The following are some of the favorite side dishes my family has come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting.
Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing
Yields enough to fill a 12- to 14- pound turkey and a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 lb sweet Italian fennel sausage (casings removed)
- 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoons dried sage
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus extra for the baking dish
Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1-inch pieces, until light brown, about 5 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.
In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.
Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the turkey in a 325 degree F oven to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer.
Place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish or large baking pan, pour a cup or two of extra stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the turkey. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.
Makes 6 servings
- 3 acorn squash, each about one pound
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup fine to medium ground polenta or cornmeal
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 6 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half; discard the seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Rub the flesh and skin of each squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter garlic inside.
Roast the squash in a baking pan until the flesh is tender but the sides are not yet collapsing, about 25 – 30 minutes.
Heat butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, the sage and thyme; cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta or cornmeal, then whisk in broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, whisking frequently, until the polenta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, scrape about 1 cup of flesh out of each squash, leaving a layer in the shell so it retains its shape. Mash the flesh into a coarse puree and add to the polenta along with the Fontina cheese; stir well. Spoon into the squash shells. Sprinkle the top of each with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake the stuffed squash until the cheese is melted and the polenta is steaming hot, about 20 minutes. Serve garnished with additional sage, if desired.
- 6 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.
Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound small shell macaroni
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.
Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.
Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Glazed Cipollini Onions
Cipollini means little onion in Italian.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.
Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture. Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.
The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.
Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.
The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.
The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.
Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.
Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.
Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.
Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.
And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.
Torta Umbra al Formaggio
(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)
In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
- 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles
Ingredients for each serving
- 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
- 1 winter black truffle
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon
- 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.
Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)
- 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
- 1 twig fresh rosemary
- 10 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.
Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.
Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2 cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.
Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.
Cover and cook 60 minutes.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.
Pasta alla Norcina
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
- 4 sausages of Norcia
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ onion
- 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.
Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.
Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)
by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)
This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.
Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.
Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.
Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.
Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.
Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.
When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.
by Baci Perugina
10” tart pan
For the crust:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
For the filling:
- 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
- 8 Baci candies
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.
Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.
Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.
Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.
Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.
Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.
Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.
Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.
Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.
Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce
Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.
- Two 6 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and fresh pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.
Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.
Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.
Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.
Salmon & Broccoli with Herb Sauce
- Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild salmon fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
- 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
- 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; mix well.
Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.
Prepare lemon-herb sauce:
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.
To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage & Spinach
- 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz thin spaghetti
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
- 6 oz spinach leaves (about 6 packed cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
To the same pot, add 2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, as milk has a tendency to boil over.)
Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.
Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.
Beef Kebabs with Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 8 oz lean ground sirloin
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
- 1/2 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges
Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes before using.)
Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)
Prepare tahini sauce:
In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.) Set aside while the kebabs cook.
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.
In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.
Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.
Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.
Quick Tomato Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
- One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)
Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.
Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.
On these busy nights before the holidays, I like that I have a few homemade soups and homemade rolls or bread in my freezer. They are easy to defrost and heat and can be on the table in no time at all. This may be a quick dinner, but it is both nutritious and delicious.
Italian Escarole Bean Soup
This is one of our family’s favorite soups. I can remember my grandparents making this often and it seemed to be my grandfather’s favorite lunch. If you would like to make this soup vegetarian, it is easy to do. Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili) for the dried sausage.
- ½ onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cups no salt added chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup chopped dried spicy sausage/salami
- 1 cup short pasta
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the Italian seasoning and soaked and drained beans. Heat for a minute or two and add the broth.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the pasta, re-boil, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes more.
Add the dried sausage, salt and escarole. Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Sourdough Ciabatta Bread
I always have sourdough starter in my refrigerator that I keep in a crock, so it always available for baking. You will find that this bread will not puff up much in the oven. It will stay quite flat, like a slipper, hence its name (ciabatta means slipper in Italian). Ciabatta is one of Italy’s most delicious breads and it goes so well with soup. I like to make Ciabatta with a sourdough starter because it adds a nice tang to the bread.
