Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: arugula

My Local Farmers' Market

My Local Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is a place where farmers sell their products directly to consumers. Ultra-fresh produce, pastured meat and eggs, artisan cheeses, hand-harvested honey and other fresh, small-batch foods are the hallmark of the best farmers’ markets. With farmers’ markets overflowing with the best of the season’s produce—corn on the cob, tomatoes, squash, stone fruit and more, all at the absolute peak of their ripeness—it’s easy to pull together an elegant, satisfying dinner menu that showcases the summer’s bounty.

If you know a bit of what to expect when you get to the farmers’ market, making decisions at each stall is much easier. Learn what grows in your area and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks. In the US, find your local farmers’ markets from United States Department of Agriculture 

  • Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close.  For the best selection, go to the farmers’ market early in the day. The best goods go first. Popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done. For the best deals, go to the farmers’ market late in the day. Farmers and other vendors often prefer to discount products instead of loading them back up and taking them home.
  • Some farmers’ market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that can break under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers’ market by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags.
  • Although vendors will make change, purchases will go easier and faster if you have small bills with you. Most farmers only take cash at the market.
  • If you find a vegetable that’s new to you and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how they like to eat it.

farmersmarket 1

Summer Squash Salad with Arugula, Feta and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 summer squash (medium-sized yellow or green, about 3-4 cups sliced squash)
  • 6 ozs arugula leaves (baby, 3-4 handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint and parsley)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled

Directions

Zest the lemon and place the zest in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from the zested lemon to measure 3 tablespoons. Add lemon juice to the zest, then whisk in the olive oil.

Cut off the ends of the squash and cut in half lengthwise; then cut into very thin slices. Layer the sliced squash into a flat dish and pour 2/3 of the dressing over the squash and season with a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Let squash marinate 15-30 minutes.

Wash baby arugula leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Wash herbs of your choice and spin dry or dry with paper towels and coarsely chop them.

Combine arugula and herbs in bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients. Add marinated squash slices, toss to combine and taste to see if you want to add more dressing, salt or fresh ground black pepper. Arrange salad on individual salad plates, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese and serve.

farmersmarket 5

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • One 14 ounce loaf Italian bread
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium tomatoes (1-1/2 lbs total), diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cut bread loaf in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1-inch-thick slices, for a total of 8 slices. Brush slices lightly with olive oil. Grill 2 minutes per side; set aside. Lightly brush onion quarters with olive oil. Grill 5 minutes; rotate and grill another 5 minutes. Cut bread slices into 1-inch cubes.

Cut onion quarters into thin slices. Toss bread, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic and basil in the reserved dressing. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

farmersmarket 6

Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds firm green tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil, for sauteing 

Directions

Aioli

Combine mayonnaise, red peppers and garlic in a processor or blender. Process until well combined and fairly smooth, scraping down sides of the processor halfway through. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

Tomatoes

Core tomatoes and cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of each and discard. Cut each tomato into three or four 1/4-inch-thick slices and dry on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Combine flour and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow dish. Whisk together cornmeal, Parmesan, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the black pepper and cayenne in a third shallow dish.

Coat 1/3 of the tomato slices in the seasoned flour, followed by egg, then cornmeal mixture.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coated tomato slices and saute for 2 minutes. Carefully turn over the slices and saute an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and keep warm in the oven.

Repeat, coating 1/3 of the tomato slices with seasoned flour, egg and cornmeal mixture. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to skillet and saute as directed above. Repeat with the last batch of tomatoes and oil. Serve tomatoes warm with the aioli on the side.

farmersmarket 8

Grilled Shrimp and Bean Salad

Serve with cornbread, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 8 (12-inch) skewers
  • 2 pounds peeled, medium-size raw shrimp (21/25 count)
  • Basil Vinaigrette, divided (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 6 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
  • 1 1/3 cups (5 1/2 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in water to cover 30 minutes or use metal skewers.

Meanwhile, combine shrimp and 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and chill 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Preheat outdoor grill to 350°F to 400°F (medium-high) heat.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain, pat dry, and place in a large bowl.
Remove shrimp from the marinade, discarding marinade. Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from the skewers and toss with green beans, crumbled bacon, Parmesan cheese, roasted almonds and remaining 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette.

Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk together basil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and salt until blended. Gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly, until blended.

farmersmarket 2

 

Torta Salata di Zucchine e Cipolle (Zucchini, Onion and Ricotta Pie)

A savory summer pie from Italy’s Piedmont region is made with zucchini and onions, but feel free to substitute with peppers, eggplant, squash—even tomatoes.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and shallot until golden, 4–6 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; let cool. Stir in pecorino, ricotta, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10″ pie plate with butter; coat with bread crumbs. Spread zucchini mixture evenly over the top and bake until golden on the top and slightly puffed, 40–45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

farmersmarket 7

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

Directions

Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high. Combine oil, basil, marjoram and salt in a small bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture in another small bowl; set aside.

Coat both sides of bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion pieces with olive oil cooking spray. Grill the vegetables, turning once, until soft and lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes per side for the pepper, 4 minutes per side for the eggplant and zucchini and 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes and onion.

Rub the tablespoon of reserved herb mixture on both sides of the chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and chop into 1-inch pieces. Return to the bowl and toss with the vinegar and the remaining herb mixture. Serve the grilled chicken over the vegetables.

farmersmarket 3

Summer Berry Dessert

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) container organic strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blackberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blueberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic raspberries

Directions

Crush mint and sugar in a mortar and pestle until well-blended (or place sugar and mint in a blender or food processor and pulse until well-blended). Place mint-sugar in a large bowl and add strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Gently toss until evenly combined.

Let the fruit sit for an hour. The berries will release some of their juices and soften.

farmersmarket 4

Plum Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, divided
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for baking dish
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb Italian plums or other firm plums, pitted and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F . Coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray and dust with flour; set aside.

Whisk the together the 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add 4 tablespoons chilled butter and rub into flour mixture until pea-size pieces form.

Mix together milk, vanilla and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Transfer dough to the prepared baking dish and spread over the bottom of the dish; arrange plum slices in rows on top of the dough.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over plums.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over plums.

Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

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grilledsalad

If you’re looking for something lighter, healthier and tastier than typical grilled fare, think about cooking up a salad on the grill. Not only can you cook the obvious chicken breast or steak for your salad, but the grill also does wonders with vegetables, fruits and even sturdy lettuces.

Grilling gives the ingredients a hint of smoke, a touch of char, that regular salads just don’t have. I like to make my dinner salads with protein, so I cook chicken, steak and fish on the grill. Don’t stop there, though: veggies and fruit go on too.

Any vegetable you like to oven-roast is a good candidate for the grill. Think: onions, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, fennel and asparagus. Grill thick slices until marked on both sides, then reduce heat (or move to a cooler part of the grill) and cook until tender. Try grilling sturdy greens like romaine and escarole. A few minutes on the grates makes them delightfully smoky and pleasantly wilted.

To keep food from sticking, oil a paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub on the preheated grill rack. Don’t use cooking spray on a hot grill. To prep veggies for the grill, toss them with oil so they brown nicely and don’t dry out.

For smaller items like cherry tomatoes use skewers to keep them from falling through the grates. A Grill Basket is also great for small vegetables. Just place mushrooms or onion slices into the basket and stir occasionally until done.

Meat Substitutes

Tofu, tempeh, veggie dogs, veggie sausage and veggie burgers all taste great when cooked on the grill!

  • Meat substitutes tend to stick to the grill, so be sure to use a light brushing of oil to help prevent sticking. A non-stick grate or foil packets lightly coated with oil can also be helpful.
  • When grilling tofu, use firm or extra-firm and press it prior to cooking to remove as much of the moisture as possible.
  • Grill over a preheated grill (not too hot!) for 5-7 minutes per side. Place the tofu directly over moderately hot coals or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move it to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside doesn’t cook too quickly.
  • Try marinating tofu overnight or for quicker turnaround time, 30 minutes will get the job done.
  • Burger and hot dog alternatives grill up fairly quickly over indirect heat. Follow instructions on the packaging, as ingredients and cooking times may vary.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 flat anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 (1/2-inch-thick) slices baguette
  • 1 large pasteurized egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 3 hearts of romaine (18 ounces)
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Directions

Purée anchovies, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

Brush both sides of baguette slices with some of anchovy dressing, then grill bread, turning over occasionally, until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg and lemon juice to dressing in blender and blend until emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt.

