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Monday, May 30, 2011

Marco Polo, Adventures, Food Discoveries

Guest Blogger- Dan Rahim
Copyright 2011 Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc.
Marco Polo is probably best known today as a game played in the swimming pool. But behind the game lies a great history of discovery and adventure. Marco Polo traveled across Europe through Asia and went all the way into china for the chance to discover riches and new worlds.
With all these travels and tales of the orient Marco Polo became the most famous person in Europe in the 13th century. At a mere 24 years, he traveled to discover and reorient Europe with the rest of the world. This was not only because he had this incredible journey but also because he was the first person to publish a book about it and able to disseminate the knowledge across Europe.
In fact Marco Polo’s impact was so great it influenced European explorers for years to come. The most famous of which was Christopher Columbus who is credited for the European discovery of the Americas. In fact due to reading Marco Polo’s book Columbus believed that the New World was either India or the eastern Isles of Sumatra or Java.
Marco Polo did in fact did bring back many different thing back from his trip. Most are documented in his book Il Milone. The problem with documenting this introduction is that there are hundreds of versions of this book and no definitive version. In the era before the printing press it is hard to distinguish which version is most authentic. Therefore attributing anything to Marco Polo is quite dubious and there are several critics of his contributions.
Marco Polo is most famous for his introduction of the idea of ice cream. The Chinese had been making ice cream for nearly four thousand years before Marco Polo arrived. The Chinese were able to make this sweet, creamy drop of heaven thanks to the use of large pots of ice and salt. Many western scholars dispute this claiming that ice cream in the West has purely western origin, but it’s pretty silly to argue that the idea or concepts of ice cream had no influence from the Chinese or Marco Polo’s book. Regardless, there is no definitive proof one way or another on the origins of ice cream.
But Ice Cream was not Marco Polo’s most controversial contribution. In fact the idea that spaghetti noodles came from the orient is highly debated. Some coarse forms of pasta had existed since Roman times and perhaps even before. But pasta which is the main staple of Italian food is completely different. Many claim that modern Spaghetti was brought to Italy thanks to Marco Polo’s introduction to the Chinese through Kublai Khan. This claim has come under criticism due to the fact there are documents that describe “long pasta” before Marco Polo was born. This does not prove spaghetti is a western invention as there have been traders between east and west before Marco Polo, but it casts into doubt whether Marco had truly brought spaghetti to Italy.

Italy's Beaches & Their Flavors

Guest Blogger: Lisa Zatulovsky
Copyright 2011, Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc.
Nestled amongst four seas, the grandiose beaches of Italy look like storybook paintings come to life with water infused sapphires and emeralds, amidst imposing mountains and sherbet colored sunsets. Artfully sprinkled with natural rock formations and crashing waves, Italy’s breathtaking beaches look as though a hypnotic mermaid might sit atop a rock at any moment, waiting for her next sailor to enchant.
Aside from having some of the most popular historical sights in Europe, Italy presents some of the worlds most incredible beaches, frequently populated during peak summer season. Visiting one of Italy’s beaches not only has unreal picturesque sights, but light, appetizing and healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh fish, colorful salads and delectable fruits and vegetables are everywhere you turn. The idyllic serenity of Italy’s coastlines is perfectly reflected in the Mediterranean cuisine. Take notes from the healthful Mediterranean diet and let it play a starring role in your cooking this summer.
Visit the Island of Capri and you may feel like an extra on the set of the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. Located off of Southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast, tourists flood Capri every summer taking in all that this magical Island has to offer. From white sand beaches to mild 70-degree temperatures, the Island of Capri has remained one of Italy’s most popular beach destinations. Seaside restaurants line the edges of the island, with locals and tourists enjoying the island’s delicacies, while swirls of salt-kissed breezes gracefully dance through the air. Order from one of Capri’s many restaurants and try authentic stuffed Calamari with a Caprese salad. Taking advantage of the bountiful amounts of fish, chefs will often times serve you fish caught a few hours beforehand. The pairing of Calamari stuffed with mushrooms, garlic and creamy cheese with a light Caprese salad made with whole slices of tomato, mozzarella, and basil, drizzled with olive oil completely embody the flavors of Capri.
Even further south, the island of Sicily has an overwhelming selection of beaches to choose from. From fine white sand to black sand volcanic beaches, small fishing towns to glamorous resorts, this large island rich in tradition has a personality all its own. Like Capri, Sicily uses many of the islands amazing fruits, vegetables and fish into their diet. However, Sicilian cuisine also merge’s hints of neighboring countries and Middle Eastern spices, nuts and fruits into a cuisine all their own. To soak up the special flavors of Sicily, try pasta with prawns and pistachio pesto. This dish incorporates Arabic influences with rich pistachios, a hint of Spanish spice and the heartiness of prawns. Cooked with penne and a garlic tomato sauce with white whine and olive oil, this Sicilian pasta dish represents the variety of flavors and distinct tastes of the island.
Whether you bask in the sun at your neighborhood pool, float down a lazy river in an innertube, or have a chance to experience Italy’s many beaches for yourself, incorporating a Mediterranean diet into your summer meals is a healthful and fresh way to celebrate a season full of life, warmth and sun. From a Caprese salad to Sicilian pasta, dishes inspired by the plentiful resources off of Italy’s coasts can be easily transported from the Mediterranean Sea to your kitchen.

