Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: arugula

The two most common major species of walnuts are the English Walnut and the Black Walnut. The English Walnut originated in Persia and the Black Walnut is native to eastern North America. The Black Walnut is full of flavor, but due to its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics, it is not grown commercially for nut production. The commercially produced walnut varieties are nearly all hybrids of the English Walnut. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of walnuts. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California produce 99 percent of the nation’s commercial English Walnuts.

The walnut harvest season in California typically runs from late August through late November. Once the outer green hull of the walnut begins to dry and split, the nuts are ready for harvest. Thanks to their sturdy shells and leathery outer husk, walnuts are exceptionally well-protected from pests and rot. If stored and handled properly, they can be consumed up to one year after harvest.

The orchard floor is swept for debris and then a mechanical shaker is employed to vigorously shake each tree trunk, knocking the ripe walnuts off their branches and onto the cleared orchard floor. A separate machine is used to sweep the walnuts into neat rows so that mechanical harvesters can pick them up off the ground efficiently.

Shaking the walnuts out of the tree.

When consumed fresh from the tree, walnuts have a softer texture and a creamy, slightly bitter flavor. At this stage, they typically have a 20 to 25 percent moisture level. After the walnuts are cleaned and the leathery outer husk is removed, one of the first processing steps these walnuts will undergo is mechanical drying. Even those walnuts sold in the shell will be dried to achieve an 8-percent moisture level, which results in a taste familiar to consumers’ palates and also protects the nuts from rot.

While a little less than half of exported walnuts are sold in the shell, only about 5 percent remain in the shell stateside. The other 95 percent are cracked to order, as storing the nuts in their shells extends their shelf life.

After being initially screened for any debris, the nuts are air-separated from the cracked shells and sorted into a variety of sizes and colors. Generally speaking, lighter-colored intact halves sell at a premium price, while smaller darker pieces are sold at a lower price.

Workers inspect the processed nuts to ensure that they are clean, properly dried and of the correct size and color for the particular order at hand. After this step, the nuts are packaged and shipped. Additionally, a small sample is removed from each batch and sent for laboratory tests to ensure that they meet all food safety regulations set forth by the California Walnut Board, the USDA and the FDA.

When shopping, look for unblemished, clean-looking, creamy colored walnuts. If you are buying shelled walnuts, choose walnut halves for eating and decoration and broken nuts for garnishing or baking. Bags should have little or no “dust” which occurs with handling. To avoid rancidity, refrigerate or freeze shelled walnuts in an airtight container and store nuts in the shell in a cool dark cupboard up to six months or refrigerate.

One quarter cup of walnuts provides 90 percent of omega 3s known to benefit heart health and cognitive function. Walnuts also contain ellagic acid which supports the immune system and may fight cancer. Just 4 walnuts a day can be beneficial.

Walnuts are good in pasta, cereal, cooked vegetables, fruit or green salads or baked goods. They can be pureed into a walnut butter.

Walnut Crostini

For the caramelized onions

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper

For the walnut spread

  • One 3-inch chunk of carrot
  • One 3-inch chunk of celery
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ½ cups (8 ounces) toasted walnuts

For the crostini and serving

  • Half a sourdough baguette, cut diagonally into slices about ¼-inch thick (for 24 – 30 slices)
  • 1/4 olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 ½ cups, lightly packed, small (baby) arugula leaves (about 1 ounce)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

To prepare the caramelized onions:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and onion, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring frequently— until the onions are lightly brown. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To prepare the walnut spread:

Wrap the carrot, celery, shallot and bay leaf in a double thickness of cheesecloth and tie the bundle securely with twine. Place in a medium saucepan, pour in the milk and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, reduce the heat, and poach in the simmering milk for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Strain the mixture, reserving the milk and walnuts separately. Discard the cheesecloth bundle. While the walnuts are still warm, put them in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of the reserved milk and puree. Add additional milk by tablespoons, until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Any remaining milk may be used in a soup or sauce.

To prepare the crostini:

Brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and place in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 5 minutes, to dry and crisp the bread. Remove from the oven and gently rub each slice with garlic.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the walnut mixture on each crostini.

In a small bowl toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Place a few leaves of arugula over each crostini and top with about 1/2 teaspoon of caramelized onions.

Pasta with Broccoli and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tri-color fusilli or any short pasta
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Garnish with herbs of choice

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes; transfer to a food processor and let cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove 3 strips of zest from the lemon. Thinly slice the zest; add it to the food processor with the walnuts along with the garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Parmesan, 1/4 cup broccoli florets, 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and purée until smooth

Add the wine to the onions and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup broccoli florets and cook, tossing, until heated through.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Add the walnut pesto and the reserved pasta cooking water and mix. Add the onion mixture and toss to combine. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, additional Parmesan and herbs.

Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4 medium (6-ounce) red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing peppers
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely minced chives or scallions
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup (packed) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots

Directions

Place a medium-small skillet (one that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat and wait about 1 minute. Pour in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the uncooked bulgur and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Keep stirring during this process to be sure it doesn’t burn. Pour in the water, place the lid on the pan, and turn off the heat. Let stand 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, fluff with a fork as you add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice. Stir in the chives, dill, parsley and feta and then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the walnuts and apricots.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to fit the peppers.

Slice the top off each pepper; reserve the top. Reach inside the peppers with a spoon to scrape out the pith and seeds.

Spoon a 1/2 cup of stuffing into each pepper. Place the tops back on the peppers.

Brush the outside surface of each pepper with a little additional olive oil and place them standing upright in the prepared dish.

Bake for 35 minutes in the center of the oven. Let sit for at least 5 minutes; serve hot or warm.

Fish Fillets with Walnut Brown Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or any herb of choice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6-oz each) boneless white fish fillets (cod, bass, tilapia, halibut, sole, grouper, etc)

Directions

Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the butter begins to take on a light-brown color and gets a nutty aroma. Add the walnuts and cook for one minute. Pour in the lemon juice, turn up to high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add the basil, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste; reserve.

Season the fish filets with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Sauté the fish in the olive oil over medium-high heat until done. Serve hot with the butter sauce spooned over.

Beef Sliders Stuffed with Walnuts and Gorgonzola

Serves 16

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cups finely chopped button mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 4 oz Gorgonzola (or blue cheese), divided into 16 portions
  • 32 walnut halves
  • 16 small dinner rolls (or 2, 24-inch baguettes, sliced into 8 equal portions, then sliced horizontally)

Directions

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and sauté bacon until just cooked but not crisp.

Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until water evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and egg to mixture.

Add beef and gently mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated, without overmixing.

Divide mixture into 16 equal portions. Form into thick patties, about 1-1/2 inches thick and 2-1/2 inches in diameter, tuck a piece of cheese and 2 walnut halves into the center of each patty.

Grill patties on medium-high heat until cooked to preferred doneness. Serve in small dinner rolls or between baguette slices with desired condiments. (Especially good with sauteed onions as a topper.)

Chocolate Walnut Gelato

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dutch processed, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua
  • 1 cup very finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring water, sugar and cocoa powder to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and cocoa is well blended, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in bittersweet chocolate until melted. Let cool completely.

Stir in Kahlua and walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, about 4 hours.

Without an ice cream maker:

Spoon chilled chocolate mixture into a shallow metal pan; freeze until almost firm, about 3 hours.

Break into chunks; purée in a food processor. Pack into an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

With an ice cream maker: transfer chilled mixture to ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

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Umbrian Pork

The art of preserving pork in Umbria, dates back to the 2nd century BC. Because of the poor farming conditions in this cold mountainous area, the inhabitants of Norcia (in the Province of Perugia) relied on animal husbandry. This art was perfected under the Roman Republic and Roman Empire and continued to thrive under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church State until modern times. The meticulous selection of livestock, the expert dry or humid curing, the distinct and diverse flavoring, the personal care and attention by specialists of this art, all contribute to the production of these unique delicacies.

Prosciutto

Umbrian cured ham, Prosciutto di Norcia, is the king of Umbrian delicacies. The most famous of central Italian ham is unmatched in quality and taste. The prosciutto is made of salted and naturally aged meat from the hindquarters of heavy mature animals. A Prosciutto di Norcia will generally weigh at least 20 pounds ( 9 kilos). The animals are raised in the high mountain ranges above sea level in the Valnerina district. The calciferous rock, of which the mountains are mostly made, filter rain water to create natural cellars with perfect conditions for the slow aging process (14 months or more) resulting in top quality cured meats. Prosciutto di Norcia is savory but not salty and each slice presents a variety of shades of garnet. The unique nutty taste of this ham is a perfect companion to a side dish of Mediterranean fruits or grilled asparagus.

