Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: July 2012


                                                                             

Calzone

Calzone is a turnover with ingredients similar to pizza. The making of calzones started in Naples, Italy in the 18th century. The name came from the baggy pants worn by men during the time.
The ingredients of calzones usually consist of mozzarella, ricotta, tomato sauce, and other pizza toppings. It is folded over and shaped like a crescent moon before baking or frying. There are many versions of calzones, some are small and some huge, with a variety of stuffings.

Because of its size and its resemblance to sandwiches, calzones are a popular street food that can be eaten while on the go. Sandwich-sized calzones are often sold at Italian lunch counters or by street vendors because they are easy to eat while standing or walking. Fried versions, typically filled with tomato and mozzarella, are made in Puglia and are called panzerotti.  Somewhat related is the Sicilian cuddiruni or cudduruni pizza. This is stuffed with onions (or sometimes other vegetables such as potatoes or broccoli), anchovies, olives, cheese, mortadella, then the rolled pizza dough is folded in two over the stuffing and the edge is braided, prior to frying.

In the United States, calzones are characteristically made from pizza dough and stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Traditional calzone dough consists of flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt. The dough is folded into a half-moon shape or formed into a spherical shape and baked or fried. After cooking, calzones are typically served smothered in marinara sauce or topped with a combination of garlic, olive oil, and parsley. A Sicilian-American version, Scacciata, is similar to a calzone but is filled with either broccoli or spinach and potatoes, onions, and sausage.

Stromboli

A stromboli is related to a calzone, but it is more of a sandwich than a pizza. The most common ingredients that comprise the fillings are various types of cheese, Italian meats, like salami and capicola, and sometimes vegetables. It is rolled into a loaf, not folded before baking. Stromboli make great appetizers, especially at a Super Bowl party.

It would be completely understandable, were you to assume, that the only stromboli you are familiar with is the stuffed bread filled with a variety of salami and cheeses. But if you look at a map, you might realize that Stromboli is the name of a tiny island north of Sicily and west of the toe of the Italian peninsula. Best known for its active volcano, the island lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea. However, the Italian island may have played a role in the naming of the sandwich. The origin of the Stromboli is a bit unclear, but it seems to date back to around the 1950s.

The Island of Stromboli

Unlike the calzone, it does not originate from Italy, but from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Spokane, Washington depending on which story you believe. Unless you’re a fan of 1940′s black & white films, you would probably not associate it with a wildly popular Swedish movie star and a Philadelphia suburb pizzeria.

A 1950 movie about a refugee who marries a Sicilian fisherman but can’t cope with the harshness of her new life.

The Philly version:

In 1948 director Roberto Rossellini cast Ingrid Bergman in his drama, Stromboli, about survivors of World War II trying to make a life on the isolated island. Although the film, released in the U.S. in 1950, received only mixed reviews, it caught the attention of people who might never have had any interest in Italian cinéma verité. The Hollywood tabloids and newsreels made sure that movie fans around the world knew that everyone’s favorite actress of the time was having a love affair with her director. The real volcano on Stromboli and the film, were eclipsed by the sensation, of what was then, the scandalous Bergman-Rossellini affair.

Meanwhile, in a small town south of Philadelphia, another drama—one with far greater consequences for Italian-American gastronomic history—was about to unfold. Nazzereno Romano, owner of Romano’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Essington, Pennsylvania, rolled up some cheese and cold-cuts in his pizza dough. He baked the loaf and then sliced it to expose the attractive, flavor-packed spiral within. ‘Nat’ Romano is reported to have asked his customers what he should call his creation. We can imagine that a copy of The National Enquirer might have been at hand because the sources claim that someone blurted out “Stromboli” and the name stuck.

Make the Bread Dough

Basic Dough for Calzones or Stromboli

Ingredients:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, or Eagle Ultra Grain flour or 1 ½ cups all purpose flour and 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • Cornmeal, as necessary, for dusting pizza peel.

Directions:

In a large bowl of an electric mixer combine yeast with water and sugar and stir well to combine. Let rest until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt, and olive oil, and mix well with the paddle attachment to thoroughly combine. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch.
Transfer to the dough hook and knead dough for at least 5 to 7 minutes, to form a smooth and elastic dough that is not sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 2 or 3-quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually at least 1 hour.

Divide dough into 2 portions for stromboli or 4 portions for calzones and form into balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape as desired for recipes below.

Meat and Cheese Calzone

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe basic dough, prepared for calzones
  • 2 ounces finely chopped proscuitto or 2 ounces finely chopped Genoa salami or 2 ounces finely chopped pepperoni
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Cornmeal, for dusting pizza peels

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

In a medium bowl combine the proscuitto and the next 6 ingredients. 

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and form into 4 balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out into 4 (10-inch) circles.

Divide filling evenly and place in the center of 1 side of each circle, then fold dough over the filling to meet edges of the filled side. Crimp edges with a fork or your fingers, then cut a small slit in the top of each calzone to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Lower heat to 475 degree F. Transfer calzones to a pizza peel (sprinkled with cornmeal to help facilitate moving dough). Transfer to the preheated pizza stone and bake until crispy and golden brown, usually 12 to 18 minutes (depending on the toppings and the thickness of the crust). Remove from the oven with a metal spatula and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Calzone

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped frozen broccoli florets, defrosted and drained or a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 recipe basic dough, prepared for calzones

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Combine broccoli or spinach and the next seven ingredients in a medium bowl. 

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and form into 4 balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out into 4 (10-inch) circles.

Divide filling evenly and place in the center of 1 side of each circle, then fold dough over the filling to meet edges of the filled side. Crimp edges with a fork or your fingers, then cut a small slit in the top of each calzone to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Lower heat to 475 degree F. Transfer calzones to a pizza peel (sprinkled with cornmeal to help facilitate moving dough). Transfer to the preheated pizza stone and bake until crispy and golden brown, usually 12 to 18 minutes (depending on the toppings and the thickness of the crust). Remove from the oven with a metal spatula and serve immediately.

Meat and Cheese Stromboli

Recommend a healthier alternative for Italian Cold Cuts, such Applegate Farm products made without nitrates.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bread dough balls, prepared for stromboli
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced salami
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced mortadella (or ham)
  • 3/4 pound thinly sliced, mozzarella or provolone cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Transfer one ball of bread dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a 15 x 12 inch rectangle.

Cover the dough rectangle with half the meat and cheese leaving a 1/2 inch border. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll the stromboli into a log (jelly roll style).  Seal the dough by pinching firmly with fingertips on sides and ends. 

Place on a cornmeal coated pizza peel. Using a pastry brush coat the top of the bread with the beaten egg mixture. Carefully place stromboli on preheated stone, turn down oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice with a serrated knife.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Vegetarian Stromboli

Ingredients:

  • 2 bread dough balls, prepared for stromboli
  • 1 -12-oz. bottle roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry and cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata or other black olives
  • 3/4 pound thinly sliced, mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • Basil or baby spinach leaves
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Transfer one ball  of bread dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a 15 x 12 inch rectangle.

