Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Appetizer

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.

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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

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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

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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.


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Eggplant comes in a range of shapes and colors. Globe eggplants are the largest and most common type. Different varieties of the plant produce fruit (yes, eggplant is a fruit) of different sizes, shapes and color. A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors are grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Colors vary from white to yellow or green, as well as reddish-purple and dark purple. Some eggplant have a color gradient, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. Green or purple eggplant in white striping also exist.

Traditional, white-skinned, egg-shaped eggplant include ‘Casper’ and ‘Easter Egg’. Bi-colored cultivars with color gradient include ‘Rosa Bianca’, ‘Violetta di Firenze’, ‘Bianca Sfumata di Rosa’ (heirloom) and ‘Prosperosa’ (heirloom). I prefer the smaller version of the larger purple skinned eggplant that is often called Italian or baby eggplant, especially the Rosa Bianca variety. These have a somewhat more intense flavor, few seeds and the flesh is much more tender.

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Eggplant is at its best in the summer. The flesh of an eggplant should give a bit when gently pressed; it should have no hard spots. The skin should be shiny and smooth, not mottled. Stems should be green. Avoid any with brown or soft spots.

Whole eggplant will keep up to a few days in a cool place. Avoid storing in the refrigerator, as this will damage the eggplant’s texture. It is best to use eggplant as soon as you can because the flesh turns bitter quickly, even when they are not overripe. There are as many variations on the reasons for using salt on eggplant as there are celebrity chefs. The main reason to use salt on eggplant is because the fruit has a very high moisture content. When eggplant is broiled or sautéed in a pan, it will usually steam and end up being mushy. The solution is to draw the moisture out before cooking. By sprinkling salt on the eggplant, water is drawn to the surface. Crystals of salt (no matter what the size) dissolve in the moisture on the surface of the eggplant and form a concentrated salt solution. The high concentration of salt then pulls moisture from inside the fruit. Rinsing and patting dry the eggplant won’t result in it absorbing a significant amount of water (it is porous but not a sponge). The more salt you use or the longer it is on the eggplant, the more effective this technique will be.

The other reason given for salting eggplant is to remove bitterness. This is a bit of an old wives tale. Eggplant becomes bitter as it ages. All of the salt in the world can’t change that. The key is to buy fresh eggplant and use it quickly.

Eggplant has a great deal of flavor and it is good for you. There have virtually no calories (about 20 calories in a cup of raw fruit). There’s very little fat or carbohydrates but it has a fair amount of fiber (2 grams in a cup). Eggplant makes the perfect base for a variety of delicious entrees, side dishes and snacks.

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Eggplant Appetizer

For the grilled eggplant:

  • 8 – 1/2 inch slices eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Grill directly over medium coals or medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, turning once. Cool slightly.

For the dip:

  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup grilled eggplant
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Garnishes:

  • Olive oil and fresh mint
  • Walnuts, toasted
  • Grilled pita wedges or focaccia

Directions

In a food processor finely chop chickpeas, mint and garlic. Add lemon juice, salt and grilled eggplant. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle fresh mint and walnuts on top. Serve with grilled pita or focaccia.

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Pasta with Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Cheese

Burrata cheese is a creamier cousin of mozzarella. Pennoni pasta come from the Campania region and belong to the short, smooth diagonal pasta cuts.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh red chili, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound pennoni, rigatoni or orecchiette, cooked until al dente (1 cup pasta cooking water reserved)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ounces burrata or mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup small basil leaves

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill to medium. Brush eggplants with oil. Grill, turning occasionally, until soft and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let cool. Coarsely chop eggplant.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until golden, about 3 minutes. Add eggplant and chili; toss to coat. Season with salt.

Toss in pasta, reserved cooking water,  lemon zest and juice. Remove from heat. Stir in burrata and mint. Serve immediately.

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Grilled Vegetable Muffaletta

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • 2 pepperoncini (peppers), stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 4 plum tomatoes (1 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise 1/4-inch-thick
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red peppers, patted dry
  • 1 (8-inch) round loaf rustic bread, split horizontally and hollowed out

Directions

In a colander, toss eggplant with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse and dry eggplant.

In a food processor, pulse olives, pepperoncini and parsley until very finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in yogurt.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Lightly oil the hot grill.

Mix eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini with oil and season with salt. Grill, turning frequently, until tender and slightly charred, about 4 minutes for tomatoes and about 7 minutes each for eggplant and zucchini.

