Italian & Mediterranean Food Ingredients
Sun-Dried Tomato - Sun-dried tomatoes are one of my favorite Italian food ingredients for cooking. I love the sun-dried tomatoes that have been marinated in olive oil, garlic, herbs and spices. I use them for pizza, pasta, salads and dressings. If you buy the kind of sun-dried tomatoes that are sold dry, slice them and store them in oil.
Artichoke - The canned artichokes are good for pizzas, pastas, dips, antipasta platters and so on. If you want to try fresh artichokes, peel and slice them, than dip them in cold water, where you have added little lemon juice to prevent them from getting dark. Grease the fresh artichoke with oil, season and grill it over charcoal or in a cast iron griddle pan.
Bocconcini Cheese - Bocconcini cheese is soft, unrippened mozzarella cheese. It is sold in brine, in the form of little balls, from where the name comes. Bocconcini is very good for salads, panini and original Italian pizzas.
Provolone Cheese - Provolone is a semi-hard flavorful table cheese, made similarly to mozzarela, but is much more tasty. Tastes can vary from Provolone Piccante to Provolone Dulce. The first one is aged longer and has harder texture and sharper taste. If you see Provolone entirely encrusted in a wax cap and wraped around with strings, you may be sure that this is a good quality, original Provolone cheese.
Sopressata - Sopressata is an Italian dry-cured salami, sometimes pressed with a weight while curing, hence the name sopressata. The pork meat is coarsely ground, flavored with spices, filled in the casings and hung to dry. Sopressata is very flavorful; I love it on pizza and in panini.
Prosciutto - Prosciutto is an aged, salt-cured, air-dried Italian ham, which is usually sliced very thin and served in antipasti or panini, but is also, very delicious sliced and chopped in pastas or on pizzas. Can be used for stuffing or wrapping chicken breast, pork loin, etc.
Olives - Olives are very good for your health because they have high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Eating olives benefits your heart and your cholesterol level. The same goes for the extra virgin olive oil. Not to mention that they are so tasty, as well. Olives can be enjoyed in pastas, pizzas, salads, antipasta, panini, wraps and many other cooked dishes.
Pesto Sauce - Pesto sauce is made from blending fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, hard table cheese such as Parmigiano Regiano, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. It is excellent sauce for cooking any kind of Mediterranean food - pizza, pasta, salads, panini, on top of fish fillets, lamb chops encrusted in pesto and so much more.
Olive Oil - Olive oil normally comes in 4 varieties - extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, pure olive oil and pomace olive oil. The first one is the best, because it comes from the first press of the olives. The last one - the pomace oil - is chemically extracted from the stuff left over after pressing the olives, and is of lesser quality. There are, also, many kinds of infused gourmet olive oils - infused with garlic, chili flakes, onion, truffle essence and so on.
Capicollo - Capicollo is a kind of cured Italian ham. It can be mild or hot. The hot variety is simply brushed with hot chili paste on the outside. Capicollo is very good for Italian panini and pizza, as well as, for antipasta.
Parmigiano Regiano and Grana di Padano are grainy aged cheeses with sharp flavor and hard texture. Both are excellent grating cheeses for pastas and risotti, and are very good table cheeses, as well. Freshly grated Parmesan is way better than the store bought grated product, which is a dairy product, but not a real Parmesan.
Savour all the amazing flavors of the Italian and Mediterranean cuisines!!!