Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Soup for Dinner

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For relatively few calories, soup brings a feeling of fullness and makes it easier to eat less of other foods in a meal. Soup can benefit long-term health by serving as the basis to work more vegetables into meals.

Tomato soup provides a serving of vegetables by itself and then you can add even more vegetables to the soup.

Pureed squash is an excellent base for a soup that is packed with nutrients.

Broth-based soups can be the base for adding several servings of vegetables, also.

Even if you start with commercial soup that’s light on vegetables, you can add  frozen, canned or leftover fresh veggies of your own to enhance the nutrition of this bowl of soup.

The key to making soup a healthy food option is to make sure it is concentrated in the plant foods that we need to increase in our diet and not loaded with what we need to reduce: sodium and saturated fat.

Soup can even be a complete meal. A soup full of vegetables that includes a small amount of meat or poultry can provide a satisfying and healthful meal. All you need to complete this meal is some great tasting bread. Easy weeknight dinner.

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Sicilian Meatball Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup small pasta shells or other small macaroni

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the Parmesan, raisins, bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, rosemary and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the pasta to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the meatballs and simmer gently until the meatballs and pasta are done, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup with Steamed Shellfish

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus 2 tablespoons thinly-sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 1/4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4), cut into small dice
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • One country loaf of bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds mussels or clams, scrubbed or shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chopped basil and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, the broth, salt and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp, about 25 minutes.

Add the bread and the black pepper to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring gently, until the bread absorbs all the liquid, about 5 minutes.

Put the wine, mussels or clams or shrimp and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stainless-steel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels or clams open or the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open.

Mound the bread soup in shallow bowls and surround with the shellfish. Strain any broth from the shellfish pot over the top and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with the sliced basil.

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Vegetable Farro Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti, cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, about 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

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White Bean Soup With Mustard Greens

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 bunch mustard greens or any greens you like, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, such as cannellini
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and fennel and cook, until softened, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic and mustard greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring often, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the beans and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently, being careful not to break the beans, until flavors blend and the soup is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Add Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and additional cheese.

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Squash and Corn Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound yellow or green summer squash, chopped
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the celery and squash to the drippings in the pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Reserve 1 cup of the corn and set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender and process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper to the blender and process until combined.

Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to the vegetables in the Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ladle soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining green onions and 1 tablespoon cheese.

Healthy Desserts For Outdoor Entertaining

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Take advantage of fresh, in-season produce to make healthy dessert recipes for your next barbecue, block party or casual summer dinner. These summer desserts are so satisfying that no one will notice that they’re lower in fat and calories.

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Berry-Lemon Shortcake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Berry-Lemon Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh  raspberries, strawberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 4 cups fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries

Directions

Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Line pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the waxed paper; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan heat milk and butter until the butter melts.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder and lemon peel; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 4 minutes or until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat on low to medium speed just until combined.

Add the heated milk/butter to the batter and beat until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack lined with waxed paper; carefully peel off top waxed paper and cool completely.

Make sauce: Place the 3 cups of berries in a medium bowl and mash the berries with a potato masher.

In a small saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Add mashed berries. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cool about 10 minutes. Stir in the 4 cups of berries. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Cut cake into 12 pieces. Split each cake piece in half horizontally. Place a cake bottom on an individual dessert plate. Spoon some sauce over the cake bottom. Cover with a cake top. Spoon sauce over the cake.

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Chocolate Sauce with Fruit Kabobs

Be sure to use good quality chocolate for the sauce.

16 servings

Ingredients

  • Strawberry halves, pineapple, apple, kiwi fruit chunks and raspberries
  • 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla and butter. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and coffee until completely melted and smooth. Keep warm or reheat just before serving.

Thread assorted fruit onto sixteen 6-inch wooden (bamboo) skewers.

To serve:

Place a few tablespoons of sauce on a serving plate and place a fruit skewer on top.

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Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • One 8 ounce package low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan; set pan aside.

For the blueberry sauce:

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in the blueberries and the orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes.

For the cake:

n a medium bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.

Pour over the hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Drop blueberry sauce in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Remove uncut bars from the pan by lifting the foil out of the pan. Cut into bars.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

28 cookies

Ingredients

  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt; stir with a whisk.

Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the egg yolks, espresso and vanilla to the butter; beat well. Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in nuts.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead several times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls.

Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb deeply into the center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

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Peach Custard Pie

10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (6 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

To prepare the crust:

Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times. Turn into a mixing bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add oil and stir with a fork to blend.

Mix 1/4 cup water, egg yolk and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add enough of the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (Add a little more water if it seems too dry.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position rack the in lower third of the oven; preheat to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling & assemble pie:

Combine sugar, milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla (or almond) extract and salt in a medium bowl; whisk until smooth.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into the prepared pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper.

Trim the dough so it overhangs evenly by about 1 inch. Fold the edges under to make a plump edge; flute or crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork. Place on a baking sheet.

