Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beef

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The key to making a delicious burger is to keep things simple. Many failed burgers are the result of overcomplicating the process. If you start with good-quality ingredients and apply basic grilling techniques, then you really don’t need to do much to turn out a delicious burger. Use high-quality ground meat (go for grass-fed beef, if you can; it has more flavor) that has some fat content (80 to 20 ratio of lean-to fat), which is needed to keep the burger moist and to enhance its flavor. Handle and cook the burgers with care. Other types of ground meat, particularly lean meats, like chicken or turkey, may need a few extra ingredients to achieve the same results.

When you’re forming burger patties, be gentle with your ground meat mixture. If you pack the meat too tightly, the density will make the patty seem tough. Form the burger into a round that is the same size as your bun (it will shrink as it cooks) and then very gently press the middle of the patty to form a small dent — this helps the patty retain an even thickness during the cooking process.

Salt can draw moisture out of the meat mixture, so don’t add it to the ground meat. Instead, season both sides of a burger just before cooking.

Medium heat is best when it comes to burgers; if you cook your burger at too high a temperature, it can cook unevenly.

Don’t be tempted to press on the burgers as they cook (since they won’t puff up as much in the center) and turn the burgers gently as they cook, so you don’t lose meat juices and flavor.

Here are some burger recipes to suit all tastes.burger1

The Perfect Burger

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • Oil for the grill
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground grass-fed beef (80-85 percent lean)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices sharp white cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 4 sandwich rolls or buns
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings
  • 4 lettuce leaves, such as green-leaf, Boston or romaine
  • Ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high; brush grates with oil.

Gently form beef into four 1-inch-thick patties, about 4 inches in diameter. Make an indentation in the top of each patty. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill burgers 3 minutes. Turn, top with cheese, and grill 3 minutes for medium-rare.

Toast rolls face-down on the grill until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds.

Sandwich burgers in rolls with tomato, onion, lettuce and condiments.

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Chicken Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 toasted hamburger buns
  • Lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, for serving

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion, bell pepper and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; cool to room temperature.

Add chicken to vegetable mixture in the bowl. Mix to combine. Shape mixture into four 4-inch-wide patties. Brush burgers with remaining oil and sprinkle the burgers with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil the grill.

Grill burgers until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Place chicken burgers on buns and top with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise or sauce of choice.

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Pork Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella
  • 4 toasted buns

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil the grill. In a bowl, mix pork with fennel seeds. Form into 4 patties.

On a large piece of foil, combine oil, peppers and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Fold foil around the vegetables and crimp ends. Grill the foil packet until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Season patties with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side.

In a medium bowl, mix the vegetables with vinegar. Top each patty with vegetables and a slice of mozzarella. Cover grill and cook until cheese is bubbling, about 1 minutes.

Serve burgers on toasted buns.

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Tuna Burgers

6 burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh center-cut tuna
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled to remove strings and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 6 buns
  • Condiments of choice: cheese, horseradish sauce, etc.

Directions

Cut tuna into 1/4-inch chunks with a very sharp knife, trimming away any dark parts. Coarsely chop tuna by hand until it begins to hold together. Transfer to a bowl over a bowl of ice.

Add garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, anchovy, basil, celery, ginger, salt and pepper; combine well. Chill for up to 6 hours until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium high and oil the grill grates. Form tuna into 6 patties and place on the grill,  4 minutes per side for rare to 7 or 8 for well done.

Serve with arugula on toasted buns brushed with mayonnaise or other condiments.

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Mediterranean Lamb Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Olive oil
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kalamata olives, chopped

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grill grates. In a medium bowl, mix lamb, cumin and coriander. Form into 4 patties.

Coat the burgers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Serve burgers on buns with crumbled feta cheese and chopped olives.

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Black Bean Veggie Burgers

These burgers are great if you are cooking for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The meat burgers can go on one side of the grill and the bean burgers on foil can go on the other side of the grill. In order to keep veggie burgers from falling apart on the grill, make sure all the ingredients in the burger are thoroughly dry before combining them.

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil.

Dry black beans well on paper towels. In a medium bowl, mash the black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion and garlic. Place on paper towels to dry well.

Then stir into the mashed beans.

.In a small bowl, stir together the egg, chili powder, cumin and hot sauce.

Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in the bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
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Place patties on oiled foil and grill about 8 minutes on each side.

'Mom slipped a healthy one in so it's kind of like playing hot dog roulette.'


gardenfreshcover

Take a trip to your local farmers’ market and check out all the fresh fruits and vegetables it has to offer. You will quickly see all the possibilities that you can make for dinner. In fact, I have to stop myself from buying more than I can cook in a week – it all looks so good. Here are some easy dinner suggestions to use up what you bring home from the market.

Dinner 1

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Grilled Chicken With Fresh Basil Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 25-30 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken cutlets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates

Chop basil (will yield about 6 tablespoons) and tomatoes coarsely.

Place tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the basil in food processor (or blender); process and set aside.

Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Combine in a shallow bowl: 1 tablespoon of the oil, 2 teaspoons of the garlic and remaining 4 tablespoons of basil. Add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Marinate 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Place chicken on the grill and discard any remaining marinade. Close the lid and grill for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to accurately ensure doneness.

To the processed tomato-basil mixture add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar and remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse 2-3 times or until just blended.

Serve sauce with the chicken.

Couscous with Peas, Lemon and Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain couscous
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup cooked fresh peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Stir in the broth and lemon zest. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the couscous and peas and remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fold the parsley and lemon juice into the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Dinner 2

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Garden Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup small onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable broth or two 14.5-ounce cans vegetable or chicken broth
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shelled peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add fennel and onions; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.

Add green beans and carrots; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, undrained tomatoes, wine and Italian seasoning.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes. Add peas and simmer about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve in individual soup bowls.

gardenfresh1

Corn and Ricotta Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears fresh corn-on-the-cob, kernels removed from the cob
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup self-rising unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

Directions

In a medium-sized bowl, combine corn, basil, ricotta, eggs, flour and a pinch of black pepper.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.

Carefully add spoonfuls of the corn mixture to the hot pan.

Cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove cakes to a serving platter when they finish cooking.

Season with Kosher salt.

Serve with low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt on the side, if desired.

Dinner 3

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Grilled Lamb Chops with Vegetable Bulgur

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup Bulgar wheat
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 lamb loin chops, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning, divided
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups small spinach leaves 
  • One 7 ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and coarsely chopped

Directions

In a medium saucepan combine broth, bulgur and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Stir 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning, the spinach and roasted peppers into the bulgur mixture. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Turn off one side of the grill for indirect cooking.

Trim fat from the meat. Brush the chops with olive oil and sprinkle the meat with 1 teaspoon of the lemon-pepper seasoning.

Start the lamb on the indirect side of the grill. When the meat reaches 110°F for medium-rare on an instant read meat thermometer, moved the chops to the hot side of the grill.

They’ll quickly sear and come up to the desired temperature of 120°—130°F. Let them rest for 10 minutes off the grill on a platter before serving.

To serve: Divide bulgur mixture among 4 dinner plates. Top each with a grilled lamb chop.

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Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 3 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt  
  • 1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions

Halve cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick pieces.

Place the cucumber slices in a colander set over a bowl and toss with the salt; let stand 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, dill, vinegar and pepper.

Remove cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Add to the bowl with the yogurt dressing; toss to combine and serve with the grilled lamb chops.

Dinner 4

gardenfresh2

Pasta with Shrimp and Seasonal Vegetables

Bread sticks would be great with this dinner.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium wild caught shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil,  divided
  • 8 ounces fresh, small, thin green beans, trimmed
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz linguine pasta

Directions

Cook the pasta according to directions for al dente. Drain.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and Italian seasoning to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more. Add the cooked pasta and the sauce. Toss gently and serve.

Dinner 5

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Grilled Sweet Potato Packets

Ingredients

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (24 x 12-inch) sheet nonstick aluminum foil
  • Half of a 10 oz bag of frozen sweet potato fries (such as Alexia brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Turn off one of the burners for indirect cooking.

Place peppers and onions in the center of the foil sheet. Top with the sweet potatoes, seasoned salt, pepper and cheese.

Bring up foil sides; double-fold the top and the ends to seal the package.

Place on the grill (seam side up) over indirect heat; grill 30 minutes or until the fries are hot and the cheese is melted.