Capocollo

Also known as lonza, ossocollo, capicollo, coppa. Capocollo is the famous Italian sandwich meat, characterized by its tenderness and aromatic flavor. Umbrian capocollo is made from prime cuts of pork neck, which is salted and flavored with fennel, garlic, salt and black pepper and cured in a red wine brine. The craft of capocollo preparation includes storage in fresh cellars where the capocollo is massaged by hand for at least 30 days. The capocollo is bound with natural string and allowed to air-dry. It is then wrapped in brown-paper and hung for 45-50 days at a temperature around 50 degrees F (10°C). A slice of Umbrian capocollo is compact and has a savory but slightly sweet taste which improves with age and adds refinement to any appetizer. Also delicious in a cold main course of arugula salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and wedges of pecorino.

Ciauscolo

This soft sausage has a strong and assertive flavor. It is made with shoulder and bacon meat, which is repeatedly minced to obtain a creamy texture. It is stuffed in natural gut casing and allowed to air-dry for 2 weeks. Delicious when spread on a slice of crusty Italian bread and accompanied with slivers of green apple or grapes and a little honey.

Fiaschetta

These spicy, pear-shaped sausages are characterized by their small size and intense flavor. They are made from coarsely ground lean pork, seasoned with black pepper and garlic. The fiaschetta are dry-cured in rooms heated with a natural log fire for 40-50 days.The spiciness of this salami is a perfect balance for delicate, close textured Umbrian bread. It is also popular as an addition to a rustic meat-based risotto.

Corallina

The original and most famous of Umbrian salami is made from the best cuts of pork following a traditional and age-old recipe. The meat is expertly hand-cut to obtain the correct balance of meat and fat. It is flavored with whole and crushed black peppercorns, garlic and salt, hand-tied and aged for up to 40 days.This authentic delicacy can be served as an appetizer with grilled vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Aged Guanciale

Meat taken from the cheeks of the pig are cured in a red-wine based brine for 20 days. It is subsequently hung for 10 days in a room where a wood-fire maintains a steady temperature that encourages the curing process. It is then seasoned with either crushed chillies, fennel or black pepper and left to mature in a cool room for 45-50 days. The guanciale is mostly a soft-white color with a ribbon of pink running through it. It has a variety of uses – for basting roast meats, to adding flavor to gravy, as a topping for minestrone or polenta or as wafer-thin slices placed over bruschetta or freshly baked bread.

Pancetta

A speciality made from pork belly. When making pancetta, some of the fat is removed and replaced with crushed chillies, fennel, black pepper and sea salt. The pancetta is rolled, tied with jute and pressed between planks of wood. It is stored in a cool place for approximately one month and as the curing progresses, the planks of wood are tightened to compact the layers. The finished product is dense and when cut appears as pink and white spirals. The taste is spicy but delicate. The flavor of pancetta lends itself to goat cheese, black olives, peas and other legumes. It can be used as an alternative for bacon in classic pasta dishes such as pasta alla carbonara, pasta all’amatriciana and pasta alla carrettiera.

Coppa di testa

Hand-cut meat from the head of the pig, seasoned with garlic, black pepper and salt and steamed in a jute bag. This cooked salami has a marbled terrine-like appearance with a delicate aromatic taste. It can be served in thin slices with arugula and mature pecorino or with fried eggs. Goes well with a glass of robust red wine.

Recipes Using Italian Cured Pork

Frittata with Prosciutto, Potatoes, Goat Cheese & Thyme

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 ounces arugula
  • 1 russet potato (about 8 oz), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (or cheese of choice)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the sliced potatoes in a bowl and cover them with cold water to keep them from turning brown.

Slice the onion and saute in the olive oil until soft and translucent.

Oil a 9×12 baking dish and place an overlapping layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish (you will use about half of the potatoes). Spread the cooked onions and the prosciutto on top of the potatoes. Next a layer of arugula and top with crumbled goat cheese and half of the thyme.

Whisk together the eggs and milk and gently pour over the layers in the pan. Top with the remaining slices of potato and sprinkle remaining fresh thyme on top.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Removing the foil and bake 5-10 minutes until the eggs are set. Turn the oven setting to broil and brown the top of the frittata.

Lentil Soup and Ciauscolo

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices Ciauscolo salami
  • 2 1/4 cups lentils
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put the lentils in water and let stand overnight.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Into a saucepan pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic cloves and chopped shallots. Add the potatoes and let cook for 5 minutes.

Drain lentils and put into the pot. Stir, cover with cold water, add the rosemary, bay leaves and salt and cook for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally to see if the lentils are soft. The soup should be quite liquid, so it may be necessary to add a few tablespoons of water. When cooked, remove the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves and keep warm.

Take the slices of Ciauscolo and sear them quickly on both sides on a stove top grill.

Pour the lentil soup into bowls and place the Ciauscolo slices on top. Add freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound small brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved through root ends
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 pound 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide strips
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

Directions:

Cook brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté pancetta until crisp. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

Add warm brussels sprouts to the skillet; sprinkle with thyme and sage. Sauté over high heat just until heated through and vegetables begin to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Spaghetti All’Amatriciana

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz finely minced guanciale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onion (about 1 large onion)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced pepperoncini or other dried hot peppers
  • 2 28-oz cans tomato purée
  • 1 lb dry spaghetti

Directions:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until the oil ripples but does not smoke. Add guanciale and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat begins to render and meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add onion and stir, coating onions with the rendered fat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and pepperoncini and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tomato purée, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. At this point the sauce can be used immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for up to a week or cooled and frozen.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain but don’t rinse, return spaghetti to the hot pot and toss with the sauce.

Pizza with Mozzarella and Capocollo

Ingredients:

Dough

1 pound of pizza dough

Topping

  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 pound thinly sliced capocollo

Directions:

Heat pizza stone in the oven for at least 45 minutes before assembling pies. Place the stone on a rack in the lower third of oven. Heat oven to maximum temperature (500º to 550º).
While stone is heating prepare topping.



Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add tomatoes to the boiling water; boil for 20 seconds. Drain tomatoes, then peel, quarter, seed and coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, place onion slices in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat 2 or 3 times while you prepare the rest of the topping (soaking raw onion in cold water mellows the harsh taste).

Rinse and dry leek. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and sugar; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is blended and thickened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer sauce to a bowl.

Spread dough in a greased pizza pan. Working quickly, spread sauce over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Tear the cheese into pieces and arrange on top of the sauce. Drizzle lightly with oil. Place pizza pan on the stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and the edge of the crust is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and top with capocollo and red onion.


Summer may be nearing its end, school might be back in session (in the south, they are), but some of the best great weather is yet to come. These can, also, be the best grilling days of all. So, keep cooking outside. In fact, keep it outside start to finish. In other words, grill your entire meal outside next time you fire up your grill and especially for this weekend’s Labor Day get together. Some ideas to get you started are listed below:

Appetizers

Slice prepared polenta (available in most grocery stores). Brush with olive oil and grill on both sides. Top with chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and shredded Parmesan cheese. Move to an indirect heat spot on the grill, lower the lid and heat until the cheese melts. Cool slightly and serve as a first course appetizer with an arugula salad.

Side dishes

Grilling vegetables brings out all the natural sweetness of the vegetables. Just about anything works.

Grilled corn: If you haven’t tried this yet, you must. Pick up freshly picked corn from the closest farmer’s stand. Pull husks back about half way and remove corn silk. Pull husks back up and soak ears of corn in cold, salted water for at least 30 minutes. Heat grill to high and place corn on the grill, turning every few minutes. The husks will get well charred. Cook 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, pull husks down, but don’t remove them – the husks form a handle for the corn.

Grilled potatoes: Slice long russet potatoes or sweet potatoes lengthwise to about 1/4-inch thick. Oil very lightly and season with salt and pepper (or seasoned salt). Grill over slightly indirect heat until softened.

Grilled green beans: Lightly toss green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on the grill ACROSS THE GRILL GRATES or use a grill basket. If you place them lined up with the grill grates, the beans will roll right through the grill. Let them char slightly, rolling them along to turn them and cook all over.

Bread

Garlic Bread: Slice good, hearty Italian bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Grill both sides until toasted. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and rub with a garlic clove. Add a grating of Parmesan. (This is the classic base for a good bruschetta, too! Just top garlic rubbed toasts with chopped tomato tossed with fresh basil.)

Dessert

Grill slices of angel food cake or pound cake, homemade or store-bought. Top the grilled cake with a scoop of frozen low-fat yogurt or ice cream. Add toppings, if you like, (caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, fresh summer fruits).