Arrange peaches on the crust and pour the filling on top (some peaches will float but this won’t affect the final results). Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle chopped pecans over the top. Cover the edges with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) to help prevent over browning.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Return the pie to the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes to 1 hour more.

Let cool for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.

Dinner From The Grill Part 2

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Whether you’re grilling vegetables, poultry, beef, pork or seafood, it only takes a little flavor to make everything taste good.

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs will add depth of flavor to your favorite grilled foods. They are great for tofu, fish, pork chops or ribs, chicken breasts and vegetables.

Prepared dry rubs already contain the right mix of flavors ranging from Asian to Mediterranean styles. Or mix your own rub and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool place.

Three to four tablespoons of spice rub should be enough for two pounds of food.

To apply a rub, sprinkle it over your choice of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable and lightly rub into the surface with your hands. Or place the rub in a large plastic bag with the meat and shake to coat. Then let the food sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

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Marinades

Marinades enhance flavor and can increase the tenderness of many types of meat, poultry, seafood and produce.

For best results:

Marinate seafood and vegetables for 20 minutes to develop flavor.

Marinate poultry for up to an hour for best results. For some cuts, longer than 1 hour may be too long and the poultry can either toughen or get mushy.

Beef and pork will benefit from 30-60 minutes of marinating, but can also be left to marinate overnight.

Experiment with flavor: try using wine, beer, fresh juice, spices, herbs or a combination.

Wait to brush on any sugar-based barbecue sauce or other ingredients until the final 5-10 minutes of grilling. This allows the charcoal flavor to penetrate the food first and prevents the sauce from becoming charred.

Check my recipes from last July on Rubs and Marinades For Your Summer Grilling.

GRILLING VEGGIES AND FRUITS

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Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness and flavor of most vegetables and fruits.

To achieve good results:

Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. A non-stick grate, grilling basket or foil packets, lightly coated with oil, can also be helpful.

Some vegetables (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips and potatoes) can be precooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.

To precook: Steam or blanch the vegetable until just barely tender. Pat dry, brush lightly with oil, then grill until completely tender and lightly browned.

Veggies like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.

Ideal fruits for grilling should be firm and barely ripe. Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in a marinade or drizzle with honey before grilling for added flavor.

Meaty portabella mushrooms are a great burger substitute, while button mushrooms are excellent for use in kabobs.

Cook all fruits and vegetables directly over moderately hot coals or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move them to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside isn’t cooking too quickly.

Grilled Caprese Appetizer

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the grill
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (12-ounce) container fresh mozzarella, drained and cut into (1-inch) chunks
  • 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into (1-inch) cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves

Directions

Brush the grill grates with oil and heat the grill to medium.

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Alternating ingredients, thread tomatoes, mozzarella and bread onto 8 skewers and brush them all over with oil.

Grill skewers, turning once, just until the cheese starts to melt and the bread shows grill marks, 2 to 3 minutes total.

Transfer the skewers to a platter, drizzle with vinegar and garnish with basil.

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Grilled Zucchini with Olive Dressing

 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olives
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Directions

Oil the grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.

In a blender or food processor, combine olives, vinegar, pepper, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; blend until smooth and set aside.

Place zucchini in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Grill the zucchini on both sides until well-marked and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

Layer zucchini on a serving platter, drizzle each layer with some vinaigrette and sprinkling with some tomato. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

GRILLING SEAFOOD

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Quick-cooking seafood is a great choice for grilling, especially on busy weeknights. When grilling seafood take extra care not to overcook it.

When it comes to seasoning, it’s best to select lighter marinades and seasonings that do not mask the delicate flavor of the seafood.

Fish

Oil fish well to help keep it moist.

Fish cooks quickly using the direct heat method. Remove it from the grill as soon as it’s done; it will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire.

Once you place fish on the grill, don’t touch it for at least three minutes. A crust needs to form on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates. Once the crust has formed, it can be turned over without sticking or falling apart.

Thin pieces of fish can be wrapped in foil and grilled.

Firm fish, such as swordfish and tuna, are ideal for cooking on the grill.

Placing fish on cedar planks when grilling imparts a subtle woodsy flavor. Try different woods for slightly different flavors. Soak the plank in water for at least an hour prior to grilling to prevent it from catching on fire. Most fish fillets will cook on a plank, without turning, in about 20 minutes.

Fish is naturally tender and should not sit in an acid-based marinade (like lemon juice) for longer than 20 minutes, or it will start to “cook” the fish, turning it mushy.

Shrimp

Choose jumbo varieties, which are easier to handle. These can also be butterflied (leave the tail intact when shelling, then slice along the back of the shrimp without cutting all the way through).

Shrimp should be marinated or brushed lightly with oil.

Cook shrimp just until they turn pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Turn them halfway through cooking. Take care not to overcook shrimp or it will become tough.

Use an oiled grill basket or skewers to contain shrimp so they don’t slip between the grates.

