Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

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Summer is here along with just about every vegetable you could possibly want to cook. It is also the best time to make a delicious chowder. Chowder usually indicates a soup that is rich and creamy with chunks of seafood and vegetables. The term may also describe a hearty soup made with corn or chicken.

The most famous, of course, is New England Clam Chowder. It is believed that the word “chowder” evolved from the French word “chaudiere,” the name of the pot in which French fisherman would boil their catch of the day with potatoes and other vegetables. French settlers in the New England colonies introduced the culinary tradition to America. “Chowder” first appeared in a written recipe in 1751 and, by the 1800s, American cooks were using mostly clams instead of fish because of the abundance of shellfish in the northeast.

Italian chowders and stews are usually made with seafood. The true story of cioppino begins with ancient Mediterranean fishermen who created the first fish soups and stews. These recipes were adopted by seamen and the recipes used local ingredients. Cioppino belongs to the same tradition as a chowder and a bouillabaisse. American cioppino is a story of immigration patterns, ethnic heritage and local adaptation. Food historians, generally agree, cioppino originated in California (in the San Francisco Bay area) and the group of Italian fisherman credited for the recipe immigrated from Northern Italy, specifically Genoa.

East Coast Italian Americans were fond of Manhattan Clam Chowder and put their special touches to it.

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Italian American Clam Chowder

Serves 8

Ingredients

Medium-sized hard-shell clams provide the flavor for the broth and the tender clam meat for this hearty soup. Instead, the broth is briny and clean tasting with flavors from the sea standing out.

If you do not want to fuss with fresh clams substitute 4 cups of clam broth and 16 oz of canned clams.

Ingredients

  • 8 pounds clams, medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 1 ¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 28-32 oz. can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , chopped

Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams open, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the clams as they open to a large bowl; cool slightly. Reserve the cooking water.

Holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices, sever the muscle that attaches the clam to the shell and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Cut the clams into 1/2-inch dice; set aside.

Pour the broth that collected in the bowl into a 2-quart glass measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth in case of sediment; set the clam broth aside. (you should have 5 cups; if not, add some of the cooking water to make this amount. Rinse and dry the pot, then return it to the burner.

Fry the pancetta in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the pancetta is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and pepper flakes and saute about 1 minute.

Add the reserved clam broth, bottled clam juice, potatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the reserved clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and ladle the chowder into individual bowls. Serve immediately.

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Corn and Potato Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups red potatoes,unpeeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 8 ounces cream-style corn
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and remove to a plate. Crumble when cool enough to handle. Add the onion and cook in the bacon drippings over medium heat until the onion is lightly browned and tender.

Stir in flour until blended into the mixture.

Add chicken broth and stir to blend.

Add diced potatoes, corn and cream-style corn, pepper and hot sauce.

Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cover, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.

Add milk and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.

Serve warm with crusty bread.

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Summer Vegetable Chowder

Servings 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces light cream cheese

Directions

In a large soup pot on medium heat, sauté the onions in the butter and oil for 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the celery, cover, and cook until just soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots, potatoes, water or stock, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.

With a strainer or slotted spoon, remove about 1 1/2 cups of the cooked vegetables and set aside in a blender or food processor.

Add the green beans, bell peppers, and zucchini to the soup pot and cook until the green beans are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the parsley, simmer for 2 more minutes, and then remove from the heat.

Discard the bay leaf.

Puree the reserved vegetables with the milk and cheeses to make a smooth sauce.

Stir the sauce into the soup and gently reheat.

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Summertime Fish Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 tsp. dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus additional for optional garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups water, as needed
  • 1 lb. firm-fleshed white fish, skin removed, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add potatoes and carrots, stir, then add fish stock and tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add fish and stir. Cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While fish cooks, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Do not let it boil. Add milk to soup mixture and stir. Keep at low temperature.

To serve, ladle into shallow bowls. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

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Chicken and Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds summer squash, diced
  • 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

Directions

Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot. Add chicken and sauté until lightly brown. Add broth and Parmesan cheese rind.  Simmer for 10 minutes. Add squash and simmer until the squash is tender. Remove the cheese rind.

Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, basil, salt and pepper.


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Milan Panini Shop

Although the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956 and a precursor appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook, panini sandwiches became trendy in Milanese bars, called paninoteche, in the 1970s, when office workers were looking for quick lunch choices. Trendy U.S. restaurants, particularly in New York, began selling the sandwiches, whose popularity then spread to other U.S. cities, each producing distinctive variations of of the sandwich.

