2003: "Let's talk about football and women." (Turning to four-times-married German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.) "Gerhard, why don't you start?" What a way of blowing some sunshine up the German Chancellor's ass.
- On Italian secretaries (comments made at the New York stock exchange trying to entice a group of Wall Street executives to do business in Italy): "Italy is now a great country to invest in... today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries... superb girls." True! The superb secretaries will make you forget you're doing business with conscious-guilty ex communists.
- On himself: "I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats... beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family... I am making a sacrifice." This is dedicated to any of you who work hard for a living. Makes you want to pour your breakfast over your head, doesn't it?
- In the wake of September 11: "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its value understanding of diversity and tolerance...
"The West will continue to conquer peoples, even if it means a confrontation with another civilization, Islam, firmly entrenched where it was 1,400 years ago." It has been said that everyone at the United Nations threw up simultaneously afterwards.
His response to worldwide condemnation of the above speech: "They have tried to hang me on an isolated word, taken out of context from my whole speech."
"I did not say anything against the Islamic civilization... It's the work of some people in the Italian leftist press who wanted to tarnish my image and destroy my long-standing relations with Arabs and Muslims."
- At a rally during the 2006 election campaign: "Read The Black Book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilize the fields." Brilliant. Even the Chinese realize this chuckle-faced historian hump is more irresponsible than himself.
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Arancini di Riso
Baccala With Polenta
Insalata di Polipo
Melanzane in Insalata
Risotto con Asparagi
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