Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

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For really delicious, melt in your mouth lasagna, you need fresh lasagna noodles. You can make them yourself or purchase the fresh noodles ready-made. For me, dried lasagna noodles, especially with the edged ridges, are not delicate enough for a really good lasagna. Of course, having these noodles in the pantry is expedient.

Fresh lasagna noodles do not need to be boiled before baking. Fresh noodles also freeze well, so make extra for a future recipe. Place a layer of wax paper between each noodle and place them in a freezer container. You do not even need to defrost the noodles before using them in a lasagna.

I never make lasagna with a meat sauce because I think it weighs it down and takes away from the creaminess of the cheese. Meat can be served on the side. I also like my lasagna to have lots of ricotta cheese and sauce between the layers, so that it is not dry.

To make my lasagna, you will need the following:

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Lasagna Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 small carrot, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4-26 to 28 oz. contains Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 2-6 oz. cans of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
  • 6 basil leaves, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano, leaves minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Directions

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To make mincing the vegetables easier, I put them in the food processor and process until finely chopped.

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Place the minced vegetables and the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook on low until softened. Do not let the vegetables brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for two minutes. Fill the empty tomato paste cans with water and add them to the saucepan. Stir until the paste is dissolved.

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Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, black and chili peppers and herbs. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to very low and simmer sauce until very thick, about 3 hours. Taste to see if more salt is needed.

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Fresh Pasta Noodles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups Italian 00 flour or  unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the pasta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Making the pasta in a food processor:

To protect the dough from overheating, use the eggs cold – right from the refrigerator.

Place the eggs and oil in the bowl of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add about 2 1/4  cups of the flour and pulse until the dough just comes together.

If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup flour. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. If the dough seems dry add a tablespoon or two of water.

Pulse a few times and then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.

Cut the dough into quarters. Roll out one-quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle.

Set the rollers of a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine at their widest opening. Run the dough once through the machine. Remove and lightly dust with flour. Fold the dough in thirds, like a book, pressing down with your fingers, and run through the machine again. Repeat this step at least two more times, dusting lightly with flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Now change the rollers of the pasta machine to the next decreasing setting and roll out the dough once without folding. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the last (thinnest) setting. Repeat with the remaining dough. Keep the rolled out pasta sheets covered with kitchen towels.

For lasagna noodles, cut the pasta strips into 4 x 8-inch pieces.

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Lasagna Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

Directions

Mix all the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

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Completing the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.

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Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce. Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

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Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Makes at least 12 servings.


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Labor Day is the perfect time to host a season-ending cookout. Invite your friends and family to celebrate outdoors with this informal and relaxing Labor Day menu. Add some wine and beer and you are all set.

Appetizers

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Lemon-Caper Dip

Serve this dip with your favorite cut up vegetables so your guests have something to nibble on while you grill the clams.

Ingredients

  • One 8 oz. container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely chopped, plus more for garnish

Directions

Combine sour cream, yogurt, capers, fresh dill and lemon peel. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to use. Top with additional chopped dill and lemon zest before serving.

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Grilled Clams

This will be the easiest appetizer you have ever made. Grilled Clams are best made with small littlenecks (about 1 1/2-inches wide)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds clams
  • 1/3 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Basil and parsley for garnish

Directions

To grill the clams:

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Place clams directly on the grill grates. Grill (no need to turn or rotate) until they open, 3–5 minutes. Transfer clams to a large mixing bowl, discarding any that are not open.

To prepare the sauce:

Mix olive oil, shallot, garlic, chives and parsley in a small bowl.
 Add lemon zest and mix until well combined; season with salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the grilled clams in the mixing bowl and toss gently to coat. Transfer to a serving platter, arrange attractively and top with basil and parsley.

Main Course

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Grilled Vegetable and Sausage Pizza

Makes 6 individual pizzas

Ingredients

  • 3 small yellow and/or green summer squash
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 small (6-inch) rounds of your favorite pizza dough (or use the recipe below that must be prepared a day in advance)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary

Directions

Cut squash into diagonal slices. Cut onions and tomatoes into thick slices. Brush with olive oil.

Heat grill to medium-high.

Place vegetables on oiled grill grates over a medium-high heat (use a grill basket if you like); cook about 5 minutes, until vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Remove to a plate.

Place pizza stone on the grill. When hot, place dough rounds on the stone. Cook about 5 minutes, until the  bottoms are golden. Turn crusts over.

