Book Review: How Italian Food Conquered The World

April 27, 2014 Menu 2 Comments

If you’re interested in learning about the history of Italian food and how it has become one of the most popular, if not the most popular cuisine in the world, I highly recommend that you read How Italian Food Conquered The World, by John F. Mariani. I was given this book as a gift a little over a year ago, and I have found it to be a fun and enjoyable read, and equal parts entertaining and educating.

Mariani does a fantastic job of covering many avenues, including:

  • the history and importance of popular Italian dishes;
  • the influence of Venice’s spice trade;
  • the impact and contributions of the Italian immigrants;
  • how the perception of Italian food went from pizza, pasta and meatballs to sought-after gourmet dishes (many of which were once considered ‘peasant food’ that our Italian ancestors were mocked for eating); and
  • how Italian food has played a part in modern pop culture.

What I personally like about this book is that you don’t have to sit down and read it from cover to cover within a certain time frame. The chapters are broken up in a way that you can revisit the book at any time, and even bounce around from chapter to chapter, without feeling like you missed out on information. There are also excellent recipes for the classic traditional dishes sprinkled throughout the book (fettuccine all’alfredo, zeppole, and pasta primavera to name a few). But what I enjoyed most about the book was learning about the passion, traditions and history that are tied to the Italian kitchen.

You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy this book, and you don’t have to be a cook to find an appreciation in what this book has to offer. But if you are of Italian decent, and if you are as passionate about Italian food as I am, then this is a must-read. And hey, Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away if you’re looking for a nice gift idea!

For more information on How Italian Food Conquered the World, click here.

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Mom’s Cheesecake

April 14, 2014 Dessert, Menu No Comments

My Mom’s cheesecake has been part of our family’s Easter tradition for as long as I could remember. Along with peanut butter eggs, chocolate bunnies and a marathon viewing of “The Ten Commandments”, Mom’s cheesecake is a seasonal must. Where’s your Moses now?

It wasn’t just the eating of the cheesecake that I looked forward to each year. It was the routine involved around the cheesecake that made it so special. My brother and I would help her make the cheesecakes on Holy Thursday. On Good Friday, we would help her slice and divide the cakes, and neatly wrap the portions in aluminum foil. On Holy Saturday,  we would go along with my Dad to make the family deliveries, so that her cheesecake could be enjoyed on Easter Sunday. To this day, my Mom still loves to bake and share her cheesecake, and everyone looks forward to receiving a hearty piece tightly wrapped in foil.

For this year’s Easter post, I am very proud and honored to share with you my Mom’s recipe. This isn’t a traditional ricotta cheesecake. It’s made with cottage cheese, so it has more of a creamy taste and texture. Also unlike traditional ricotta cheesecake, this version absolutely stands up on its own with no additional fruit or chocolate toppings needed (not that I mind that on traditional cheesecake). Just a quick dusting of cinnamon, and you are as good as gold.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Blessed Easter Season!

Mom’s Cheesecake

Crust:
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 tspn baking powder
1 cup flour
3 tbspn sugar

Mix ingredients together. Press the crust mixture into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. cottage cheese
2 eggs
4 tbspn flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tspn vanilla extract
2 cups milk

In a blender or mixer, mix ingredients together well. Pour into crust and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350˚ for 45-50 minutes.

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MontAmoré Cheese

April 7, 2014 Menu 1 Comment

If a cheese plate plays as important of a role on your table as it does mine, then you’re going to love what I have to share with you today. Whether it’s standing around in the kitchen waiting for our meal to cook, or sitting at the table with family and friends before a big Sunday dinner, a plate of cheese, crusty bread and bruschetta are usually being enjoyed…along with a nice glass of wine. Sharp provolone or mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and shredded basil are our usually standbys. A few weeks back, when we had some family over for dinner, I thought it would be nice to add something a little more special to the plate. The cheese that I found served this exact purpose, and I’ve had some in my fridge ever since.

sartori

MontAmoré, made by the Sartori artisan cheese family, is described on its packaging as “a sweet, creamy and fruity cheese that begins with a deliciously inviting appearance and finishes with a playful, tangy bite. It is named with deep affection for the gorgeous Dolomite mountains that tower with breathtaking beauty above the Sartori hometown of Valdastico, Italy. Prepare to fall in love.” Well, we tried it, and yes, we fell in love. I found a reasonably priced block of MontAmoré in the gourmet cheese section of my local Giant. The description sounded amazing, and I knew it was something that my family and I would really enjoy. The taste was spot-on. It’s a creamy cheese with just enough – but not too much – of a sharp bite to it. The aroma is sharp, but not as pungent as a sharp provolone. The texture is also creamier than a sharp provolone, yet not too soft. There’s no waxiness to the cheese, so it crumbles slightly when cut.

We served it along with a smoked mozzarella, which made for a really nice combination. The two cheeses worked well together on the plate, each offering a distinct and unique taste. There was no conflict of taste when going back and forth between the two cheeses. It went along well with India Pale Ale that I was drinking , along with the Chianti that everyone else was enjoying. The cheese complemented both perfectly.

If you are a cheese-lover, I highly suggest you search for a block of MontAmoré. If it is not available in your local supermarket or cheese shop, you can also order it online.

Be sure to visit the Sartori website for more information on their history and products by clicking here.

Suggested Pairings:

Wines
Chardonnay
Beaujolais
Pinot noir
Light italian red

Beers
India pale ale
American pale ale
Bock
Porter
Stout

Foods
Crusty artisan bread
Green olives
Dried nuts
Dried pineapple
Chocolate

 

 

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