Cut romaine hearts in half lengthwise, then grill, cut sides down, covered only if using a gas grill, until grill marks just appear, about 2 minutes. Cut romaine crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips and transfer to a bowl.

Halve or quarter toasts and add to romaine along with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Toss salad with just enough dressing to coat and serve immediately.

grilledsalads 1

Grilled Pork and Peach Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium peaches or nectarines, pitted, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground black pepper and salt
  • 3 cups torn fresh Bibb lettuce
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup bias-sliced green onions (2)

Directions

On four 10-inch skewers, thread pork cubes. On three more 10-inch skewers, thread peach cubes. For a charcoal grill, place skewers on the grill rack directly over medium coals.

Grill, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until peaches are browned and for 10 to 12 minutes or just until pork is slightly pink in the center, turning occasionally.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place skewers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed.)

Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the honey, orange juice, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. When pork skewers are done, remove pork and peaches from skewers and place in honey mixture; toss to coat.

To serve, arrange lettuce and spinach on serving plates. Spoon pork and peaches evenly over greens. Sprinkle with green onions. Makes 4 servings.

grilledsalad 6

Grilled Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Steak seasoning
  • 8 cups mesclun or spring salad greens or spinach
  • 3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions

For vinaigrette, in a screw-top jar combine oil, vinegar, dill, garlic, pepper, and oregano. Cover and shake well; let stand 1 hour.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken breast halves lightly with steak seasoning. Grill chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals or in a closed gas grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender and no longer pink (165 degrees F), turning once. Cool slightly.

Arrange salad greens on 4 plates; top with grapes, cheese and pine nuts. Slice each chicken breast and arrange one sliced breast on each salad. Shake dressing and drizzle over the salads. Makes 4 servings

grilledsalad 2

Grilled Salmon Penne Salad

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen skinless, boneless salmon fillet or other fish fillet
  • 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar or any flavor vinegar that you like
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces dried penne pasta (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup bias-sliced, trimmed fresh asparagus spears or any vegetable in season
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries or sliced fresh strawberries
  • Cracked black pepper 
  • 2 green onions, sliced

Directions

Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, garlic, and pepper. Remove 2 teaspoons of the oil mixture for brushing on the fish; set aside remaining oil mixture to toss with pasta.

Preheat an outdoor grill. Place fish directly on the greased grates or in a foil grill pan. Brush the 2 teaspoons oil mixture over fish. Grill fish with closed cover. Allow 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the asparagus for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain well. Return pasta mixture to saucepan. Pour remaining oil mixture over pasta; toss to coat.

Flake cooked salmon. Add salmon to pasta; toss gently. Cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours.

To serve, add berries to pasta mixture; toss gently to mix. Sprinkle with green onions and cracked black pepper. Makes 4 servings.

grilledsalads 3

Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges*
  • 2 green and/or red sweet peppers, halved, stems, membranes, and seeds removed
  • 6 large cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 3 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Fresh thyme

Herb Vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper

Directions

Herb Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar, snipped fresh parsley, snipped fresh thyme, snipped fresh rosemary, salt and dash ground black pepper.

In a very large bowl, combine eggplant, onion wedges, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Add olive oil and cider vinegar. Toss to coat vegetables.

Place vegetables on greased of an uncovered grill directly over medium-hot coals or on a covered gas grill. Grill for 3 minutes; turn vegetables. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.

To serve, cut each pepper half into 3 strips. Arrange vegetables on a platter. Drizzle with Herbed Vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, garnish with fresh thyme. Makes 4 servings.

*Leave onion wedges attached at the root end to hold wedges together.

grilledsalad 4

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak Salad

Ingredients

Creamy Basil Dressing, recipe below

  • 1 lb beef flank steak
  • 4 small yellow and/or red sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded, and halved
  • 2 ears fresh corn, husked and silks removed
  • 4 green onions, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cups torn romaine lettuce
  • Fresh basil sprigs

Directions

Divide dressing in half.
Trim fat from the steak. Score both sides of the steak in a diamond pattern by making shallow diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals. Place steak in a resealable plastic bag. Pour one portion of the dressing over the steak in the bag; set remaining dressing portion aside. Seal bag; turn to coat steak. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Brush sweet pepper, corn, and green onions with olive oil.