Rosemary Salmon Kabobs

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless wild caught salmon fillet, cut into large chunks
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if possible)

Directions

Place salmon, zucchini, bell pepper and onion in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk together the garlic, rosemary, oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the salmon and vegetables, toss and marinate for 30 minutes.

Oil the grates and preheat a grill for medium-high heat cooking. Skewer the salmon and vegetables, reserving the marinade. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before assembling.)

Grill kabobs, turning once, until salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. While the kabobs cook, boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan for 5 minutes. Drizzle over the skewers just before serving.

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Grilled Shellfish and Vegetable Packets

 

Serves 4

Use any combination of shellfish and vegetables that appeal to you.

Ingredients

  • 8 small red potatoes, halved
  • 8 small (mini) bell peppers, cut in quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 ears of corn on the cob, cut in fourths
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt
  • 16 small oysters, scrubbed or 16 shrimp, peeled
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 16 large mussels, scrubbed
  • Chopped chives for garnish
  • Warm crusty bread, for serving

Directions

Heat a gas grill to high.

In a large bowl, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt.

Tear off eight 16-by-18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Layer the sheets in pairs. Divide the shellfish evenly among the four pairs of foil and drizzle with olive oil.

Arrange the vegetables over the shellfish and drizzle with more olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of water to each. Fold the foil tightly into neat rectangular packets.

Arrange the packets on the grill. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, rotating once or twice, until the packets are puffed and sizzling, about 25 minutes.

Carefully open the packets, watching out for the hot steam and garnish with chopped chives. Serve with the bread on the side.

Dinner From The Grill Part 1

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No matter what the calendar says, Memorial Day kicks off the start of summer and the grilling season. Here are some tips on how to be a successful griller:

Treat your grill just like any other cooking surface — give it a good cleaning before and after you cook. Scrubbing and oiling the grill grates not only protects the grates but creates a nonstick surface for cooking.

A hot grill makes for easier cleaning (as any of the stuck-on food bits become brittle and easier to scrape off), but if your grill really needs a deep clean, preheat the grill then turn it off while you scrub and oil.

When preparing a charcoal grill, don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.

Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire. This will help to warm up the grate and stabilize the temperature of the grill environment.

Don’t grill anything too fatty or with too much marinade, as this can cause flare-ups. Most recipes will direct you to trim excess fat or shake off any excess marinade — this step is included for your safety.

Metal skewers get hot which helps meat to cook more evenly — just remember to use tongs or an oven mitt when turning them on the grill. Double-skewer items that might fall off, such as shrimp, chicken strips or slices of summer squash. In this case, skewers can help keep ingredients from twirling and also maintain the shape of the ingredient.

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Grill delicate of small foods in a perforated grill pan — it will keep the food from falling through the cooking grate.

For larger cuts, such as chickens, roasts or a rack of ribs, do most of your cooking away from any actual flames and keep the grill lid closed. This allows for slower cooking and more even temperatures. Unless you have a serious cookout in the making, most grills are big enough to prepare one side for lower heat cooking and one side for high heat. Move hot coals to one half of the grill or turn off one or more burners to create indirect heat.

Can’t decide whether to use a direct or indirect method? If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use direct heat; if it takes longer, use indirect heat.

If the grill gets too hot, turn it off or pull everything off the grill. If it’s not hot enough, close the lid, as this will help to build heat quickly.

GRILLING BEEF & PORK

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The appropriate heat levels and cooking times are crucial for grilling meat, so that it stays tender and juicy. Each type of cut has its own rules:

Use direct heat for chops, steaks and hamburgers.

Use indirect heat for Italian sausage, roasts and larger cuts of meat.

Cover the grill when cooking less tender cuts of meat.

Slash the edges of steaks and chops on the diagonal, about ¼ inch into the center to prevent the edges from curling.

Resist the urge to squeeze or press down on the grilling meat! This will result in a tougher, less juicy cut.

Steaks like filet mignon, ribeye, top sirloin and New York strip are naturally tender and need nothing more than a seasoning rub or a bit of salt and pepper before grilling.

Larger steaks like flank, skirt steak and London broil are best when soaked in a flavorful marinade before grilling.

Cuts like brisket, shank and chuck demand long, slow, indirect cooking.

Ribeye is excellent on the grill because of its marbling and its ability to hold up to strong flavors in spice rubs and marinades.

Lean, tender pork chops can be marinated or rubbed with spices and then cooked over the coals.

Pork spare ribs and baby back ribs can be prebaked and then grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.

Pork tenderloin grills quickly, is low in fat and can be sliced easily for an attractive presentation.

Treat larger cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, the way you would larger cuts of beef.

Italian Vinaigrette

Keep this homemade Italian Vinaigrette on hand to quickly give foods flavor before grilling.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients together and drizzle olive oil in a little at a time. Yields: ¾ cup

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Cooking Times

Always cook all types of meat thoroughly and use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat. Wait a couple of minutes before reading and follow these simple temperature guidelines:

Cooked meat Temperatures in degrees F
Medium Rare 145
Medium 160
Medium Well 165
Well Done 170
Ground Meats 160

Italian Flank Steak

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large (1 1/2-pound) grass-fed flank steak
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak 8 toothpicks in water for at least 20 minutes and prepare the grill for medium heat cooking. Don’t forget to oil the grill grates.