Spread bread with olive mixture. Assemble sandwich with peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

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Roasted Eggplant Wrap

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Vegetable oil, cooking spray
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, peeled, root end left intact, halved lengthwise, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 cup drained canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 6 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 11 tomatoes), halved (quartered if large)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole-wheat wraps ( 8 inches each)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon each thyme and oregano in a small bowl; set vinaigrette aside.

Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Mix eggplant, zucchini, onion and remaining 2 teaspoons each thyme and oregano in a large bowl. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Roast, tossing occasionally, until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and salt; season with pepper. Drizzle with vinaigrette; toss to coat.

Arrange mozzarella in the center of each wrap. Top each with 1 1/4 cups of the vegetable salad. Roll up and cut in half.

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Baked Eggplant Fries

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together the panko, rosemary, thyme, paprika and salt in a shallow dish.

Cut each slice of eggplant into three somewhat equal pieces

In a separate dish, whisk the egg and olive oil together.

Dip an eggplant slice into the egg mixture and then dredge in the panko mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the fries are crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately with heated marinara sauce.


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Florence’s hot temperatures, al fresco dining and a busy open-air arts and concert season make it one of Italy’s most vibrant cities in the summer.

The classic Italian dinner, or “cena”, has a very specific structure. Traditional dinners begin with “apertivo,” which is usually a drink with snacks to get ready for the large meal to come. “Antipasta,” the appetizer, comes next, followed by the “primo”, which can be a pasta, a soup, polenta or a rice dish. The “secondo” follows the primo, which is the major protein of the meal, consisting of meat, eggs or fish and often accompanied by “contorno,” or a side dish of vegetables. The meal is then topped off by “dolce,” dessert and a “café,” coffee.

At the heart of Florentine cuisine, you will find bread (plain, unsalted, well-baked with a crispy crust and light and airy inside); without any doubt the best extra-virgin olive oil, Florentine steaks of beef, roasted or wine-braised game such as boar, deer and rabbit and wine.

There is a reason that Italians live long lives and everyone looks healthy and happy: they eat really, really well with a focus on seasonal vegetables, simple cooking techniques and lots of olive oil. The bean and chickpea salads we serve at backyard barbecues, marinated vegetable salads and the cooling end to a meal with panna cotta and gelato, all have their roots in Italian summer recipes. There is even a minestrone designated for summer and it is one of the best because of all the fresh tomatoes and squash available at this time of year.

Italian cocktails… are delicious year-round. But in summer, when the temperature rises and the humidity sets in, there’s nothing more refreshing than—a Bellini, spritz or limoncello.

Eat the Italian way: slowly and moderately, while enjoying the food and each other’s company.

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Florentine Market

Cocktails

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Classic Negroni

This classic was first created for Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 at Florence’s Café Casoni.

For each cocktail:

  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Directions

Stir Campari, gin and vermouth in an ice-filled tumbler; pour into a glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Appetizer

Caprese Salad with Red and Yellow Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozarella

Pesto Caprese Salad

Serve with Italian bread.

Serving 6

Ingredients

  • 6-8 fresh tomatoes, depending on their size
  • 8 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • High quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and place on a serving platter. Slice the mozzarella cheese about 1/4 inch thick. Place cheese slices between the tomato slices. Tuck fresh basil leaves in between the tomatoes and the cheese.

For the dressing:

Stir together the basil pesto and olive oil to make a thin dressing.  Drizzle over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Splash a little balsamic vinegar over the salad. Serve.

First Course

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Pasta zucchine e ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized zucchini
  • 20 leaves of basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 oz. short pasta, such as penne
  • Grated parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Slice the zucchini into rounds and cut each round in half.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the zucchini on a high heat until they turn lightly brown.

Add the garlic, cook for 5 seconds and turn off the heat, continuing to stir so that the garlic infuses the zucchini but does not burn. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente (a good minute or two less than the package instructions; until it is cooked but still firm to the bite).

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a warmed bowl, combine the pasta with the ricotta, remaining olive oil and the pasta cooking water.

Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and stir into the pasta. Serve with grated cheese.

Second Course

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Tuscan Pork with Spinach and Chickpeas

Serves 6

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2″-thick slices
  • 1 can (15 ounces) low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 bags (10 ounces each; 15 ounces total) baby spinach leaves (15 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes until the onion softens. Push the onions to one side of the pan.

Add the pork. Cook for about 4 minutes, turning once, until well browned on both sides. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt. Stir. Adjust the heat so the sauce is at a moderate simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the spinach, a large handful at a time, covering the pan between each addition. Cook until all the spinach wilts. Remove the pork to a serving plate.

Add the lemon juice to the pan. Stir to combine. Spoon the spinach mixture over the pork slices. Serve.