Grill slices of fresh pineapple. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar, lower the grill lid and let the sugar melt lightly. This is also great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Labor Day Menu On The Grill For 8

Appetizer Course

Grilled Arugula Bruschetta

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices (16 slices)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped arugula
  • 8 tablespoons basil pesto
  • Cucumber rounds and slices of lime to serve on the side

Directions:

For a charcoal grill, grill bread over medium coals for 2 to 3 minutes per side or or until lightly toasted. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place bread on grill rack; grill as above.) Remove bread slices from the grill.

Rub one side of each toast with garlic; brush with olive oil. On each slice of toast layer 1/2 tablespoon pesto, 1 tablespoon arugula and 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.

Return bruschetta to grill; grill for 5 minutes more or until cheese starts to melts and remove to a serving platter containing cucumber rounds and slices of lime.

 

Main Course

 

Grilled Chicken with Apricot-Balsamic Glaze

This simple glazed chicken is perfect for a small cookout. The glaze has just the right amount of sweetness and can be made ahead. To get the mix of thighs, drumsticks and breasts, you’ll need to buy two whole chickens and cut them into parts yourself or you can look in your store’s display case for bone-in parts that are about the same size—legs about 5 oz. each, thighs about 6 oz. and breast halves about a pound each.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves (preferably without corn syrup)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • Two 4-lb chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, or 5 to 6 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks and breasts, each breast half cut into two pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the preserves, vinegar, red pepper flakes, rosemary and a large pinch of salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat or microwave to loosen the consistency.)

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. Using a stiff wire brush, scrub the cooking grate thoroughly. Dip a folded paper towel into vegetable oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grill grate.

Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Set the parts skin side down on the grill. Cook, covered, until the skin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stay near the grill, especially during the first 10 minutes, to manage any flare-ups, by moving pieces out of the way. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down slightly or close the vents partially. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 5 to 10 minutes more. The thighs, legs and thinner breast pieces will cook a little faster than the thicker breast pieces. Transfer each piece to a platter when done and tent with foil.

When all the chicken is done, brush it with the glaze on all sides. Return the chicken to the grill and cook for another minute or so on each side to caramelize the glaze. Brush the chicken with any remaining glaze and serve.

Grilled Herbed Fingerling Potatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Directions:

Light the gas or charcoal grill. Combine potatoes and herbs in a large bowl.

Combine oil and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle over the potatoes and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange the potatoes on a large piece of heavy duty foil and fold the edges to make a packet. (You can also make two separate packets, if that fits better on your grill.)

Place the foil packet on a hot grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, turning and shaking every 5 minutes.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Mozzarella and Dill

Makes: 8servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch planks
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, pulled into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely snipped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

On a baking sheet arrange zucchini in a single layer. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

For a charcoal grill, grill zucchini directly over medium coals about 8 minutes or until tender, turning once. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat. Place zucchini on grill grate over direct heat. Cover and grill as directed.)

On a serving platter arrange grilled zucchini and mozzarella. Sprinkle with dill and crushed red pepper. Drizzle with lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Dessert Course

Chocolate-Sauced Kabobs

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/3 cup butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar alternative, such as Truvia
  • 3/4 cups canned evaporated milk 
  • 3 medium ripe nectarines or peaches
  • 1/4 of a pineapple
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 8 whole strawberries, stemmed

Directions

For sauce, melt chocolate pieces and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or on the side of your gas grill, if you have a side burner. Add the sugar. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook and stir over low heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

Remove pits from nectarines or peaches; cut fruit into wedges. Cut the pineapple and bananas into 1-inch chunks. Alternately thread the peaches or nectarines, pineapple and bananas on eight 12-inch-long skewers. Add one strawberry to each skewer.

Grill kabobs about 5 minutes, turning once. To serve, push fruit from skewers onto dessert plates. Drizzle with the warm chocolate sauce. 

 


Farmer’s Market near where I live – Pensacola, Florida

The concept of farm fresh food is gaining steam these days as Americans are looking at eating healthier. One way to accomplish this is by stocking fresh fruit and vegetables in your refrigerator. Farm fresh foods are superior to food that you purchase from the grocery store because they come directly to you from the farm. The fewer steps there are between your food’s source and your table, the less chance there is of contamination. Also, when you know where your food comes from and who grows it, you know a lot more about that food.

Now, with the local growing season in full swing, getting fresh produce is easier than ever. Farmers markets, produce stands and even roadside vendors are your best source for the freshest and most nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.”When you buy locally grown, you’re getting the produce at its peak form,” says Darlene Price, senior nutrition resource educator at Orange County Cornell Cooperative Extension. “It’s ready to eat right now. When you buy your fresh produce in a supermarket, you’re never really sure how long it’s been sitting.”

Seemingly endless varieties are yet another advantage local farmers have over their giant commercial counterparts, who are restricted to crops that can survive long storage and the arduous transportation process. Local farmers plant what’s delicious, healthful and in local demand. “The large commercial farmers have to plant foods that will survive a lot of abuse,” says Louis Schultz, coordinator of the Florida market. “We’ve gotten very removed from our food. The average supermarket potato travels 1,500 miles. Local farmers don’t have to worry about factoring all that in. They can plant anything.”

The diversity available at the local markets means that a larger range of nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals — which give fruits and vegetables their bright, deep color — is there for the taking. Nutritionists advise us to “eat the rainbow,” and the color spectrum at a local farmers market is simply unrivaled.

Photo: Silver King Sweet Corn Patch--mid-April 2013

Corn growing at my CSA – Jeta Farms

Besides shopping at a farmer’s market you can join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) as a way to ensure a steady supply of fresh, local produce. Community-supported agriculture is a food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. Consumers buy “shares” in a farm’s harvest in advance.The term “CSA” is also used to refer to an individual farm’s CSA program.

Farmers earn important early-season capital and have a guaranteed market for their produce. Barring a disastrous harvest, consumers enjoy overall lower food costs, field-fresh produce and greater access to high-demand fruits and vegetables, such as long-stem strawberries and heirloom tomatoes. Most CSA’s provide weekly deliveries or pickups, farm visits and other special events for members. For example, my CSA provides a fresh Christmas tree in December for all its members.

The recipes in this post take advantage of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Cherry Tomato, Fennel and Arugula Salad 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lb. baby arugula leaves
  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fennel, stalks trimmed, outer layer removed, and cored
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or substitute 3 medium tomatoes cut into bite-size pieces, about 2 cups)

Directions:

In a food processor, blend the Parmesan cheese, buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the arugula in a large bowl. Using a mandoline set at a very thin setting or a vegetable peeler, shave the fennel and add to the arugula. Toss with a little of the dressing; just enough to coat the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad among 4 large salad plates and mound slightly. In another bowl toss the tomatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper; scatter on the salads. Serve immediately, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Add color to baked ziti with yellow squash, zucchini and tomato.

4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked whole grain ziti pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Coat an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan. Add squash, zucchini and onion; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper.

Combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg in a small bowl. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon pasta into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Chicken Cutlets with Bell Pepper Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes (6 to 8), cored, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into medium dice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into cutlets
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and patted dry

Directions:

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler heating element and heat the broiler on high.

Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil. Put the tomatoes cut side up on one side of the pan and the peppers and onions on the other side of the pan. Drizzle everything with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix the seasonings into the peppers and onions.

Broil until the tomatoes are collapsed, about 7 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over, mix the peppers and onions again and broil until the tomato skins have large black spots and the peppers and onions are tender, about 5 minutes more.

Use tongs to pull the skins off the tomatoes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board.

Put the peppers and onions in a large bowl and add the garlic paste. Chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl with the other vegetables. Mix well. Keep warm.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put the flour in a shallow pan. Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; dredge in the flour.

Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and top with the ragout.

Wipe out the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry the capers over medium-high heat until they pop open and become crisp, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle them over the chicken and ragout.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Ingredients:

Serves: 6

  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons light frozen whipped topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 cups assorted fresh fruit (such as cut up mango, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple chunks, kiwifruit or strawberries)
  • Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, whipped topping, the 1/2 teaspoon lime peel, powdered sugar and lime juice.

Divide fruit among six dessert dishes. Spoon 1 tablespoon sour cream mixture over fruit in each dish. If desired, garnish with additional lime zest.

 


Lamb is a favorite meat for grilling around much of the world, but not so much in the U.S. Lamb has had a tough road, here. The history of lamb in the U.S. dates back to the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom kept flocks of sheep. In the 19th century, immigrants from Greece, Spain and elsewhere brought their sheep farming traditions with them to the western U.S. During the industry’s height in the 1940′s and 50′s, some 55 million sheep grazed on U.S. grasses. Most of them were raised not for their meat, but for their wool. As synthetic fabrics took over, those numbers dropped, and by 2012 only 5.3 million sheep remained, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We lost a lot of producers,” says Angelo Theos, a third-generation Colorado sheep rancher whose grandfather came from Greece. Add to that a perception of lamb as strong-flavored and gamy, which dates back to World War II, when soldiers were fed government-issued canned mutton (adult sheep). Competition from Australia and New Zealand, which account for 50 percent of lamb consumption in the U.S., has also taken its toll.

