Mary Ann's Blog

From Americo to America, Let Freedom Ring

Let freedom ring and the flag fly proudly on July 4th and all through the year!

Take a moment to thank the men and women in military service who everyday defend your freedoms and make America the land of the free and the home of the brave. And speaking of the brave did you know that America owes its name to Americo Vespucci, a Florentine navigator who was the first to realize that Columbus actually discovered a new continent, not the shores of the Indies?

Florentine cartographers were able to draw new maps as Vespucci sent them letters from the new world and to honor him, his name Americo was given to the new continent, which over time became America!

Need some new ideas for your 4th of July celebration? Here's a menu with some tasty dishes you can do on the grill and ahead of time.

Pollo alla Diavola
Devilish Chicken

Pollo alla Diavola means devilish chicken and gets its name from the fact that peperoncini, hot pepper flakes, are used  “a piacere,” to your liking.  I use cayenne because pepper flakes tend to burn and fall off during cooking. The real success of this dish is based on the quality of the bird. In Tuscany, where this dish is very popular,  it means free range chicken, fed natural grains, and treated humanely. The best way to cook the chicken is to butterfly it and place it “alla griglia”, on a hot grill. This method allows for even cooking. The results are finger licking good!

Serves 4

One 3 1/2-4 pound  free range, organic chicken, butter flied
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper or dried pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
Lemon wedges

Place the chicken on a plastic cutting board breast side down. With a poultry shears or boning knife, cut along one side of the backbone, then cut down the other side of the backbone.

Remove and discard the bone or save for stock.

Open out the chicken flattening it with your hands or a meat pounder. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil, then season it with salt, pepper, and  cayenne or pepper flakes. Place the chicken in a dish, cover and marinate it for several hours; this step can be done the day before.

When ready to cook, fire up the grill,  and when the coals are white or a gas grill temperature reaches 500F, place the chicken on the grill and cook turning frequently, keeping the fire under control so as not to burn the chicken.

Half way into the grilling, start basting the chicken with the wine and continue basting every 10 minutes. Chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh bone registers between 175 and 180F.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and cut it into serving pieces. Serve hot with a squirt of lemon juice. Use your fingers, not a fork to eat it and keep a glass of water at the ready, just in case the devil gets to you.
 

Aunt Jenny’s Strawberry Ice Box Cake

Serves 8-10

1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon strawberry or vanilla extract
2 cups strawberries cut into small pieces plus 4 whole ones for garnish
1 package Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies
Several whole mint sprigs

Whip the cream in the bowl of a mixer until it holds soft peaks.  Sprinkle in the sugar and  whip another few seconds until the cream holds stiff peaks. Fold in the strawberry or vanilla extract. Fold in the strawberries.
     
Take 10 cookies, spread one side of each cookie with a small amount of  the whipped cream mixture. Stack the wafers into a small pile on a baking sheet.  Fill in any gaps between the wafers with more cream. Repeat with the remaining wafers until there are 4 stacks.

Lay the cream-filled cookies on a rectangular serving dish on their sides in parallel rows touching each other.  Frost the “cake” generously with the remaining strawberry cream fmaking sure no gaps remain.  Refrigerate  at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, place the whole strawberries on top of the cake with a few sprigs of mint.  Slice on the diagonal to serve.

Pasta Salad

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-teaspoon salt
Juice of 2 large lemons
1-pound bowties, ziti or spirals
1 large avocado, cut in half, pit removed, flesh scooped out with a large spoon and thinly sliced
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves torn into bits
1 small ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bits
Grinding black pepper
I small head radicchio, washed, leaves separated

In a jar combine the onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Cap and shake well. Set aside. Dressing can be made a couple of days ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the bowties and cook until al dente, firm but not mushy. Drain the bowties and transfer them to a large bowl. Pour the dressing over them and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a small bowl toss the avocado with the remaining lemon juice and set aside.
Add the walnuts and tomatoes to the bowties and toss. Add the avocado and lemon juice and toss gently. Add the basil, mozzarella and a grinding of pepper.

Grilled Zucchini

4 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick lengthwise slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Grinding black pepper
Fresh lemon wedges

In a large bowl toss the zucchini slices with salt, oregano and pepper. Add the olive oil and toss again. Place the slices directly on a hot grill and grill about 2 minutes on each side; transfer slices to a serving platter and serve with lemon wedges.

Italian flag courtesy of 4 International Flags

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