Grilled Steak with Artichoke Topping

Ingredients

  • 1 (7.5-oz) jar marinated artichokes, undrained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine artichokes, onions and garlic in a small skillet. Heat on low and, then, keep warm until the steaks are cooked.

About 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, plan on cooking the steaks on the direct side of the grill.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the direct side of the grill and cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 3-4 minutes more minutes or until the temperature of the meat reaches 125°F on an instant read meat thermometer for medium rare.

Remove steaks from the grill and place them on a serving platter. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and top with the warm artichoke mixture.


basilcover

I always grow way too much basil. As soon as the weather is hot, these plants grow like weeds. I don’t like to see the leaves turn brown and wither, so I am constantly thinking of ways to use this wonderful scented herb. Of course, there is always basil pesto in my refrigerator or freezer, of which I make plenty. It is wonderful in the winter on spaghetti. But just using basil for pesto all summer gets boring.

Basil is the perfect complement to tomatoes, olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, cheese and summer vegetables. Serve it slivered over thick tomato slices with a drizzle of olive oil or serve it sandwiched between thick slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh tomato with a sprinkling of pine nuts, capers and a drizzle of olive oil.

Here are some of the ways I try to make use of this flavorful herb.

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Fresh Tomato and Basil Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Serve this light dressing over a fresh green salad with a slice of warm garlic bread on the side.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Appetizer

:6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) watermelon, cut into 32 (1 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 32 small basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 (6-inch) skewers

Directions

Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Starting with the watermelon squares, push the watermelon to the very tip of the skewer, then skewer a basil leaf; then a tomato half. Continue with another watermelon, basil leaf and tomato half. Place the skewer on a serving platter so it stands upright, using the lowest watermelon square as a base. Continue with the remaining skewers.

Drizzle the skewers with the reserved balsamic syrup and the olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve.

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Chilled Basil Melon Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives, and Fresh MozzarellaSpaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6), chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes with the mozzarella, basil, olives, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, add to the tomato mixture and toss.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour the oil over the pasta and toss again. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

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Brown Rice Salad

This salad makes an excellent side to grilled fish or meat.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked long-grained brown rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seedless cucumber
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup frozen and thawed peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake vigorously. 

Put the cooked rice and vegetables into a large serving bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

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Steak with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 to 6

You’ll have some salsa verde left over, so enjoy it on chicken, fish or vegetables as well as the beef in this recipe. This is a sauce you will want to have on hand, so I would even double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 anchovy fillet, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
  • 5 cups baby field greens

Directions

In a food processor, purée the parsley, basil, garlic, capers and the anchovy fillet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, pulsing until completely combined. Add lime juice and pepper. Process until blended and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. The anchovy will contribute salt, so additional salt may not be needed. Set sauce aside.

Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill, broil or pan fry to your liking. Slice it thinly and drizzle with salsa verde. Serve over greens.

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Lemon Basil Sherbet

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Juice of 3 lemons, chilled
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Directions

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled.

Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed.

Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze the sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.

 


cheesecover

Whether it be a simple wedge of aged cheddar paired with apples or something more elaborate, cheese is the perfect appetizer. It is my go to ingredient for making appetizers for simple get-togethers or important celebrations. You can create a cheese board with fruit and meats for a group or you can use cheese to make an appetizer for a few guests. They all work and guests are always pleased.

Cheese falls into three main types:

Soft Ripened

The term “soft-ripened” describes those that are ripened from the outside in and they are very soft and even runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened cheeses have a white rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is usually edible and these cheeses are easy to spread on crackers or fruit. Examples include Brie, Camembert and Triple Crèmes.

Semi-Soft

“Semi-soft” describes selections that have a smooth, creamy interior with little or no rind. These are generally high in moisture content and range from very mild in flavor to very pungent. Examples include Blue, Colby, Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack.

Blue cheese has a distinctive blue/green veining created when the penicillium roqueforti mold, added during the cheese-making process, is exposed to air. This mold provides a distinct flavor, ranging from fairly mild to strong and pungent. Common examples are French Roquefort, Italian Gorgonzola and Danish Blue.

Hard Cheese

This is a very broad category. Profiles range from very mild to sharp and pungent. They generally have a texture that ranges from elastic at room temperature to hard enough to be grated. This category includes Gouda, Cheddar, Dry Jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler), Gruyere and Parmesan.

Try some of these easy to make appetizers for your next party.

