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Italian Summer Recipes From Marion’s Backyard

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I love the summer; the warmth, the casual dinners, having friends over, the laughs… but most of all, I love to cook with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and homemade, light pasta and sauces.

Also, let’s set a beautiful summer table – I am far from a minimalist – I love lush everything from fine linens, great goblets and happy colors. But in summer, I can go BoHo…with Melamine plates and platters, good large plastic wine glasses and never plastic utensils. Of course this is for outdoor dining. Below I will bring you my favorite items and of course, go to Home Goods where you can afford to get “stuff” to change your look to natural textures and lots of flowers…

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Cocoa Rubbed Hanger Steak

 Ingredients

  •  ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried mustard
  • 2 tsp dried ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 4 lbs hanger steak (or meat of your choice)

 Preparation

Mix cocoa, sugar and spices together in a bowl. Rub the meat generously with spice mixture and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

About 2 hours before you plan to serve, remove from the refrigerator and allow meat to come to room temperature before cooking. Grill 10 minutes on each side or according to your preference.

Sweet and Spicy Peperonata

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 lbs assorted peppers (mini sweet, bell and hot long) seeded and cut into strips
  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

 Preparation

Heat a sauté pan over med-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add salt, peppers and shallots and cook 3 minutes or until shallots begin to brown. Reduce heat to med-low; cook, covered 20 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Increase heat to med-high. Add vinegar, sugar and thyme and cook 15 minutes or until peppers are tender and shallots are golden brown, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 Ingredients

  • 3 slices day-old whole wheat bread
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 3/8 tsp salt, divided
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp dry white wine
  • 5 tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Place bread in a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Set aside.

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving ¼ in thick shell. Chop pulp. Place zucchini halves, cut sides up, on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini pulp and onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add remaining ¼ tsp salt, remaining ¼ tsp pepper, artichoke hearts, thyme and garlic; cook 45 seconds. Add wine; cook 1 more minute or until most of the liquid evaporates. Combine breadcrumbs and onion mixture in a large bowl; stir in cheese and remaining ingredients. Spoon ½ cup breadcrumb mixture into each zucchini shell. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until just tender.

Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Ingredients

  • coarse salt
  • 1 lb pasta (spaghetti or fettuccini)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp very coarse freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano, plus more for serving

Preparation

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam from the butter subsides. Add the pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on top and continue to cook, tossing until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Add a little more of the cooking liquid to loosen, only if necessary. Serve with additional Parmigiano.

Sopressata Wrapped Peach Salad

In place of melon and prosciutto, let’s try peaches and sopressata, for a sweet and savory summer salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe fresh peaches (soft enough to cut)
  • ½ lb sopressata, sliced thin
  • arugula greens (or your choice)
  • 1 really red tomato (Heirloom)
  • ½ bag shredded mozzarella
  • black pepper to mix in salad
  • olive oil
  • balsamic glaze

Preparation

Mix the greens and tomato with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Then just pile the greens on the plates and wrap slices of sopressata around the thick peach slices and arrange around the salad artistically. Sprinkle with the pepper lightly. Top the salad with shredded mozzarella and serve.*

You can make this and arrange it in the morning, then refrigerate it. Two hours before serving, take it out to get room temperature. I like to do it on the spot, but sometimes the number of guests and your time does permit it. They will love the sweetness of the peach and the savory of the meat.

*Optional choice: You can also add olives or walnuts if you like.

Blood Orange Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 2 oz 2Nite’s Sicilian Blood Orange flavored vodka
  • ¼ blood orange, segmented and diced into small pieces

Preparation

Combine juice and vodka. Place 1 piece of blood orange chunk in the bottom of each Popsicle mold. Fill the molds ¾ full. Freeze at least 3 hours until frozen. Take out of mold and arrange on non-stick platter and serve.

2Nite Vodka is a refined and glamorous vodka that is bound to become an Italian classic. It is available in four distinct flavors, including Original, Sicilian Blood Orange, Caffe Espresso and Alpine Mint.

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