Butterfly steak by slicing it horizontally with a very sharp knife, stopping about 1 inch before you would slice all the way through. Open meat up, like opening a book, and sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.

Layer opened steak with spinach, basil and provolone slices. Starting on one long side, roll up tightly.

Secure the rolled steak at the seam and ends with the soaked toothpicks.

Brush the outside of the steak with oil and grill, turning frequently, until the steak is deeply browned all over, about 12-15  minutes for medium rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should register 125-130°F). Don’t overcook or the steak will be dry.

Transfer steak to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let stand 10 minutes. Remove toothpicks and thinly slice. Arrange on a serving platter.

Grilled Sausage and Pepper Salad

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh pork or turkey Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 large white onion, cut into 2 thick slices
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Prepared Italian salad dressing

Directions

Oil the grill grates and prepare the grill for medium-high heat cooking. Prepare one side of the grill for indirect heat

Brush the onion slices and sausages with oil.

Grill sausages on the indirect heat side of the grill for 30 minutes turning then after 15 minutes.

Grill onion on the direct heat side of the grill, turning occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes

When cool enough to handle, slice sausages thickly on the bias and cut the grilled onion into chunks.

Toss romaine, feta and red peppers in a large salad bowl with a little Italian salad dressing.

Spoon romaine mixture onto serving plates and top with sausages and onion.

GRILLING POULTRY

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The mild flavor of poultry makes it ideal for grilling. Whether you choose chicken, duck, turkey or game hen, marinating or using a dry rub will maximize flavor. Once you’ve selected your specific  cut of poultry and seasoning method, follow these tips:

Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat.

Cook whole and butterflied poultry breast-side down.

Turning poultry pieces every 5 minutes and rotating pieces around the grill can help ensure even cooking.

Place a drip pan under a whole chicken or turkey breast to catch the juices.

Allow turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving. Remember, smoked turkey may appear a little pink even when thoroughly cooked.

Always cook poultry thoroughly. Test with an instant read thermometer (it should reach 165°F).

Insert the thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, taking care not to touch any bone. Wait a couple of minutes before reading. For whole poultry, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.

Part of the Poultry Time
Whole Chicken 15-20 minutes per pound, about 1 3/4 hours
Butterflied Whole Chicken About 1 hour
Bone-in Breast, Leg & Thigh 12-15 minutes per side
Wing 2-3 minutes per side
Boneless Chicken Breast 4-6 minutes per side
Boneless Turkey Breast (up to 3 pounds) 1-1 1/2 hours
Boneless Turkey Breast (3-9 pounds) 2-3 hours

Grilled Chicken and Peppers Over Arugula

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 7 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing, divided
  • 2 bell peppers (red or green, or 1 of each), quartered
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 lightly packed cups arugula leaves

Directions

Split the chicken breasts by placing them on a cutting board and using a sharp knife to slice evenly through them, while applying slight pressure on top with the other hand.

Oil the grill grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.

Brush chicken breasts on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing.

In a small bowl, toss bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of the dressing.

Place chicken on one side of the grill and the peppers on the other side. Grill chicken and peppers, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and peppers are tender and browned, 6 to 7 minutes.

Toss onion and arugula with the remaining 2 tablespoons of salad dressing and arrange on a platter. Slice chicken and peppers; place them on top of the arugula salad.

Pesto Turkey Burgers with Grilled Onions

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled, but leave the root ends intact and cut into 4 thick slices
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • 4 hamburger buns

Directions

In a large bowl, combine turkey and pesto. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3/4-inch thick.

Brush the onion slices and burgers with oil.

Oil the grill grates and heat the grill to medium. Grill burgers and onions until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Place burgers on the buns and top each with a slice of mozzarella and a slice of grilled onion.

 

Part 2 Tomorrow

Partnering with Castello for a Summer of Blue

Castello Danish Blue

Castello Danish Blue

I was chosen to participate in Castello’s Summer of Blue #BluesdayTuesday campaign. Beginning with this month, May, Castello Blue Cheese will be featuring creative blue cheese recipes on Tuesdays, also known as #BluesdayTuesday, until September. Castello has a wide range of wonderful cheeses. Check out Castello’s website for more information and don’t forget to enter the sweepstakes. You can win a season’s worth of blue cheese for your summer entertaining. See the link at the bottom of this post to enter the sweepstakes.

I was sent samples of Castello’s crumbled Danish Blue to use in my recipes for this campaign. That was very exciting in itself, since I am a big fan of blue cheese and love to put it on my salad. However, I wanted this delicious tasting cheese to be a star in a menu I would use for entertaining my guests.