Cover the dough rectangle with a layer of basil or spinach leaves, half the cheese slices, half the roasted peppers, followed by half the olives and half the Italian seasoning leaving a 1/2 inch border. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll the stromboli into a log (jelly roll style). Seal the dough by pinching firmly with fingertips on sides and ends.  

Place on a cornmeal coated pizza peel. Using a pastry brush coat the top of the bread with the beaten egg mixture. Carefully place stromboli on preheated stone, turn down oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice with a serrated knife.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

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How did meatballs come about?

No one is sure where the meatball originated and early recipes are difficult to find. It’s easy to ascertain though, that meatballs, as we know them, made with ground meat, were not possible until meat grinders were invented. Early meatballs would have been made from leftovers and hand-shredded. Or pounded with a heavy object and minced with primitive tools.

The type of meat prepared as meatballs was varied and influenced by geography. In China, for example, the mainstay was the pig, so their meatballs were likely made from pork. Similarly, in North Africa, the Berber, were shepherds of wild sheep, goats and camels and these animals were a source of the shephards’ subsistence.

These Caddo women are grinding up dried food in a wooden container—called a mortar—using heavy poles called pestles- to pound dried meat—deer or buffalo—to make into pemmican.

Whatever the meat, whatever the region, many recipes indicate some form of meatballs across the globe. Food history tells us, though, that meat was rare in most countries and was enjoyed mostly by the rich. Since meat was not easy to come by, it can be assumed that it was never wasted, and no parts of a cut of meat would have been thrown away. Simply put, meatballs were created as a way to utilize leftover meat and squeeze another day’s meal from it.

According to Mathistorisk Uppslagsbok (a reference on ancient cuisine) by Jan-Ojvind Swahn, the Swedish word for meatball (k”ttbulle) first appeared in (Swedish) print was in Cajsa Warg’s, 1754 cookbook. Swahn points out that the meatball could not have been a common food, at least not for common people, until the meat grinder made the preparation simple.

The invention of the meat grinder,also, made it possible to use fresh ground meat instead of cooked meat for meatballs.  A U.S. Patent was issued in 1829 for a crude grinder. A better grinder was recorded in 1845, using rotating cutting blades and a spiral feed. This allowed, for the first time, an ordinary person to purchase fresh ground meat.

Swedish meatballs, smaller in size than those from other countries, are traditionally served with a cream gravy and lingonberry preserves. In northern Scandinavian countries beef was considered a luxury item, which meant meatballs were highly prized. Meatballs are traditionally served at Swedish smorgasbords and other festive occasions.

Swedish meatballs were brought to the United States by Scandinavian immigrants; many of whom settled in America’s northern midwestern states. Other Northern European countries also have meatball/gravy recipes. Regional variations are often a reflection of taste and ingredient availability. In America, Swedish meatballs became very popular in the beginning of the 20th century, and again in the 1950s-1960s.

Some early recipes:

In 1944, an English version of an Italian cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi appeared in print titled, simply, “Italian Cook Book”.  It recommended “meatballs made with boiled meat,” but noted that “if raw meat is preferred, less ingredients for seasoning should be used.”

Here’s the recipe for his Italian meatballs !  Note: it may be a bit difficult to follow.

Chop the boiled meat in a mortar. Chop a sliced ham separately. Add the ham to the meat and season everything with Parmesan, salt, pepper, and some flavor of spice. Add some raisins, pine seeds and two spoonfuls of bread, boiled either in soup or milk. Bind this compound with an egg or two, according to the quantity. Make meat balls as large as one egg, flatten them at both ends, cover them with grated bread and fry them in oil or lard. Make a fricassee with a little garlic and parsley, place it in a flat pan together with the fat left in the pan where the meatballs were fried, and add the meatballs. Sprinkle on egg-lemon sauce and let it take on flavor. If the garlic-parsley fricassee is objectionable, place the meatballs in the flat pan with a piece of butter only.”

This recipe just might not fit with the common American concept of an “Italian meatball.”

Pellegrino Artusi and units of Italy

Pellegrino Artusi

A book by Robin Howe, published in Great Britain in 1954, also bears an unassuming title: “Italian Cooking.” The recipe for “Meat Balls, Florentine Style” (“Polpettine Alla Fiorentina”) calls for forming a ball of pre-cooked meat.
Ten ounces of beef are minced along with two ounces of bacon and an onion; the mixture is fried in butter or oil for five minutes, then two or three ladles of stock are added, and the ingredients are simmered. Once this combination has cooled, a beaten egg, two ounces of grated cheese, and three tablespoons of breadcrumbs, along with salt, pepper and nutmeg, are mixed in, forming a paste.

Balls are formed, then rolled in flour.
A chopped carrot and a chopped stick of celery are browned in oil, then the balls are added, stock is poured in, almost covering the balls, and everything is simmered for a half hour. Then the meatballs are put on plates and the juice is poured over, through a sieve.

A ball formed from cooked beef does not sound very appetizing. It sounds like something to be made from leftovers and, in Italy, often is. But there’s also a recipe in “Italian Cooking” for “spiedini,” a meatball that starts with a pound of raw beef. The meat is minced and combined with two tablespoons of chopped parsley, two ounces of grated cheese, four ounces of breadcrumbs, a chopped clove of garlic, and salt and pepper. Balls are formed which are either deep-fried in oil, and served on skewer with risotto, or brushed with olive oil and grilled.

Growing up in an Italian American home, I remember we often ate meatballs and sausage with our spaghetti. Such a memory does not exist, however, for those whose childhoods were spent in Italy. “Polpette” (meatballs) are Italian. So is spaghetti, but the combination isn’t. “Meatballs and spaghetti,” like chop suey, was invented in the United States in the early part of the 20th Century. In Italy, diners customarily eat a pasta course first, then a meat course. So, if an Italian eats meatballs and spaghetti, it will be in separate courses.

In America, “Italian meatballs” can simply be hamburger (ground beef) fashioned into the shape and size of golf balls. But meatballs, as prepared in Italy, contain other ingredients, including grated cheese and bread and, like meatballs from other lands, often contain veal and/or pork in addition to, or instead of, beef.

The Italians brought their recipes for polpette (meatballs) to America, each recipe developed within their families through the centuries. The dish spaghetti and meatballs was created to please Americans, who preferred meat served with their pasta.  I am taking this concept a step further with adding vegetables to the sauce, using whole grain pasta and offering meatballs made from a variety of meats or vegetables.  Take your pick!

For The Spaghetti Sauce:

Veggie Packed Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1-28 oz. container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the next 4 ingredients. Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and remaining sauce ingredients. Stir, cover, and simmer 45 minutes or until it is as thick as you like it.

For The Pasta:

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Prepare pasta per package directions. Drain. Top with meatballs (3 per plate), sauce, and cheese.  

