Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Dinner

Make-ahead meals put you in control of your schedule. You do the preparation when you have some extra time on the weekend, then you have some quick, home-cooked meals when things get hectic later in the week. Prepping ingredients ahead of time or assembling the full meal for reheating can make the dinner hour more relaxed and manageable.

There are several ways to make your meals ahead of time. You can assemble a dish early in the day or the night before and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to heat it in the oven. Or you can completely cook your meal, freeze it and then heat it at mealtime.

You can also get all the ingredients for a recipe prepped and even partially cooked, in most cases for up to two days ahead.

Many slow-cooker recipes are suited to being prepared ahead of time. Slow-cooker dishes like stews and chili also lend themselves to being refrigerated or frozen and reheated.

You can do “big batch” cooking on the weekend and have dinner for several nights during the week, Freeze the rest for future meals

Most casserole-type dishes lend themselves to being made ahead, like tuna noodle casserole, au gratin style dishes, chicken enchiladas or a creamy chicken and rice dish. Meatloaf, Chicken Parmesan and crab cakes, can all be prepared ahead and then cooked or reheated.

Soups often benefit from being made ahead because standing time allows the flavors to blend and most homemade salad dressings taste better when they are made a day in advance.

Freeze any leftover soup or stew in freezer containers with tight-fitting lids. Because food expands when it freezes, leave about 1/2 inch of headspace below the rims of the containers.

Taking an hour and a half on the weekend to tackle some preliminary preparation and cooking will save you precious time during the week.

Here is a suggested game plan for a busy week:

The Menu

Monday: Honey Mustard Chicken With Rice and Peas

Tuesday: Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage and Tomato Salad

Wednesday: Panko-Topped Fish with Greek Salad

Thursday: Vegetarian Spinach Rice Casserole and Carrots

Friday: Cheeseburgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad

Grocery List

Produce

  • 2 Limes
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 ½ lbs broccoli tops
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cored
  • 1 mango
  • 1 small bunch mint
  • 1 lb pkg carrot chips ( diagonal sliced carrots)

Meat, Poultry & Seafood

  • 1 lb chicken breast cutlets
  • 12 oz package Italian cooked chicken sausage
  • 1 lb thin white fish fillets
  • 1 lb lean ground beef

Dairy

  • Small wedge Parmesan cheese
  • Carton of eggs
  • 4 oz container Feta cheese
  • 8 oz pkg shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz pkg American or Swiss Cheese

Grocery

  • 1 jar Honey
  • 1 jar Dijon mustard
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 16-oz box whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 16-oz package regular brown rice
  • 8-oz box Panko Italian flavored breadcrumbs
  • 7-oz tub pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 package English muffins

Frozen

  • 16-oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach
  • 10 oz pkg. frozen peas that are enclosed in a cooking pouch

Already Have at Home

  • Vegetable oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Italian dried seasoning
  • Dried Oregano
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Italian salad dressing
  • Ketchup

Suggested Plan for the Weekend Prep:

  • Make 6 cups of brown rice according to package instructions. Divide rice in half and store each half in an airtight microwave container in the refrigerator for dinner on Monday and Thursday.
  • Mix together the Honey Mustard Glaze for Monday’s chicken dish (recipe below). Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  • Chop Tuesday’s broccoli into smaller florets and refrigerate in a plastic ziplock bag.
  • Zest and squeeze one lemon. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Chop scallions for Thursday’s casserole and place in a ziplock bag. Grate Parmesan cheese and store in an airtight container.
  • Freeze fish for Wednesday’s dinner on parchment paper in a single layer on a baking sheet for 1 hour, or until firm, then place on the parchment in a single layer in an airtight freezer container.
  • On Wednesday evening place frozen spinach in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.
  • Combine the burger ingredients for Friday’s dinner. Form into burgers as directed in the recipe and layer the uncooked patties between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight freezer container. Freeze. Move to the refrigerator to defrost on Thursday.
  • Cube pineapple and mango. Place in an airtight container.
  •  If you have time you can prepare and bake the rice casserole on Sunday and reheat it on Thursday.