If you are not that familiar with blue cheese, start simply and pair it with different foods to see how they complement each other. Try it alongside sweeter ingredients like figs or pears for a great appetizer. Add blue cheese to spicy recipes to tone down the heat and, then, add it to some of your main dish recipes. Once you start experimenting with blue cheese, you’ll become a fan also.

Now that May is here and the weather has warmed, I look forward to entertaining outdoors. It is also the time I think about grilling. I find it very creative to plan a menu for entertaining and, in thinking about what to serve, I always think it is best to go with seasonal foods because they are going to be flavorful and fresh. This entrée is excellent to serve when you have company because the chicken rolls can be prepared early in the day and refrigerated. I always try to plan a menu where most of the preparation can be done early in the day, leaving me free to spend time with my guests.

Below is my suggested menu for an outdoor dinner party for 4. This menu is easily doubled for additional guests.

Appetizer:

Eggplant Compote, (recipe link)

Main course:

Grilled Chicken Rolls with Danish Blue Cheese Stuffing, recipe below

Lettuce and Green Bean Salad, (recipe link)

Grilled Vegetables, (recipe link)

Dessert:

Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce, (recipe link)

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Grilled Chicken Rolls with Danish Blue Stuffing

Serves 4

A technique I like to use for cooking fish and chicken on the grill is to coat them in Panko crumbs and grill them on heavy-duty foil over indirect heat. This technique keeps food moist and delicious. The chicken only uses one side of the grill, which leaves the direct side to use for grilling vegetables.

Lemon Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Danish Blue Stuffing

  • 4 oz Castello Crumbled Danish Blue Cheese
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 slices Pancetta, about 4 oz
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 medium boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 oz each)
  • 3/4 cup Panko crumbs

Directions

For the sauce:

In a small bowl combine lemon zest, lemon juice and melted butter. Divide the sauce in half and set one bowl aside. Refrigerate the other bowl until serving time.

For the chicken rolls:

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small skillet and saute the pancetta and garlic until the pancetta is crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

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Butterfly each chicken breast and place each piece between 2 layers of plastic wrap.

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Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the chicken into rectangles of an even thickness.

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Divide the cooked pancetta evenly on each chicken breast.

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Add 1 oz of Castello blue cheese to each breast and top with a basil leaf.

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Fold in the sides of each chicken breast and roll up.

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Dip chicken into one of the dishes with the reserved lemon sauce and then roll in the Panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the chicken.

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Secure the rolls with skewers and place on a tray lined with heavy duty foil. Refrigerate the chicken rolls until it is time to grill. Discard the lemon sauce used for the coating.

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Preheat the grill on high.

Turn off one side of the grill and place chicken with the foil on that side of the grill.

Grill for 10 minutes, turn the chicken rolls over with grill tongs and cook for 10 more minutes or until the chicken registers 160 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer.

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Move the chicken rolls to a serving platter. Let grilled chicken rest 5 minutes.

Reheat the reserved lemon sauce in the microwave while the chicken rests. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken rolls and garnish with basil leaves. Serve.

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Potato Bonanza

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Roughly 90 percent of U.S. potatoes are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. The marketing season for fall potatoes begins in August (for areas of early harvest) and may continue through to the following August. Unlike most produce crops, which are perishable, potatoes are well-suited for long-term storage in climate-controlled rooms or containers.

Potatoes harvested in the winter, spring and summer account for less than 10 percent of the U.S. potato production. However, these potatoes meet specific market needs and generally cost more than fall potatoes. For example, some consumers prefer “new” or “freshly dug” potatoes, such as round red, white, yellow and purple varieties that are smaller in size and are normally not stored before sale.

Any variety of potato that is harvested early is considered a new potato. Since they are picked before their sugars have converted to starch, new potatoes are crisp and waxy and high in moisture. They also have thin skins, making them great for cooking and eating unpeeled. New potatoes are in season in spring and early summer and they should be firm, smooth and free of cracks or soft brown spots. Choose potatoes of similar size so they cook evenly.

Store potatoes in a cool, well ventilated place. Temperatures lower than 50 degrees, such as in the refrigerator, cause a potato’s starch to convert to sugar, resulting in a sweet taste and discoloration when cooked.  If you do refrigerate, letting the potato warm gradually to room temperature before cooking can reduce the discoloration. Avoid areas that reach high temperatures (beneath the sink or beside large appliances) or receive too much sunlight (on the counter-top).

Perforated plastic bags and paper bags offer the best environment for extending a potato’s shelf-life. Don’t wash potatoes before storing them, as dampness promotes early spoilage.

For Breakfast or Lunch

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Potato and Vegetable Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium new potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Small bag of fresh baby spinach
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs, beaten

Directions

Boil potatoes in a saucepan, covered, until tender. Drain and when cool enough, cut into thin slices..

Heat an oven broiler.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, red pepper and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach; cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in sliced potatoes, salt and pepper.