You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your grill. As the pizza rounds cook place them on a tray until it is time to put them back on the grill.

Distribute sausage evenly on top of each grilled crust. Top with grilled vegetables and cheese. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top.

Cover the grill. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the toppings are thoroughly heated.

Pizza Dough for Grilling

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups warm water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating dough
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups bread flour (high-gluten flour)

Directions

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir to combine. Let stand until the mixture foams, about 5 minutes. (If you use instant yeast, you do not have to proof it. Just mix all the ingredients together)

Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and flour. Mix, using the paddle attachment just until dough comes together, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove bowl from the mixer, cover, and let stand 20 minutes.

Return bowl to mixer and knead dough, using a dough hook, until surface is smooth and it springs back when you poke it, about 5 minutes.  Dough will be very stiff.

Roll dough in a ball, put it in a clean bowl, and brush lightly with olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours before you plan to use it.

Place dough on a board. Knead it just enough to punch the air out. Divide it into six pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk on a cutting board and cover with a cloth until you’re ready to use them.

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Italian Greens with Prosciutto, Gorgonzola and Pepperoncini

6 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ lb prosciutto (8 to 10 slices), cut into 1/8-inch strips
  • 4 cups bite-size pieces mixed salad greens
  • 1 cup bite-size pieces arugula
  • 1 small head radicchio, cut into thin strips (1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite red wine vinaigrette
  • ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (2 oz)
  • 6 pepperoncini peppers (bottled Italian pickled peppers), drained and cut into thick rings

Directions

In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook prosciutto over medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until prosciutto becomes crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

In a large bowl, place salad greens, arugula, radicchio and vinaigrette; toss to coat. Sprinkle with prosciutto and cheese. Garnish with pepperoncini peppers.

Dessert

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Frozen Tortoni Cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies, divided
  • 3 cups of your favorite ice cream
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flaked coconut, toasted
  • 6 maraschino cherries

Directions

Beat the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

Spoon 1 tablespoon crushed cookies into each of 6 custard dishes or large foil cupcake liners.

Spoon a 1/2 cup of ice cream into each cup, spreading to form an even layer.

Top each layer with 1 tablespoon of crushed cookies, then the whipped cream and some coconut.

Cover loosely with waxed paper and freeze 1 hour or until firm.

Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes before serving. Top each dish with a cherry.


Pumpernickle wheat bread

Working with Sourdough

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sourdough crockSourdough starter begins with a combination of flour and liquid. The proportion and type of flour and liquid can vary dramatically, from a stiff starter made entirely with flour and water to a liquid batter of milk and cornmeal and everything in between. Friendly bacteria present in our natural environment and the wild yeast living in flour work with one another when flour is mixed with warm water. The result: a sourdough starter. These tiny living creatures generate byproducts that cause bread to rise and give it a complex, rich flavor. Once you’ve created your starter, it needs regular feeding.  Feeding once a week is ideal, but your starter can also survive much longer stretches between feedings. I store my starter in a crock in the refrigerator and it is available whenever I need a starter for a recipe.

Read more about sourdough on King Arthur’s site.

Sourdough Cracked Wheat Rolls

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Yield: 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup cracked wheat
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast, cracked wheat, salt and sugar. Stir.

Combine the water and the oil. Add the water mixture and the sourdough starter to the dry ingredients. Beat for 4 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add the remaining flour, about ½ cup at a time. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease the top. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

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Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently press or “punch” down to remove air bubbles. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough into a 4×6-inch rectangle; then, starting with the longer side, roll up each rectangle tightly, pinching the edges and ends to seal.

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IMG_0173Place shaped rolls onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen toweland let rise until doubled again, about 1 more hour. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. With a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slash down the center of each roll and brush or lightly spray with cold water. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a cooling rack.

Baking in a Cloche Pan

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If you like crusty bread – this method is for you. The La Cloche natural clay stoneware baking dish and domed lid will simulate a hearth oven in your kitchen. The moist dough within the cloche creates the steam needed to produce a delicious bread with a crisp, golden crust and light crumb. You will not have to spritz your bread or pour water in a hot pan in the oven to get the crust you are after.

Pumpernickle wheat bread

Pumpernickel Wheat Bread

Makes 1 large round loaf

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 teaspoon Deli Rye Flavor (purchased from King Arthur or other bread baking supply stores)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients and mix together in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook and knead until the dough is elastic and slightly sticky.