Monday

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Honey Mustard Chicken With Rice and Peas

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets
  • Hot cooked brown rice
  • 10 oz pkg. frozen peas in a cooking pouch

Directions

In a small bowl whisk together the mustard, honey, lime juice and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside the remaining glaze in a small bowl.

Lightly brush both sides of chicken cutlets with the 2 tablespoons of glaze.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken cutlets in the pan. They should not be touching. (If there is not enough room in the pan to cook the cutlets all at once, saute them in batches.) Cook the cutlets for 3 – 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. The cutlets should be lightly browned and cooked through.

Boil water in a medium saucepan and drop the frozen peas in a pouch in the saucepan and cook according to directions.

While the chicken is cooking, reheat the rice in the microwave.

Spoon rice onto serving plates. Top with chicken cutlets and drizzle with reserved glaze mixture. Serve peas on the side.

Tuesday

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Pasta with Broccoli and Italian Sausage

Pre-cooked chicken sausage keeps dinner prep down to the time is takes you to cook your pasta. Suggested sausages are from Al Fresco or Bruce Aidell. Serve with sliced plum tomatoes drizzled with Italian salad dressing.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat short pasta
  • 1 ½ pounds broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 links (12 oz.) cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian dried seasoning
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring chicken broth and water to boiling in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Four minutes before the pasta is finished, add the broccoli to the pot. Just before draining, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain and return the pasta and broccoli to the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage slices until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the sausage and any olive oil in the pan to the drained pasta mixture. Stir in the lemon peel, lemon juice, salt, Italian seasoning and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Serve topped with cheese and the tomato salad on the side.

Wednesday

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Panko-Topped Fish with Greek Vegetable Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

Fish

  • 1 pound tilapia or other thin white fillets, cut into 4 portions, if necessary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Salad

  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced (1 cup)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degree F.

Place frozen fish with the parchment paper from the freezer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the panko and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over fish. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork and crumbs are golden.

While the fish bakes, mix together in a medium bowl cucumber (save the other half for Friday’s salad), tomatoes, green onions, olives, 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, oregano and pepper. Gently stir in feta cheese.

Serve fish with lemon wedges and Greek Salad.

Thursday

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Vegetarian Spinach Rice Casserole and Carrots

While the casserole is baking or reheating, Cook the carrot chips in a microwave safe bowl.

6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Casserole

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 16 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (6 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan

Carrots

  • 16 oz pkg fresh sliced carrot chips
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat rice in the microwave.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put thawed spinach into a colander, then use your hands to squeeze out as much of the water as you can.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Add the sliced green onions, dried Italian seasoning, salt and garlic powder. When ingredients are combined, mix in the drained spinach. Then mix in the mozzarella cheese and the 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan, followed by the warmed brown rice. Use a fork to mix until the ingredients are well-distributed into the rice.

Put the mixture into a round casserole dish that you’ve sprayed with oil or nonstick spray. Cover the dish and bake about 35 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the cheese is melted. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, then bake 10-15 minutes more.

Carrots

While the casserole is baking, combine carrot ships, honey and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove bowl from the microwave and stir the ingredients. Return the bowl to the microwave and cook 5 minutes more.

Friday

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Cheeseburgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Burgers

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 English muffins, split and toasted
  • 4 slices American or Swiss cheese
  • Burger condiments

Salad

  • 3 cups cubed peeled and cored fresh pineapple
  • 1 mango, seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint

Directions

In a large bowl mix together the beef, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Shape mixture into four 1/2-inch thick patties.

Heat a stove top grill pan or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties about 5 minutes per side or until done to your liking (150-160 degrees F).

Top burgers with a slice of cheese about a minute before they are completely cooked.

For the salad: in a medium bowl mix together the pineapple, mango, cucumber, lime juice and honey. Stir in mint.

Serve burgers on English muffins with condiments of choice.

Additional Recipe For Your Slow Cooker

Make this recipe ahead and refrigerate for reheating during the week or freeze for a future meal.