Serves 6 (1 1/2 oz. pasta per person)

Choose Your Meatball:

Turkey Meatballs                                                                                                                                                            


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  •  1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Combine all meatball ingredients except oil in large bowl. Gently shape into 18 golf ball-size meatballs.  

Use the 1 teaspoon of oil to grease a baking dish and place meatballs in the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Turn once during baking time.

A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

Eggplant “Meat” Balls

Makes 15-18 Eggplant Balls

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed peeled eggplant (1 large eggplant)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 -1 1/4 cups dried bread crumbs

Directions:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Mash eggplant with a potato masher.

Mix cheese, parsley, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls.

Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes turning once.

Chicken Meatballs

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the ground chicken, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, white wine, salt, fennel, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before adding sauce and serving.

Veggie “Meat” Balls

Servings: Over 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lentils 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped 
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 


Directions:

Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft (but not falling apart), about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.

Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture along with the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts to the vegetable mixture and mix by hand until thoroughly combined. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoons olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Roll the mixture into round, gold ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Makes about 2 dozen 1 ½ inch meatballs.

Ricotta Beef Meatballs                                                                                                                                                       

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef 
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.


Tuscan Hearth

According to Wikipedia, kabobs or kebabs, originated in Persia but were later embraced by most of the Middle East. There are many variations of kebabs around the world and the term shish kebab comes from the Turkish language literally meaning roasted meat skewers.  The kabob was a true to life solution for nomadic tribes who marinated unusual meats to tenderize them and remove their gaminess. The meat was then threaded onto skewers and roasted over a fire.

While the Turks created this delicious dish, their recipe spread across cultures in one form or another. Southeast Asian cultures have satay, Japanese call it yakitori, the French say brochettes and in Italy it is spiedini.

Italian grilling is for the most part fairly simple. Top-quality meats, with a light marinade, are grilled over hardwood coals. Grill several kinds of meat at one time, and you have a grigliata mista, or mixed grilled meats. It’s hard to beat, and that is why many Italians have a hearth in the cantinetta, the combination den and dining room where they entertain guests.

The concept behind spiedini, threading foods on a skewer and setting them over the coals or into the oven, is obvious, easy, and almost infinitely variable. In Italy they were originally made with sausage, chicken, beef or pork separated by pieces of bread and they were often prepared and sold that way by a butcher.  The one thing they lacked were vegetables but today spiedini or kabobs often include vegetables in the Italian preparation.

spiedini-pesce-spada

 

Fish Spiedini with Herbs – Spiedini di Pesce alle Erbe

Serves 4

The combination of salmon and monkfish works very well in these garlic and herb infused fish kebabsGrouper, red snapper, black cod (sablefish), striped bass, tilefish, turbot, orange roughy, Alaskan Pollock, sturgeon, hake (whiting) can also replace monkfish in a variety of recipes because they utilize the same cooking techniques.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound skinless salmon fillet
  • 1/2 pound boned monkfish fillet
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Long skewers
  • Lemon for garnish

Directions:

Cut the fish into 1-inch cubes. Put the fish in a glass bowl, pour the orange juice over it, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for an hour in the refrigerator, giving the bowl a shake every now and again.

While the fish is marinating, heat your grill.

Chop the herbs and the garlic. Put them in a small serving bowl with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Drain the fish and put the pieces on the skewers, alternating salmon and monkfish. Brush the kabobs with some of the oil mixture and reserve the rest for serving with the cooked kabobs.

Grill the kebabs for about 10 minutes, turning them often. Serve the fish kebabs with the herbed oil, lemon and a white wine, for example, an Alcamo from Sicily.

Chicken Spiedini

Spicy Chicken Spiedini Recipe – Spiedini di Pollo Piccanti

These Chicken Spiedini are also excellent to add to an antipasto platter.

18 Spicy Chicken Spiedini

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds  skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise to obtain 18 pieces of chicken breast, about 3/4 inch wide and as long as possible
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Juice of a lime
  • 1 teaspoon fine grained sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, ideally freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 18 skewers, each long enough to accommodate one piece of chicken

Directions:

If the skewers are made of wood, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Put the sliced chicken breasts in a glass bowl large enough to hold them comfortably.

Gently heat the oil and the garlic in a saucepan for about 2 minutes; you want to heat the oil but not cook it. Remove and discard the garlic.

Mix the remaining ingredients into the oil and pour it over the chicken. Mix well and marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.

Thread one piece of chicken on each  skewer. Heat coals or a gas grill or a broiler, and cook the spiedini over high heat, turning them once or twice; about 5-7 minutes.

 

Bell Pepper and Pork Spiedini Recipe – Spiedini di Maiale e Peperone

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds boned lean pork loin
  • 2 bell peppers of the colors you prefer, e.g. yellow and red
  • 1 large onion (sweet, such as Vidalia)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Skewers, 8-10 inches long

Directions:

If the skewers are made of wood, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Cut the pork  into 3/4 inch cubes. Peel and cut the onion into 1 inch squares. Seed the peppers and cut them into 1 inch squares.

Skewer the meat and the vegetables, alternating between pork and vegetables.. While you’re doing this, heat your grill or broiler.

Whisk the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and brush the spiedini with the mixture. Cook them for 10-15 minutes or until done, turning them occasionally.

Serve with a light, zesty red along the lines of a Sangiovese di Romagna.

sausage kabobs

Sausage And Shallot Spiedini – Spiedini alla Salsiccia

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds fairly thin fresh Italian sausage (e.g. Luganega)
  • 1/2 pound peeled shallots or onions (they should be about the same diameter as the sausage)
  • 12 – 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, if you cannot find fresh bay leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 skewers

Directions:

Combine the wine and oregano in a bowl. Cut the sausages into 1 1/4-inch lengths and steep them in the wine and oregano for about an hour.

Boil the shallots for 5 minutes in lightly salted water. Drain them and let them cool.

Heat your grill.

Drain the sausage pieces and skewer them, alternating with shallots and cherry tomatoes, and putting pieces of basil between the sausage and vegetables.

Brush the kebabs with the olive oil, paying special attention to the shallots and tomatoes (the sausages will be self-basting), and grill them for 15 minutes, turning them often and brushing the vegetables again if need be. Serve them hot.

surf and turf

Surf and Turf Spiedini – Spiedini Con Manzo e Gamberoni

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of beef fillet weighing about 6 ounces each
  • 12 jumbo shrimp 
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 skewers

Directions:

Cut each piece of beef fillet into 4 equal pieces and put them in a bowl.

Shell the shrimp, leaving the tails on because having the tails will make them easier to eat and also makes for an attractive presentation.

Heat your grill.

Combine the lemon juice, wine, and olive oil and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and marinate the meat for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp, mix well, and marinate everything for another 5 minutes.

Remove the meat and shrimp from the marinade, reserving the liquid. Skewer the meat and the shrimp, alternating pieces of meat with pieces of shrimp.

Grill the kebabs over hot coals for 5-10 minutes (depending upon how well done you like your meat and shrimp), turning them often and basing them repeatedly with the marinade.