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Tomato-Basil Skewers

16 skewers

Ingredients

  • 16 small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, a variety of colors if you can find them, cut in half
  • White balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Thread mozzarella, basil and tomatoes on small bamboo or wooden skewers.

Arrange on a serving platter.

Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, the white balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper just before serving.

cheese2

Parmesan Artichoke Spread

Lower calorie versions of cream cheese and sour cream work well in this recipe.

20 servings

Ingredients

  • One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini (pickled Italian peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 20 toasted baguette slices (1/4 inch thick)

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Stir in chopped artichoke hearts, olives, peppers, parsley and lemon peel. Chill until serving time.

Serve on the toasted baguette slices.

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Gorgonzola and Pear Tart

Cut this tart up into small pieces for an elegant appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (8.6 oz.), defrosted over night in the refrigerator and at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack set on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Lay dough flat on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke holes all over the dough with a fork, leaving the outer inch untouched.

Bake until the dough starts to puff, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together the egg and Gorgonzola cheese until smooth and spread over the baked dough, using a spoon to move mixture toward the edges of the pastry.

Sauté onion in oil in a small frying pan until softened. Scatter onion and pear over the cheese layer.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the egg is cooked, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and cut into small serving squares. Arrange on an attractive serving platter.

cheese4

Steak and Cheese Rolls

16 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 16 thin slices of grilled, very tender steak, such as filet mignon (about 8 ounces) or deli roasted beef slices, not cut too thin
  • 16 tablespoons light Boursin cheese 
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced red and yellow bell peppers

Directions

Spread each slice of steak with 1 tablespoon of the cheese and top each with an even amount of bell pepper slices.

Roll the steak around the bell pepper slices. Secure with a toothpick and arrange on a serving platter.

cheese3

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Bites

24 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 24 small wonton wrappers
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise made with olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar is fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Place 1 wonton wrapper in each of 24 mini muffin pan cups sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, with the edges of the wontons extending over the top of the muffin cup.

Bake for 5 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Spoon the spinach artichoke mixture evenly in each wonton cup.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the edges of the wontons are golden brown. Remove to a serving platter.

cheese6

Mascarpone Apricots with Pistachios

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Crushed seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 ounces dried whole apricots (the soft, ready-to-eat kind)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the crushed cardamom seeds, lemon juice and apricots. Let the apricots simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until they puff up. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots to a baking sheet or large plate; let the apricots cool.

Finely chop the pistachios and place in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Using a small, sharp knife cut a pocket in each apricot (they will already have a small hole from where the stone was removed, so just make it larger).

Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, stuff each apricot with some mascarpone cheese. Dip the stuffed apricots, cheese side down, in the chopped pistachios.

Arrange on a platter and refrigerate until serving time. Bring to room temperature before serving.

cheesecover1

 


dinnerideacover

Are you bored from eating the same things for dinner week after week? One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before or use your favorites in a new way. Add different seasonings and herbs to change your old recipes. Try new combinations of ingredients. Hopefully, the recipes below will inspire you.

dinneridea1

Mediterranean-Style Snapper

Serve this entrée with cooked orzo pasta or couscous and sautéed green beans.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small cloves garlic
  • Half of a 6 1/2 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted mixed green olives
  • Four 5 ounce red snapper fillets with skin or other firm-flesh white fish
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • 8 whole Pepperoncini (Italian pickled peppers)

Directions

Peel the garlic cloves and with the side of a wide knife smash garlic.

Drain 2 tablespoons of oil from the sun dried tomatoes and heat the oil in extra-large skillet.

Add sun dried tomatoes, olives and garlic to the hot oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until garlic is golden. Use a slotted spoon to the remove the tomato-olive mixture. Leave the oil in the skillet to cook the fish. Set aside the tomato-olive mixture.

Rinse and pat fish dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Cook fish, skin side down, in the hot oil 5 minutes for each 1/2 inch thickness of fish or until the skin is golden and crisp and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking. Remove skin, if desired.

To serve, top fish with tomato-olive mixture, cheese, chopped fresh oregano and pepperoncini.

dinnerideas2

Spicy Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes

Cook the sweet potatoes and onions in a foil packet alongside the steak on the grill. Serve with steamed fresh spinach.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces sirloin, rib-eye or strip steak, trimmed and cut into 2 portions
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat grill to high and oil the grates.