Italian Braised Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, skinned (If you like drumsticks, use half drumsticks and half thighs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 15 1/2 oz can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 1 medium yellow sweet pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 ounce diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon of snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper. Place chicken in a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Top with drained beans, fennel, sweet pepper, onion, garlic, rosemary, oregano and crushed red pepper. In a medium bowl, combine undrained tomatoes, wine, tomato paste and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; pour over mixture in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Sprinkle each serving with cheese and parsley.

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Dinner For Two by Patrick J. Murphy

When you’re cooking just for two, learning what portion sizes to cook will make shopping easier and help you manage the food you buy. You’ll minimize waste and end up with only the leftovers you want.

Most recipes are written for four to six servings. So, how do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

This is where knowing your portion sizes can be extremely helpful. If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta and you know that a healthful portion is two ounces, then cook four ounces for two servings . Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce, or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements. A food scale is also helpful to have in your kitchen.

Keep in mind, though, that reducing some ingredients depends not on portion size, but on pan size. If a recipe calls for one tablespoons of oil to coat a pan, and you’re dividing the recipe by six, that doesn’t mean you should use half a tablespoon of oil. You need enough to coat the pan that you use. If you’re deglazing with wine or another liquid, you need enough to coat the pan and dissolve the drippings. Likewise, if you’re topping a gratin with breadcrumbs or cheese, the amount you need will depend on the size of your gratin dish.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts, especially if you’re not familiar with the techniques and ingredients. Sometimes, it is better to just cut the sauce for a dish in half. It may be more than you need, but it’s an easier reduction and the extra can be frozen or used later in the week for another dish.

Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend dinner or planning a special romantic Valentine’s Day meal, these healthy recipes for two will help you get dinner on the table without figuring portion sizes.

Dinner Menu 1

Golden Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of canola oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed, or 2 cups cooked winter squash, mashed 
  • 1/2 cup of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of snipped fresh thyme
  • Plain fat-free Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Whole Grain Crackers

Directions

In a medium saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Stir in squash, broth and turmeric. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and thyme; heat through – do not boil.

Ladle soup into warm bowls. If desired, top with additional yogurt. Sprinkle with pepper and serve with crackers.

Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped, seeded plum tomato
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 4-5 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.

Trim fat from steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steaks; reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired doneness, turning once. Allow 7 to 9 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F).

To serve, spoon tomato vinegar mixture over steaks. Sprinkle with thyme.

Romaine Hearts with Blue Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a heart of romaine lettuce (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Ground black pepper

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 oz fat free yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

Directions

Dressing

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, vinegar and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt. Makes 1 cup.

Salad

Halve heart of romaine lengthwise. Trim core at ends. Place 1 half on each salad plate. Top with red onion and walnuts. Drizzle with blue cheese salad dressing and crushed black pepper.

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Tiramisu Cookies

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon sugar (such as, Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso coffee powder or 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/4 cup of light tub-style cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 6 chocolate wafer cookies
  • White chocolate curls and/or fresh raspberries (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the water, sugar and espresso powder; stir until sugar and espresso powder are dissolved. Add cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

Spoon cream cheese mixture equally on top of each cookies. Chill for up to 4 hours.

To serve: top with white chocolate curls and/or raspberries, if desired.

Dinner Menu 2

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium grapefruit, peeled
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Divide lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Section the grapefruit over a bowl to reserve juice. Arrange grapefruit sections and avocado slices on lettuce.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and 1-½ teaspoons reserved grapefruit juice. Drizzle over salads.

Baked Almond Fish with Crispy Potatoes

Put the potatoes in the oven about 15 minutes before you put the fish in the oven.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) skinless cod fish fillets or any white fish fillets of choice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large baking potato or two small
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter or margarine

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating; set aside.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into two serving-sized pieces. Measure thickness of fish.

Place flour in one shallow dish. In a second shallow dish whisk together egg white and milk together. In a third shallow dish combine bread crumbs, almonds and thyme. Coat both sides of fillets with flour. Dip fillets in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumb mixture to coat.

Place fish in prepared pan. Drizzle with oil. Bake until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork (allow 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish).

For the potatoes:

Thinly slice 1 large russet potato about 1/8 inch thick. If you have one, use a mandoline or vegetable slicer to slice the potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Melt margarine or butter; drizzle over potatoes. Bake about 25 minutes or until browned.