Stir in half the basil, the Parmesan cheese and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Place the pan under the broiler. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

As An Appetizer

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Roasted Potatoes with Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place potatoes in the center of a 3-foot-long piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring the long sides of the foil together and fold edges over, then tightly crimp the ends to create a packet. Roast on a baking sheet until cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a small X on top of each with a paring knife and gently squeeze open. Place 1 teaspoon ricotta mixture into each. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the stuffed potatoes on a serving platter

In A Soup

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Italian Fish and Potato Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, small dice
  • 2 new red potatoes, diced
  • 2 new white potatoes, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • One 28 oz can Italian diced tomatoes
  • One 8 oz bottle clam juice
  • 4 cups water
  • Juice from 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen cod-fish (or any other firm white fish), cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped Italian green and Kalamata olives
  • Additional salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
In a large soup pot, heat oil and add onion, garlic, celery and potatoes. Season with thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté for about 10 minutes until slightly softened. Add tomatoes, clam juice, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Add the fish and olives to the soup and gently stir. Continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

In A Salad

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Arugula with Roasted Salmon and New Potatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound red or yellow new potatoes, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillet
  • 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 10 ounces baby arugula

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking pan, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.

Toss potatoes and push to the sides of the baking pan; place salmon in the center and season with salt and pepper.

Roast until potatoes are tender and the salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate; break into large pieces with a fork.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, chives and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Add arugula and potatoes; toss to combine. Top salad with salmon pieces and serve.

In A Pasta

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Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 8 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup homemade basil pesto or store-bought
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large pot of water; bring to a boil.

Add salt and cavatappi or other short tubular pasta; return to a boil; cook 2 minutes.

Add green beans. Return to a boil; cook until vegetables are tender and pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.

Drain reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

Toss pasta and vegetables with the pesto and thin with some of the pasta cooking water. Garnish with fresh black  pepper.

In A Main Course

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Roast Beef with New Potatoes and Shallots

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red new potatoes (10 to 12), well scrubbed, halved or quartered
  • 1 pound shallots (8 to 10), peeled, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds eye-of-round beef roast, tied

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking pan, toss potatoes and shallots with the oil; sprinkle on the Italian seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Push vegetables to the edges of the baking pan; place roast in the center. Turn roast to coat with oil on the pan and season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing potatoes and shallots occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 130 degrees F for medium-rare, 40 to 50 minutes.

Let the beef rest 10 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil, before slicing and serving with the potatoes and shallots.

Recipes From America’s Italian Communities – Part 7

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Central States

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Minnesota

The Italian Cultural Center

The Italian Cultural Center

The ICC (The Italian Cultural Center) was established as a center in Minneapolis for all things Italian and to serve as a beacon for classic and contemporary Italian culture through language, art, music, design, cinema, architecture and technology. The ICC draws Italian-Americans who want to learn more about the culture and connect with their roots.

Discovering modern Italy is a goal for ICC’s students. Some of the students who come to study language here also enjoy learning about what Italy is like now. The Center’s seven university-trained teachers are from Italy and bring their own diverse heritages into the classroom, giving students a glimpse of life in some of the small towns and villages.

Films are a big part of the Italian cultural experience. Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have enjoyed great international acclaim and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2015, Italian films have won 14 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country.

Every year, the ICC presents a series of outstanding contemporary films in their annual Italian Film Festival. They also offer screenings throughout the year in the CineForum series.

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Through the lens of drama, comedies, documentaries and movies, the view of Italy is broadened and offers a fresh perspective on the country and its people. It is a way to take a journey to Italy without leaving Minnesota.

The desire to show Twin Cities’ residents the real Italy has led them to select films by modern Italian directors for the ICC’s annual free film festival, held in collaboration with the Italian Film Festival USA and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). The Italian film series offers a glimpse into award-winning, post-war Italian films and the high fashion industry they launched.

Antipasti Skewers

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Serves 8

Inspired by her travels and studies in Tuscany, Carmela Tursi Hobbins created Carmela’s Cucina to teach the art of Italian cooking and entertaining. Her experience blends years as co-owner of a successful catering business and her background as a classroom teacher. She has written two cookbooks, Carmela’s Cucina and Celebrations with Carmela’s Cucina.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of fresh tri-colored tortellini
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 pint fresh bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint pitted olives
  • 1/2 pound salami sliced thin
  • 2 envelopes Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix
  • Bamboo skewers

Directions

Boil the tortellini for about 6 minutes in salted water.  Drain and put the tortellini into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Wash the tomatoes and basil and pat dry.

Thread the tortellini, tomatoes, basil leaves, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, olives and salami (folded into quarters) onto the skewers.

Using one package of the Italian salad dressing mix, make up the dressing following the directions on the package and drizzle the dressing over the prepared skewers.

Sprinkle the contents of the second envelope of dried Italian Salad mix over the skewers and let marinate for several hours.

When ready to serve, assembled skewers can be stuck into a melon or pineapple half or laid on a lettuce lined tray.