For a charcoal grill, grill steak and corn on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals until steak is desired doneness and corn is tender, turning steak once halfway through grilling and turning corn occasionally.

For steak, allow 17 to 21 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F). For corn, allow 15 to 20 minutes. Add sweet pepper halves to the grill for the last 8 minutes of grilling and green onions to the grill for the last 4 minutes grilling, turning frequently.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place meat and, later, vegetables on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Thinly slice meat against the grain. Coarsely chop sweet peppers and green onions; cut corn from cob. Serve meat, vegetables and tomatoes over romaine lettuce. Drizzle with the reserved portion of the dressing. Garnish with basil sprigs. Makes 4 servings

Creamy Basil Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 12 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

grilledsalads 5

Grilled Shrimp & Plum Kebabs

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 raw shrimp, (8-12 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 4 hot peppers or jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise
  • 3-4 plums, depending on size, pitted and cut into sixths
  • 1 bunch arugula, washed, dried, and torn

Directions

Whisk oil, oregano, lime zest, lime juice and salt in a large bowl. Set aside 4 tablespoons of the mixture in a small bowl to use as dressing. Add shrimp, jalapeños and plums to the remaining marinade; toss to coat.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Make 4 kebabs, alternating shrimp, hot peppers and plums evenly among four 10-inch skewers. (Discard the marinade.) Grill the kebabs, turning once, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 8 minutes total.

Mix the arugula with the reserved dressing. Divide onto 4 plates and top each with a shrimp kabob. Makes 4 servings


hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. The hazel part of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “haesel” meaning a headdress or bonnet, referring to the shape of the outer shell covering. Hazelnuts are native to Asia Minor and they spread to Italy, Spain, France and Germany via Greece. Prior to the 1940s, hazelnuts were imported to the United States. Today, they are grown commercially in the Northwest US. In the food industry, hazelnuts are currently eaten raw, roasted, blanched, minced, sliced, powdered and pureed. Hazelnuts are also used as a premium ingredient in chocolates, biscuits, confectionary products, sweets, pastries and ice cream and in sauces and salads.

Hazelnuts are about the size of a small marble. The nut meat is encased in a hard shell that resembles an acorn without its cap. The nut meat has a bitter brown paper-thin skin that is removed before eating. These nuts contain 88 percent unsaturated oil, which is pressed for use and known as the delicately flavored hazelnut oil. Although it cannot be heated to high temperatures, this oil is favored by gourmets worldwide and is relatively expensive. Hazelnut cooking oil has a similar composition to extra virgin olive oil with high content in Omega 9 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This makes hazelnuts another healthy cooking oil option with flavorful taste.

Why are hazelnuts sometimes called filberts?

Well, there doesn’t seem to be one explanation. The most commonly accepted explanation is because hazelnuts mature on or around St. Philibert’s Day on August 20. Other historians believe the term filbert derives from the German, vollbart meaning full beard, a reference to the appearance of the husked shell. Hazelnuts are also known as cob nuts in some areas. Other experts claim these are all different varieties of the nut, but once shelled, they are quite difficult to tell apart.

Buying and Storing Hazelnuts

Check hazelnuts for freshness by picking up a nut and shaking it. If it rattles inside the shell, this is an indication it has lost moisture due to age or mishandling and is now stale. The shells should be free of cracks or holes. Most markets now carry shelled and ground hazelnuts, which can be quite a timesaver in the kitchen.

At room temperature, unshelled hazelnuts seldom last more than a month. Once shelled, they should be eaten as soon as possible. Shelled hazelnuts should last unopened up to 4 months in the refrigerator or 1 year in the freezer.

Hazelnut oil is more fragile. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Hazelnut oil should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Avoid heat when using hazelnut oil so as not to sacrifice its delicate flavor. When adding to sauces, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in at the last moment.

Hazelnut Preparation

  • For full flavor, roast and cool raw shelled hazelnuts before grinding or chopping.
  • To remove the paper skin, spread shelled hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast at 275 degrees F (130 C), stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the skins begin to break. Roll in a clean kitchen towel, let rest for 10 minutes, and then gently rub back and forth to remove the skins. Some bits of the skin may remain.
  • Bring hazelnuts to room temperature before using.