Creamed Spinach

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot (or onion); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Heat butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir the spinach into the sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Mocha Cream Shake

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups of low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar-free chocolate-flavor syrup
  • 1/2 cup of ice cubes
  • Grated dark chocolate

Directions

In a blender combine frozen yogurt, coffee and chocolate syrup. Add ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Divide mixture between 2 parfait glasses. Top each serving with grated chocolate, if desired.

Vegetarian Dinner Menu 3

Pesto Pita Crackers

Here is my post for homemade pesto: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/

This sauce freezes wel,l so divide it into portion sizes and freeze for future use.

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole pita bread (6 inches)
  • 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Split pita bread into two rounds. Spread with pesto and sprinkle with cheese. Cut each into six wedges.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Serve warm.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Dash pepper
  • Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

Place potatoes and carrot in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain potato mixture; cool slightly.

Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add 1/2 cup milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the salt, thyme, nutmeg and pepper.

In a blender, combine the potato mixture, broccoli and remaining milk; cover and process until smooth. Add to the thickened milk mixture in the saucwpan. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with thyme.

Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce

Makes: 2 Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces dried whole wheat linguine, fettuccine or rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato (1 small)
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs 

Directions

For sauce:

In a large saucepan or skillet, cook onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper in hot oil about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in the 2 cups chopped tomatoes, half of the garbanzo beans, the salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture is boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return to saucepan. You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot if you have one. Stir in the remaining garbanzo beans. Cook and stir over low heat until the sauce is heated through.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.

To serve, toss cooked pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Divide mixture between two serving plates. Top with the 1/3 cup fresh chopped tomato and the feta cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Sorbet and Melon Parfaits

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of seeded watermelon balls
  • 2/3 cup of cantaloupe balls
  • 2/3 cup of honeydew melon balls
  • 1/2 cup of mango or lemon sorbet
  • 1/4 cup of champagne or sparkling grape juice, chilled
  • Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Arrange the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew balls in 2 wine glasses or goblets. Place scoops of sorbet on top of the melon. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the champagne over the sorbet and melon in each glass. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

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In many countries, new year celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. On this day revelers often enjoy foods that are thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes right before midnight-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and insure future financial success, as in Italy where lentils are eaten and in the southern United States where black-eyed peas are served for dinner. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary and Portugal. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, are found on the table in the Netherlands, Mexico and Greece. In Sweden and Norway rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve. It is said that whoever finds the almond can expect 12 months of good fortune.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular, “Auld Lang Syne”. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot.

Times Square

In the United States, the most well known New Year’s Eve tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere, 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of symbolic items ranging from pickles to pelicans to possums at midnight.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect opportunity to show your softer side by planning a romantic dinner for the special person in your life. Enjoying delicious food in a romantic setting with someone you care about is the perfect way to help make sure your New Year’s Eve is special. Here is a suggested festive dinner menu for two, that is intended to inspire your planning for a special evening.  The cooking of this dinner comes together quickly, if you do most of the preparation ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the evening with your loved one.

Italian Rice Balls

Rice symbolizes prosperity and wealth, so rice balls are good for New Year’s and wedding celebrations in many cultures. Another nice touch you can use with these is to put a small cube of mozzarella cheese in the middle of each rice ball. The rice balls can be prepared ahead of time and reheated in a moderate oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, in cubes (optional)
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil, pepper and salt; cover and refrigerate.

Pour the chicken broth and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; stir in the rice, cover and reduce the heat to low.

Cook the rice until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Remove the pan the from heat and gradually pour in egg mixture, continually stirring rapidly to coat the surface of the rice and prevent the egg from scrambling; allow rice mixture to cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pour bread crumbs into a shallow dish.

Dampen your hands with water and roll 1-inch balls from the rice mixture. If using the mozzarella, insert a cube in the center of the rice ball. Be sure the rice completely covers the mozzarella.

Coat each rice ball with bread crumbs.

In a small, deep skillet, heat enough oil to an adequately brown the rice balls. Fry the balls 4 to 6 at a time, turning as needed to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm with heated marinara sauce.