Get your copy of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winning Book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions

A Roman Holiday & a Recipe for Tramezzini

Guest Blogger: Karissa Martin
copyright Art of Living, PrimaMedia,inc
Princess Ann, played by Oscar-winner Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role, screams and becomes hysterical one night in Rome, the last stop on her European “Goodwill Tour” in Roman Holiday (1953). Weary from her princess duties and public appearances and stressed from her meticulously scheduled days, the princess can no longer handle the constant pressure. The doctor is called in, and his brilliant solution is to inject a new medication that will help her fall asleep. Feeling no side effects from the medication, Princess Ann sneaks out into the night in a delivery truck. When the excitement from escaping begins to wear off, the drowsiness from the medication sets in, and Princess Ann carelessly dozes on a bench.

After a night of poker, Joe Bradley, an American reporter played by Oscar-winner Gregory Peck, finds a girl snoozing on a bench on his way home. Not knowing what to do, he unsuccessfully attempts to wake her up, while she constantly mutters “so happy.” Unwilling to leave her asleep and alone at night, Bradley takes her to his apartment to keep her safe. Unaware of her identity, Bradley refuses to let Princess Ann sleep in his bed and proceeds to dump her onto the couch with a lift of the mattress.

The next day, Bradley sees the girl’s picture in a newspaper and realizes who is sleeping on his couch. He sees the potential for a story and contacts his editor. Princess Ann mutters in her sleep, unaware of where she is, “I dreamt and I dreamt. I was asleep in the street and a young man came. He was tall and strong, and he was so mean to me! It was wonderful...” After opening her eyes to find Bradley staring back at her, she realizes her dream was actually reality. A few explanations and a surprising run-in with the maid in the bathroom later, Princess Ann sets out to return home. However, she gets a little sidetracked and chops all her hair off instead and begins to explore the city. Bradley follows her and convinces her to take the day off, pretending that he is unaware of her identity. He asks her what she would do and she replies, “I'd do just whatever I liked all day long. I'd sit at a sidewalk cafe and look in shop windows. Walk in the rain, have fun and maybe some excitement.” Bradley does his best to make her wishes come true and calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich, to help him get the story on the princess.

Unlike Princess Ann’s usual schedule, this day is full of surprises. After being taken to the police station for erratic driving, some late-night dancing, and an all-out brawl with the secret service (in which Princess Ann bashes someone with a guitar), Princess Ann knows it is time for her to return to the palace. It was “the end of the fairy tale.” Though she had to go back to her duties, Princess Ann would never be the same again.