Sirloin Chops from the Leg

“Americans eat less than a pound of lamb per person per year, compared with 54 pounds of beef”, says Megan Wortman, executive director of the American Lamb Board. Forty percent have never even tried it. “This disconnect exists”, Wortman says, “despite the fact that many of us have roots in parts of the world in which lamb is a staple—Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, the Middle East and Spain, to name a few. The thought of Easter dinner without lamb is, for many, as inconceivable as Thanksgiving without turkey.” “Even so,” Wortman says, “many consumers are put off by lamb’s price (it is generally more expensive than beef, pork or chicken) and are intimidated by the thought of cooking it. They aren’t familiar with everyday, less-expensive cuts such as shank or sausages or shoulder chops. It’s just not on their radar.” The board also has started a “shepherd-to-chefs” campaign that connects local lamb producers with high-profile chefs in an effort to tap the growing awareness for local and sustainable food. In spite of the challenges, many ranchers and farmers remain optimistic. The number of small producers is actually on the rise, with many now keeping “farm flocks” of a few dozen to a few hundred sheep. In eastern states such as Tennessee, some farmers have replaced tobacco with sheep. And demand from chefs and new immigrants from lamb-centric cultures is changing the face of the business. Source: American lamb Board.

Chef Marjorie 1

Chef Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Ripple, in Washington, D.C., prepares a signature dish of lamb tartare. “We sell out of it every night,” she says./AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

See Related articles below for sources of grass-fed lamb.

The rich, full flavor of lamb benefits from smoke and fire more so than other meats. Grilling mellows and softens the flavor of lamb, so that even folks who think they don’t like it become converts. The first step in cooking lamb is to select the right cut. This requires careful examination of the label and possibly a short conversation with the butcher. Loin, rib or sirloin cuts are tender and are perfect for grilling. Shoulder or leg cuts need a marinade to make them tender. The meat you choose should have light red, finely textured meat with smooth, white fat. Dark red cuts of lamb are usually older and less tender. Marbling is not as important with lamb as it is with beef, but the fat on the lamb should be evenly distributed. Also, lamb chops should be an inch thick for best grilling. The second thing you need to do is select your flavors. Lamb is excellent seasoned with garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, fennel, lemon and mustard. Any rub, marinade or sauce made with these ingredients will enhance the flavor of your lamb cuts. Begin with a thin coating of olive oil and then a light sprinkling of seasonings, but you don’t need to go overboard. You don’t want to cover the flavor of the meat; you only want to add to it.

Lamb chops should be grilled on a covered grill over a medium-high heat. Ideally, you should grill them to medium rare or medium. Keep a close eye on them and remove the meat from the grill when you reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. And as always, let the meat rest for a few minutes before you serve it; five minutes is usually good. 

For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground lamb mixtures like burgers and meatloaf to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. However, whole muscle meats such as roasts, steaks and chops are safe to eat at 145 °F (medium rare) or cooked further to 160 °F (medium), if you prefer. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy. Lamb is now leaner than ever. While this is certainly good news for health, leaner meat requires special attention to the cooking time and temperature to prevent overcooking and toughness.

The basic major cuts (primal) of lamb are shoulder, rack, shank, breast, loin and leg. Ideally, packages of lamb should be labeled with the primal cut as well as the retail name of the product, such as “shoulder roast” or “loin chop.” Primal cuts explain which part of the animal a piece of meat originally came from, which can be helpful when deciding how to prepare the meat. For example, a tough cut like the shank should be braised for more than an hour, while tender cuts like rib chops (from the rack) or loin chops can be quickly grilled or broiled. For groups of 6 or fewer, consider individual rib chops or smaller loin roasts. And for everyday meals, there are a wide variety of delicious, reasonably priced cuts such as the blade and arm chops (from the shoulder) or sirloin chops (from the leg).

Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb loin chops grill to perfection over direct heat in a matter of minutes. Just be sure to trim excess fat before grilling to avoid flare-ups.

To grill lamb loin chops:                   

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Brush lamb chops with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and any herbs of your choosing.

Place chops on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill lamb chops, covered, over medium heat about 8-9 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into chops registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare to 160 degrees F for medium, turning once. Don’t overcook the lamb chops or they will dry out.

 

Lamb Kabobs

Lamb kabobs are one of the most popular methods of preparing lamb worldwide. Lamb kabobs are made from well-trimmed boneless leg of lamb. For an even easier method, you can buy lamb precut for kabobs.

To grill lamb kabobs:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Cut lamb into 1-1/4-inch pieces with large chef’s knife.

lf using bamboo skewers, soak in cold water 10 to 15 minutes first to prevent burning.

Alternately thread lamb and other ingredients onto skewers.

Place kabobs on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill kabobs, covered, over medium-hot heat 5-6 minutes.

Turn; continue to grill, covered, 5 to 7 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached.

Lamb Burgers

Like other ground meat, ground lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F for food safety reasons.

To grill lamb burgers:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Shape seasoned ground lamb into patties, about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter.

Shape patties on a cutting board or cookie sheet so you can easily carry them right to the grill.

Brush one side of the patties with oil; place on preheated grill, oil side down. Brush other sides with oil.

Grill burgers, covered, over medium-hot heat 8 to 10 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached, turning halfway through grilling time.

 

Leg of Lamb

Grilling a butterflied, boneless leg of lamb is quite simple. A whole bone-in leg of lamb is delicious, grilled, too, but it takes longer because it must be cooked over indirect heat. Leg of lamb is often sold in two pieces — the sirloin or center-cut portion and the shank portion (the part with the bone sticking out).

To grill leg of lamb:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Season butterflied boneless leg of lamb on both sides.

Insert meat thermometer into center of thickest part of lamb.

Place lamb on preheated oiled grill grates.

Grill lamb, covered, over medium heat 35 to 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 145-160 degrees F or until desired doneness is reached, turning every 10 minutes.

Transfer lamb to carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Slice leg of lamb thinly across the grain.

Lamb Sausage

Place thawed sausage over a medium to low fire and cook slowly for 20 or 30 minutes, turning as needed. The internal temperature should reach 160 ºF (insert the thermometer into the link from the end to get an accurate reading). Slowly cooking the meat insures that the inside is cooked without burning the outside.

All Purpose Marinade For Lamb

This is enough marinade for 1 1/2 lbs. of lamb.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Stir together honey, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper and transfer to a sealable plastic bag. Add lamb, then seal bag, pressing out excess air and turning to distribute marinade.

Marinate lamb in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, 1 hour. Bring lamb to room temperature before cooking. 

Be sure to brush the meat with olive oil before grilling. You can also add your favorite minced herbs to the meat before grilling.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Summer Squash

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3/4 pound)
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3/4 pound)
  • 6 (5-ounce) lamb loin chops, trimmed (about 1 inch thick)
  • Olive oil

Directions:

To make parsley sauce:

Place garlic, parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, shallots, oregano, sherry vinegar, lemon juice and red pepper in a food processor; process 1 minute or until almost smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; pulse 2 times. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450° F. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine squash, zucchini and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl; toss well. Arrange squash and zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Bake for 16 minutes or until tender, turning after 8 minutes. Alternately, you can wrap the squash in heavy duty foil and roast on the grill with the meat.

Lightly brush lamb with olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place lamb on grill rack coated with oil; grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Place grilled lamb and squash on a serving plate and top with the parsley sauce.

Grilled Lamb Brochettes with Lemon Marinade

This lamb is best if you can marinate it overnight. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 20 to 30 minutes before threading with lamb.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Grated peel from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, 1/4 cup dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Add lamb and mix to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill overnight.

Thread cubes of lamb onto 7 or 8 skewers.

Lay skewers over a solid bed of medium-hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds); close lid on the gas grill. Cook, turning skewers as needed, until lamb is browned on all sides but still pink in the center (medium-rare), 5 to 6 minutes, or just barely pink in the center (medium), 6 to 7 minutes.

Transfer skewers to a platter. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon chopped dill and serve with lemon wedges for a final squeeze of juice. Brochettes are delicious with an Arugula Salad topped with Parmesan cheese strips.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Grape Sauce

Grilled eggplant slices are are a great side dish for this recipe. They won’t take any longer to cook than the lamb chops.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 frenched lamb chops (ones with meat trimmed from bones; 1 1/2 lbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a spicy green chile, roughly chopped
  • 3 tomatoes (12 oz.), quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, divided
  • Eggplant Slices, about ¼ inch thick
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Heat a grill to high (450° to 550°). Rub lamb with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Set aside.

