String Bean Salad for 4th of July

July 4th signifies an important day in American History – It’s known as Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, PA and declaring independence from Great Britain.

I was recently asked if Independence Day is celebrated in Italy. The answer is NO. It IS an American Holiday.

That doesn’t mean that my family didn’t celebrate; we did. We ate hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad; but we also ate sausage and peppers, pasta salad, string bean salad, followed by Italian pastries, such as cannoli and drank espresso.

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY was especially fun because of the different nationalities living on my block. As children, we had sparklers; our parents set off fireworks on the street, and we ran through the water from the fire hydrants. It was a happy and simpler time.

If you’re planning on having a barbecue this year, I’d like to suggest something Italian to add to your menu.

Italian String Bean Salad

Ingredients

1lb. fresh string beans – be sure to remove the ends.
2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
1/2 finally chopped small onion
1small can of pitted black olives
1 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
1 tbsp. oregano
Salt and pepper 
to taste
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2-cup balsamic vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Preparation

Rinse fresh string beans to remove any dirt.
Fill a 10 qt. pot halfway with water and place a metal steamer in bottom of pan.
Layer string beans on the steamer.
Turn heat to a medium setting.
Steam until slightly crisp, and bright green in color (7-10 minutes).
Remove steamed string beans from pot and plunge into very cold water (5 minutes).

Construction

In a large bowl, add finely chopped garlic, onion, oil, vinegar, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar and whisk vigorously.
Add string beans and mix together.
Add olives and mix again.
Place string bean salad in the refrigerator and let it cool about 30 minutes, taking it out to mix again before placing it back in the refrigerator for a final 30 minutes.
Be sure to mx it again when you take it out of the refrigerator to serve. 

* You can also substitute red wine or white wine vinegar for the balsamic.

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Absent for a while

I realize that I’ve been absent in posting to this blog. Somehow life got in the way. 

I’d been so immersed with something that should not have taken so much of my energy. How I let that happen is beyond me, but it’s not going to happen again.

What would have been Jeffrey’s 60th birthday happened on August 30th and what was Nana’s second anniversary happened on September 18th. Both of these milestones were met with sadness and gratitude at the same time. 

On October 18th my mother will be 81 years young and I’m heading to St. Thomas to celebrate with her.  I know Nana and Jeffrey will be with us in spirit.

To properly celebrate a birthday, in addition to having loved-ones there, you need a good birthday cake. Not one of those factory-made ones that can be purchased in a grocery store; no, you need a real Italian cake.

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ITALIAN CANNOLI CAKE

INGREDIENTS: CAKE

  • 6 large eggs, separated into two separate bowls
    1 cup sugar divided into two separate bowls (1/2 cup in each bowl)
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

RICOTTA FILLING

  • 1-32 ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
    1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1/4 cup small semisweet chocolate chips (Nestles or Toll House)
    1/3 cup semisweet chocolate shavings for on top of the cake

CAKE FROSTING

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    3 tablespoons whole milk
    1 and 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar – sifted
    3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 cups heavy or whipping cream (I prefer whipping cream)

PREPARATION: CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Gradually sprinkle in 1/2 cup sugar- continue beating until sugar completely dissolves and whites form peaks.
    In a separate large bowl, now at low speed, beat egg yolks, flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Now add 2 Tablespoons water until blended.
  • With rubber spatula, gently fold beaten egg whites into egg-yolk mixture, one-third at a time.
    Spoon batter into UNGREASED 10 inch by 3 inch spring-form pan.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes until cake is golden and top springs back when lightly touched.
    Invert cake in pan on wire rack; cool completely in pan.

CAKE LAYERS

  • Brush the cakes with orange liqueur or light rum.

FILLING

  • In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat ricotta, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup semisweet-chocolate chips.

FROSTING

  • In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 3 tablespoons of softened butter, 3 tablespoons whole milk, 1 3/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth.
  • If needed, add a little more milk (1 teaspoon at a time) until mixture has an easy spreading consistency.
  • In large bowl, now at medium speed, beat 2 cups heavy or whipping cream until stiff peaks form; fold confectioners’-sugar mixture into whipped cream.

ASSEMBLY

  • Once cooled – loosen cake from edge of pan; remove pan side. Loosen cake from pan bottom; remove pan bottom.
  • With serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers.
    Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on cake plate.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the bottom cut cake layer.
  • Spoon ricotta-cheese filling on center of cake layer.
  • Spread evenly filling out to edge of the cake.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the top cut cake layer.
  • Place top cake layer on top of the filling cut-side down.
  • Spread frosting over top and down side of cake.
  • Sprinkle shaved chocolate on top of the cake.
  • Refrigerate 2- 3 hours until cake is set.