Nebraska

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Little Italy is a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska that, historically, has been the home to the city’s Italian population. Omaha’s first Italian community developed during the 1890s near the intersection of South 24th Street and Poppleton Street. It was formed by immigrants from southern Italy and Italian immigrants who moved there after living in the eastern states. In 1905, Sicilian immigrants settled along South 6th Street in the hills south of downtown. Additional immigrants from Sicily arrived between 1912 and 1913 and following World War I.

Two brothers, Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno, are credited with creating Omaha’s Little Italy, located near the Union Pacific yards in downtown. When Sebastiano took a job as an agent for a steamship company in 1904, he encouraged friends from Sicily to emigrate. Joseph then secured housing and jobs for the immigrants, particularly in the downtown Omaha’s Union Pacific shops that included grocery stores, clothing and shoe stores and the Bank of Sicily, established by the Salerno brothers in 1908.

Today, the Festival of Santa Lucia is still celebrated throughout Little Italy, as it has been since the arrival of the first immigrants. An annual festival called “La Festa” is held to unite the city’s Italian community and celebrate its heritage. Many other remnants of Little Italy endure, making this area distinct within the city.

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Little Italy has several landmarks, including St. Francis Cabrini Church, built in 1908 at 1335 South 10th Street. Other landmarks include the Santa Lucia Festival Committee Hall at 725 Pierce Street; Marino’s Italian Grocery at 1716 South 13th Street; Sons Of Italy Hall located at 1238 South 10th Street and Orsi’s Bakery at 621 Pacific Street.

Orsi’s Bakery and Pizzeria is a gold mine for Italian fare. Their Sicilian style pizza, in particular, has been popular since they first opened in 1919. Passed through the Orsi family for over 90 years, the interior and the owners may have changed, but the recipes have stayed the same. Along with pizza, their Italian deli offers a variety of meats, cheeses, olives, peppers and desserts.

Steakhouse Spaghetti

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Chefs at Omaha’s Piccolo Pete’s flavor the sauce for their spaghetti with beef steak trimmings and pork and beef bones. In the true sense of Italian American cuisine this recipe combines Italian heritage cooking with Omaha’s love of beef.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. beef shank bones, trimmed
  • 1/4 lb. raw steak trimmings (ask your butcher for this)
  • 1 pork neck bone
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons. celery seeds
  • 4 sprigs basil
  • 3 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions

Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook bones and steak trimmings until browned, 7–9 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic and onion; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, celery seeds, basil, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bones and trimmings. Cook, until the sauce is reduced by a third, about 1 hour. Discard bones, trimmings, basil and bay leaves; shred the meat and add it to the sauce.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and divide among serving bowls; ladle with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Kansas

Heart of America Bridge

Heart of America Bridge

The Columbus Park area is Kansas City’s Italian neighborhood. Although ethnic lines are less distinctly drawn than in years past, the unique character of the neighborhood remains. Unlike other Little Italys that blur into other neighborhoods, Columbus Park has established boundaries: the Missouri River on one side and the Heart of America Bridge on the other. As one of Kansas City’s oldest immigrant neighborhoods, it has also had a long history of social infrastructure and culture. By 1920 there were about 10,000 Italians living in the area.

The heart of the community is the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Built in 1895, the Church was the result of petitioning by the local Italian community for a church. Bells still toll on Sunday mornings and services have continued in the building for more than 100 years.

The main business area is found along 5th street, where there are many Italian restaurants and grocery shops. You will find traditional foods and products at Garazzo’s Ristorante, LaSala’s Deli and LaRocca’s Grocery.

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Wish-Bone Salad Dressing originated in Kansas City. In 1945, returning World War II veteran, Phillip Sollomi, opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City called, The Wish-Bone®. In 1948, Sollomi began serving his mother’s salad dressing made from a recipe she brought with her from her native Sicily. As demand grew, Sollomi began mixing the dressing in a 50-gallon drum and bottling it. The dressing became known as“The Kansas City Wish-Bone® Famous Italian-Style Dressing. Word of this unique salad dressing spread throughout the heartland. In 1957, Sollomi sold the business to Lipton.

Chef Jasper Mirabile grew up in an Italian family. Each year he travels back to Italy and his family’s hometown of Gibellina, Sicily to see family and friends. He also goes to do research on the authenticity of Sicilian cuisine and to learn as much as he can about its rich history.

He writes in The Kansas City Star, “ I like to say my mother is “old school” in her style of cooking. No short cuts, no microwaves, no cheating at all, just respecting traditional recipes and cooking methods. Unlike me, a short order line cook, mama measured everything exactly, never doubling a recipe, never experimenting with different ingredients, just preparing the same tried and true recipes over and over again since she learned to cook as a teenager. Mama learned to prepare her Sunday sauce, meatballs and braciole from her mother, Rosa Cropisi. Grandmother Cropisi brought the recipe over from Corleone, Sicily, never-changing a single ingredient. My mother claims my father only married her for her mother’s meatball recipe.”