Serve with a rosé, for example, Bardolino Chiaretto.

vegetable spiedini

Italian Vegetable Spiedini

While Italians do not generally add vegetables to their spiedini, you could grill a few skewers of just vegetables to accompany the meat or fish spiedini as a healthier approach.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 small zucchini, sliced 1” thick
  • 2 small yellow squash, sliced 1” thick
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced into 1” pieces
  • 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, sliced into 1” pieces
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1”  cubes, skin on
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 head garlic (prepare as directed below)
  • 8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms (also called crimini)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over garlic 
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning mix, see post:http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/06/25/homemade-italian-sauces-marinades-and-seasoning-mixes/
  • Shredded fresh basil for garnish

Directions:

Soak wooden skewers in water prior to using or use metal skewers.

Wash vegetables and cut as directed. Skewer vegetables with similar cooking times together. Skewer potatoes by themselves. Skewer red peppers and onions together. Skewer squash and mushrooms together.

Whisk vinegar and 4 tablespoons olive oil together until emulsified and add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Trim a thin slice off the top of garlic, set on a piece of foil large enough to enclose the garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly and set on grill until garlic is soft.

Place skewers on grill. Baste with vinaigrette mixture. When veggies on the bottom side of skewer get dark grill marks, turn 90 degrees, and baste again, repeating until skewer is fully cooked.

Remove all vegetables and toss on large platter. Squeeze grill roasted garlic from head and toss with grilled vegetables.


There are a great variety of Italian savory cakes, pies and tart recipes for all occasions. You can serve them cold or warm, as a starter or as a one-plate meal accompanied with a green salad.

The main ingredients are fish, meat, vegetables and eggs and they can be made with a pie crust or puff-pastry or pizza dough

A torta (the plural is torte) is a pie, usually a savory one, at least in the countries across the Mediterranean—consisting of a filling (often based on vegetables) enclosed in thin dough and baked in an oven or cooked over an open fire. The notion of savory pies is ancient, perhaps dating to the Mesopotamians. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all ate something similar.

Torta Pasqualina

Torte of various designs are made all over Italy today, but the Ligurians seem to produce this dish in its purest form—just dough and filling, without any enhancements. The only complex Ligurian torta made today is torta pasqualina, or “Eastertide torta”, which is filled with either artichokes or Swiss chard and mixed with eggs, cheese, and herbs. Traditionally, torta pasqualina was made with 33 layers of dough—ten on the bottom and 23 on the top—to symbolize the 33 years of Christ’s life.

Sandro Oddo, who is a serious student of local history, folklore, and cuisine, writes that, In the old days people in the mountains ate torte everyday. Pasta was a rarity.” Pasta is filling and comparatively inexpensive, but because little wheat grows in the Ligurian countryside—or anywhere else in the region—flour was expensive, and pasta was usually purchased instead of being made at home. So instead of making pasta, less than a pound of flour could be formed into a thin-dough torta with a filling of wild greens or mushrooms, some eggs from the barnyard and some homemade cheese.  This pie could  feed eight to ten family members. The prevalence of torte in this region wasn’t originally a matter of cultural preference; it was a matter of survival.  

Liguria vacation in Italian wine cooking

Liguria is known as the Italian Riviera. It’s a sliver of land along the Ligurian Sea north of the Mediterranean.

Until 1994 Triora, a city in Liguria, held an annual torta-making contest.  “In the last two years of the contest,” Oddo says, “only two women bothered to enter. It wasn’t much of a competition and the event has been permanently canceled. The art is being lost,” he adds. 

A past contest winner, Allavena, created a torta that was different from that of most of Liguria. Instead of many top and bottom layers, hers was made with a single oversized sheet of dough; the filling was placed in the middle, the edges were drawn up to the center in irregular pleats and the pie was baked. While she often made a traditional chard-filled torta, her specialties were, torta di patate with a filling of puréed potatoes and torta di polenta  with a spinach and herb filling.

She usually baked her torta in a small oven in her little kitchen, but on special occasions Allavena used to carry them down the street to the local communal oven.  “The baker would cook it for you in the leftover heat after he’d finished his loaves,” she said. Unfortunately, the oven closed down recently in response to new Italian safety laws. Another lost art.

In the United States torta often means a combination of layered soft cheeses, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. This is served in a loaf form and spread onto breads or crackers, but this is not the traditional torta as viewed by the Italians. Instead, the Italian torta is a meat and cheese pie or tart, usually double crusted, that slightly resembles a quiche. The primary difference between quiche and torta, besides the double crust, is that the slightly eggy custard in a torta is much more cheese based than egg based. Usually egg is only used to bind ingredients together, instead of making up the majority of the savory filling, as in a quiche.

Some chefs suggest using a pizza dough for the Italian torta, while others suggest a more traditional piecrust. Either type of dough can make a delicious torta, but the pastry crust is more traditional than bread dough. When pastry dough is used, the torta may be made in a large springform pan instead of in a pie dish.

Italian torte can have any combination of ingredients. Some are completely vegetarian, and are flavored merely with vegetables like artichokes or spinach. Other recipes introduce ham or sausage. The principal filling is usually a combination of ricotta cheese, parmesan, parsley and onion. From that point on, you can get creative and use many different ingredients to augment the Italian torta.

You can serve a torta while it is still slightly warm and the cheese semi-melted, or you can serve it cold, especially for parties. The pie’s interior, when cool, is more like a solid cheese custard. Do observe caution when storing the pie, if you plan to serve it cool. It should be kept in the refrigerator, because of its high cheese content, until about ten minutes prior to serving. As mentioned, ingredients can vary significantly. Any and all can make for a delicious and unusual dish to offer guests.   

To keep these dishes on the healthier side, my pie dough is made with olive oil and the pies are made with a single crust. I also use lighter ingredients in the fillings. These savory tarts make a great lunch entrée or you can serve them for dinner with a salad.

Tart Dough/ Oil Pie Crust

Pie crusts made with vegetable oil have a crisp, tasty crust with no trans fats or cholesterol. No rolling needed, just mix it right in the pie plate and pat it into place. This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour or 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour and 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons water 

Directions:

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like.  Whisk together the oil and water in a small bowl, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.

Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the edge.

Chill the pie crust or fill and bake depending on your recipe.

Roasted Tomato Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Most of the tomatoes’ moisture evaporates when they are slow-roasted, concentrating their flavor and making them ideal for using in a tart filling. Since the size of tomatoes varies so much, use your judgment as to how many will be necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top of the tart
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Handful of chopped fresh herbs such as, basil, oregano, thyme, or chives
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled
  • 10 to 15 Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Sliced basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, salt, pepper,  egg substitute, and the herbs in a small bowl. Stir until well combined. 