Combine allspice, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon, coriander and cayenne in a medium bowl. Remove 2 1/4 teaspoons for the steak.

Sprinkle the steaks with 2 1/4 teaspoons of the spice mixture.

Add the sliced sweet potato and onion to the bowl with the remaining spice mixture along with the oil and orange zest; toss to coat.

Place two 24-inch sheets of foil on top of each other (the double layers will help protect the ingredients from burning). Generously coat the top piece with cooking spray.

Spread the sweet potato mixture in the center of the foil in a thin layer. Bring the short ends of foil together, fold over and pinch to seal. Pinch the seams together along the sides to seal the packet.

Place the packet on one side of the grill and cook, turning once, about 6 minutes per side.

Cook the steaks on the other side of the grill, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to serving plates and let rest while the foil packets finish cooking.

Open the packets (be careful of steam) and serve alongside the steaks with steamed spinach.

dinneridea3

Linguine with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Herbs

Serve this dish with a mixed green salad and crusty Italian bread.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 3 young, thin zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with the basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili and olive oil.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente; drain well.

Add the linguine to the bowl with the tomato mixture along with the sliced zucchini and toss.

Add the 1/4 cup of grated cheese, toss again and serve in pasta bowls, passing more cheese at the table.

dinneridea6

Lemony Chicken with Cucumber Salad

Serve this dish with warm pita bread

2 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 medium tomatoes; chopped
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the salad

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey and dill in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Toss gently, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes or up to a day.

For the chicken:

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use the back of a small spoon to press garlic and dill into the other ingredients.

Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag or small rimmed dish and add the chicken. Marinate 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium frying pan (with lid) over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Turn, reduce heat to low, then cover the pan with the lid. Cook 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F (74C) when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Rest 5 minutes. Serve alongside the salad.

dinneridea4

Grilled Pork Kabobs

Serve this dish with your favorite coleslaw or use the recipe below.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Heat a gas or charcoal grill and oil the grill grates.

In a 1-quart saucepan, heat marmalade, rosemary and salt to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; set aside.

In a 1-quart microwavable bowl, place sweet potato pieces and water. Cover loosely with a microwavable paper towel. Microwave on High 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once, just until potatoes are tender (do not overcook). Drain sweet potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.

On each of eight 12 inch long metal skewers, carefully thread pork, sweet potatoes and zucchini, leaving 1/4-inch space between each piece.

Grill kabobs over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until the until pork is cooked., turning once and brushing with the marmalade glaze during the last 3 minutes.

dinneridea5

Easy Healthy Coleslaw

This coleslaw is very refreshing with BBQ foods. It keeps well, covered in the refrigerator and should be made several hours in advance to allow the flavors to develop and the cabbage to soften.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 ounce bag (about 6¼ cups) of supermarket shredded cabbage and carrot slaw

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, combine Greek yogurt, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Place slaw in a large bowl and pour the dressing mixture over the top. Stir to coat cabbage thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


part8cover

The Northern Great Plains

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.

North Dakota

part8-9

ND Durum Wheat Fields

By 1910, 71 percent of North Dakota’s population was born in a foreign country or had one or both parents who had been born in a foreign country. North Dakota was truly a melting pot of nationalities. Although Norwegians and Germans were the largest immigrants groups, as reported in The North Star Dakotan, all of the European and some of the Middle Eastern ethnic groups came to North Dakota. The variety of immigrant groups was phenomenal. North Dakota became a popular destination for immigrant farmers and general laborers and their families.

North Dakota produces two-thirds of the nation’s durum wheat – and that makes a lot of pasta. The largest portion of North Dakota’s durum is sold to mills across the U.S. and around the world. Italy is consistently the largest buyer of U.S. durum wheat, followed by Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.

Wheat production in North Dakota started around 1812 near Pembina. Seed was broadcast, cultivated with a hoe and harvested with a sickle, at that time. After threshing, wheat seed was stored in woven baskets or bags and delivered to market in wagons. In the mid-19th century, wheat farming became easier with the invention of the McCormick reaper (1831), the steel plow (1837), the treadmill thresher (1840) and the gravity-feed grain drill and steam powered thresher (1860).