Pulse chile, tomatoes, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and half the grapes in a food processor until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Add remaining grapes; cook 2 minutes. Set aside.

If grilling eggplant. brush slices with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and grill on one side of the grill, while you cook the lamb chops on the other side.

Grill chops, turning once, 5 minutes total for medium-rare. Plate lamb and eggplant and pour sauce over both. Serve with rice, if desired.

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Feta Sauce

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

One 5 1/2- to 6-pound butterflied leg of lamb

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, ground
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the parsley, garlic and coriander until finely chopped. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into yogurt.

Spread the lamb on a cutting board and, using a paring knife, poke the meat all over on both sides. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper and coat with 1 cup of the yogurt sauce and transfer to a glass dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Meanwhile, stir the feta cheese into the remaining yogurt sauce, cover and refrigerate.

Before grilling, bring the marinated lamb to room temperature (about 1 hour).

Light a grill and oil the grates. Grill the lamb over a medium-high fire, turning occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 125° (150° in the thinnest part).

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice the lamb and serve with the feta yogurt sauce.

Mini Lamb Burgers with Cucumber Sauce

 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground lamb (grass-fed, if possible)
  • 1/2 minced onion (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped, (1 teaspoon dried)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 pieces pita bread (6 inches)
  • Lettuce, Kalamata olives and 2 sliced tomatoes

Directions:

Heat grill to high and oil grill grates.

Squeeze cucumber in a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

Make Cucumber Sauce:

In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, mint, oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make Burgers:

In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine lamb, onion, parsley and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Gently form mixture into 16 small patties, about 3/4 inch thick.

Grill until medium-rare, 3 minutes per side.

To serve, warm pitas on the grill turning occasionally. Cut pitas in half. Fill with lettuce, burgers, tomato and sauce. Serve with Kalamata olives on the side.


There are many secrets to making a great potato salad. Often people leave it to chance or just pick up some from the deli – this can be a hit or miss proposition, as we have all had the not-so-good deli version. Making your own will give you a taste for the very best and you will never want to settle for deli potato salad again.

Some tips for making great tasting potato salads:

Use waxy potatoes (i.e., fingerlings, red potatoes, Yukon Golds) instead of starchy potatoes (i.e., russet), if you want them to hold their shape when you toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Lighten up the dressing by using a mixture of reduced-fat mayonnaise and low-fat yogurt. The yogurt gives the salad a nice tang. Vinaigrettes are an excellent alternative to creamy dressings.

Another important tip is to leave the potatoes whole and cook them thoroughly. Drain well and set the potatoes aside, until they are just cool enough to handle.

While the potatoes are still warm, cut them into bite-sized pieces (it is not necessary to peel them) and toss with a little vinegar, pickle juice or lemon juice to infuse the potatoes with flavor.

Other flavor boosters without fat to add to potato salads are onions, chives, capers, olives, mustard, herbs or pickles.

Add some veggies: red bell pepper and celery are naturally low in calories and will give your salad appealing crunch and color.

Be creative and add some interesting, non-traditional ingredients. On warm summer days, these salads are perfect for dinner. 

Chicken, Red Potato and Green Bean Salad

4 servings

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:

  • 1 pound small red potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound diagonally cut green beans
  • 2 cups sliced or cubed grilled or poached chicken (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mixed baby salad greens (about 6 cups)

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add beans and cook an additional 4 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Drain well.

Quarter potatoes. Place the potatoes, beans, chicken, onion and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve without chilling.

Farm Stand Potato Salad

8 servings

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon country-style Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Salad:

  • 1 3/4 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes from pan with a slotted spoon to a colander.

Add sugar snap peas and broccoli florets to pan. Reboil and cook 1 minute; drain.

Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add a little dressing to the potatoes and let rest while you prepare the other vegetables.

Then, combine potatoes, peas, broccoli, bell peppers and green onions in a large bowl. Add remaining dressing; toss well.

Quick Potato Salad with Shrimp and Feta

4 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salad:

  • 5 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
  • 3 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine dressing ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a microwave-safe dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Add shrimp and 1 tablespoon dressing; toss gently to combine. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Add remaining dressing, lettuce, bell peppers, onion and cheese; toss gently to coat. Top salad with kalamata olives.

Lemon-Arugula Potato Salad

If you want to make this potato salad ahead, prepare the recipe without the arugula. Once the potato mixture is completely cooled, cover and refrigerate. Toss with the fresh arugula just before serving so the greens do not wilt or get bruised.

Add some grilled steak for a complete meal.

6 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 7 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 3 small)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula

Directions:

Peel the potatoes, if you wish, and cut them into 1 inch pieces Place potatos in a medium saucepan; cover with cold, salted water to 2 inches above potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and gently simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots to pan; saute 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine shallots, vinegar, mustard, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk until combined.

Drizzle dressing over warm potatoes; toss gently to coat. Cool completely.

Add arugula to potato mixture; toss gently. Serve immediately.

Cobb Potato Salad

Great side dish for grilled entrees.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • Blue cheese vinaigrette, divided
  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Directions:

Make Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, directions below.

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Toss potatoes with green onions and 1/3 cup of the blue cheese vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, peel and chop avocados; toss with lemon juice. Mix lettuce with avocado mixture and tomatoes and add a little blue cheese vinaigrette. Toss gently.

Arrange lettuce mixture on a large serving platter; top with the potato mixture and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with bacon.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided 
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute.

Transfer garlic mixture to blender. Add 1/2 cup blue cheese, white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, sugar, hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper and remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil; blend well.

Transfer vinaigrette to bowl. Mix in chopped basil and remaining 1/2 cup of blue cheese. (Vinaigrette can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


Key ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine include olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet — one of the world’s healthiest — are hard to ignore. These people are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.

Numerous research studies suggest that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re trying to eat foods that are better for your heart, start with the principles of Mediterranean cooking.

Stock your pantry and cook at home.

Use whole, unprocessed ingredients and control portion sizes, salt and calories.

Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.

Love Italian food, then a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. Typical standbys are Penne with Vodka Sauce or Pasta with Broccoli Rabe.

Experiment with “real” whole grains that are still in their “whole” form and haven’t been refined. Quinoa, a grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet, cooks up in just 20 minutes, making it a great side dish for weeknight meals. Barley is full of fiber and it’s filling. Pair it with mushrooms for a steamy, satisfying soup. A hot bowl of oatmeal with some fresh summer berries is perfect for breakfast. Even popcorn is a whole grain—just keep it healthy by eating air-popped corn and forgo the butter (try a drizzle of olive oil instead).

Supplement your intake with other whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread and pasta. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” on the food package and in the ingredient list—it should be listed as the first ingredient. But if you still find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites, phase in a whole grain by using whole-grain blends of pastas and rice or mixing whole grains half-and-half with a refined one (like half whole-wheat pasta and half white).

By displacing meat at some meals, you can lower your saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonoids. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once a week. Swap out most of your red meat and replace it with skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. Start by making a few small changes.

Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health. Make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; for example, use a little diced pancetta in a tomato sauce for pasta. If you do have a hankering for a steak, it’s OK to indulge, just do so occasionally and choose a lean cut, like top loin, sirloin, flank steak or strip steak and limit your portion size to 4 ounces.

Use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. There are many dessert recipes now that use olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with balsamic vinegar is delicious for dipping bread and is a healthier alternative to butter. Other plant-based oils, such as canola or walnut oil, are also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Aim for 4 to 8 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1/2 to 2 cups depending on the vegetable. Pick vegetables in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Start your day out with a spinach and Cheddar omelet, have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch and have roasted carrots and a green salad for dinner. Big green salads are a great way to include several vegetable servings at once.

Snack on a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds in place of chips, cookies or other processed snack foods, which are often loaded with sugars, saturated fat and trans fats. Calcium-rich low-fat cheese or low-fat and nonfat plain yogurt with fresh fruit are other healthy and portable snacks.

Generally a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, fresh fruit is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth. If it helps you to eat more, drizzle slices of pear with honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit. Keep fresh fruit visible at home and keep a piece or two at work so you have a healthful snack when your stomach starts growling. Lots of grocery stores stock exotic fruit—pick a new one to try each week and expand your fruit horizons.

Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque buildup. Remember, “1 drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.

Eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table with your family and friends to savor what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. You’re more apt to eat just until you’re satisfied then until you’re busting-at-the-seams full. This is the perfect time of year to make some changes to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and local fresh caught fish is more available. These delicious dinners can all be enjoyed during a leisurely, relaxing dinner on the patio on a warm summer evening.

Fusilli with Green Beans, Pancetta and Parmigiano

Serves three.