"Life isn't always what one likes, is it?" But, you can pretend, if only for a little while. Try the elegant tramezzini sandwiches, and you’ll feel like royalty. With the gooey, fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and tasty basil, you may as well be sitting at an outdoor café in Rome with Princess Ann. Take a break from your life and try this tasty little food with the movie.

(4 persons)


12 slices thinly sliced white bread (with crusts removed)
3 tblsps of extra virgin olive oil
½ lb of fresh mozzarella (sliced)
3 grape or cherry tomatoes (sliced)
½ cup of fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons of freshly grated parsley to decorate plate


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off crusts of bread then cut slices in half, then slice in half again till each slice has been cut into 4 small triangles. Place slices of bread on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Use about one half of quantity of olive oil. Place in oven for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

*Prepare 16 mini tramezzini. Start with one small triangle of bread, then a slice of mozzarella, then top with tomato slice and then 1 basil leaf, top with a mini triangle and repeat with cheese, basil tomato and then top with one mini triangle. Place small shish kebab stick or cocktail stick through tramezzini to hold it together. Place all tramezzini on baking sheet. Drizzle rest of olive oil on top. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes until cheese is beginning to melt. Garnish with a basil leaf on top and dust plate with grated parsley.

Get your copy of the gOurmand World Cookbook Award Winner The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:Holidays & Special Occasions

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Julie and Julia and Crepes Italian Style

copyright 2011, Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Blogger: Karissa Martin

Julie Powell, portrayed by Amy Adams in Julie and Julia (2009), lies on the floor amidst the stuffing from a roast chicken, crying uncontrollably. Her life has spiraled out of control, and, now, food isn’t even a sure thing anymore. This, among other similar meltdowns, was how Julie coped with stress, unlike Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep), her idol and inspiration. When Julia was stressed or feeling inadequate, she simply tried harder. When the men in her cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu were eyeing her slow onion chopping, she went home and, with a fire in her eyes, chopped a mountain of white, eye-stinging onions in record time. Nothing could keep her down.

Julie was working at a depressing job for Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, spending her days answering phone calls, getting yelled at, and living in her new, drab apartment with her husband, Eric, over a pizzeria in Queens. Food was the only sure thing in her life. “I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say "nothing" I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort.” This fact, on top of her depressing life and prodding from her husband, was why Julie decided to write a blog about Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This “Julie/Julia Project” brought Julie out of the dark hole she had been digging in her life. She said of her cooking, “And it was like she was there, like Julia was there in the room.” Julia helped her to enjoy life and food again. Those 524 recipes in 365 days were a constant in Julie’s life and made it a little easier to wake up every morning. Though the project may have stressed her marriage and stretched Julie thin, there were lighthearted moments with Eric whispering “lobster killer” in her ear and the entertainment of reading about Julia’s feisty moments in history. Julie needed this project.

While Julie’s life was falling apart in the film, Julia was living in Paris, just steps away from delicious markets, and her marriage was well intact. Her only problem was lack of work in this foreign country. While her husband was at work, Julia tried her hand at making hats, playing bridge, and learning French. But, nothing caught her interest until she started taking cooking classes. She met people, felt challenged, and ended up collaborating on a cookbook.

Through marriage, work (or lack thereof), and life, food saved them both: Julie from her miserable life and Julia from her feeling of worthlessness in France. Julie said, “Both of us were lost and both of us were saved by food in some way or other.”

While daydreaming about the food in France, why not make an Italian version of crepes called Crespelle alle Zucchine (crepes with zucchini)? You can ponder which came first, the French or the Italian crepe, while creating this light food. If you’ve never made crepes before, you may share in Julie and Julia’s cooking frustrations, but it will be well worth it when you can relax and enjoy your final product while watching delicious food dance across the screen.

Bon appétit!