- 1 cup sourdough starter removed from the refrigerator the night before baking and placed in a covered bowl
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment combine the water, olive oil, yeast, sourdough starter, 1 cup of the flour and the salt. Stir in the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is the consistency of drop-cookie batter. Transfer to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny. The dough should be on the slack side, but not oozy; it needs to be able to hold its shape.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces. Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place the loaves on a baking sheets dusted with flour and cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel.
Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately an hour. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Some Bread Baking Tips:
For the best bread, use the freshest ingredients that are at room temperature.
Measure your ingredients correctly. Use a dry measuring cup to measure the dry ingredients and use a glass or plastic liquid measuring cup to measure the liquids.
Do not scoop the flour with the measuring cup. You will end up using too much flour and the loaf will be heavy. Instead, use a spoon to lift the flour out of the container and into the measuring cup. Do not tap or shake the cup to put more flour into it. Simply level the top with a knife.
Don’t try to cut the loaf of bread right away, wait at least 15 minutes, so that you don’t tear the crust.
Quick breads will taste better if you wait until the next day to cut them.
Place the pans several inches apart on the center oven rack when baking the breads.
Oven temperatures may vary, so check your loaves about 10 minutes before the recipe says they should be done.
If the loaves are browning excessively, remove them from the oven, make an aluminum foil ‘tent’ to shield them and then return them to the oven.
Internal temperature should be between 190°F-205°F for completely baked loaves.
This is a great time of year to bake up some of these breads to have on hand for breakfast or for entertaining.
Whole Wheat Walnut Bread
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cups water (start with the smaller amount)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
In the large bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients and mix until dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl.
Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead 6 to 8 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and supple.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and shape into 8-inch log. Tuck ends under as you place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the bread to rise for about 90 minutes until domed about 1-inch above edge of pan.
Bake the bread in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.
When done, remove bread from the pan and cool on wire rack.
Almond Yellow Squash Bread
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup shredded yellow squash
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Spray an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
In a smaller bowl combine eggs, oil and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and mix well.
Fold in the squash and almonds.
Spread the mixture in the baking pan.
Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf, about 50-70 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then remove the bread from the pan and continue cooling on the wire rack.
Cranberry Pecan Bread
- 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
- 3/4 cup spelt or quinoa flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
- 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).
Coat an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.
In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oats, applesauce and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine them. Mix in the cranberries and pecans. It should have a consistency a little thicker than pancake batter.
Pour the dough into the loaf pan.
Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf’s center comes out dry or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread
Brown Rice Flour Blend:
Whisk together 6 cups (28 1/2 ounces) brown rice flour; 2 cups (10 3/4 ounces) potato starch and 1 cup (4 ounces) tapioca flour or tapioca starch. Store airtight at room temperature.
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 3/4 cups brown rice flour blend, recipe above
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- 1/2 cup raisins, otional
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x 5″ loaf pan.
Whisk together the eggs, honey, pumpkin purée and oil. Set aside.
Whisk together the brown rice flour blend, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and spices.
Add the egg mixture about half at a time, whisking until combined after each addition. Stir in nuts and raisins, if using.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly touched.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely for easy slicing.
Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.
Italian Hazelnut Bread
- 9 ounces lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 cups bread flour
- 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
- 3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the ingredients. Using the paddle attachment mix until a rough dough forms and all the flour is moistened.
Switch to the dough hook. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic; it should clear the sides of the bowl.
Add the hazelnuts and mix just until integrated into the dough.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment. Preheat the oven to 475º F.
Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the dough over itself, as though you were folding a letter: 1/3 over the center, then the opposite 1/3 over that.
Lastly, fold dough in half again, perpendicular to the first folds (like you’re folding the letter in half) and shape into a round ball. Transfer to the prepared pan.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 10 minutes. Using a sharp serrated knife with as little pressure as possible, make a slash lengthwise along the top of the loaf.
Spray or sprinkle dough with water and transfer to the hot oven.
Bake at 475º F for 10 minutes and spray with water again. Reduce the oven temperature to 425º F, and continue to bake for about 30 minutes more, or until deep golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 200º F. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.