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. whole grain fusilli or other twisted pasta
  • 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/2 -inch squares (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled but kept whole
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, put the pancetta in a cold 10-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pancetta starts sizzling, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the pancetta until golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of its fat, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Add the beans to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and season the beans with salt and pepper. With the pan still over medium heat, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the olive oil. Toss to combine. Add another 1/4 cup pasta water and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Sea Bass With Citrus-Olive-Caper Sauce

Buy Eco-friendly Mid-Atlantic Sea Bass

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea bass fillets (about 5 oz each), skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 lemons, peeled and thinly sliced, segments halved
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Directions:

Place broiler pan as close to heating element as possible and heat 5 minutes. On a plate, coat fillets on both sides with 1 tablespoons oil. Carefully remove pan from broiler and place on the stovetop.

Arrange fillets on pan, skin side down; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Broil fish 6 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together lemon slices, juice, oregano, capers, olives, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoons pepper.

Place fish on platter; top with citrus-olive-caper sauce.

Grilled Chicken with Feta and Red Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Grilled chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Red pepper sauce:

  • 2 pounds grilled red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces sliced feta cheese (4 slices)

Spinach leaves for serving plate

Directions:

To prepare chicken: place chicken, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; place in refrigerator and marinate 2 to 24 hours.

To grill the peppers: preheat grill. Place peppers on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag to let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers.

To prepare sauce: place grilled peppers, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.

Preheat grill to medium and oil grill grates. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken 7 minutes, turn, place feta cheese slices on top of the chicken and cook 7 more minutes or until cooked through.

Arrange spinach on serving plate, top with chicken and serve with red pepper sauce.

Orange and Olive Salad

Serve with flatbread or pita.

Ingredients:

  • Two heads romaine lettuce
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted, sliced in half
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • Orange slices and orange zest for garnish

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Wash and dry the romaine and arugula. Toss in a large bowl with the olives, onion and oranges.

Add freshly ground black pepper to taste (the olives may be salty, so don’t add any salt at this point).

Whisk the dressing ingredients, seasoning it to taste. Slowly pour some of the dressing over the salad while tossing well to coat all.

Be careful not to use too much dressing for the amount of greens. Garnish with very thin slices of orange and orange zest.

Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Almonds

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cored and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Large pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 3 large oil-packed anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound swhole grain paghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

For stuffing:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large cabbage

Cooking sauce for cabbage rolls

  • 3 containers (26-28 oz. size) tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of water to boil, adding the rice and turmeric. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cook the lentils in 3 cups of boiling water until soft.

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil in a skillet.

Mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl.

For the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, rice, lentils, almonds and raisins.

Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling, beginning at the thick end of the leaf. Fold this end over the filling, folding the edges in as you go to make a neat roll.

Place the rolls in one or two casseroles, covering with the sauce.

Bake the cabbage rolls covered at 350 degrees F, 45-60 minutes until cabbage is tender. Cool slightly and serve from the dish they were baked in.


Think beans are just for cold weather?

Think again. In a crispy cool bean salad, beans are lighter, yet still as filling.  This side-dish favorite can be prepared in countless ways. So pick your bean base from one of the choices below and then try one the recipes in this post:

Kidney: For a meatier main dish, mix these rich beans with barley, fresh green peppers and a can of tuna and then top with an olive oil and lemon dressing.

Black:  For a Tex-Mex style salad, simply mix beans with corn, tomatoes, green onions, fresh cilantro and top it all off with a sprinkling of lime juice and olive oil.

Green:  Crisp and garden fresh, green beans will give your salad lots of crunch. Toss them with cherry tomatoes, soft feta cheese and grilled corn. Add a lemon-mint vinaigrette to really bring out the flavors.

Pinto:  Make a spicy salad by mixing pinto beans with cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, onions, celery and fresh parsley. Toss in an herbed vinaigrette and add a splash of Tabasco for extra flavor.

Garbanzo:  A highly versatile bean, garbanzos are great mixed in couscous with roasted bell peppers, red onions, cucumbers and feta cheese. Toss in a honey-Dijon dressing to finish.

Beans are eaten around the world with all kinds of flavorings and accompaniments. Black beans, for example, seem well-suited to Mexican style salads, while the flavors of the Mediterranean—green beans, anchovies, basil, thyme and fruity olive oil—enhance creamy white beans. Indian flavors—cumin, ginger, yogurt and cilantro—are great for chickpea salads as are Middle Eastern flavors—garlic, parsley, olive oil and feta.

You can easily make these salads by opening a can or two of beans and mixing them with seasonings and your favorite salad dressings. However, 1 cup dried beans gives you 2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked beans and, with the exception of chickpeas which actually take well to canning, most beans suffer, becoming quite mushy when canned. When you use canned beans, you also miss a chance to add extra flavor to your salads. Including a few aromatic vegetables and seasonings in the pot when cooking dried beans is an opportunity to add depth and character to the final dish. If you do use canned beans, try a few brands to see which you like best. The organic ones taste better and usually have little or no salt. Just remember to always rinse canned beans well before using.

Most beans improve in flavor and texture when cooked a day in advance. If you plan to hold them for a day or so, refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid once they’ve cooled. If kept at room temperature for too long, beans can sour and ferment.

To soak or not to soak?

Soaking dried beans in water overnight before cooking them has two benefits: most soaked beans cook faster—up to an hour less. Also, if the soaking water is poured off, the beans will be easier to digest because you’re leaching out and pouring off the oligosaccharides that cause gas.

If you are not good at planning ahead, there’s a quick-soaking method. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil. Boil for two minutes and then let them soak for an hour off the heat, drain, and then add fresh water and continue cooking.

Many people believe dried beans last forever. In fact, very old beans and those that have been stored in hot, humid conditions might never soften even after hours of cooking. Yet it’s almost impossible to tell the age of dried beans. If you have a good market that goes through beans quickly, you’d do well to buy them there. Heirloom beans are available by mail from small growers.

To salt or not?

A major debate exists in the culinary world on whether adding salt or acids to beans slows down the cooking time or toughens the beans.  Cook’s Illustrated did a study and concluded that salt has no effect on cooking time or bean texture. Furthermore, they suggest that for maximum flavor, it’s actually essential to salt your beans at the beginning rather than the end of of cooking. Also, when soaking beans, Cook’s Illustrated says that by using salt water, the bean will cook up with softer and more pliable skins.  

Tomato sauce, wine, lemon juice and vinegar, however, do prevent the starch on the inside of the bean from swelling and becoming tender. These ingredients can be added to bean salads, but not until the beans are fully cooked and soft. And speaking of acidic ingredients, don’t dress cooked beans until the day you are serving the salad. Though the beans need some time to absorb the flavor from the dressing, too much time in contact with the acidic ingredients—and this includes yogurt—will make the beans mushy.

After cooking the beans and letting them cool in their broth, strain them and mix them with summertime ingredients, such as basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and chiles from the farmers’ market. These salads are good for a light lunch along with some bread—crusty Italian with white bean salads, warmed tortillas with the black beans or and pita with chickpea salads.

Consider experimenting with a pot of cooked beans to create your own salad. Try some of the recipes below for a different side dish to add interest at your next BBQ. These recipes also make use of the many fresh vegetables that are available this time of year.

Basic Method For Cooking Dried Beans

Use this basic method to cook any type of dried bean, including cannellini, kidney beans, chickpeas, and more. 1 cup dried beans yields about 3 cups.

Ingredients:

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 to 3 sprigs fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, or flat-leaf parsley)

1 to 1-1/2 cups dried beans, sorted through, rinsed and soaked

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Wrap the bay leaves, garlic,and herbs in cheesecloth and tie with twine. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches (about 2 quarts). Add the herb bundle and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are tender but not splitting and falling apart, 1 to 2 hours depending on the type and freshness the of beans. Cannellini and kidney beans take about 1 hour and 15 minutes; chickpeas may take up to two hours. Best way to tell is to taste one of the beans. Check occasionally to be sure the beans aren’t boiling and that they are covered with liquid; add water if needed. Discard the herb bundle.

Black Bean Salad

Serves 4 – 6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 small jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 -3 big handfuls baby salad greens, well washed and dried
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Making the dressing: I use an immersion blender – but a blender or food processor will work just as well. Combine the lime juice, vinegar, honey, jalapeño, salt, garlic and mustard. Puree and add the olive oil and puree again until everything comes together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Set aside until you are ready to serve the salad.

Just before you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss the salad greens with a small amount of the dressing. Arrange it on a platter. Now toss the beans and most of the almonds with the remaining dressing. Arrange the beans on top of the salad greens and finish by sprinkling with the remaining almonds and the crumbled feta cheese. 

Bean Salad with Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese

If you can find yellow wax beans use half green and half yellow.