Food historians generally agree, panini, as we know them today, originated in the sandwich shops of Italy, perhaps as early as the 1960s. A survey of newspaper articles confirms that the panini sandwich caught the American consumers attention in the mid-1970s. As time progressed, panini evolved from upscale fare to trendy sandwiches for everyone.

Panini for Lunch

Panini for Lunch

In many English-speaking countries, a panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno] from the Italian, meaning “small bread, bread roll”) is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. The plural form of “panino” in Italian is panini. Examples of the bread types used for panini are ciabatta, foccacia and Italian baguettes. The bread is cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients or other foods and then pressed in a grill. There is widespread availability and use of sandwich presses, often known as “panini presses” or “toasted sandwich makers.”

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In Italy classic filling combinations are:

mozzarella, tomato (plus arugula and/or prosciutto);
prosciutto and fontina cheese
prosciutto, chese and olive tapenade;
bresaola, goat cheese or stracchino (plus lettuce and/or tomato);
speck (smoked cured prosciutto from Tyrol), arugula and cheese
grilled vegetables and cheese.

When Italian panini are offered outside of Italy, they tend to differ quite substantially. The biggest no-no’s are the use of:

More than one kind of meat (this is very unlikely in Italy);
Large amounts of meat (in Italy, more than a few slices would be considered overpowering);
Too many ingredients (in Italy, it’s never more than 3 or 4 in total);
Any kind of dressing (oil and vinegar are for salads, not for sandwiches);
Honey-mustard, barbecue sauce, spicy mayo (since they don’t exist in Italy).

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Breville 1976

 

 

 

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Do you know who invented the sandwich press?

Thomas Edison. Before sandwich grills, people had to toast each slice of bread individually using an electric toaster or a griddle. The sandwich grill made it possible to brown two slices of bread at the same time. Unfortunately, Edison’s novel approach to sandwich-making didn’t get much attention from home cooks. It was discontinued in the early 1930s, according to the museum at Thomas Edison’s winter estate in Fort Myers, FL, where the celebrated scientist’s sandwich grill is on display. Edison’s contribution to the world of grilled sandwiches was entirely forgotten by the time Breville came out with its panini press in 1974.

A panini press, which is essentially a two-sided grill, used to grill a sandwich. This method may also be accomplished by placing the sandwich on a grill, pressing down firmly with a spatula, then turning the sandwich over and repeating the process. Depending on your preference, the outsides of the bread may or may not be buttered or brushed with extra virgin olive oil to give it a crisp texture.

Thinly sliced grilled chicken, turkey and roast beef can also make delicious panini. The meat needs to be cooked before being placed in the sandwich — grilling a panini only heats it through and does not actually cook the meat. After you’ve selected the bread, meat and cheese, decide on the extras.

Some popular additions to panini include spinach, roasted red peppers, basil, olive oil, olives, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and oregano. For a vegetable panini, use eggplant or zucchini, or any other vegetable that can be grilled. Panini make for a delicious and filling meal that is simple and quick to make and one that can be customized to your tastes.

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Classic Italian Panino

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • One 6″ rectangular piece focaccia or ciabatta bread
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto or speck
  • 2 thin slices taleggio or fontina cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup arugula
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Split the bread in half and place prosciutto, fontina, and arugula on the bottom half. Drizzle with vinegar, season with salt and pepper and cover with the top half. Place in a panini press and grill just until the cheese begins to melt.

paniniporkItalian Pork Panini

2 servings

In central Italy, herb-and-garlic-seasoned pork roast is called porchetta. If you cannot find delicatessen porchetta (sold in some specialty food stores), use roasted pre-marinated Italian pork tenderloin. Cool the pork before cutting into thin slices. If you can’t find the olive mix, chop some garlic-stuffed green olives and mix in a bit of olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread
  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced porchetta or cooked Italian-seasoned pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons minced green olive mix or tapenade
  • 2 ounces sliced Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Divide pork, olive mix and cheese between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread.

Brush the outsides of the bread lightly with oil.

Place sandwiches on a panini grill or stove top griddle. Cover with grill top or a grill press.

Grill 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt.

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Tomato, Artichoke and Fontina Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread
  • 4 slices Italian Fontina cheese (3/4 ounce each)
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, well-drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions

On two slices of bread, layer half the cheese, artichokes, spinach, two slices of tomato and the remaining half of the cheese.

Top with the uncovered bread slices.

Cook on a panini maker or indoor grill until bread is toasted and the cheese melts.