Arugula and Tomato Salad 

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 tomato, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper

Directions

Champagne Vinaigrette

In a jar with a screw top lid, combine shallots, oil, champagne vinegar, lemon peel, salt and ground black pepper. Cover and shake well.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

Salad

Arrange greens, tomatoes, cheese and hazelnuts on two serving plates. Dress with some of the salad dressing.

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca

Ingredients

  • 2 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 4 thin strips
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • ½ bunch asparagus

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven to roast until desired tenderness, usually 15 minutes.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken to the pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Combine broth, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Place chicken and asparagus on serving plates and spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Chocolate Truffles With Liqueur

The truffle yield will depend on how small you roll the truffles; You should get at least 15.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature ( do not use margarine)
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted through a sieve to remove lumps
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for coating or rolling

Directions

In a microwave using medium-low power, melt chocolate in a medium-sized bowl– about 1 minute.

Whisk in butter and egg yolk until blended; then whisk in liqueur and powdered sugar until smooth.

Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.

Shape mixture into small balls, roll balls in cocoa, then place in tiny foil or paper cups.

The rolling process can be a bit of a messy job; if mixture gets too soft, return it to the refrigerator to stiffen up again.

Keep truffles refrigerated in a covered container; remove about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off them.


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

Appetizers

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

Side dishes

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

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

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

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

Bread

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

Dessert

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

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

Labor Day Menu On The Grill For 8

Appetizer Course

Grilled Arugula Bruschetta

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

 

Main Course

 

Grilled Chicken with Apricot-Balsamic Glaze

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

Serves 8

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled Herbed Fingerling Potatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Mozzarella and Dill

Makes: 8servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Dessert Course

Chocolate-Sauced Kabobs

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

 


Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its beauty, as well as its unique taste and texture. Eggplants belong to the plant family commonly known as nightshades and are kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

While the different varieties do vary slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and soft texture. In many recipes, eggplant fulfills the role of being a complementary ingredient that balances the surrounding flavors. Eggplant is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contains nutrients invaluable for good health.

eggplants range in all shapes and sizes/

Shahla Khan, a senior adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, discusses myths and facts about this fruit.

Myth: Eggplant is a vegetable.

Fact: While it’s generally thought of as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit. The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash is a plant of the family Solanaceae. Eggplant is grown for its usually egg-shaped fleshy fruit and is eaten as a cooked vegetable. Some even consider it a berry.

Myth: Consuming eggplant causes insanity and can be poisonous.

Fact: Because eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, people thought the purple bulb variety was associated with the mandrake plant and was poisonous and, if you ate it, you would go insane. Some people also thought nightshade vegetables were harmful because they confused them with “deadly nightshade,” an inedible weed that’s also part of the Solanaceae family. Historically, deadly nightshade has been associated with witchcraft. When ingested in large amounts, it’s believed to cause convulsions or even death. But that has nothing to do with eggplant.

Myth: Eggplant always has to be salted before cooking to remove its bitter taste.

Fact: The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste. Salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit may soften and remove some of the bitterness. Some varieties of eggplant do not need this treatment, because they are far less bitter. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and the salting process may reduce the amount of oil absorbed.

Myth: Eggplant contains some unhealthful compounds.

Fact: The health benefits of this nightshade fruit far outweigh any risks. Eggplants contain many nutrients that are invaluable to health. Potassium, manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3 and B6, folate, magnesium and tryptophan, to mention just a few. In addition to those nutrients, eggplants are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and one cup of cooked eggplant has about 30 calories. Eggplants also contain phytochemicals that enhance health.

Myth: When purchasing eggplant, the bigger the better.

Fact: Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Their seeds will be softer and they are less likely to be bitter. Eggplants are very perishable and get bitter with age. They should have firm, taut, smooth and shiny skins. Once the skin starts to wrinkle or you feel and see soft brown spots, the quality of the eggplant has lessened. Large, oversize eggplants may be tough, seedy and bitter.

Source: University of North Florida’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.

How to Select and Store

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. As you would with other fruits and vegetables, avoid purchasing eggplant that has been waxed. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Do not cut eggplant before you store it, as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf in the refrigerator.