Dessert

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Zabaglione & Orange Liqueur

Use any fruit that is in season in this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 cups peaches, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled amaretti cookies
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 7 tablespoons orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions

In the top half of a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to a creamy consistency. Place the egg mixture over the hot water in the bottom of the double boiler, making sure that the pot containing the eggs doesn’t touch the water. Beat the mixture well with a whisk until it starts to thicken. It should take about 5 minutes. Be careful not to beat too long or you will cook the eggs.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the orange liqueur, whisking until it is well incorporated. Return the pan to the double boiler and whisk until the mixture is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Divide the strawberries and peaches among 6 wine glasses or dessert bowls, Sprinkle each with the amaretti crumbs and spoon 1 tablespoon of orange liqueur over each. Top with some of the custard and decorate each with a mint sprig, if you wish.

This dessert can be eaten warm or it can be refrigerated and eaten later.


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Small plate dining is very appealing when it is hot, as it is right now where I live. It is appealing for two and even for a small gathering of friends. This type of dining, often called tapas dining, used to be called a cocktail or appetizer party years ago. Eating lightly in such hot weather also makes sense for health reasons.

Doctors advise that in the summer, light food should be preferred because it can easily be digested. Vegetables with high water content like onions, tomatoes and cucumbers should be regularly eaten as they will not only cool down the body but provide the daily quota of nutrition as well. Foods high in fat and sugar will cause the body to work harder to process these foods. Contrary to conventional thinking, when it is really hot, you are not going to exercise these calories away.

Summer eating should be enjoyable and entertaining should be fun, even if it is hot. Small plates can be the answer and not overwork the host. You can even ask friends to bring a small plate to share with 6 or 8 friends. Here are some ideas for small plate options with an Italian flavor. Just add a few cool drinks and you are all set.

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Lambrusco Cooler

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (750-ml) bottle lemon Italian soda, chilled
  • 8 ounces fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Lambrusco

Directions

Put 1 cup of lemon soda in a large pitcher with cherries and strawberries and crush the fruit using a wooden spoon to release the juices. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, stir in Lambrusco and remaining soda and pour over ice.

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Crostini Di Scampi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon minced
  • 16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4  ½ inch thick slices Italian country bread cut in half or quarters, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted

Directions

Heat oil and garlic in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the whole rosemary sprig, turning once, until crisp, 1–2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel to drain.

Season shrimp with pepper; add to skillet and saute, turning once, until golden about 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve shrimp on toasted bread. Sprinkle with minced rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.

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Zucchine Ripiene Con Ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 medium zucchini (about 2 lbs.), halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Using a small spoon, scoop out the pulp (save pulp for another use) from each zucchini half, leaving a ¼ inch rim around the edges.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Pecorino cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, parsley, oregano and the egg. Fold in the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set the filling aside.

Arrange an oven rack about 7″ from the broiler element and heat. Rub the insides of the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Place zucchini cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and fill each zucchini half with enough of the ricotta mixture that it mounds slightly but doesn’t spill over the edges of the zucchini.

Sprinkle each stuffed zucchini with the remaining Pecorino cheese and bread crumbs and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Broil until the zucchini are soft and the tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Orange Seasoned Dry Cured Black Olives

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lb. dry-cured black olives
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from the orange, taking care to peel as little of the white pith as possible; roughly chop zest and transfer to a medium bowl.

Juice the orange and add the juice to the zest along with the olives, rosemary and pepper; toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to marinate before serving.

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Peperoni Arrostiti Sotto Olio

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 leaves fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate. Reduce grill heat to medium.

Grill whole peppers until charred on all sides, turning about every 5 minutes. Place charred peppers in a paper or plastic food storage bag. Allow peppers to cool in the bag.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a deep serving container.

Remove cooled peppers from the bag and scrape off charred skins. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Slice peppers into long strips and place in the oil mixture. Mix well. Serve.

Store leftover peppers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Balsamic Glazed Meatballs

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Balsamic Glaze, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs and milk. Mix in tomato paste, vinegar and eggs and then add the remaining seasonings. Combine well and form into small, bite sized meatballs.

Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for the glaze and whisk together. Brush glaze over meatballs and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine well. Set aside until needed.

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Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 12 medium button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a spoon or your fingers, pop out mushroom stems and set aside. Finely dice 1/3 cup of the reserved mushroom stems. Reserve the rest for another use.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced mushroom stems, pancetta and onion. Cook until soft and lightly brown; add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add bread crumbs, Parmesan and wine. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Place mushrooms, stem side up in a baking dish. Spoon ricotta inside each mushroom then top with bread crumb mixture.