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Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • One small onion (sliced)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or yellow (seeded and each cut in 4 wedges)
  • 2 zucchini (sliced)
  • 4 oz. (100 g) provolone, scamorza or fontina cheese (sliced)
  • One handful of fresh arugula
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread

Directions

In a small skillet, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Grill the bell peppers and zucchini on a stove-top or outdoor grill (lightly sprinkled with salt) for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

When the peppers are ready, put them aside and peel off the skin (it should come off easily – if it doesn’t, let the peppers rest for 10 minutes in a sealed zip-lock while they are still warm).

Assemble the sandwich by layering the cheese, the grilled vegetables, the onions and the arugula on one half of the bread slices. Cook the sandwiches in the press until the cheese melts.

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Pesto Chicken Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (2- to 3-ounce) Ciabatta rolls or foccacia bread
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 ounces mozzarella or fontina cheese, sliced
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced grilled or roasted chicken
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Slice the bread in half. Spread the cut sides if the bread with pesto.

Top one side with chicken, cheese and tomatoes. Place the top on and brush lightly with olive oil, if desired.

Place in the grill or on a griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden and the cheese starts to melt.


The Bacon's grow a variety of produce for their own consumption, including these bell peppers, at the Bacon Century Farm in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The farm is designated a Tennessee Century Farm, which was founded in 1891. In 2004, Bruce H. Bacon Jr., the grandson of founder Robert B. Bacon, obtained the land. JCI Photo- Jeff Adkins

Peppers are plentiful this time of year and can be found at a reasonable cost. So this is the perfect time of year to think about preserving some of the peppers you buy for the winter months when they cost a fortune.

Some of the pepper varieties that are common are: California Wonder, Big Bertha Green, Red, Yellow and Orange Bell, Marconi, Italian Roaster, Mariachi, Pimento, Super Cayenne, Chinese Lantern, Jalapeno, Hot Banana, Cajun Belle, Cubanelle, Poinsettia and Sangria.

Peppers are extremely easy to freeze. Wash them, pat them dry, chop or slice them, place them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer! Diced into small chunks, peppers are ready for casseroles, egg dishes, stir fry, fajitas, etc. Whole peppers are perfect for stuffing and baking. Defrosted frozen peppers will be a little mushy but they are perfect for cooking.

Of course, you know you can add peppers to omelets, soups, pizza or pasta. One of my favorite recipes is to make roasted red peppers. They are delicious in salad, on pizza and in sandwiches. They are also perfect for an antipasto platter.

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Roasted Red Peppers

Wash and dry red peppers – leaving them whole with the stem intact. Char the peppers using an outdoor grill set for  medium heat. Place the peppers directly on the grate until one side is charred. Work carefully so that as soon as one section of a pepper is blackened, turn the peppers to a side without charring. (Charring can also be done on a grill pan or in the broiler.)

Once all the sides of the peppers are blackened, place them in a large bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean towel. (Or place in a plastic bag and seal or place in a brown paper bag and close it.) The steam will help to loosen the skin, making them easy to peel once they cool.

When the peppers are cool to the touch, remove and discard the skins. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs. Cut in quarters. Place in a covered container and drizzle with a little olive oil and vinegar. They will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

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Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

You can make a delicious sauce from the roasted red peppers that you can use over grilled meat or over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 large roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Basil leaves

To make the pepper sauce:  Place all of the ingredients in a processor and pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil leaves.

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Italian Vegetable Soup

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz. boneless chicken, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Italian frying peppers, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced or 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup dried short pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Brown chicken in a Dutch oven or a stock pot with the olive oil.  Add the peppers, onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add seasonings and broth. Cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Increase heat to high and bring soup to boil. Add pasta and boil until tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese.

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Italian Pepper & Egg Sandwich

My favorite sandwich growing up.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 green or red bell peppers (or Cubanelle or Italian sweet frying peppers) seeded and sliced.
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 5 large eggs, whisked in bowl with 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced or 4 ciabatta rolls
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions:

In large skillet add olive oil and garlic and saute on low until garlic is golden, (do not burn). Add peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper, stir to coat the vegetables with oil.

Continue cooking on low heat, stirring frequently, until the peppers are soft. Raise heat to med-high and add eggs, stirring well to mix the eggs into the peppers.

Cook eggs thoroughly, but be careful not to burn them. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper. Serve on an Italian roll or on Italian bread.

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Rigatoni with Peppers & Pancetta

Sometimes I add sliced and browned Italian sausage instead of the pancetta.