Spread the filling in the prepared tart and arrange the tomatoes on top, leaving a little space between them. Sprinkle the top with additional grated Parmigiano.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Garnish top with sliced basil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Makes 24

Any size or type of tomato can be slow-roasted but the timing will vary depending on the size and juiciness of each tomato; just look for shriveled edges and just a bit of wetness in the center to tell you they’re done. Enjoy them on their own, or in salads, sandwiches, tarts, and pizzas. Since the juices are reduced, they won’t turn a tart or pizza soggy.  They will keep, layered in a jar and covered with oil, for about a week. The oil can be used in vinaigrettes or as a finishing oil to drizzle over grilled fish.

Ingredients:

  • 12 plum tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 or 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 or 3 oregano sprigs
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven. Line 1 large or 2 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sliver the garlic as thinly as possible. Cut the tomatoes in half. Cut larger ones in quarters. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of space in between. Drizzle with oil and rub the tomatoes with your fingers to coat well. Sprinkle with the garlic, herbs, and salt.

Reduce the oven to 300°F and bake for 2 to 2½ hours, until the tomatoes are shriveled and beginning to brown. Let cool, and transfer to an airtight container.

Squash and Herb Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds zucchini or yellow squash or a combination, ends trimmed
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup shredded reduced calorie Sargento Italian blend cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a hand grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously, and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture (or wrap in a kitchen towel and twist the towel to squeeze out the moisture). Place in a medium bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini. Stir in the herbs, cheese, eggs and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread the filling in the prepared tart. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crab and Red Pepper Tart

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup diced crabmeat 
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into very thin strips
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced calorie Sargento Italian Blend cheese
  • 3 large eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 whole scallions, chopped
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs and add the milk, crabmeat, scallions, cheese, seafood seasoning, salt and pepper.  Pour into the prepared tart and lay the red pepper strips on top in a decorative design.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1  cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten, or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add olive oil, green onions and spinach to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a bowl and add the ricotta cheese, eggs or egg substitute, sliced fresh chives, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared crust; sprinkle mixture with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sausage Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (pork, turkey or chicken), casing removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, chopped
  • 1 large plum tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat skillet, add sausage and brown well.  Drain on paper towels. Drain fat from skillet and wipe clean with additional paper towels.

Add olive oil to skillet and cook until onions are translucent.

In a medium bowl combine sausage, onion, tomato, green pepper and cheese. Add flour and mix until ingredients are coated with the flour.

In another bowl mix spices with beaten egg and add evaporated milk, and add to sausage.  Mix well and pour into prepared tart.

Place the tart on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Do you eat the same food for three to four days in a row or eat the same food at the same meal day after day? Perhaps you eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. Or you always eat peanuts for a snack. Sound familiar?

It’s so easy to fall into an eating rut. Having the same breakfast, lunch, or dinner, day in and day out, offers convenience and comfort.  No need to think about what to eat or where to find it.There are no surprises when you pour yourself a bowl of the same cereal for breakfast day after day.

The foods people get hooked on are the usual — burger and fries, chips and soda and pepperoni pizza. Rarely do you hear of anyone stuck on broccoli for days or months.

That doesn’t mean that eating the same thing again and again has to be unhealthy. One person who made an eating rut work to his advantage was Jared Fogel of Subway fame. In less than a year, he says, he lost 235 pounds on a diet of coffee for breakfast; a 6-inch low-fat turkey sub with extra veggies, baked chips, and diet soda for lunch; and a 12-inch veggie sub for dinner.

You’re probably the best judge of whether you’re in an eating rut. However, just in case you are in a rut, here are some ideas for getting out of that rut:

  • Next time you go to the grocery store, venture out of the familiar aisles. Buy brown or wild rice instead of white, pita pockets instead of white bread, and pears instead of bananas.
  • Challenge yourself to try one new food each week.
  • Pick up a healthy dinner from a restaurant instead of having pizza delivered.
  • Have the sandwich you usually choose for lunch for breakfast instead.
  • Try slight alterations to your old standbys: accessorize your sandwich with spinach leaves instead of lettuce, stir sliced veggies into your scrambled eggs, choose a new type of cheese for your casserole.
  • Don’t say “Yuck” when friends want to try an ethnic restaurant that serves unfamiliar cuisine.
  • Visit a farmers market.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Buy a new cookbook or get a subscription to a healthy cooking magazine.


Here are some new ways to prepare some classic foods:

Old Favorite

Linguine with Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through clams). Cover and cook 10 minutes or until clams open.

Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to pasta; toss again.

New Twist

Spaghettini in Clam Broth with Cherry Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced into rounds
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 cans minced clams, undrained
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 oz. spaghettini or angel hair pasta or spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, chopped 


Directions:

Wash the sliced leek well in a bowl of cold water, agitating it, then lift out and pat dry. Set aside.

Combine the undrained clams, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and wine in a small bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside (do not rinse).

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add leek, carrot and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 30 seconds; add clam mixture; gently simmer until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes.

Then add cooked pasta and parsley; toss just to combine. Top with plenty of fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat.

Old Favorite

Restaurant Style Baked Flounder With Crabmeat Stuffing

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup light cream
  • 8 oz. crabmeat
  • 3 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 4 flounder fillets
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Directions:

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with nonstick cooking spray, add butter, then the onion and red pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally about 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and the light cream.

Increase heat to medium high and bring to boil; cook for 1 minute or until thickened. Gently fold in crabmeat and 2 teaspoons of the parsley. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place one of the flounder fillets, skinned-side up on work surface, then spoon 1/2 cup crab mixture onto one end of fillet; roll up, creating a small bundle. Repeat using remaining fillets and crab.

Transfer bundles to baking dish, seam side down, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon parsley. Add wine to the pan; transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until fish is solid white and flakes easily with a fork.


New Twist

Shrimp and Mango-Stuffed Fish Fillets

Ingredients:

4 flounder fillets

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup finely processed crumbs, from Italian bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup finely chopped shrimp (about 8 oz. shelled)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced mango
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon diced pimientos, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced chives

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • Dash paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine all the stuffing ingredients. Spoon about 1/2 cup stuffing onto each fillet; roll up. Place seam side down in baking dish.

Combine the butter and lemon juice and drizzle over the fish rolls. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Old Favorite

Classic Lasagna


Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz.) container Pomi tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Lasagna:

  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 16 lasagna noodles


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Make sauce:
Heat oil in large saucepan and add garlic, basil, tomatoes, tomato paste, seasonings, salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Make filling:
Beat eggs. Add ricotta and parmesan cheeses, salt and parsley.  Refrigerate until needed.

Cook pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.

To assemble:
Spread ½ cup sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat 2 more times. Top the last 3 noodles with sauce and cover tightly with foil.  Bake 45 min. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


New Twist

Deconstructed Lasagna

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved if large and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and the 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions; drain and separate on kitchen towels. Cut each noodle in half.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl.
  4. Add zucchini to the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.
  5. Place some tomatoes in each of four pasta bowls; top with a noodle and a spoonful of ricotta, some zucchini, and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

Old Favorite

BBQ Sirloin Steak

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • Dash  ground cinnamon
  • 1 boneless beef sirloin steak (1-1/2 lb.), 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick

Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Mix barbecue sauce, marmalade and cinnamon.
Grill steak 8 to 10 min. on each side or until medium rare to medium (125 to 130 degrees), brushing with barbecue sauce mixture after turning steak. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

New Twist

Baked Steak

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 pound, 2 inch thick sirloin steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a roasting pan, combine the mushrooms, celery, lemon slices, onion, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Season the steak with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, rub in the garlic and place steak on top of the vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Spoon the ketchup mixture over the top of the steak and roast 30 to 35 minutes for medium-rare (when a meat thermometer registers 125°F). Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve the steak with the vegetables.