If you purchase eggplant that is wrapped in plastic film, remove it as soon as possible, since it will inhibit the eggplant from breathing and degrade its freshness.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove the skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, grilled, roasted in the oven or steamed. If baking it whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 177 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 25 minutes, depending upon size. You can test it by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through easily.

Appetizer Course

Eggplant Picadillo

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped fine
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 – 16 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sliced drained pimiento-stuffed green olives (5-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bunch parsley, stems discarded and leaves chopped

Directions:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and bay leaves; saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant cubes; saute until cooked, about 4 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, except parsley. Simmer until picadillo thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in parsley. Discard bay leaves. Serve with toasted pita or corn chips.

Lunch Course

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Servings: 4

This grilled-vegetable version of Eggplant Parmesan is much lighter than the fried kind.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick 
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing vegetables
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped oil packed Calabrian chiles or other hot chiles
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. and heat a grill pan.

Brush the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Grill the eggplant in batches over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly charred, about 4 minutes.

Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until lightly charred but still intact, about 2 minutes. (This step can be done early in the day)

In a bowl, combine the olives, chilies and shredded basil.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the center, arrange half of the eggplant in a 9-inch square, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, olive mixture and cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread.

Salad Course 

Pan-grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Salad

6 servings

Serve at room temperature to allow the flavors to merge.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 4 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Mint leaves, to garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with 2 teaspoons salt and let stand in a colander for 30 minutes.

Mix together the oil, vinegar and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat a ridged grill pan over high heat.

Brush the zucchini with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the zucchini, turning once, about 3 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the eggplants with olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini, add the dressing and mix.

Stir in the mint leaves. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Side Dish

Broiled Eggplant with Pesto

 Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Large bunch of basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lemon, to serve

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in half, through the stalk. Using a small, sharp knife make a crisscross pattern across the cut surfaces to a depth of about 3/4 inch.

Brush with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The flesh should be very soft.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, then remove from the skillet and cool.

Process the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste into a paste in a food processor. Add enough of the remaining olive oil to produce a loose-textured puree.

Mix in the cheese and spread the pesto over the scored surfaces of the eggplant. Broil until golden and bubbling. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Dinner Course

Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ¼ cups grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, chopped

Directions:

Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the center, leaving enough flesh inside the skin, so that it holds its shape when baked.

Chop the eggplant that has been scooped out of the inside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat and saute the eggplant until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and saute the onion, pepper and garlic until tender. Add to the eggplant in the mixing bowl.

Salt and pepper the beef. Add the beef to the pan and saute until all of its liquid is evaporated and the beef begins to brown slightly. Add to the vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Mix together the cooked eggplant, vegetables, beef, herbs, 1 cup of the cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the egg and season with salt and pepper.

Fill the scooped-out eggplant halves with this mixture, dividing it evenly between the two halves.

Top with the chopped tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs.  

Place in an oiled baking dish and bake for 50 minutes.

Let cool briefly; cut each half in two and serve.


Radishes are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. The root is related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower and horseradish, among others. In the horseradish family, radishes are related to wasabi, a type of horseradish, which in paste form is a staple condiment of Japanese cuisine. The name “radish” is said to come from the Latin word “radix”, which means root. Other sources say the radish got its name from the Greek word for “quickly appearing”.

Radishes are thought to date back thousands of years to China and Egyptians grew them even before they began building the pyramids. Later, Romans spread the radish to other cultures. They also believed radishes had medicinal purposes, including helping indigestion and constipation. The ancient Greeks made gold radishes and offered them to Apollo, their god who oversaw medicine, among other things. Other eras and cultures also considered the radish to be medicinal. In the Middle Ages they were thought to help cure insanity.

Europeans introduced radishes into Central America and North America in the 1500′s. The British brought them to North America, when they settled there and radishes were grown by the first English colonists in America. European Radishes, it seems, used to be much larger in general, more like the Asian ones. There is no written record of the small ones until the 1500′s. In France, Radishes were served at the beginning of a meal, to clean the palate and get it ready for the “delights” that were to follow.