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dried rigatoni
  • 4 slices pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 2/3 cup sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup small pitted ripe olives
  • 1/4 pound Provolone Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook rigatoni just to the al dente stage. Drain.

Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan; set aside.

Add the olive oil, bell peppers, onion and garlic to the reserved pan drippings in the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender.

Add cooked rigatoni, pancetta and all the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Baked Chicken, Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One 3 lb. organic chicken, cut into 10 pieces or 1 whole bone-in chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces and 6 bone-in thighs,skin removed
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (pork, chicken or turkey), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan and spread over the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage around the chicken.

Bake 15 minutes. Turn the chicken and sausage pieces and bake 15 minutes more.

Squeeze the lemons over the chicken and place the lemon skins in the roasting dish. Sprinkle chicken with minced garlic and the oregano.

Add the potatoes, onions and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes. Serve with warm crusty bread, if desired.

 


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The one-skillet breakfast can have it all: eggs, cheese, meat, vegetables and potatoes. It is a savory breakfast dish that is sure to please all types of appetites. This easy to prepare meal provides a delicious way to begin the day.

This type of dish is also a popular concept for breakfast in many breakfast restaurants throughout the US and around the world. While traveling around the country, one may find the basic procedure is the same but the ingredients can vary, especially by locality.

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Southern Style Skillet Breakfast

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper,
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 cup diced, smoked ham
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, cook the onion and bell pepper in butter until tender. Add the potatoes and season to taste with the salt and pepper; stir, cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, without stirring.

Beat together the eggs, milk, seasoning and ham. Pour over the potatoes and cook over low heat, without stirring, until set on the bottom. Lightly stir and turn eggs to shift uncooked eggs to the bottom and cook gently until eggs are cooked through, but still a little shiny and wet. Don’t overcook.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and stir in half of the cheese. Transfer to plates or a serving platter and top with remaining cheese.Serve immediately with a side of fresh, seasonal fruit.

Creole Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 teaspoons sweet paprika

Combine the ingredients and mix well. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

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Italian Style Breakfast Skillet

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 8 oz. Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)

Directions

Brown the sausage in a skillet  and cook until no longer pink. Remove to a platter to cool. Cut into thin slices.

Add oil to the skillet  and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the potatoes; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the sliced sausage, mushrooms and vegetables ; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and oregano in bowl until blended.

Reduce the heat to medium and pour the eggs over the mixture in the skillet. As the eggs begin to set, gently pull the eggs across the pan with an inverted spatula. Continue cooking until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly.

Sprinkle with the cheese and remove the pan from the heat; cover pan.

Let stand until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Farmers’ Market Skillet

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients in a 10-inch skillet cook and stir over medium heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm.

Beat eggs, water, cheese, seasoning and garlic  in medium bowl until blended. Heat the butter in the same pan over medium-high heat until hot. Pour in the egg mixture.

Gently push the cooked egg portions from edges of the pan toward the center with a spatula so that uncooked eggs can reach the hot pan surface.

When the top surface of the eggs is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, place the filling on one side of the egg mixture.

Fold the uncovered portion of the eggs on top of the vegetables with the spatula. Divide in half and serve.

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Mediterranean Skillet

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Chop tomatoes. Crumble feta cheese. Thinly slice spinach leaves.

Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper. Toss quickly until leaves are barely wilted, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes.

Whisk the eggs, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper together until thoroughly combined.

Add the egg mixture (do not stir) and cook over low heat until the eggs are set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler for 30 to 45 seconds to finish cooking the top.

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Egg and Sweet Potato Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound total), peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Bottled hot pepper sauce

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper; set aside.

In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add sweet potato and green onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are lightly browned and just tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach. Cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute.

Pour egg mixture over potato mixture in skillet. Cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to set on bottom and around edges. Lift and fold partially cooked egg mixture so the uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes or until egg mixture is cooked through but still glossy and moist. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Remove from heat and serve with bottled hot pepper sauce.


healthyfruitcover

Summer brings a wealth of deliciously ripe fruit our way. On top of drinking water, drinking fresh juices and smoothies and eating fresh fruit can also help your body stay energized and hydrated.

Berries can be enjoyed on salads, desserts and in cereal. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants.

Peaches have a sweet, almost tangy taste that blends well in smoothies and other beverages. They are good sources of vitamin A and potassium.

Pears are soft and sweet tasting and their mild flavor lets them blend well with a variety of recipes. They are good sources of vitamin C, copper and dietary fiber.