Old Favorite

Fried Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 large firm green tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Lay them out in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomato slices in a colander and allow time for the salt to pull the water out of the tomatoes, approximately 30 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Add pepper to the self-rising flour in a shallow bowl.  Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl.

In a large skillet for deep-frying, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Dip the tomatoes into buttermilk, then dredge them into flour. Deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the Remoulade Sauce.


Remoulade Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup  mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine  mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Chill.

New Twist

Baked Green Tomatoes with Onion Relish

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 green tomatoes,  each cut into 4 slices
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sprinkle the tomato slices lightly with sea salt.

Combine bread crumbs, olive oil, water, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Place tomato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Divide the crumb mixture evenly over each tomato slice.

Bake about 20 minutes or until brown and crispy. Serve with Onion Relish.

 Onion Relish

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and most of their liquid has evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until onions turn deep golden, 10 to 20 minutes more. (Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water if the onions start to stick.)

  2. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if desired.


It’s morning, you’re in a rush, and you’re craving carbs but want to eat sensibly. Do you grab toast, a croissant, or a muffin at a coffee shop? Consumer Reports’ experts rated the nutrition of nine breakfast breads and found the winner was whole-wheat bread, which rated very good for nutrition, with 110 calories, a half-gram of fat, and 5 grams of fiber per slice.

Worst of all, with a nutrition rating of poor, was a heavyweight blueberry muffin with 610 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 40 grams of sugar. That’s more than a quarter of a day’s calorie limit for most people, about a half-day’s suggested intake of fat, and the equivalent of about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

You can make your own healthy breakfast breads and package them in individual portions for a quick “grab and go” breakfast.  Healthy breakfast breads are low in fat but utilize whole grains, fruits and nuts to give them taste.

Try some of the recipes below.  The Strawberry Muffins in the first recipe are a big hit in my family and no one ever suspects that they are only 140 calories.

Fruit Muffins

12 Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour or 2 cups Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup light sugar mixed with Stevia)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/4 cup diced strawberries other fruit in season
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds or other nuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray  a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix evenly.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg substitute, oil and orange juice. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until moistened but still lumpy. Stir in the chopped fruit and half of the nuts..

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup almost to the top.  Sprinkle remaining nuts onto each muffin and bake until springy to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cinnamon Yogurt Scones

Hershey and King Arthur make cinnamon chips. If you cannot find cinnamon chips in the baking section of your supermarket, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and an extra 1/4 cup of nuts in place of the chips.

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Gain flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend, chilled, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 6 oz. container Light Vanilla Yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix lightly with a whisk.  Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or your hands to mix in the butter to make a coarse meal.  Add the cinnamon, chips and nuts (if using)  and stir to combine.  Add the yogurt and milk and mix just until the dough begins to come together.  

Turn out onto a lightly floured board or counter.  Pat the mixture together to make an 8 inch circle.  Use a bench scraper or long knife and cut into 8 wedges.  Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 14-16 minutes or until the scones are lightly browned, crispy and a tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Gain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (instead use a light sugar; half regular sugar and half Stevia)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°. Coat a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with cooking spray and flour the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and fat-free yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the loaf has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before removing from baking pan and serving.

Tips:

To toast the nuts: Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 8-10  minutes

The zucchini loaf can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen in plastic and foil for up to 1 month.

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Coffeecake

Serve this cake with fruit salad on the side.

Yield: 12 servings.

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a grass, one of the ancestors of modern wheat (Triticum aestivum). It originated in southeast Asia and is probably the “wheat” that was used around the Mediterranean 9,000 years ago. It came to Europe with traders from the Middle East and remained a favorite grain there until the 19th. century and the development of modern strains of wheat. It contains more protein, fat and crude fiber than wheat but it is very soluble (i.e. will dissolve easily), and thus is easy to digest. Because of its greater amounts of protein and fat, it is known as a high-quality energy source for athletes or anyone needing long periods of stamina.

It is not a gluten free flour as some people think.

In baking, spelt behaves like whole wheat flour and has a wonderful nutty flavor. It can be used just as you would whole wheat flour and substituted for the same in any of your favorite recipes. It can also be used in combination with other flours or, like the recipe below, it can be used on its own.  Spelt flour should be stored in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) soft butter or Smart Balance Blend
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Lightly spray a 8- or 9-inch square cake pan with cooking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar together. This is a very important step to keep the cake light.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is fluffy. Stir in the milk.

Combine the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until blended.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool before cutting.

Drizzle the top with a powdered sugar glaze if you have a sweet tooth.

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk or whole milk

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the top of the cake.

Flaxseed Blueberry Pancakes

Buckwheat flour is Gluten Free, leading people with gluten intolerance to seek it out as a flour alternative. Many grocery stores carry buckwheat flour and buckwheat blends.

Individuals with gluten intolerance should be careful about where they purchase their buckwheat flour. It is often made in facilities which process wheat, and contamination is possible. It may also be blended with wheat as a filler, so be sure the buckwheat flour you buy is clearly labeled as “gluten free.” Plain buckwheat flour can be used in an assortment of foods including pancakes and noodles.

Although buckwheat is treated like a cereal crop, it is actually a plant, not a grass. The fruit of buckwheat is what is harvested and eaten after the hard outer husk has been pulled away.  Two things that have made it a popular choice of crop around the world are that the plants thrive in poor growing conditions and mature quickly. In addition to making buckwheat flour from the buckwheat harvest, it is sold in a cracked form for groats that can be steamed or boiled for puddings and porridge. Buckwheat is also planted as a cover crop for beekeeping, since it produces a high volume of flavorful nectar.

Buckwheat, whole wheat, flax seeds and blueberries combine to form a breakfast that’s high in fiber, protein and B vitamins. Buckwheat’s nutty taste combines with the sweetness of blueberries and honey to make delicious pancakes so good you’ll forget that they are healthy.

Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans. Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil have been used to help reduce total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels and, as a result, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: For gluten free pancakes replace the whole wheat flour with a gluten free alternative flour, such as, potato starch or almond.

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour 
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups blueberries (rinsed and set aside), plus extra to sprinkle on top of the cooked pancakes
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Maple Syrup

Directions:

In large bowl combine flours, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl mix together buttermilk, skim milk, eggs, oil and honey.
Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir just until batter is lightly mixed together. (If the batter appears too thick, add a bit more skim milk to thin.) Lumps are okay and over mixing makes for tough pancakes. Fold in blueberries.