Let the dough rise in a lightly greased, covered bowl for 1 to 2 hours; it should become puffy.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface. Gently deflate it and shape into a ball.

Place the shaped loaf into a round stoneware baker (e.g., La Cloche), and cover with the lid.

Let the loaf rise for 60 to 90 minutes until it’s almost doubled in size.

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Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Slash the loaf diagonally in several places.

Bake the loaf for 35 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes. When done, the bread will be crusty and a digital thermometer inserted into the center should read 190°F to 200°F.

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool completely.

Making Sandwich Bread for Everyday

Great sandwich bread should be tough enough to hold up to a moist filling, but pliable enough to bite through easily. It should have some crunch on the outside, but be soft in the middle, so that it is easy to chew. Sandwich bread, when fresh, adds flavor and just a tinge of sweetness to any filling.

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Oatmeal Honey Sandwich Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a dough that holds together.

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Switch to the dough hook and knead  the dough for 5 minutes or until it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour. It will become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

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Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it crests 1″ to 2″ over the top rim of the pan.

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Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.


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Eating less meat and more grains, beans, fruits and vegetables means you’ll be consuming fewer calories and less saturated fat. People who eat less meat are healthier, less prone to cancer, especially colorectal cancer, and suffer from fewer heart problems. Another benefit is that you’ll save money. Meat costs more per pound than most foods and it can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget.

Committing to a 100% vegetarian diet isn’t necessary to achieve the health benefits that vegetarians enjoy. There aren’t specific guidelines to exactly how much meat to cut out to achieve these benefits, but cutting back even slightly is a positive change. A national health campaign known as “Meatless Monday” promotes cutting out meat one day each week, but you could try meatless lunches during the week for the same effect. Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable diseases and it can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like freshwater and fossil fuel.

How to make veggies taste good:

Go big when it comes to seasoning your veggie-friendly food. Fresh herbs are great but try something besides rosemary and thyme. Hearty roasted root vegetables are the perfect blank canvas for experiments using dried spices. A blend made with shallot, onion and garlic, adds lots of flavor to vegetables. Like things hot? Try Aleppo pepper, a spicy-sweet pepper. Don’t be shy with the sauces, either. Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa added to yogurt brings the heat and then the yogurt calms it down. This sauce is delicious drizzled over roasted carrots. Or, use a herb-packed vinaigrette made from parsley, tahini, lemon and garlic. Choosing in-season produce at the peak of ripeness ensures that the color will be rich the taste will be fresh and flavorful.

Dinner One: Lentil Chili and Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

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Lentil Chili

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 (16-ounce) package brown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups lentils)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils, tomatoes and broth.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.

Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in parsley, salt and pepper and serve.

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Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter 12 standard muffin cups or use cupcake liners.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, egg and butter in a separate bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of cheese and the corn kernels.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove muffins from the tins and cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner Two: Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce and Garden Salad

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Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, trimmed and diced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • One 28 – ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • One 6 – ounce can Italian tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine or beef or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 4 cups hot cooked penne pasta (about 8 oz. uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

Peel eggplant and cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Heat the oil a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and a generous pinch of salt and allow to cook, shaking and tossing occasionally, until the eggplant is brown and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, cover with foil, and set aside.

Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and red chili flakes.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Once the tomatoes have softened, gently break them apart with a potato masher. Then add the wine and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta, parsley and eggplant, cover, and heat over medium until hot. Stir in basil and olives, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with pignoli and Parmesan cheese.

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Garden Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup torn romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup torn curly endive
  • 3/4 cup baby arugula
  • 1 small red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red or yellow grape, pear or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small carrot or half of a large carrot, thinly shaved
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese, finely shredded (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Homemade Salad Dressing (recipe below)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine romaine, spinach, curly endive, arugula, bell pepper strips, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Top with carrot and cheddar cheese. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Homemade Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

In a blender, combine broth, vinegar, honey, paprika, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and salt.

With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil through the hole in the lid and continue blending until mixture is emulsified.

Cover and chill for up to 1 week. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Dinner Three: Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata; Sautéed Garlic Spinach and Braised Baby Potatoes

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Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut asparagus at an angle into two-inch pieces and blanch in boiling hot water to cover about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet with a cover. Add bell peppers and cook until soft, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in onion and  asparagus pieces; sauté for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon remove the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk chopped parsley, salt and pepper with the beaten eggs. Stir in cheese and mix with the sautéed vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Coat the inside of the skillet with the softened butter. Pour the egg mixture into pan. Bake, covered, until the eggs are just firm, about 35 minutes. Remove cover; bake until top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Divide into six wedges and serve.