Apricots are smooth and faintly tart. They are good sources of beta-carotene and lycopene for heart health and vitamin A, an antioxidant that helps with vision and cellular growth.

Figs have a soft texture and are a favorite for baking. Roasting them in the oven makes a sweet, tender treat. They are good sources of dietary fiber, potassium and manganese.

Watermelon is the best natural thirst quencher on a hot summer day. Watermelon and other melons are an excellent source of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene.

Cherries are delicious out of hand but are also an excellent baking fruit. They’re also an excellent source of  fiber, vitamin C and flavonoids, which makes cherries super protective against cancer and inflammation in the body.

Plums are a low-calorie power food that won’t spike your blood sugar levels and they help increase the absorption of iron into the body.

Here are some ideas on how to enjoy eating fruit all summer long.

healthyfruit2

Berry Parfaits

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh in season berries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, whipped
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 4 graham crackers, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

Directions:

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine whipped cream cheese, honey and lemon juice. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.

In four wide-mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, berries and crushed graham crackers. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve chilled.

healthyfruit1

Cherry Crostata

A crostata is an Italian baked tart or pie, also known as coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombard.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out pastry
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons ice water, more if needed
  • 1 pound fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Directions

Place both flours, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl or food processor and whisk to combine or pulse to blend.

Add cold butter and cut in using a pastry blender or pulse in a food processor. Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just begins to come together. Add a tablespoon or two of ice water if needed. Gather the dough and shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss cherries in a medium bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, orange juice and orange zest.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Gently transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Top the dough with the cherry mixture, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of the dough up and over the fruit, leaving most of the fruit surface exposed in the center.

Bake until the crust is golden and the fruit juices bubble, about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

FW0609WMA12

Grilled Peaches and Plums

Ingredients

  • 4 plums, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 24 red or purple plums—halved and pitted
  • 10 peaches, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz. Mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

Directions

Light a grill and oil the grill grates.

In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 sliced plums with 3/4 cup of the sugar and the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the plums are very soft, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the plums to a food processor and puree until smooth. Scrape the plum sauce into a bowl, stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir the melted butter with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.

Grill the halved plums and peaches over moderate heat, turning once, until the fruit is tender, about 6 minutes. Baste the plums and peaches with the sweetened butter and continue to grill, turning once and basting again, until caramelized and slightly charred, about 2 minutes longer.

Mix the mascarpone cheese with the amaretto.

Transfer the grilled fruit to serving plates and spoon the plum sauce on top. Place a tablespoon or two of the mascarpone cheese alongside the fruit and serve.

healthyfruit4

Grilled Gingered-Melon Kabobs

If using wooden skewers, soak the skewers in enough water to cover for at least 1 hour before grilling or broiling.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups cantaloupe cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch cubes, balls and/or triangles
  • 2 cups honeydew melon cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch cubes, balls and/or triangles
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine lime peel, lime juice and ginger. Add melon. Seal bag; turn to coat melon. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.

Drain melon, reserving any juices. On four long skewers alternately thread cantaloupe and honeydew.

Place kabobs on the rack of a preheated and oiled grill directly over medium coals or gas. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes or until grill marks are visible, turning occasionally to brown evenly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved juices and the honey until well blended. Drizzle this mixture over the warm kabobs.

Variation

Broiler method: Preheat the broiler. Place the kabobs on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 5 to 6 inches from the heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through, turning once.

healthyfruit5

Fig Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (about 5 1/8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh figs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Lightly spoon flours into measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and the next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of the mixture.

Place buttermilk, oil, vanilla and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Stir in chopped figs. Add the mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until combined.

Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Combine brown sugar, oats and melted butter in a small bowl; toss with a fork until combined. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over muffins.

Bake for about 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes; remove muffins from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.


FESTIVAL-OF-JOY By Leonid Afremov

FESTIVAL-OF-JOY By Leonid Afremov

Fresh seasonal produce and temperatures above normal are reasons to fix a satisfying salad for dinner. Most greens are great sources of folate and of vitamin C, which promotes healthy skin and a healthy immune system. Popular salad additions, such as tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers, provide an abundance of vitamins.

Most people think of salads as a first course or a side dish served with dinner. However, by adding some great toppings like grilled steak, poached chicken, boiled eggs or cold shrimp you can take any salad and turn it into a meal. Moreover, salad doesn’t always have to be about leafy greens either — many are made with beans or grains like quinoa, bulgur, barley or farro. You can vary a salad’s flavor by changing the dressing or vinaigrette. Add some crunch to your salads by adding some fresh, raw sweet corn cut off the cob, or toasted nuts or homemade croutons. Now you have a great dinner.

dinnersalad1

Steak Salad with Blue Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. flank or skirt steak, trimmed and cut in half
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 oz. baby greens (6 packed cups)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

Directions

Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare a medium-high (400°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Oil the grill grates.