Preheat large skillet over medium heat. Spray skillet with cooking spray. Use 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes per side on medium-high heat. The pancakes are ready to flip when bubbles start to appear. Turn over only once.
When serving the pancakes, top with extra blueberries and maple syrup

Any leftovers can be refrigerated with waxed paper in between for a mid-week treat. Reheat in the oven or microwave.


Can pork be a healthy choice?

Pork has a poor reputation as a healthy food for some very good reasons. The only exposure many people get is in salt filled slices of ham or fattening strips of greasy bacon. When people are asked to rank meats from “most healthy” to “least healthy” pork routinely ranks at the bottom of the list. How things have changed. The pork that’s available today is quite a bit different from what was available 30, 20, even just 10 years ago.

In 2006 several different cuts of pork were analyzed by the Agricultural Research Service for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) nutrient data set. When the results were compared to tests conducted a decade before, researchers found all but one were leaner than cuts previously measured. Six common cuts of pork saw their fat levels fall by 16% and their saturated fat levels by an  27%, all because of selective breeding programs farmers took to provide the buying public with leaner cuts of meat. In fact, over the last 20 years the fat levels in pork haven fallen by an unbelievable 31%.

It’s especially surprising when you compare pork tenderloin to skinless chicken breast, one of the ideal low fat meats. A three ounce serving of lean pork tenderloin has 102 calories, 2.9 grams of fat and 17.9 grams of protein. A three ounce serving of roasted, skinless chicken breast has 141 calories, 3 grams of fat and 26.4 grams of protein. The pork has 25% fewer calories and it’s lower in total fat! An added bonus is that pork has no artery-clogging trans fat. Who could have predicted a day when some pork cuts would be a healthier option than chicken?

The key of course is choosing the right cut. You should avoid spare ribs, ground pork, sausage and bacon (although, there are healthier alternatives for sausage and bacon these days). They have 20 to 38 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. Cuts like tenderloin, loin chop, sirloin chop or lean ham have only 2 to 9 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. A good rule to follow is that the leanest cuts tend to come from the loin. It’s true for beef, bison, lamb and pork. So when you shop, the words you’re looking for are “loin” or “round” for the lowest fat options.

Antibiotic – free pork is available in supermarkets and other venues.  Be sure to check the packaging for this label “No antibiotics (with the USDA Processed Verified Label)”. See Related Articles below for more information.

Which cuts of pork are leanest?                                                                                                                                                         

  • Pork tenderloin
  • Pork chops and pork steaks
  • Pork roasts
  • Pork leg (or ham)
  • Pork cutlets/scaloppine
To help you the next time you’re buying pork, use the following chart. It shows the major cuts of meat along with the fat, calories and protein per 3 oz. serving. Cuts in GREEN are the healthiest options, YELLOW indicates caution while those in RED should be avoided or saved for a special occasion.

There is a downside to the new leaner pork. In the old days, a piece of pork had so much fat that even when it was cooked longer than it should, it remained tender and moist. The leaner pork is easy to overcook and can end up tough or dry. You can avoid that by using a thermometer and cook it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but no higher. The meat will be slightly pink on the outside and remain tender inside.
If you’re cooking a larger cut of meat like a roast, only cook it to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Then take the pork out of the heat, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil and let it sit about 10 minutes before you cut it up. During those few minutes the temperature inside the roast will keep rising to 160 degrees and the juices will spread out evenly, so it’ll be more moist.

Pork is a good alternative to chicken and can be used as a substitute in many poultry recipes. A serving of pork without fat contains under 200 calories and provides nearly half of the recommended daily allowance for protein. By preparing pork chops in a healthy way, you can create a meal that tastes good and that fits with your healthy eating goals.

Step 1 : Trim the pork of visible fat. This will reduce both calories and fat grams in your pork chops, automatically making them healthier. It also controls the amount of cholesterol present in the pork chops by getting rid of the part of the meat that contributes to unhealthy cholesterol intake.

Step 2: Season your pork chops with herbs. Using herbs in place of salt or butter and cream sauces creates flavor in your dish, but helps you control your sodium, fat and calorie intake. Many herbs enhance the flavor of pork chops and helps keep them moist and juicy. Try rosemary, garlic, or poultry seasoning.

Step 3: Use healthy cooking methods. Rather than frying your pork chops, try grilling, roasting or braising them. These techniques cut the amount of fat needed to prepare the chops while still preserving flavor. Pork chops can also be baked, however, use a meat thermometer because an overcooked pork chop is dry and lacks flavor. Using non-stick cookware is another good way to reduce the amount of fat needed to cook pork chops and will create a healthier dish.

Step 4: Pair pork chops with fruits and vegetables. Pork chops are enhanced by fruits, such as, raspberries, cherries and apricots, which add a little sweetness to the flavor of the meat. Onions, sauerkraut and potatoes also go well with pork chops and can bring out the taste of the pork.

Step 5: Choose the right side dishes. All your good intentions “go out the window” if you serve your healthy pork chops alongside foods that aren’t healthy. Pair your pork chops with brown rice, steamed or roasted vegetables or a salad to keep the meal healthy while still making the pork chops center stage.

Step 6: Keep your portions in check. A serving of boneless pork is 3 oz., so be sure you don’t serve yourself up a huge pork chop that ends up being several servings, derailing your healthy intentions.

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Pepper and Onions

  Serves 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


For the pepper side dish:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into 3 thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for brushing on the onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

For the chops:

  • 4 pork chops, bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

Make the peppers and onions:

Heat a grill to a high flame.
Grill the peppers until the skin is blackened all over and the flesh is soft, about 15 to 30 minutes, turning every few minutes with tongs to cook evenly. The peppers should be nearly collapsing when done. Remove to a bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Set aside for 30 minutes; the steam that will be created in the covered bowl will help loosen the skin from the flesh of the peppers.

Brush the onion slices with olive oil.  Grill a couple of minutes until char marks show. Flip with a grill turner (so the onion rings don’t fall apart). Cook the other side until marks show. Again, this takes only a couple of minutes. Cut the onions into long strips.

Uncover the bowl with the peppers and slip the skin off the peppers with your fingers; don’t be tempted to run the peppers under cool water to remove bits of clinging skin because you would be rinsing away the smoky flavor.
Cut the peppers in half, scoop out the seeds, stem, and any membrane, and cut into long, thin strips. Toss the pepper and onion strips with the garlic, oregano, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a clean bowl. Set aside. 

Make the chops:

Rub the chops with the olive oil, salt, fennel, thyme, and rosemary, coating well. Set aside 30 minutes at room temperature (or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.)
Grill the chops until browned on one side, about 5 minutes.
Turn and grill until browned on the other side and cooked all the way through, about 5 more minutes.
The total cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chops, the strength of the flame, and how far the chops are from the flame.
Distribute the pepper and onions among 4 plates and place 1 chop on top. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Smashed New Potatoes with Garlic and Chives

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds new potatoes or Yukon Golds
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance or olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives or green onion greens

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the whole potatoes in a medium oven-proof baking dish with a cover and add the 1 tablespoon of the butter, cut into pieces. Cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the dish out of the oven and mix the potatoes so they’re coated with butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with garlic and salt. Return to the oven, cover, and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how large the potatoes are.