Equivalent Amounts

  • 2-1/4 pounds hazelnuts in the shell = 1 pound shelled nut meats.
  • 1 pound hazelnuts in the shell = 1-1/2 cups nut meats.
  • 1 pound shelled hazelnuts = 3-1/2 cups.
  • 1 cup shelled = 5 ounces.
  • 4 ounces ground, lightly packed = 3/4 cup.
  • 1 ounce ground, lightly packed = about 3-1/2 Tablespoons.
  • Macadamia nuts may be substituted for hazelnuts.

hazelnut 5

Arugula Salad with Poached Pears & Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 pears, peeled, stems attached, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups grape juice
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 5 oz baby arugula leaves
  • 3 oz red lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Directions

To make the poached pears:

Remove the core of each pear using a melon baller keeping the pear intact.

Place the wine and grape juice in a large saucepan. Add the pears, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 25 minutes or until tender turning them as needed, then remove pan from the heat and cool the pears for about 10 minutes in the liquid. Remove pears from the poaching liquid, transfer to a plate and let cool. Discard liquid.

To toast the nuts:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake until the nuts are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove pan from the oven and set the nuts aside to cool; then rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

To make the dressing:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shallots and vinegar. Slowly add the oil while constantly whisking to blend. Whisk in the water and season the dressing with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the salad:

Cut each of the poached pear halves into 4 wedges.
Toss the arugula, red lettuce, parsley, pears and half of the nuts in a large mixing bowl with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and gently mound the salad onto a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining nuts and Parmesan cheese and serve.

hazelnut 4

Chicken Scaloppine with Hazelnut-Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Madeira
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped 

Directions

Slice each chicken breast half into 2 cutlets. Place cutlets between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound each piece to about 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle pounded chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

Melt butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add the shallot to the same skillet and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the Madeira and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add cream; boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.

hazelnut 2

Lentil and Hazelnut Patties

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups dry lentils or use 1½ cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Rinse the dried lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Add water, if needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Older lentils may take longer to cook and shed their outer skins as they cook. (The best way to tell if they are cooked is to taste one.) Drain the lentils. Return the lentils to the saucepan and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Combine lentils, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg and hazelnuts. Stir in thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Mold into 4 burger-sized patties.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add patties and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Transfer onto a serving platter and serve with Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated peeled, seeded cucumber 
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Pat cucumber dry with paper towels. Combine cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill 1 hour.

hazelnut 1

Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 (12 ounces each) boneless pork tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Wine Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the pork:

Trim the pork of its silverskin and cut each tenderloin in half crosswise. (You will have 4 pieces.)

In 3 separate shallow bowls, place the flour, egg and hazelnuts. Add the salt and pepper to the flour. Dip the pork, on all sides, including the ends, first in the flour, then the egg and finally the hazelnuts. Make sure to coat the pork pieces completely with the nuts.

In a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, heat the vegetable oil and saute the pork on all sides until golden brown. Transfer the browned pork to a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees F.

For the sauce:

Add the olive oil to the pan used to brown the pork. Saute the shallots over medium high heat until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the white wine, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
Cut the pork tenderloins into 1/2-inch slices and place on a serving platter. Top the pork with the sauce and garnish with rosemary.

hazelnut 3

Italian Hazelnut Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 275°F oven, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; and turn the oven up to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large bowl.

Beat egg whites and the salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through the baking time, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


sandwich

What makes for a great sandwich?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard, dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all (and probably some additional) factors.

But, the question is – What’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?

For me – it is the quality of the bread – what is it for you?

sandwich 5

Mortadella, Cheese and Basil Panini

Mortadella is a large Italian sausage or cold cut made of finely ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates small cubes of pork fat. Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) loaf ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 8 ounces sliced mortadella 
  • 2 hot cherry peppers, sliced
  • 1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Brush the cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush the cut side of the top half with vinegar. Top the bottom half with mozzarella, basil, mortadella, peppers and tomato. Top with remaining bread half.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add the sandwich to the pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges. If the sandwich does not fit in your pan, cut it in half and cook in two batches.

sandwich 2

Family Style Hearty Steak Sandwich

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank or sirloin steak
  • 1 (1-pound) Italian round bread loaf (boule) 
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 ounces arugula

Directions

Heat an outdoor gas grill.

Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, red onion, vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.

Place steaks on the grill over medium heat. Grill to desired temperature, turning once. Place on cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain.

Slice bread horizontally. Grill, cut side down, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Top with tomato mixture, steak and arugula. Top with remaining bread. Slice into wedges.

sandwich 1

Vegan Muffuletta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 (8-inch) Italian round bread loaf, halved horizontally
  • 1/3 cup sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1/3 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 12 basil leaves

Directions

Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard the black gills from each mushroom. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until it begins to turn light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Arrange mushrooms in the skillet in a single layer, then add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning the mushrooms once, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes total. Set aside off of the heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine black and green olives, parsley, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and press the mixture with the back of a spoon until it’s roughly mashed; set aside.

Using your fingers, remove some of the bread from the inside of both halves of the bread loaf, making sure to keep a 1-inch border around the edge. (This will help to make room for the filling. Save the bread that you remove for another use, such as bread crumbs or croutons.)

Layer both halves of bread with olive mixture then arrange peppers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and basil on the bottom half. Top with the cooked mushrooms, spreading them out to cover the entire width of the bread. Assemble the top and bottom halves of the loaf to form a sandwich.

Serve muffuletta right away or wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, weighted down with a heavy object like a cast iron skillet filled with a few heavy canned goods. Cut into wedges before serving.

sandwich 3

Mediterranean Tilapia Sandwiches

Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Ingredients

Fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Tzatziki:

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Sandwich ingredients:

  • 4 Mediterranean wheat pitas or flatbread (such as Toufayan), heated
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Directions

Preheat a broiler.

To prepare fish:

Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar , 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with olive oil cooking spray. Broil 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To prepare Tzatziki:

Combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

To prepare sandwiches:

Spread 2 tablespoons Tzatziki sauce in the center of each pita. Divide fish evenly among the pitas. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tomato slices and about 6 cucumber slices; fold pita or flatbread in half.

sandwich 4
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 crusty Italian rolls, such as ciabatta
  • Salt
  • 1 3/4 pounds thin chicken cutlets

Directions

Light an outdoor grill.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with olive oil. Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Brush the chicken cutlets with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them over high heat, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.


salad night cover

A salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. To make a truly great salad, you’ve got to use ingredients that are fresh, ripe and in season.

If you think salads are limited to watery lettuce and a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, think again. There are endless amounts of wonderful combinations and you can make a salad as simple or as complex as you like. Spend a minute thinking about the contrasts of tastes and textures in the ingredients you are choosing and what sort of dressing you want to use, so you end up with something delicious and exciting every time.

THE BASE OF YOUR SALAD

The ingredient that forms the bulk of your salad is the base. And when we hear the word ‘salad’, lettuce is often the first ingredient that comes to mind because it is used as a base for so many salads. Oakleaf, cos or romaine lettuce and baby mixed lettuces, also make great salad bases, as do chicory, radicchio, arugula, watercress, baby spinach, tiny red-veined chard leaves, mustard leaves, pea shoots and sorrel. But plenty of salads don’t have any lettuce in them at all. You can make beautiful salads using cooked new potatoes, couscous, lentils, shredded cabbages or any other robust interesting vegetable. Use your imagination and you’ll never be bored.

PREPARING AND WASHING SALAD LEAVES

Wash your salad leaves before using them. Make sure your sink is clean then fill it with cold water. Gently wash the salad leaves in the water until they are clean and then transfer them to a salad spinner and spin dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, put them into a clean tea towel, gather the edges up and spin it around your head. Make sure the leaves are dry – if they aren’t, the salad dressing won’t cling to them. Keep them in the refrigerator or bowl under a damp cloth until you’re ready to use them.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU ADD TO A SALAD?

Raw crunchy veggies, like carrots or radishes, are great in salads. But they can be quite hard if they’re in big pieces, so finely slice them or shave them into ribbons with a peeler. Beets, spring onions, cucumber, squash and celery all work well. Cooked vegetables are also fantastic in salads. Peas, beans, asparagus and corn, cooked very quickly so they are not mushy, add flavor and color. Grilled slices of zucchini or pepper or even chunks of roasted squash or pumpkin also make salads much more interesting.