Crespelle alle Zucchine (Crepes with Zucchini)
2 zucchini grated
¼ cup hard ricotta cheese grated (known as ricotta romana)
2 eggs
1/3 cup Swiss or Fontina cheese grated
2 tablespoons Parmigiana cheese grated
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tbsps butter

For the Crespelle:
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
pinch of salt
Blend all ingredients in bowl with wire whisk. Heat non-stick crepe pan. Place approx ¼ cup of batter in crepe pan (place batter in center of pan and move pan so that batter rotates around and covers pan). Turn over and cook on other side. Batter makes about 6 Crespelle.
Wash and clean zucchini. Dry and grate using a grater with large holes. Place in bowl and set aside.

In saucepan, place milk for béchamel. Place on low heat and whisk in, a little at a time, flour and butter so that mixture remains smooth. When boiling and thickened remove from heat.

Cool for 5 minutes and place into béchamel the grated zucchini, half of grated Parmigiana cheese, 2 eggs, ricotta romana, grated Swiss or Fontina cheese. Mix and add in pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cut sides of Crespelle so that each Crespelle forms a rectangular shape. Place in the zucchini filling and roll the Crespelle up. Wrap in aluminum foil and continue till all Crespelle are filled. Place Crespelle wrapped in aluminum foil separately in buttered casserole dish and heat in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, eliminate aluminum foil and place a small knob of butter on Crespelle and remaining grated Parmigiana reggiano cheese, place under broiler until brown on top (about 5 minutes) and serve hot.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Vegetables of Summer

Guest Blogger: Lisa Zatulovsky
copyright 2011 Art of Living,PrimaMedia,Inc

Saturated hues and bold color blocking are a dominant fashion trend for summer 2011. Fashion is celebrating the vibrancy that the season has to offer in their clothing and accessories. From a tangerine colored blouse paired with white denim cropped pants, to gold bangles and lapis colored earrings, the last few echoes of winter’s reign are nowhere to be found in the latest summer trends.
Take a nod from fashion and incorporate fun exotic colors into your cuisine this summer. A surplus of seasonal Italian vegetables such as peppers, squash, eggplants, tomatoes and zucchini should be readily available. Vibrant reds, greens, yellows and purples will transform your cooking into visual and delicious delights. Loaded with flavor and nutrients, Italian summer vegetables are wonderful for lighter yet flavorful options that allow you to feel guilt-free and satisfied.
Take advantage of the variety of summer vegetables by incorporating them into a simple Panzanella Salad. An Italian chopped vegetable salad is an easy and fresh alternative to a traditional greens salad. Basic Panzanella salad uses chopped tomatoes and any vegetables you may have at hand like peppers, olives or zucchini, lightly tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. You can add your favorite day-old crusty bread and add mozzarella for more heartiness, season with basil for added flavor.
For an appealing appetizer, bake stuffed Italian peppers or tomatoes with breadcrumbs, mozzarella, and oregano. For more ideas, replace hearty meat dishes by making eggplant parmigiano with a fresh tomato sauce. Or make your own pizza with fresh sauce and top with ripe peppers and zucchini. Experiment with these summer vegetables by grilling, baking or frying and experience their unique flavors for yourself. Whether you go out and buy yourself a chic colorful blouse, or make a bright Italian dish, allow yourself to be inspired by the beauty of the warm summer months to come.

For recipes join 100,000 worldwide subscribers at The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm

Get your copy of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award Book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edit.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing Your Own Basil to Add FreshFlavor

Guest Blogger: Karissa Martin

copyright 2011 Art of Living, PrimaMedia,inc

Basil can be found in many Italian dishes and can be used to add flavor to many recipes.. You can find it at your local grocery store or buy it dried for easy use throughout the year. However, what could be better than fresh basil every day of the year in the comfort of your own home?