Drizzle remaining olive oil on top of the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until soft and brown.


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Make this fabulous BBQ sauce a day or two before the holiday and it can be used on anything you decide to grill. It is especially good on ribs, pork chops and chicken. I usually make a combination of some pork chops and some chicken because that is best for a crowd. Don’t forget plenty of vegetables to grill for your vegetarian friends. This sauce is great on veggies as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon regular chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, brown sugar, chili powder, Worcestershire, dry mustard, cayenne, allspice and 1/4 cup water and mix to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes; remove from heat.

Baste the meat with some sauce during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Transfer meat to a platter and baste again with more sauce.

July4pork

If you choose pork chops:

8 bone-in pork chops (about 8 ounces each and 1-inch thick). Grill pork chops until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

July4chicken

If you choose chicken:

Bone-in Breast, Leg & Thigh 12-15 minutes per side.

July 4appetizer

Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta Appetizer

The cheese mixture can be prepared in advance. Do not assemble the bruschetta until just before serving, otherwise the peaches will turn brown and the bread will lose its freshness.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (6-ounce) baguette, cut diagonally into 16 slices
  • Olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 ounce regular or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 large ripe peach, cut into 16 wedges
  • 1 ounce Italian prosciutto, cut into 16 thin slices

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to high. Oil the grates.

Lightly coat bread slices with olive oil; grill 2 minutes on each side or until toasted.

Combine mascarpone and next 3 ingredients (through cream cheese) in a small bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Spread cheese mixture evenly on the toasted bread slices.

Wrap each peach wedge with 1 prosciutto slice. Top each bread slice with 1 wrapped peach wedge.Arrange bruschetta on a serving platter and sprinkle with remaining chopped basil.

Serve immediately.

July4potatoes

Lemony Green Bean Potato Salad

This type of potato salad goes well with the rich BBQ sauce used on the meat. It can also handle the July heat much better than mayonnaise dressed salads.

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

Directions

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Add the green beans to the pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, herbs, vinegar, lemon peel, salt and pepper in a measuring cup or small bowl.

Drain potatoes and green beans. Place in a serving bowl; add onion and pour the lemon dressing over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

July4 tomato

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Kalamata  olives, pitted and sliced

Directions

Alternate tomatoes and onion on an attractive serving platter.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and oregano together; drizzle over the vegetables. Top with the sliced olives and then the cheese. Serve at room temperature.

July4cake

Blueberry Shortcakes

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

.Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; cook 3 minutes or until berries begin to pop, stirring frequently. Set aside.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor; pulse 3 times to combine.

Add butter and lemon zest to the processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Place mixture in a large bowl; add milk, stirring just until moist. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into an even rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut dough into 8 even wedges.

Place wedges one inch apart on a baking sheet. Combine egg white and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Lightly brush the tops of the wedges with the egg white mixture; sprinkle evenly with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Place cream in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

Split shortcakes in half horizontally; spoon 1/3 cup berry mixture over each bottom half. Top each with 2 tablespoons whipped cream; cover with shortcake tops and serve.


tomatocover

Summer is a great time for tomatoes. This is when they are at their best – deep red, juicy and intense in flavor. There are Beefsteak, Roma, Vine-Ripened, Grape, Cherry, Heirloom and so many other types of tomatoes. Each has their own flavor and each can be used in multiple ways.

Perhaps you grow tomatoes, or you are the lucky recipient of someone who has too many to use or maybe you are indulging in the bounty at the farmers’ market. However, you come by your tomatoes, now is the perfect time to try new and exciting things with them. Of course, you know, you can use fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce, salsa or bruschetta and, you know, they taste great in salads and sandwiches. Below are a few different ways to use up some of your tomatoes.

tomato3

Tomato, Watermelon and Feta Appetizer

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes
  • 4 ounces whole feta cheese, cut into 18 cubes
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 (3-inch) wooden skewers
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, watermelon, lime juice, mint, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients, cover the bowl and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thread 1 tomato piece, 1 watermelon cube and 1 feta cube onto a skewer and place on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining skewers.

Drizzle with the remaining marinade in the bowl and a little olive oil. Serve immediately.

tomato4

Chilled Green Tomato Soup with Crab Meat

Have green tomatoes? Here is something to make instead of fried green tomatoes.

Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 14 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 small hot peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Lump crab meat

Directions

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; add onions and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Add celery and chopped green bell pepper; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in arugula, basil and parsley. Let cool 30 minutes.