Durum wheat, often referred to as “macaroni wheat”, was first grown commercially in the U.S. in the early 1900s from seed that came from the Mediterranean area and south Russia, known as Red Durum. Production increased rapidly until the U.S. became a durum wheat exporter.

Pasta is made from a mixture of semolina and water. What is semolina? Semolina is coarse-ground flour obtained from the heart (endosperm) of durum wheat. Durum wheat is the hardest wheat of all the wheat classes and it has an amber-colored appearance. Semolina used in the production of pasta is typically enriched with B-vitamins and iron.

Cando Pasta LLC, Abbiamo Pasta Co., Philadelphia Macaroni Company, Dakota Growers Pasta Co Inc and La Rinascente Pasta LLC are just a few of the pasta manufactures located in North Dakota. Annually, North Dakota pasta manufacturing companies use almost 16 million bushels of durum – almost one-fourth of an average North Dakota crop – making it into approximately 600 million pounds of pasta.

part8-2

part8-4

The Lost Italian

Tony Nasello is The Lost Italian and has become known throughout the region for his entertaining cooking classes, as well as his passion for food and wine. Tony and his wife, Sarah, write a weekly food and wine column called “Home with the Lost Italian” for The Forum, Fargo’s local newspaper. Here is one of their treasured recipes:

part8-1

Pasta Puttanesca

From Tony and Sarah Nasello’s blog: Home of the Lost Italian:

http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com/

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg linguini, cooked to al dente
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional: 12 to 18 jumbo shrimp (peeled & de-veined)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously (at least one tablespoon). Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat with the onion, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (also add shrimp now). Use a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies up into little bits. Cook until onions soften and become translucent, about four to five minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers. Simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat. During this time, drain the pasta and set aside until sauce is ready. Do not rinse with water.

If the sauce appears dry, add water to it in small amounts. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss to coat and cook together for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese; serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tip: The more you break apart the anchovies during the initial cooking phase, the more they will dissolve into the sauce. Anchovies are salty by nature, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding salt.

South Dakota

part8-0

Homestake Mining Company 1900

Although the early pioneer settlement of this region was by white, native-born Americans, many groups of European immigrants have had an influence in the development of the state.

William Bertolero of Lead, SD was born in the city of Borgiallo, province of Torino, Italy, in 1859 and his story is an excellent example of the successful immigrant. Bertolero attended school in his native land and at the age of thirteen years began working on the railroad in the famous tunnel between Como and Switzerland.

Then at the age of fourteen, he went to the island of Sardinia, where he was employed in the silver mines for four years. He, next, worked in the iron mines, silver mines and railroad in France and then in northern Africa. After four years he was recalled to Italy for military service. After his discharge from military service due to an injury, he sailed for America in 1881.

He went to Collinsville, Illinois, where he was employed in the coal mines for some time. He worked in various mines in southern Illinois until early 1883. He moved to the Black Hills and arrived in Deadwood in March 1883. Three days later he became an employee of the Homestake Mining Company and remained connected with the company for twenty-six years. Mr. Bertolero married Miss Rosa Caffaro, who was also born in Italy, and together with their two children made their home in Lead, South Dakota, on the western side of the state.

He became the director and vice president of the Miners & Merchants Bank of Lead and gave the greater part of his time to the supervision of his investments and his accumulated  fortune. Among his many community associations, Mr. Bertolero wan a member of The Italian Lodge and the Society of Christopher Columbus. For some time he was a volunteer fireman and he was ever willing to do anything within his power to increase the prosperity and prestige of his adopted city.

Source “History of Dakota Territory”  by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915)

Artisan Italian

A homemade pasta store in Alcester, SD

part8-5

The secret to great a great pasta dish is in the pasta, not the sauce. Our pastas are made with old-fashioned brass dies, using tools that are imported from Italy. The brass dies create pastas with rougher surface textures which help hold the sauce to them. We use organic whole grain flour and then add organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices to make artisan pasta that brings a new level of flavor and flair to any pasta dish. (http://www.artisanitalian.com/)

Here is one of their delicious recipes.

part8-6

Fettuccine with Gorgonzola Cream

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 oz fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

Directions

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauce pan with the butter and garlic, cook 2 minutes, then whisk in flour, cook 1 minute.