In a baking dish just large enough to hold the steak, combine the Worcestershire sauce and 2 teaspoons olive oil.

Add the steak and turn to coat both sides.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the 1/4 cup olive oil.

Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes total for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

Toss the greens, onions and tomatoes with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly and divide the mixture among 4 serving plates.

Slice the steak across the grain and arrange both over the greens. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the salad, drizzle with additional dressing and serve.

dinnersalad2

Italian Rice Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 3 cups cooked, slightly warm basmati rice (directions below)
  • 1 cup chopped red, green and/or orange sweet bell pepper
  • One 6 ounce jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup pitted olives, halved
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • Mixed salad greens, mesclun or torn romaine
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Prepare the Garlic Vinaigrette; set aside.

To cook the rice:

Place 1 cup uncooked basmati or long grain white rice in a fine mesh sieve. Run cool water over the rice for several minutes; drain well.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to boiling. Slowly add the rice and return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and let cool about 15 minutes. Makes 3 cups.

In a large bowl, combine rice, bell pepper, artichokes, red onion, olives and capers. Stir vinaigrette and drizzle over the rice mixture; toss gently to coat.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Serve rice salad on a bed of salad greens and garnish with basil.

Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, parsley, vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, basil, oregano and garlic. Makes about 3/4 cup.

dinnersalad3

Asparagus and Shrimp Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice plus 1/3 cup
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 3-4 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 2 oz. sliced prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions

Directions

Remove a 1/2 teaspoon of zest from one of the oranges. Peel oranges. Working over a bowl, cut oranges into sections and dice them; reserve 2 tablespoons and 1/3 cup of the juice. (If necessary, add additional orange juice to make the 1/3 cup.)

In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water to boiling. Add shrimp; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Drain in colander. Rinse with cold water; drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer shrimp to a bowl. Add orange peel and the 2 tablespoons orange juice; toss gently to coat.

In a covered medium saucepan, cook asparagus in a small amount of boiling water for 4 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain in colander. Rinse with cold water; drain again and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup orange juice, the oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine shrimp, asparagus, diced oranges, prosciutto, greens and green onions. Pour dressing over all; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

dinnersalad4

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Lemon Dressing, recipe below
  • 12 ounces chicken tenders
  • 8 cups mixed baby greens
  • One 16 ounce jar pickled mixed vegetables (giardiniera), drained and blotted dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup homemade croutons (directions below)

Directions

For the croutons:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Remove crusts from 2-3 hearty country bread slices. Brush bread on both sides with olive oil. Cut bread slices up into small cubes.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15 minutes or until browned. Let cool.

Brush 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing on the chicken tenders. Lightly sprinkle with black pepper.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat; add chicken. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, turning once or until no pink remains. Slice chicken tenders in bite-size chunks.

In a salad bowl toss together the greens, chicken, giardiniera, olives, feta cheese and remaining dressing. Top with croutons and serve.

Lemon Dressing

3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 large clove of garlic, squeezed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ingredients and set aside.

dinnersalad5

Pasta Salad with Tuna and Summer Vegetables

6 main-dish servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. campanelle or fusilli pasta
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 large cans or pouches of tuna in water

Directions

Heat a large covered pan of salted water to boiling on high. Add pasta; cook al dente.

Trim zucchini and squash, cut into quarters lengthwise, then cut into thin slices crosswise. Slice tomatoes in half. Slice olives in half and finely chop parsley.

In a large serving bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; stir in tomatoes.

Drain pasta well. Add to the tomato mixture along with the tuna, zucchini, squash, olives and parsley. Toss until well mixed. Chill before serving.


florentinecover

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

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

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

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

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

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

florentinemarket

Florentine Market

Cocktails

florentine3

Classic Negroni

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

For each cocktail:

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

Directions

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

Appetizer

Caprese Salad with Red and Yellow Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozarella

Pesto Caprese Salad

Serve with Italian bread.

Serving 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

For the dressing:

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

First Course

florentine5

Pasta zucchine e ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

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

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

Second Course

florentine1

Tuscan Pork with Spinach and Chickpeas

Serves 6

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Dessert

florentine4

Zabaglione & Orange Liqueur

Use any fruit that is in season in this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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



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