The first step to growing your own basil is to decide whether you want to grow it indoors or out and decide on seeds or a starter plant. If you live in an area with temperamental weather, you may want to grow your basil indoors in a small pot. If you are an inexperienced gardener or want to use your basil quickly, a starter plant is the way to go. There are different types of basil to choose from. Sweet basil is commonly used in Italian cooking, but if you’re looking for something a little more exotic, try one of the other types, such as African Blue. Garden centers carry plants and seeds, and your local plant nursery should have what you’re looking for. Some seeds and starter plants can be found online if you are willing to pay the shipping costs. Don’t forget to get soil and a small pot if you are planning to grow your basil indoors.

After obtaining your seeds or starter plant, you must plant your basil. Make sure your basil plant will have plenty of sunlight wherever you decide to plant it, and don’t plant it in an area prone to flooding. If you’re planting in a pot, allow for water drainage using small rocks or gravel at the bottom of your pot. Add potting soil, creating a hole near the top that is big enough to contain the plant or dig a hole if you are planting outside. Insert the plant or scatter the seeds and top with an inch or two of soil.

Water the plant at the base every day or two to keep the soil moist. When the plant begins to flower, remove the buds to prevent the flavor from decreasing. When the leaves are large and the plant gives off an aroma, you can pick off the sweet, peppery leaves to use at your leisure. Enjoy!

Get your copy of the award winning book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions 2nd edition

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tiramisu, the Italian Fast Food Pick-Me-Up

Guest Blogger: Lisa Zatulovsky
copyright 2011 Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc

Fast food joints are at practically every intersection splattered across America, satisfying those unbelievable cravings within minutes. Sometimes it’s too difficult to resist a cheeseburger, fries and milk shake and all of their addicting greasiness. After a long stressful day’s work, occasional pick-me-ups can be the perfect cure to get through the day. Americans aren’t the only ones with their go-to indulgences or love of fast food. Italians have pick-me-ups of their own, an addicting delight loaded with caffeine and : Tiramisu, a dessert staple for Italian cuisine, which is literally translated into “pick me up” in English.
Traditionally Tiramisu is a chilled dessert with alternate layers of cake, and cream. Basic Tiramisu consists of ladyfingers soaked in rum and/or espresso, ultra creamy mascarpone cheese and shavings of dark chocolate sprinkled with cocoa. The moistness of the coffee-soaked cake along with the richness of the whipped custard makes for a rich yet light treat. All ingredients, delicious on their own, create a mouth-watering dessert when paired together. Tiramisu has found its way into many homes and bakeries with countless variations. Some may choose to add raspberries, almonds or hazelnut cream while others cut the sugar by replacing the ladyfingers with fruit, or by substituting the mascarpone for low-fat cream cheese. Whether in its original form or not, Tiramisu can morph into a tailor-made treat that satisfies a sweet tooth, or a friendlier waist-watching version, which may be why it has become such a widely embraced dessert.
The history of Tiramisu is somewhat of a mystery. Some argue that the dessert is actually of Greek origin, and it is served in many Greek restaurants as well as Italian. Others believe that a similar custard creation, which may have inspired the modern-day dessert, was created in the 17th century in Siena, Italy. Others suggest that Tiramisu is a fairly young dessert, which was recorded in cookbooks in the 1980s. However, one of the most common beliefs is affirmed by food critic and author Giuseppe Maffioli, who reviewed the restaurant Le Beccherie, in Treviso, Italy. In 1981 Maffioli wrote an article saying:

“Tiramisu’ was born recently, just 10 years ago in the town of Treviso. It was proposed for the first time in the restaurant Le Beccherie. The dessert and its name became immediately extremely popular, and this cake and the name were copied by many restaurants first in Treviso then all around Italy.”

It wasn’t long before the dessert found its way to America. Tiramisu became popular in the San Francisco area. Places like “Café Tiramisu” create authentic Italian cuisine much like “Le Beccherie.” Now over the course of a debatable 40 years, according to Maffioli, the dessert can be found in just about any cookbook, or Italian or Greek restaurant, and the irresistible flavors have breathed new life into traditional pastries or other sweets like cupcakes, ice cream or even Tiramisu- flavored popsicles.
Maybe the next time you find yourself needing a well-deserved pick-me-up, instead of ordering from your favorite fast food restaurant, go to your local café, order a steaming hot cappuccino and a generous piece of Tiramisu, and take time out of your day to enjoy a little pick-me-up, the Italian way.