Jasper Mirabile’s Recipe for Meatballs

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Makes about  20

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Romano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Parsley, (Chopped)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, (Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Onion, (Minced)
  • Salt and Pepper, (To taste)
  • 2 cups Plain Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Olive Oil

Directions

Place pork & beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Mix.

Add the bread crumbs and blend into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water until the mixture is moist. Shape the meat mixture into 2 1/2- to 3-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.

When the bottom half of the meatballs are well browned and slightly crisp, (usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes), turn them over and cook the other side for 5 minutes more.

Remove the meatballs from the heat and drain them on paper towels. Simmer in your favorite sauce.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, Jasper’s, with his brother. He is the author of The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. Chef Mirabile is a culinary instructor, a founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts a weekly radio show, “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM.

Oklahoma

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Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp inhabited by the English, Irish and Italian miners. The commercial exploitation of coal in the Native American Territories began in 1872, with the completion of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. A few years later, the Osage Coal and Mining Company leased the property on which the town of Krebs emerged. The first mine opened in 1875 and twenty years later, 15 mines were operating in the area.

Krebs, Oklahoma is considered the center of Italian culture in the state of Oklahoma. Most of the immigrants who found their way to Oklahoma settled in the coal-producing communities in Pittsburg County and in the Choctaw Nation. Italian immigrants to Oklahoma were predominantly from northern Italy. They came as families and often established strong ethnic communities. In 1910, there were 2,162 Italians living in Pittsburg, Latimer and Coal counties. Later on the region attracted immigrants from southern Italy.

First-generation Oklahomans learned Italian from their parents. There aren’t many first-generation Italian Americans left in Krebs. The language hasn’t made it down through the generations, but it can still be heard during festivals and community events, especially over a game of bocce ball. The Italian Festival has been running for 40 years and is the community’s biggest single event.

When Kreps’ resident, Joe Prichard, took his family back to the Italian town his grandfather emigrated from, he was surprised by how familiar it felt. “The little village my grandfather left was almost a clone of the village he came to in Oklahoma,” he said. Joe discovered that San Gregorio Magno, in the Campania region, was not only the same size as Krebs, but community life there also centered around the Catholic Church. Even the town’s differences created parallels for him.

Krebs is famous throughout Oklahoma for its many Italian restaurants. Isle of Capri, “Pete’s Place” and Roseanna’s, to name a few, have been there for generations. A specialty of the region is Lamb fries, the name generally given to lamb animelles (testicles) that have been peeled, rolled in cracker meal and fried. Lamb fries are served in many Italian restaurants, particularly in Oklahoma’s “little Italy” and the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

Original Pete's Place

Original Pete’s Place

Three years after his arrival, at the age of 11, Pietro began working in the coal mines, changing his name officially to “Pete Prichard.” Through hard work and determination, he managed to make a meager living. However, in 1916, when Pete was 21 years old, a massive cave-in nearly cost him his life. He survived, but the accident crushed his leg in such a way that he couldn’t return to work in the mines.

To help pass the time, Pete took an interest in brewing beer. He found a unique recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, which made use of the plentiful supply of golden wheat that grew on the Oklahoma plains. Pete experimented and tested until he perfected his own version, which he named choc® beer.

Before long, other immigrant miners began gathering at his house regularly to relax and enjoy a beer during breaks. Then, it only seemed natural to start fixing the men a hearty lunch to go along with the beer. That’s the Italian way! He served “family-style” helpings of homemade Italian specialties like spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli and sausage. In 1925, Pete officially opened a restaurant in his home and, since everyone had always just called it “Pete’s Place®”, the name stuck.

Caciocavallo Cheese

Caciocavallo Cheese

When Mike Lovera’s Grocery first opened in 1946 in Krebs, it was a regular mom-and-pop general store and meat market. But it was the homemade Italian sausage that made Lovera’s store stand out from the competition. A specialty Italian grocery store would find it hard to survive in most towns of 2,000 people. But Krebs has been largely Italian since immigrant coal miners arrived in the 1870s and the town has no problem supporting a grocery store, three Italian restaurants and a Catholic church.

Along with about 40 imported Italian products, Lovera’s is famous for its caciocavallo, a milky cheese covered in wax. Initially, Lovera bought caciocavallo from local Italians who made it at home, but when the supply started to dry up, Lovera learned how to make it.

Sausage and Peppers

part7-03

Source: News OK, Dave Cathey, Food Editor

Ingredients

  • One 16-ounce coil of fresh Lovera’s sausage
  • 1 whole garden-fresh green pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno cut in thick slices, optional
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush sausage with 1 tablespoon oil and place in a cast-iron skillet or small roasting pan.

Roast sausages 20 minutes.

While the sausages are roasting, toss onions and peppers with remaining oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

After 20 minutes in the oven, turn the sausages over and top with the onion-pepper-oil mixture. Roast another 20 minutes and remove the pan from the oven.

Remove the sausages from the pan, let sit five minutes, then cut in slices and toss with the onions and peppers in the pan.

Serve with pasta and Italian tomato sauce or with crusty bread.

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