Adding soft herbs at the last-minute adds loads of extra flavor. Basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint or even thyme or marjoram tips are all great choices.

It’s also nice to add a bit of protein to a salad, especially if you’re having it as a main meal. Use your imagination; there are really no limits to what you can include. Try a few slices of smoked salmon, shredded roast chicken, cooked shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, cannellini beans, lentils or crumbled goat cheese.

For a bit of crunch, try adding a few nuts or seeds. Toasted or flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, crumbled walnuts and chopped cashews all work well.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRESSING

Think of your salad dressing as the link that brings all the ingredients in your salad together. There are loads of ready-made bottled dressings available in the markets, but it’s so easy to make your own, so try to get into the habit of doing that rather than buying them. Store-bought dressings are likely to contain lots of hidden ingredients and may be high in calories and sugar. Plus if you make your own, you can tweak it every time to suit the other ingredients in your salad.

The easiest way to make your salad dressing is in a clean jar. Just add all of your ingredients, pop the lid on and give it a good shake!

Most salad dressings contain an oil element – such as extra virgin olive oil, nut oil or sesame oil – and an acid element, such as balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Aim for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, then add any other ingredients you fancy. Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or some finely chopped fresh herbs or chillies can add loads of flavor. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, try stirring a spoonful of natural yogurt into the dressing.

Once dressed, salad leaves can wilt after a few minutes, so always add your dressing right before serving. If you want to ensure a really good even coating, using clean hands, quickly toss everything together. Just make sure you don’t add all of the dressing at once; add a little, mix it up, then have a taste before deciding whether you need to add more. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

salad night 1

Mediterranean Pita Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with a press
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1 large head romaine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 pita breads, toasted and broken into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, coriander and pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream until blended.

Add romaine, mint, parsley, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, cucumber and toasted pita and toss until blended. Serve immediately.

 

salad night 2Steak Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steak:

  • 1 rib-eye, strip loin or top sirloin steak (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 cups finely chopped hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta

Directions

To make dressing:

Whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Thin with up to 3 tablespoons of water so it dribbles off a spoon. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes to develop flavors. (Can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.) Makes 1 cup.

To prepare steak:

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill for high heat, pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

To prepare salad:

Make a bed of romaine on a large serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Arrange cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, avocado, olives and feta in mounds and place steak strips in the center. Pass the dressing on the side.

salad night 3

Crab Salad with Lemon Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

Crab

  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat

Salad

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives, more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/3 pound thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch endive, chopped in 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely chopped

Directions

For the crab:

Stir together shallot, hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and chives in a medium bowl. Add crabmeat and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

For the rest of the salad:

Whisk together mustard, shallot, vinegar, chives and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing slightly thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Steam Yukon gold potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are still warm, pour a tablespoon or two of dressing over them.

Steam green beans until tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly. Combine green beans with arugula, endive and radish. Toss with a tablespoon of dressing.

Toss fennel with remaining dressing in a small bowl. Check over the crab for any pieces of shell.

To serve:

Arrange greens on a platter or individual plates. Top with crab, fennel and eggs. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

salad night 4

Couscous Salad with Zucchini and Parsley

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo Beans (also called chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Directions

In a large, heatproof bowl, pour water over couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, tahini and salt in a second large bowl.

Thinly slice zucchini over dressing and then use kitchen shears to snip parsley leaves into the bowl; discard stems.

Add tomatoes, beans and couscous and toss gently to combine.

salad night 5

Grilled Chicken and Wheat-Berry Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, divided
  • 1 cup green apple, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook for 2 hours, 15 minutes or until wheat berries are almost tender.

Drain and place in a salad bowl; discard bay leaf.

For the salad dressing:

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate dressing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Preheat grill.

Coarsely chop the spinach leaves. Add spinach, apple, bell pepper and 3 tablespoons of the cucumber dressing to the wheat berries and toss well.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done. Thinly slice chicken.

Arrange chicken evenly over salad mixture; sprinkle with green onions. Pass dressing on the side.

 

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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.

 


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.



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