Find recipes for Tiramisu and other Italian delights at The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm

Get your copy of the GOuramnd World Cookbook Award Winning book: The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Original Black Swan:Marie Taglioni

copyright 2011 art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Blogger: Lisa Zatulovsky

She never danced in Swan Lake and all but for that, she could be considered the Original Black Swan for her magnificent technique...On March 12, 1832 at the Paris Opera, ballerina, Marie Taglioni captivated audiences with her portrayal of the delicate yet flirtatious spirit known as La Sylphide. Taglioni danced the role of a Sylph- a fairy-spirit who distracts a Scottish man, James from marrying his fiancée. Chasing the elusive Sylph, James unintentionally destroys her when he tries to capture her with poisonous scarf. Dressed in a white corset, long tulle tutu and sheer wings covered in peacock feathers, Taglioni looked as though she had no flesh or bones, practically floating across the stage. The pearls that adorned her neck and wrists looked heavier than she.
Taglioni was born in Stockholm, Sweden to Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni and Swedish dancer Sophie Karsten. Marie moved to Vienna at a young age with her family. Taglioni rigorously studied ballet in Vienna with her father Filippo, a dancer and ballet choreographer. Filippo created La Sylphide, specifically for her to showcase her ethereal dancing and strong technique, which allowed her to dance on her toes. By putting cardboard and glue in her satin ballet shoes, Taglioni transformed herself into an otherworldly being. Although the minimal amount of support is far different than modern day pointe shoes, Taglioni helped to renovate ballet to a serious work of art that elevated dancers to another dimension.
The creation of Filippo’s ballet and his daughter’s gifts set the groundwork for a new genre of ballet romanticism. Famous romantic ballets such as La Sylphide, Giselle, and Pas de Quatre are very recognizable by their movements and costumes. Characterized by exaggerated forward tilts of the torso, and soft rounded arm movements, the dancing is understated and elegant. Like Taglioni’s costume, most dancers in romantic ballets wear long tulle skirts that stop below the middle of the calf. This gives the illusion of transparency and showcases the dancers’ feet and fluid arms. Filippo unknowingly epitomized the famous arm movements to cover up what he though was one of his daughters unattractive qualities, her long thin arms. In order to hide this apparent unsightliness, (which was not considered desirable at the time) Filippo had his daughter continually round her arms and cross them in front of her body displaying her delicate wrists in order to give the appearance of shorter arms. This famous position is now quintessentially used in all romantic ballets.
After the premiere of La Sylphide, the ballet was widely received as an instant success. Ballet was still primarily used to showcase men’s talents and female dancers were not the main attraction. Taglioni’s 26-year career gave ballerinas widely deserved recognition with their spellbinding dancing and femininity. Her performance made art lovers realize that ballet was a legitimate art and not just entertainment. Taglioni excited audiences with her dancing and performed extensively throughout Europe. As one of the first documented ballerinas to dance on pointe in a full-length ballet, Taglioni influenced dancers for generations to come through her use of pointe shoes, romanticism and artistry.
She retired and spent some of her retirement years living on the Grand Canal in Venice. However when she performed her last ballet in Russia in 1842, she had somewhat of a cult following with the 'ballet maniacs' of that time. Her pointe shoes were auctioned off for 200 rubles and legend has it that they were cooked, served with a sauce and eaten by 'ballet maniacs”.

For more info on Italian culture, culinary events go to
Upcoming appearances of Award Winning Author Maria Liberati
May 14th-Fante's Kitchenware store on 9th street in the Italian Market-1-3 PM Maria will be doing a book signing of her latest award wining book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions- winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award