Whisk in stock, then cream, bring to a bubble and stir in Gorgonzola until melted. Stir in Herbes de Provence and cook 3 minutes more.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

In a serving bowl toss the hot pasta with the sauce and fresh spinach (spinach should slightly wilt). Serve immediately.

Montana

part8-7

The first wave of migration and settlement into Montana began when gold was discovered in Bannack (1862) and Alder Gulch (1863), south of Butte. By 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed. From 1882 to 1883, the railroad sent out 2.5 million pieces of literature advertising land for sale. Immigrants from northern Europe were sought as they could adapt to the climate and conditions of Montana, though only a few came. An English colony was established in Helena and the Yellowstone Valley in 1882; a few French came to Missoula County; and a few Dutch families settled in the Gallatin Valley in 1893. The most notable settlement was that of the Finnish lumbermen east of Missoula in 1892, while the Italians and Germans settled in Fergus and Park counties. The smelters and mills of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company drew Scandinavian and Irish workers to the area. The Montana coal mines of Cascade, Carbon and Musselshell counties were worked by the Irish, Poles and Italians.

Bontempo, Martinelli, Castellano, Bertoglio, Ciabattari, Favero, Sconfienza, Ronchetto and Grosso — were just some of the Italian families who settled in the Meaderville section of Butte. The area would later come to be known as Montana’s “Little Italy,” where the majority of its residents could trace their lineage back to Northern and Central Italy. By the late 1920s, the Meaderville neighborhood, took on a life of its own, with its abundance of restaurants, taverns, night clubs and specialty grocery stores.

Pauline (Mencarelli) de Barathy, Tom Holter and Jim Troglia, all of Butte recently shared some of their Meaderville memories in The Montana Standard.

Holter’s grandfather, Mike Ciabatarri, ran M. Ciabatarri & Son Meaderville Grocery and Holter spent his Saturdays delivering groceries for his grandfather. He remembers Sundays, when dinner was served by his Aunt Neda. “She was a helluva cook,” he said.

Troglia’s childhood memories include building go-carts, skating on the neighborhood rink, riding bikes over the many hills behind Meaderville and stealing cigars from Guidi’s Grocery. Guidi’s, Holter noted, was also known throughout Butte for their sausage and salami. “When they died,” he said, “they took that recipe to the grave.”Pauline de Barathy was amazed at all the imported items the store carried, including the different types of cheese. “That was their specialty,” she said.

A number of restaurants flourished in Meaderville, including the Aro Cafe and the Rocky Mountain Cafe and de Barathy recalled how residents could smell the wonderful aromas drifting from the restaurants. “Your mouth would just water,” she said. “You wanted to taste it so bad.” Holter, on the other hand, remembers the Meaderville Bakery. “Best there ever was,” he said.

All three people talked about the neighborhood gardens. Whose house had the best garden was the number one concern and who could make the best wine or grappa ran a close second. Wine was a staple in Italian households and every fall the train would bring in an abundance of grapes and cherries for wine making.

Italian traditions were passed down through the generations, and for many, so was the language. Although de Barathy’s mother was born in Butte, it was not until she started school that she learned English. “That was not unusual,” she explained.

Even though, Meaderville has succumbed to “progress”, traditions continue. Every Christmas, Holter serves up a big Italian dinner, which includes “piatto forte,” a dessert recipe handed down by his mother. On New Year’s Eve, it’s “bagna cauda” at the Troglia home, a spicy dish with anchovies and garlic that originated in northern Italy.

What de Barathy cherished most about her neighborhood was that it was so close-knit. It was nearly a nightly occurrence to find people outside, visiting with their neighbors. “It was their chit-chat time” and “I miss that,” de Barathy, said.

part8-8

Grandma’s Oxtail Ravioli

Serves 6

Mario Batali, the famed chef, spent his childhood watching his grandmother make oxtail ravioli and other Italian specialties passed down in the family. The Batali family’s roots are almost entirely in the West. Mario’s great-great-grandfather left Italy for Butte, Montana in 1899 to work in the coal mines and eventually moved further west.

