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In the spring of 2013, Henderson Productions was proud to travel with the experts from the restaurant chain, Olive Garden to explore as much about food and Tuscan life as possible.   We’ve created this series of blogs which, like the region, should remain relatively timeless.   Bon Apetito

Our cap, book and wine while with Olive Garden at Fizzano

Caponata/ Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant Relish    Serves 4-6

Caponata cooking in a pan

Halfway through Caponata

  • 1 1/3 lbs. fresh eggplant
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 20 small, pitted green olives2 Tbsp green capers
  • 5 Tbsp aromatic white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c + 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Dice the eggplant into ½ inch pieces and place into a fine strainer. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for about an hour to allow the juices to drain off.
  2. Clean the celery and cut into 1 ½ inch long pieces. Set aside the tender top leaves.   Drain the tomatoes and chop.   Set the tomato juice aside to be used later in a different dish.   Cut the olives into halves.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Sauté the onions until glossy.   Add the celery and stir-fry.   Sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper.   Stir in the tomatoes, olives and capers.   Simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. In the meantime, rinse the diced eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Heat the remaining olive oil in another large frying pan and brown the eggplant until golden and crispy on all sides.   Place the eggplant on paper towels to allow excess fat to drain.
  5. Add the eggplant to the other vegetables in the first pan. Moisten with the white wine vinegar and simmer everything for 15 minutes.   Season with salt and pepper and more vinegar if desired.   Sprinkle  with chopped celery and basil leaves.
  6. Especially delicious lukewarm. Goes well as an appetizer with bread and rice, as a side dish with grilled meat or as a main course.

Stuffed Zucchini   Serves 6-9

Stuffed zucchini ready for the oven

  • 11 oz ground beef
  • 8 small, firm zucchini or any small summer squash
  • 5 medium large fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ of a day-old roll
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Wash the zucchini and trim the flowers and stems. In a medium saucepan, blanch the zucchini in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.   With a slotted spoon, dip the zucchini in iced water, leaving them to drain in a colander.
  2. Grate the stale roll. If necessary, chop the chunks of bread then soak them in some water.   Blanch, peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes.
  3. In a large saucepan with cover heat the olive oil. Brown the minced onion, then add the chopped tomatoes.   Season with salt and pepper and add the crushed garlic.   Simmer these ingredients until they have visibly cooked down.
  4. Cut the zucchini in halves vertically and scoop out some of the pulp. Mince it for later use.   Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large pan, brown the ground beef thoroughly on all sides.   When the meat is done, set aside in a bowl until cool enough to handle.
  5. Drain the bread and squeeze all excess moisture by hand. Mince the parsley.   Add both ingredients to the ground meat.   Fold the minced zucchini pulp and Parmesan cheese into this mixture.   Mix all the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.   Fill the zucchini halves with this mixture.
  6. Place the filled zucchini, one next to the other, on top of the tomato sauce in a large baking dish.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.   The zucchini should still be relatively firm.   Serve with some sauce around each portion.

 

Straw and Hay (Paglia e Fieno)    Serves 4-6

  • Straw and Hay Pasta served family style at the table

    For the Dough:

  • 3 ½ oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 c + 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • For the Sauce:
  • 3 ½ oz raw prosciutto
  • 11 oz fresh mushrooms
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ bunch of fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ bunch fresh basil
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • ½ c + 1 Tbsp diluted beef stock
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. For the green pasta, trim and clean the spinach leaves. In a pot, bring salted water to a boil and blanch the spinach for 2 minutes.   Drain the spinach and drop it into iced water.   Squeeze to remove excess moisture and puree in a food processor.
  2. For both pasta varieties: make a well with the flour and place the eggs, olive oil and ½ tsp of salt in the center. Gradually work the ingredients until you get a smooth and springy dough.   Separate one-third of the dough and kneed the pureed spinach into it.   Cover the dough.
  3. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into thin sheets and lay these to dry on a floured dishcloth.
  4. For the sauce: Cut the ham into thin strips.   Clean the mushrooms, slice thin and drizzle with lemon juice.
  5. In a saucepan, melt ½ Tbsp of butter and add crushed garlic. Simmer until soft.   Pour in the whipping cream and beef stock and allow to cook down until smooth and dense.
  6. Roll up each sheet of pasta. Cut each roll into ¼-inch thick strips and place the noodles on a well-floured dishcloth.   In a pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil.
  7. In a frying pan, melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté until limp.   Mince the parsley and stir into the mushrooms with the strips of ham.   Simmer until ready to serve and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Cook the pasta 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain well and place in a preheated serving bowl.
  9. Season the cream sauce with salt, pepper and more lemon juice and pour over the hot noodles. Top the pasta with the ham-mushroom mixture and fresh, shredded basil leaves.   Add freshly ground pepper and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

    Fizzano at night is magical

 

 

 

From Regional Italian Cuisine by Hess and Silver as taught by Olive Garden’s Head Chef Paulo La Fata and team.

https://www.amazon.com/New-Regional-Italian-Cuisine-Cookbook/dp/0764160680