When the potatoes are soft, remove the dish from the oven and, using a potato masher, crush each potato. Don’t pound them, just crush them.  Add salt to taste. Sprinkle chives on the potatoes to serve.

Pork Chops Shepherd Style

6 servings

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2  cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium red onions, halved, sliced ½ inch thick (about 4 cups)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 ounces provolone in one piece, preferably imported from Italy
  • 1 cup white wine

Directions:

Trim excess fat from the pork chops, leaving only a thin layer on the edges. Season both sides of the chops with 1 teaspoon of salt. Spread the flour on a plate, and dredge the chops, lightly coating both sides with flour.

Meanwhile, pour the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet, and set it over medium heat. Shake excess flour from the chops, and lay them all in the skillet in one layer (depending on the size of your pan, you may have to squeeze them in). Gently brown the pork on the first side, about 4 minutes; turn the chops over, and brown the second side, another 4 minutes. Remove the chops to a plate and keep warm.

Scatter the onions and garlic in the skillet, stir them around the pan, season with the remaining salt, and cover. Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, and scraping the pan bottom to mix the browned bits with the onion juices.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 400 degrees F.  Slice the provolone in 6 or more thin slices about the size of the pork chops.

After the onions have cooked for 15 minutes or so, and are quite tender and colored with the pan scrapings, uncover, and push them all to one side of the skillet. Lay the pork chops back in, one at a time, spooning a layer of soft onions on the top of each chop. When they’re all in the pan, lay the provolone slices over the onions.

Raise the heat, and when the meat is sizzling again, pour the wine into the skillet (in the spaces between the chops, not over them). Swirl the pan so the wine flows all through it, and bring to a boil, then carefully move the skillet from the stove to the oven.

Bake the chops for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese topping is bubbly. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, and let chops rest in it for a few minutes. To serve, lift out each chop with a spatula, keeping the cheese topping intact, set it on a dinner plate, and spoon some of the skillet juices and onions around it.

Sauteed Spinach with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large bunches of fresh spinach, ends trimmed, washed and drained
  • About 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until warm. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant about one minute. Stir often, being careful not to let it brown.
Stir the beans into the garlic and oil and cook until heated through – about 1 minute. Be careful not to cook too long or the beans will turn mushy.
Add the spinach and sea salt – about 1/2 teaspoon. Cook the spinach, turning with tongs,  until wilted – about 2 or 3 minutes.  After wilted, remove from the heat.
Add in the lemon zest, additional salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper.

Pork Chops with Creamy Marsala Sauce                                                                                                                                   

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Marsala (see Note), divided
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 thin boneless pork loin chops (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto (2 ounces), chopped
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat milk

Directions:

Mix 2 tablespoons Marsala and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the pork chops. Cook until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add prosciutto to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons Marsala, oregano and 1 1/2 teaspoons chives and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add milk and the reserved cornstarch mixture to the pan; adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly, 4 to 6 minutes.

Return the pork chops and any accumulated juice to the pan and simmer, turning to coat, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the chops topped with the sauce and garnished with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives.

Note: Marsala, a fortified wine from Sicily, is a flavorful addition to many sauces. Don’t use the “cooking Marsala” sold in many supermarkets—it can be surprisingly high in sodium. Instead, purchase Marsala that’s sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store. An opened bottle can be stored in a cool, dry place for months.

Side Dishes:

Whole Grain Noodles  

Cook whole grain yolk free egg noodles according to package instructions, serve with the pork chops and drizzle some of the Creamy Marsala sauce over them.

Whole Grain Yolk Free Egg Noodles

Sautéed Butter-Thyme Mushrooms

Serves 4
Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook 1 minute or until tender. Add salt and mushrooms to pan; cook until mushrooms are brown and liquid evaporates. Add broth to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in thyme, and cook for 30 seconds.

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops                                                                                                                                                      

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork rib or loin chops, cut 1-inch thick
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Panko Crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Pomi tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Cut a slit in the side of each chop, forming a pocket. Fold and stuff prosciutto and cheese into pockets; press lightly to close pocket.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Beat egg substitute and milk another in shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl. One at a time, lightly coat chops in flour mixture; then dip in egg mixture and dredge both sides in Panko crumbs, patting to coat.

Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add chops; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to baking sheet.
Bake in preheated 375° oven 10 minutes or until desired doneness.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes to same skillet; cook 3 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil; season with salt and pepper. Transfer chops to serving plates and  top with tomato mixture.

Skillet Cauliflower

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large whole cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Tear or cut off the outer leaves attached to the base of the cauliflower, then cut out the bottom core. Separate the head into big florets. Cut the big florets into 1-inch chunks or thick slices, so you have 6 cups or more of roughly equal-sized cauliflower pieces.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium-low heat. Scatter the garlic slices and red pepper on the oil, and pile in all the cauliflower. Sprinkle with salt. Sweat the cauliflower, about 4 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3 minutes. The edges of the cauliflower pieces should have started to brown. Cover the pan, lower the heat and let the cauliflower continue to caramelize slowly, tossing the pieces every few minutes for 12-15 minutes.

Pork Chops Braised in White Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 4 center-cut loin pork chops
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine sage, rosemary, garlic, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix into a paste.

Press small amounts of mixture firmly onto both sides of each pork chop and let sit for at least five minutes.

In a heavy large skillet with a cover melt the butter with the olive oil over moderate heat. Place the chops in the hot oil and butter and brown for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Use tongs to turn the meat. You don’t want to pierce the meat with a fork. You will loose the natural juices.

Add 1 cup of wine to the skillet. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the chops 30 to 35 minutes, turning occasionally. When chops are tender, remove from pan to a serving platter.

Add the remaining wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan. Pour sauce over chops and serve.

Sauteed Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage (2 pounds), halved, cored, and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips, thick ribs removed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend, cut into small pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place cabbage in a large skillet with 1 cup water (skillet will be very full). Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover skillet; simmer until cabbage is very tender, tossing occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes. Pour out any water remaining in skillet. Add butter and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook a minute or two and toss gently to combine.

Beet and Tomato Salad

This is an unusual salad but very good. Slices of roasted beets and fresh beefsteak tomatoes are dressed with shallot vinaigrette and fresh oregano to create a colorful and flavorful side dish.
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium beets (about 1 pound total), scrubbed
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 medium beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. Top with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold foil around beets and crimp ends to form a packet. Roast beets on sheet until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove beets from foil and let cool, then peel and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  This can be done early in the day and set aside the beets at room temperature.

Tip:  I use surgical gloves to remove the skin from the beets, so my fingers do not turn purple.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 teaspoons oil, shallot, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. On a large platter, arrange beets and tomatoes in an alternating pattern, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fresh oregano leaves.



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