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Sautéed Garlic Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Thick strips of zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 pounds spinach, cleaned, thick stems discarded
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lemon zest. Bring the oil to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the oil infuse for 1 hour. Remove the lemon zest with tongs and discard.

In a large skillet a large heat the infused oil and add some of the spinach and cook over moderately high heat until wilted. Add the remaining spinach until it is all wilted..Season with additional salt, if needed and serve.

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Braised Baby Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 16 small red or new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

Place the potatoes, chicken stock, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place in a serving bowl. (I save this broth for soup or cooking other vegetables at a later time.)

Add the lemon zest and basil. Toss well and serve

Dinner Four: Mediterranean Salad with Hummus and Pita

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Easy Hummus

Ingredients

  • One 15-ounce can of no salt added chickpeas, drained, 1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for top
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt and drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with Pita bread.

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Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients

4 servings

  • 1/2 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 of a medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 2 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 3/4 cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes.

Mix bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season to taste with salt.

Do Ahead: The salad (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.


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Making  one dish meals can be a very economical way of preparing delicious and healthy meals. This type of dinner is especially desirable for busy people. It is really very easy and doesn’t take a great deal of time. The term one-pot meal is almost synonymous with crock-pot dinners, hearty stews and pot roasts coming to mind; however there are plenty of lighter and faster variations to this concept. A one dish meal need not require hours and hours of cooking, but may be as simple as a stir-fry or a summer pasta with vegetables and seafood.

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Tortellini with Broccoli, Olives and Beans

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces refrigerated or frozen cheese-filled tortellini
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • One 15 ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup slivered pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
  • 1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil

Directions

In a deep large skillet bring 2 inches of water to boiling. Add tortellini; cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli; cook for 2 minutes or until the broccoli is crisp-tender. Drain in colander. Return tortellini and broccoli to the skillet.

Stir in beans, olives, oil, vinegar and red pepper. Heat through. Sprinkle with tomatoes, feta and basil. Serve in pasta bowls.

onedish2

Salmon and Swiss Chard in Mustard Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ pounds fresh skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 pounds Swiss chard, stems removed and the leaves cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Brush the oil over the bottom of a large deep skillet with a cover.

Rinse and pat the salmon dry with paper towels. Place salmon in the skillet, tucking under any thin edges. Sprinkle the salmon with the garlic.

In a small bowl stir together mustard, honey, vinegar and dill and transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to another small bowl to serve later.

Stir the onion, broth and mustard mixture together and pour over the salmon.

Cover and bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to medium and poach until the salmon flesh is firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer salmon with a slotted spoon to a serving platter.Add the chard to the skillet and cook until tender, about

Stir the reserved 2 tablespoons of mustard mixture into the chard mixture. Spoon the chard onto the platter with the salmon.

onedish3

Turkey Cutlets with Barley Saute

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 –  1/2-inch-thick turkey breast slices (cutlets) (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 cups sliced fresh cremini mushrooms (8 ounces)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped carrot
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh oregano
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle turkey cutlets lightly with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until browned and no longer pink, turning once. Remove turkey from the skillet; set aside on a platter and cover with foil..

Add the mushrooms, onion, carrot and bell pepper to the skillet and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in broth, barley and oregano. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is nearly absorbed.

Stir in lemon peel and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Return turkey cutlets with any accumulated juices to the skillet. Cover and cook for 1 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste. Garnish with additional fresh oregano and serve with lemon wedges.

onedish4

Pork Tenderloin with Carrots, Parsnips and Chickpeas

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 1 pound pork tenderloins (455 g), trimmed of fat and silverskin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup drained canned chickpeas (85 g), rinsed and blotted dry
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice (120 ml)
  • ½ cup dry white wine or low sodium chicken broth (120 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon pimenton ( smoked paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Directions

Place rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Season pork generously on all sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork. Sear on all sides until browned, about 6 minutes total. Transfer the pork to a large plate; set aside

Add carrots to the pan. Cook and stir until browned at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 1 minute more. Using a spatula, make two wide spaces through the vegetables. Place pork tenderloins in the spaces so they rest directly on the pan surrounded by the carrots and chickpeas.

Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a tenderloin registers 145 degrees F. The center should be rosy when cut into with a knife. Transfer the pork to a carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Carefully place the pan with the vegetables over medium heat on top of the stove. Add orange juice, wine or broth, brown sugar, fennel and paprika; mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in butter, parsley and oregano. Season to taste with salt.

To serve, cut the pork on a slight diagonal into slices 1-inch-thick. Serve with roasted vegetables.

onedish5

 

Chicken and Vegetable Saute

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts or a combination
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 green onions, sliced

Directions

 

In a 12-inch skillet brown chicken and pancetta in olive oil over medium-high heat, turning chicken to brown evenly. Add garlic, asparagus and squash. Sprinkle chicken and vegetables with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.

Carefully add broth; cover and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (165 degrees F) and vegetables are tender. Transfer mixture to a serving platter and top with sliced green onions.


Umbrian Olive Orchards

Umbrian Olive Orchards

The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.

Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers.  Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.

IN-Fig-Heaven-Tree-1024x680

The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.

The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy

First Course

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Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
  • Half of a 16 oz. package of frozen broccoli florets
  • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.

Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread

Second Course

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Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
  • 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.

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With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.

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Repeat with the other 5 pieces.

Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.

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Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.

Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.

Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.

Contorno

IMG_0179

Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.

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In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.

Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

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Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.

Dessert Course

IMG_0184

Fresh Fig and Almond Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
  • 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
  • 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar

Directions.

Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.

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Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.

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Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack until serving time.


 

 

IMG_0189In 2007 Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, authored, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” and it does just that!

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You simply mix the recipe ingredients in a large bucket, cover and let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours; then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. You will have enough dough to make 3-4 loaves of bread or 3-4 pizzas with very little work. Once I discovered the Artisan Bread method, I have been making most of my breads following their process.

If you would like to know more about this method visit their website: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/.  The authors have recently written a book on how to make gluten-free bread with this method.

I like to use Italian “00” flour for making pizza. Italian “00” flour is lower in protein and makes a supple, smooth and easy dough to shape.The “00” refers to the grind of the flour and this flour is fine-textured. The resulting baked goods are light, airy and have a crisp snap to the crust. It’s ideal for pizza, flatbread, focaccia and crackers.

I purchase the flour from King Arthur. Of course, you can use other types of flour but the ingredient amounts will vary slightly.

Homemade Pizza with Oven Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

No Knead Pizza Dough

I use the method and recipe for the dough from “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The bucket should not be airtight, so leave the lid ajar or, do what I did, drill a tiny hole in the top center of the lid.

IMG_0159

Ingredients for the dough

  • 3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 7 ½  cups 00 Italian Style flour

Ingredients for Oven Dried Tomatoes:

  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 1 lb sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe oven dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • Crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions for making the oven dried tomatoes:

Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle the minced garlic over the oil in the pan. Place the tomatoes in an even layer on the baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Bake for about 90 minutes until the juices have stopped running, the tomato edges are shriveled and the tomato pieces have shrunken slightly. Make ahead and store in the refrigerator.

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Directions for making the pizza dough:

Pour the water into a 5 quart bowl or lidded food container. Add yeast and salt to the water.

Measure the flour with the “scoop and sweep” method. (Dip cup into flour and scoop it up. Level the cup with the back of a knife.)

Add all the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. You only need to mix it until all ingredients are combined. No kneading is necessary. (The dough will be very moist and will actually conform to the shape of the container you put it in.)

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How the dough looks after it is mixed.

Cover, but don’t seal the lid tightly, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it begins to flatten on the top (about 2 hours).

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DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! This method is designed to retain as much gas in the dough as possible. After rising, refrigerate the dough in the container and use the dough over the next 14 days. Once it’s refrigerated the dough will collapse and it will not rise again in the container — that’s normal. Extra dough may also be frozen with equally excellent results.

Directions for making the pizza:

Pull up and cut off a 1 1/3 pound piece of dough from the container of refrigerated pizza dough. My pizza pans are large, so I usually get 3 pizzas from a batch of dough.

Hold the dough in your hands and dust your hands with flour, as needed, to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Form a ball, by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides and rotating the dough a quarter-turn as you go.

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Place the ball in an oiled pizza pan and press and stretch the dough to the edges of the pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

After the dough has rested, add the toppings.

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Place the sliced mozzarella on top of the dough. Spread the pesto sauce over the cheese layer.

Distribute the tomatoes evenly over the pizza and grind some fresh black pepper over the top.

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Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

This will be one of the best pizzas you have ever had.

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