For the Ravioli:

Kosher Salt

  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Red Onions (sliced)
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (crumbled)
  • 1 Bunch Red Swiss Chard (cut into 1/2″ ribbons)
  • 1 cup Fresh Ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh Pasta Sheets

For the Oxtail Ragu:

  • 5 pounds Oxtail (cut into 2″ thick pieces)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flour (for dredging)
  • 2 Medium Onions (sliced 1/4″ thick)
  • 4 cups Red Wine
  • 2 cups Brown Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Pecorino Romano for Grating

Directions

For the Ravioli:

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook slowly till softened. Add sausage and cook until pink is gone, about 8 minutes.  Add chard and stir to mix with sausage and then cover and cook 15 minutes till chard gives up its water.  Remove lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Add sausage and onion mixture to the ricotta, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine.  Lay 1 sheet of pasta on a work surface and use a pastry cutter to make 12 2½- by 1-inch rectangles.  Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling on one rectangle and cover with another rectangle.  Press firmly around the edges to seal, brush with a little water if necessary.  Continue with the remaining pasta and filling.  These can be set aside on a baking tray, the layers separated by dish towels and refrigerated, for up to 6 hours.

For the Oxtail Ragu:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Trim the excess fat from the oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper.

In a 6 to 8 quart, heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Quickly dredge the oxtails in the flour and sear them on all sides until browned, turning with long-handled tongs.  This should take 8 – 10 minutes.  Removed the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the same pan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook them until lightly browned, 5 – 7 minutes. Add the wine, stock, tomato sauce and thyme and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the oxtails to the pot, submerging them in the liquid and return the pot to a boil. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the oxtails with long-handled tongs.  When they are cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and shred into small pieces with a fork.  Discard the bones.

With a small ladle, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce.  Return the shredded meat to the casserole.  Place the casserole over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce to a very thick ragú. Season with salt and pepper.

To The Prepare Dish:

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Meanwhile, In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat about 3 cups of the ragú. Gently drop the ravioli into the boiling water and cook at a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain. Add the ravioli to the sauté pan with the ragu. Toss very gently over medium heat to coat the ravioli with the ragú, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide among six heated bowls and grate Pecorino over each bowl. Serve immediately.

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Read Part 5

Read Part 6

Read Part 7

 


soupcover

For relatively few calories, soup brings a feeling of fullness and makes it easier to eat less of other foods in a meal. Soup can benefit long-term health by serving as the basis to work more vegetables into meals.

Tomato soup provides a serving of vegetables by itself and then you can add even more vegetables to the soup.

Pureed squash is an excellent base for a soup that is packed with nutrients.

Broth-based soups can be the base for adding several servings of vegetables, also.

Even if you start with commercial soup that’s light on vegetables, you can add  frozen, canned or leftover fresh veggies of your own to enhance the nutrition of this bowl of soup.

The key to making soup a healthy food option is to make sure it is concentrated in the plant foods that we need to increase in our diet and not loaded with what we need to reduce: sodium and saturated fat.

Soup can even be a complete meal. A soup full of vegetables that includes a small amount of meat or poultry can provide a satisfying and healthful meal. All you need to complete this meal is some great tasting bread. Easy weeknight dinner.

soup1

Sicilian Meatball Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup small pasta shells or other small macaroni

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the Parmesan, raisins, bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, rosemary and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the pasta to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the meatballs and simmer gently until the meatballs and pasta are done, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with additional Parmesan.

soup2

Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup with Steamed Shellfish

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus 2 tablespoons thinly-sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 1/4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4), cut into small dice
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • One country loaf of bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds mussels or clams, scrubbed or shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chopped basil and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, the broth, salt and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp, about 25 minutes.

Add the bread and the black pepper to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring gently, until the bread absorbs all the liquid, about 5 minutes.

Put the wine, mussels or clams or shrimp and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stainless-steel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels or clams open or the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open.

Mound the bread soup in shallow bowls and surround with the shellfish. Strain any broth from the shellfish pot over the top and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with the sliced basil.

soup3

Vegetable Farro Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti, cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, about 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

soup4

White Bean Soup With Mustard Greens

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 bunch mustard greens or any greens you like, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, such as cannellini
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and fennel and cook, until softened, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic and mustard greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring often, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the beans and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently, being careful not to break the beans, until flavors blend and the soup is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Add Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and additional cheese.

soup5

Squash and Corn Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound yellow or green summer squash, chopped
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the celery and squash to the drippings in the pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Reserve 1 cup of the corn and set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender and process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper to the blender and process until combined.

Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to the vegetables in the Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ladle soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining green onions and 1 tablespoon cheese.



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