6 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil

Salad:

  • 1 ½ lbs green beans, trimmed
  • 8 cups (packed) torn arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh savory leaves or fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 2 ounces semi-firm sheep’s-milk cheese (such as pecorino romano), shaved with vegetable peeler

For dressing:

Whisk shallot, vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in both oils. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk before adding to the salad.

For salad:

Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water just until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer beans to colander and cool.

Combine beans and arugula in large bowl. Toss with dressing. Transfer salad to serving platter; sprinkle with walnuts, olives, herbs and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Serves four to six

If you use canned chickpeas in place of dried, don’t cook them. Add the turmeric and salt to them (but not the onion or bay leaves) and continue with the recipe as directed. Toast the whole spices in a heavy-based skillet just until fragrant; crush them with a mortar and pestle or grind them coarsely in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, well rinsed (soaked and drained), or 3 cups canned (see note above), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut in half
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 small potatoes (about 8 oz. total)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 medium-size hot green chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Directions:

In a deep, heavy-based pot, cover the chickpeas with 6 to 8 cups cold water. Add the turmeric, bay leaves, yellow onion and 1 tsp. salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce to a gentle simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes; let cool in the broth.

In a heavy-based pot, cover the potatoes with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender, about 20 min. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut them into small cubes.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and sour cream. Add the ginger, cumin, fennel and chile. Mix well.

Drain the chickpeas, discarding the onion and bay leaves. In a serving bowl, combine the chickpeas, potatoes, cucumber and red onion. Mix in the yogurt dressing, cilantro and mint. Combine well. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Make Ahead Tips ; The beans can be cooked a day ahead (in fact, the flavor and texture will be even better). Cool the beans to room temperature, then refrigerate them in their cooking liquid; bring to room temperature  and drain before assembling the salad.

Warm Kidney Bean Salad

Try this bean salad as a side with barbecue pork or grilled chicken.

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 — (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced in half

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add oregano, vinegar and beans. Cook over low heat until beans are warm.

Remove from heat and stir in salt, parsley and olives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean and Baby Zucchini Salad

White-Bean Salad with Zucchini 

White beans add heartiness while chopped zucchini adds crunch to this vegetarian salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (about 2 small), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Note: Small zucchini are sweeter than larger ones, especially when used raw.

Green Bean Salad with Prosciutto

4 to 6 servings

The flavor of Prosciutto di Parma, the most famous of the Italian hams, makes a delicious addition to this summery salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally in half
  • 1 medium summer squash, cut in matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:

Steam beans in steamer basket over boiling water until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Empty into a colander and cool.

Drain well, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

 


It’s amazing what you can put on a pizza. You can serve many of your favorite garden vegetables on a pizza, everything from tomatoes, potatoes, corn and beans. Some may seem a little strange but, if you like the vegetable, chances are—you’ll like it on a pizza. When peppers, squash and cherry tomatoes are at their peak, there’s nothing like enjoying them on a pizza.

It doesn’t always have to be a red sauce, either. White pizzas can be made with a white cheese sauce or simply a coating of olive oil. You want to add just enough, so that your pizza is not dry, but not too much, if you want a crispy crust.

Except for tomatoes, partially cook your vegetables before putting them on a pizza. A thin light crust, one that is intended to be crispy, will not stay crispy, if the vegetables are expected to cook on the pizza.Top your vegetables with just enough cheese to hold things together.

The crust . . .

You can’t make a thin crust with bread flour. It’s too stiff and springs back too much. You need a soft, pliable dough with not too much gluten. You can do it with all-purpose flour. Better yet, add a 1/2 cup of rye flour to your pizza dough recipe made from all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour is another good low gluten option.

Pre-baking the crust for 5 -6 minutes will also help the dough stay crusty.

Don’t want to heat up the kitchen, try grilled pizzas. Here are some tips:

Grilled pizzas are versatile and easy to accommodate everyone’s likes and needs. The cheese melts evenly and quickly and the crust gets crispy. What’s more, you get that smoky taste from the grill.

Because the pie gets topped right on the grill after the crust has been turned over, the ingredients must be prepped in advance. Take the ingredients out to the grill in small bowls on a cutting board or tray. Preparing different toppings in advance means you can make a variety of pies. Or make personal pies: one to suit each person.

Before you get to the grill, shape the dough into the right size. Simply put the dough on a lightly floured surface and dust the top with a little more flour. Dimple it with your fingertips to shape it into a thick, flattened disk. After that, it’s just a quick job with a rolling pin or your fingers to shape it into a rustic circle or oblong.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza peel or baking sheet before transferring the dough to it. Give the dough a shake to make sure it will come free when it’s time to slide it onto the grill. Once at the grill, slide the dough onto the grill grates.

Close the lid and let the crust get brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Use a metal spatula to gently lift the dough and check for brown grill marks on the underside. Use a pizza peel or large metal spatula to turn the dough over.

Working quickly, top the dough with the prepared ingredients, leaving a 1-inch border. Close the lid and cook until the toppings are heated through, the cheese is melted and the crust is brown. Remove the pizza from the grill and cut it into serving pieces.

 

Sausage & Pepper Grilled Pizza

Serves: 4

Prepare the Dough:

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough for the Grill

  • 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup of warm water
  • 1.5 teaspoons of rapid rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

Combine all the ingredients together in a food processor or electric mixer until dough forms a ball.

Place dough in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Oil the grates.

Prepare the Toppings:                                                                                 

Cook 6 oz hot Italian turkey sausage (casings removed) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, breaking up clumps with a slotted spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Roast 1 pint mini sweet peppers on grill until charred and softened, about 4 minutes. Remove to a cutting board. Halve peppers lengthwise and remove seeds.

Divide the dough in half and stretch each into a large circle and lightly coat 1 side of each with olive oil spray. Put crusts oil side down on the grill and heat until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Turn crusts over and spread 1 cup marinara sauce evenly over the top of each pizza.

Sprinkle pizzas evenly with 3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella, cooked sausage and roasted peppers.

Grill until bottoms are golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes longer. Remove to a cutting board.

Sprinkle with fresh arugula, if desired and cut each pizza into 4 slices.

Farmers’ Market Pizza

Note: Zucchini Preparation: salt and microwave for a minute or two before putting on the pizza– less sogginess– and they are cooked when the pizza is done. Use the same preparation with eggplant.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and
  • 1 1/4 cups semolina flour.
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Topping

  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 small red onion (3 ounces), thinly sliced

Directions:

To make the crust:

Mix and knead together in an electric mixer all of the ingredients until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Let the dough rise, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes, then refrigerate it for 4 hours or overnight.

To prepare the pizza:

With lightly greased hands, stretch the dough into a lightly greased rectangular pan about 13″ x 9″ or into a greased round pizza pan. Cover and let the dough rest for 45 to 60 minutes.

Place a baking stone in the middle of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Spread the tomato sauce onto the dough and place the pizza pan directly on the stone.

Bake for 6 minutes and remove from the oven.

Distribute the cheese over the sauce, then place the zucchini on 1/4 of the dough, the corn on another 1/4, the tomatoes on 1/4 and the onions on the last quarter. 

Return the pizza to the baking stone and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Yield: 1 large pizza.

Pistachio and Mortadella Pizza

Makes Four 10″ Pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. pizza dough, divided into 4 equal pieces
  • Fine semolina, for dusting
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced mortadella, cut into quarters
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 oz. grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 16 fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Place a pizza stone under the broiler; heat for 30 minutes.

Puree pistachios, Parmesan, oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 cup water in a food processor until smooth.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, dust 1 ball dough with semolina.

Using your fingertips, press dough into a 10″circle about 1/4″thick, leaving a 1″ crust around the edges. Hold dough straight up, and with fingertips circling crust, slide fingers around crust in a circular motion as you would turn a steering wheel until dough in the center is stretched to about 1/8″thick; transfer to a semolina dusted pizza peel.

Spread 1/2 cup pistachio pesto over dough and distribute one quarter each of the mortadella, cheeses and basil over the top; drizzle with oil. Slide pizza onto stone; broil until cheese melts and crust is puffed and charred in spots, 3-4 minutes. 

Repeat with the remainig three pieces of dough and toppings.

 Uno's Deep-Dish Pizza

Cheese and Tomato Deep Dish Pizza

8 servings

Pizza dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella are layered in a springform pan for deep-dish pizza.

Although traditional Chicago pizza has all the cheese on the bottom, here it is divided between the top and the bottom.

Use your favorite pizza crust recipe or purchase dough from a local pizzeria. 

Ingredients:

Chunky Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes (the chunkier the better)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped Italian herbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper to taste

Pizza:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces pizza dough (at room temperature)
  • 4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
  • 3/4 cup chunky tomato sauce, homemade or store bought
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

Directions:

To prepare the sauce:

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Let cool. You will not need all this sauce for the pizza.