Process soup with an immersion blender in the pot or, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and hot sauce and add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Ladle chilled soup into serving bowls and top each serving with some crab meat and a few slices of hot peppers.

tomato1

Fresh Mozzarella, Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn-on-the-cob, in the husk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, optional
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 5 cups baby arugula, spinach or romaine lettuce for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Soak corn in the sink or in a bowl filled with cold water for 15 minutes.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the corn has soaked, place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 minutes or until the corn kernels are tender.

Cool to room temperature; then discard husks and silks. Cut the kernels off the cobs and put them in a large serving bowl. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, avocado, if using, and basil.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve over a bed of greens.

tomato2

Fresh Tomato Cheese Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes (You will need enough to make 2 layers)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine bread crumbs, flour, butter and salt in a food processor until dough comes together.

Using your hands, press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan or pie plate. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and place on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with salt so they can release their juices and set aside.

In a food processor, combine ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and basil leaves just until blended.

Top the baked tart shell with a layer of tomatoes followed by the cheese filling.

Top with another layer of sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tart until golden brown and set in center, 45 to 55 minutes.

Let rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

tomato5

Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound(12 oz) farfalle (bowtie) pasta or your favorite short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet. Cut the casing off the sausage and add it to the pan, crumbling it into small pieces.

Add garlic and cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add cooked sausage to the pasta with the basil, tomatoes, cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


fathersdaycover It’s great that Father’s Day falls during the month of June – that’s grilling season. Most dads love it when dinner comes off the grill. What is even better for the person cooking the meal is that most of the dinner can be made on the grill. Easy clean-up. Give Dad the day off and let someone else tend the BBQ. Even though it is a special day that calls for special foods, I like to keep things somewhat on the healthy side and prepare foods with Mediterranean flavors. Don’t forget the wine. A Riesling or a fruity Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect for the appetizer. For the main course, a light red, such as Zinfandel or Syrah would be ideal for the BBQ chicken.

Appetizer

fathersday2

Herbed Shrimp Kabobs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon white champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for the grill
  • 24 peeled and deveined medium shrimp (about 1 pound)
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 24 small wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Directions Preheat the grill to medium high. Combine basil, parsley, vinegar, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a blender and puree. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Thread one tomato and one shrimp on each skewer. Place skewers on a grill rack coated with oil and grill 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until the shrimp turn pink. Place the skewers on a large serving platter and brush the grilled shrimp on both sides with the herb sauce. Serve immediately.

Main Course

fathersday3

Spicy Grilled Chicken Thighs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried crumbled sage
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs

Directions Coat the grill rack or grill pan with oil; heat for direct, medium-high cooking. Combine sage, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl; dredge chicken on all sides in the mixture. Grill until browned and well marked on the undersides, about 10 minutes. Turn and cook until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the center reads 165 degrees. Move to a serving platter, cover with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Serves 6-8 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 medium red cabbage (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 2 large carrots grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Directions In a large bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, carrots and chives. Toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 45 minutes before serving. fathersday4

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter

6 servings Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ears corn, husked

Directions Prepare grill for direct-heat grilling. Thoroughly combine the softened butter, basil, parsley, lime juice, zest and salt in a small bowl. Place each corn ear on a sheet of foil large enough to enclose the corn. Brush each ear with the herb butter on all sides. Roll the corn in the foil and secure the ends tightly. Grill over direct heat, turning occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until corn kernels are just tender when pierced with a fork. fathersday1

Grilled Zucchini Salad

This dish can be cooked first and set aside while the remaining foods are grilled. Ingredients Serves 6 Ingredients

  • 2 pounds medium zucchini (about 6), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and grill until tender, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cut the zucchini into 1-inch pieces and toss in a large bowl with the scallions, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, oregano, the remaining tablespoon of oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Serve at room temperature.

Dessert

fathersday5

Grilled Peaches with Cherry Wine Sauce

6 servings Ingredients For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons. Kirsch (cherry liqueur)

For the peaches:

  • 6 medium peaches
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons. brown sugar
  • Vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint garnish, optional

Directions To make the cherry sauce: In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the pitted cherries, sugar, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until completely smooth. Return the mixture to the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the Kirsch. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. To make the grilled peaches Cut the peaches in half and remove and discard the pits. Place the halves in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Coat the peaches with the butter mixture. Grill the peaches over direct medium heat on an oiled grill until grill marks are clearly visible and the peaches are soft, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once halfway through the grilling time. To serve: While the peaches are still warm, layer each serving dish with 2 peach halves, 1 scoop of frozen yogurt and 2 tablespoons of cherry sauce. Garnish with mint, if desired and serve immediately.



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