To prepare the pizza:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour oil into a 10-inch round, deep-dish pan or springform pan. Place dough in the center of pan and work dough from the center outward, pressing to cover the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides of the pan. Prick with a fork. Bake crust in the oven about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes.

Spread 2 cups mozzarella cheese on crust, top with 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese, Romano cheese and oregano on top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pizza every 15 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the cheese should be bubbling when cooked. Remove pizza from the oven and let cool 3 minutes. Remove pizza from pan using a large spatula, cut and serve.

 


While the young people prepare to embark on a new path towards adulthood, parents are thinking: There’s a party to be planned! Where to begin? Who to invite? What about decorations? What food to serve? How will all those people fit in the house? Take a deep breath, make a pot of coffee and grab pen and paper.

Write down dates with goals in mind. You’ll want to keep track of expenses and check off each task as it’s completed. Sit down with your soon to be graduate and have an honest discussion about the expectations of the party. Only you, the parents, know what you can afford and how much space you have to create the perfect party for your young adult.

If you don’t think there will be enough room in your home for all your guests, order a tent from a reputable company near you. Make sure you have a clear idea of how many people will be attending and what the tent looks like. The company usually comes out early on the day of the event to put the tent up for you. You’ll need tables and chairs for food and for guests to sit and eat. They can be rented from the same company that rents tents or you can borrow them from friends.

More and more young people are planning the event around a theme. It’s usually something that brings to light a personal like or personality trait. The school colors are not always used these days. Ask your graduate if he/she has a preference. If not… go with the school colors. 

Graduation and congratulatory decorations abound through the spring. Keep a lookout for unique items. If helium balloons are on your list, be sure to order early and don’t forget the weights to keep them on the tables.

A “Memory Corner” recreates the past 18 years of your new adult. Make a collage of photographs, childhood memorabilia with bits and pieces of all their favorite things. Display any awards, merits and scholarships acquired through their years in elementary and high school. Let your imagination run wild to create a unique display that will be the hit of the day.

Pick up paper products. Specialty stores abound when it comes to party items like paper plates, cups, napkins, fruit cups and plastic spoons, forks and knives. Customized napkins need to be ordered early, but most kids are happy with just the year on it.

Music always adds a festive touch to any party. Choose music that your child loves or even better, leave the task of selecting the music to your graduate.

Since this is a day to honor your child’s achievement, let him/her be your guide. Perhaps all or some of their favorite foods could be served. You might wish to have a chicken barbeque or grill hamburgers and hotdogs. Sandwiches, chips and baked beans are probably the most used menu, but I would go a different route to create a buffet unique to your child. Mexican food, Italian, Greek, Chinese… the possibilities are endless.

A sample menu: Grilled chicken, your best potato salad or Caesar salad with creamy dressing, crusty rolls, a vegetable plate that includes celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, a mixed fruit salad in a watermelon bowl an, of course, the cake.

If you’re expecting a large crowd, place bowls of M&M’s mixed with peanuts on the tables, mints or another finger food. FYI: You can purchase just the color of M&M’s you need at specialty stores. This makes for a colorful addition to the table decorations, especially in school colors.

Find a great cake decorator who creates unique, one of a kind cakes. Have the cake decorated to coordinate with the theme. Order early to assure you get just what you want. You can keep costs down by making your own cake. (See below)

It’s best to not include liquor or beer unless all the attendees are over 21. The temptation for young people to drink may be too great. Keep the drinks to sodas, iced tea, lemonade, punch or coffee.

Organizational Tips:

  • Create a timeline.
  • Ask a friend or two to help you out with kitchen duties and to run last minute errands, such as picking up the cake, getting the balloons, flowers, etc.
  • Create a list just for the menu and food preparation. Put the list on your refrigerator to remind you what needs to be done and when.
  • Do as much cooking beforehand. Meats can be cooked and stored in the freezer.
  • Clean and cut vegetables the day before, place in large bags or plastic containers.
  • Confirm all orders a week before the party. Don’t allow a glitch to occur that day.
  • Set up as much as possible the day before the party.
  • Don’t forget to: Have Fun!

Suggested Party Menu

Minted Citrus Tea

This recipe serves 10. It is easily doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 12 fresh mint sprigs
  • 4 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar, or sugar alternative such as Truvia (Stevia)
  • 1 cup fresh Florida orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 1 Florida orange, sliced for garnish
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish

Directions:

Place the tea bags and mint sprigs into a large pitcher. Pour the boiling water over them and steep for about 7 minutes.

Remove and discard the tea bags and mint leaves, squeezing out excess liquid. Stir in sugar until dissolved and then stir in the orange juice and lemon juice.

Pour in the cold water. Serve over ice cubes, garnished with orange or lemon slices.

Arugula, Frisee and Red-Leaf Salad with Strawberries

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 12 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
  • 12 cups red-leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 12 cups frisee, trimmed, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 8 Belgian endives, leaves separated, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 pints strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and quartered
  • 2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions:

In a large salad bowl add the arugula, red-leaf lettuce, frisee, endive, strawberries and walnuts.

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper.

Pour half of the dressing over the salad and season with additional salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Taste and add more dressing, as desired

Grilled-Steak Sandwiches

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 sirloin, skirt, or flank steaks (about 2 pounds each)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 large loaves Italian bread, halved lengthwise
  • Garnish: fresh basil and romaine lettuce leaves

Directions:

Let steaks stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat grill to high. Brush grates with oil. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across the grain.

Meanwhile, drizzle tomatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Brush bread with oil. Grill tomatoes until lightly charred and soft, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Grill cut sides of bread until lightly charred, 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Layer sliced steak and grilled tomatoes over bottom halves of bread. Garnish with basil and romaine leaves, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Sandwich with top halves of bread. Cut each loaf crosswise into 6 sandwiches.

Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches

Servings: 8

Ingrdients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 2 white country loaves of bread—ends discarded, each with at least eight slices
  • 1 pound sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, mix the halved tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes cut side up for 1 1/2 hours, until soft and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the tomatoes are very tender and slightly shriveled but still juicy. Let cool. (This can be done a day or two ahead)

Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Brush 16 bread slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; arrange 8 of the slices oiled side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top with the provolone, cover with the tomatoes, 4 cups of the Fontina and the remaining 8 bread slices, oiled side up. Press gently on the sandwiches and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

Preheat the broiler. Toss the remaining Fontina with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle on the sandwiches. Broil 3 inches from the heat for about 1 minute, until the cheese is melted. Transfer the sandwiches to a serving platter. Cut into smaller pieces, if desired.

Potato Salad with Cipollini Onions, Olives and Fennel

Yukon Golds are the best potato for this salad.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 1 pound cipollini onions, peeled and left whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup picholine olives, pitted (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved (2 cups)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, onions and red-pepper flakes. Cook until onions are golden, about 7 minutes.

Add stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine reserved liquid, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour over warm potatoes and onions. Stir in olives and let cool to room temperature.

Add fennel and parsley and combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

Mix well. Best served at room temperature.

Note To ensure maximum flavor, toss potatoes with dressing while they’re still warm.

Charred Corn Salad

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 large ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing on the corn
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons torn mint leaves
  • 6 tablespoons torn parsley leaves

Directions:

Heat grill to medium high. Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning, until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the onion and lime juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the syrup, jalapeño and the 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.

Working in a large bowl, with a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs. Add the onion dressing and toss. Add the mint, parsley and toss again. Serve warm.

Graduation Cake

Servings: 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar plus 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Creamy Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly spray a large (18-by-12-inch) sheet cake pan (or you can use a slightly smaller jelly roll pan) with nonstick baking spray. Be sure to get in all the corners of the pan.

Measure sifted flour, add baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt and sift together three times. In a separate large bowl beat egg whites until foamy, add the 1 cup white sugar, gradually, and continue beating until mixture  stands in soft peaks.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream shortening, add 2 1/2 cups white sugar, gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture, alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and the beaten egg whites and beat thoroughly into batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared sheet cake pan. Use a large offset spatula or knife to even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

Place a large cutting board covered with parchment paper on top of the cake pan, then invert the cake, allowing it to turn out onto the cutting board. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.

When thoroughly cooled, at least 2 hours, brush cake to remove any loose crumbs. You can also cut the cake in half to make two layers, if desired.

Prepare Creamy Butter Frosting and spread the cake with frosting. You can tint the frosting, write on top of cake and add graduation decorations.

To Make Creamy Butter Frosting:

Cream 1 cup butter or margarine; add part of the confectioners’ sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Mix in 4 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then add remaining sugar alternately with milk, until the right consistency for spreading. Beat after each addition until smooth. Makes about 5 cups.

(While frosting cake, keep bowl of frosting covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.)

 



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