Types of Radishes

Radishes come in many varieties but here are some general types:

The standard or salad type radish can be found in early spring and fall. This variety dislikes heat so some growers do not grow them in the summer.

The first, by far the most common, are Red Globe Radishes, the ones that everyone thinks of when they think of a radish. A small red ball about 1 inch wide, red on the outside and white on the inside.

There are also White Icicle Radishes. These are available earlier in the year and have a milder flavor. They are long like a carrot, with white skin.

Watermelon Radish

The heirloom varieties:

French Breakfast or Early Scarlet Globe, are delicious for an early spring radish . 

An exciting one to try is Chinese Red Meat or Beauty Heart, also known as the “Watermelon Radish.” Watermelon radishes are so-named for an obvious reason. Anyone who has ever cut into their green skin and and seen their brilliant red-pink interior will know. Scrub clean, cut into wedges and serve as a sharp and beautiful crudite or cut into thin sticks to add to salads.

Black Radish

Black radishes (Spanish radishes) have a black exterior that covers a snowy white flesh. Black radishes are sharp when raw and add a nice bite to salads and raw vegetable plates. When sliced paper-thin, they make beautiful garnishes. Scrub these radishes clean in order to keep the brilliant contrast between the black peel and the white interior. Black radishes also good in gratins and are delicious when cut into wedges and added to pans of roasted vegetables.

If you are looking for a milder type of radish, you might want to try a golden yellow one from Czechoslovakia, called Helios.

The Sicily Giant radish is a large heirloom variety originating from Sicily. It has a smooth, bright red skin and tastes hotter than some other radishes. It can grow up to 2 inches across the widest part.

Sicily Giant

Another type are known as a winter radishes or Daikon radishes. Some varieties include China Rose, Black Spanish Round or Philadelphia White Box. These are a Japanese variety of radish quite different from the red globe radish we are familiar with. It is long like a carrot and quite big (growing from 5 to 18 inches is hotter than red globe radishes, and its skin is tan colored rather than red, though inside it is still white. They are often pickled or dried, but are delicious grated into soups or added to roasted or braised vegetables. They aren’t usually eaten raw, but can be bright, crispy delights when peeled and cut into very thin slices.

Daikon Radish

Breakfast Radishes are often called “French Breakfast Radishes”, particularly in North America and got their name because the Victorians ate them for breakfast. These radishes are a red, oblong radish tapering to a whitened tip.

Radishes have many uses, but primarily fall into two different use categories – food and biofuel.

The taproot of the radish is the most commonly eaten portion, despite the entire plant being edible. The tops can be used as a leaf vegetable. There is no particular advantage, though, to saving the leaves. Radish tops aren’t usually eaten like other leaves of the cabbage family are, because they aren’t particularly tasty. Radishes are most often eaten raw, delivering a crisp texture with a spicy, peppery flavor. Radishes are a great low-cal snack; one cup of sliced radishes has only 19 calories. They are also often used in soup and salad recipes.

The radish seeds can also be used to extract seed oil. The seeds contain up to 48% oil that is not suitable for human consumption. However, that oil from the seeds can be refined into biofuels. There are several programs underway to develop this alternative fuel.

Most states grow radishes, but California and Florida boast the biggest crops in the United States. Radishes sold in bunches with their tops on, rather than in bunches with the tops removed, are the freshest (provided the leaves look healthy). Packaged radishes will last longer, though.   Radishes get stronger tasting as their growing season progresses; early ones will be relatively mild.

Cooking Tips for Radishes

Wash under cold water, cut off the tops and tails.

Most of the heat in radishes is in the skin. You can peel the skin off radishes if you want to, but they won’t taste or look as great. The radishes are most attractive served whole or in large slices.

If you wish to peel any of the radishes, you can use a vegetable peeler or paring knife, then slice or grate depending on how you are using them.

Radishes make a great addition to a relish tray. In France, they are often the way to start a meal: they are served with butter, sea salt and crusty bread. You split the radish with your knife, spread it apart a bit, put a bit of butter in, dip it in the sea salt on your plate and eat along with the bread.

Any type of Radish can also be cooked.

Equivalents for Radishes

1 bunch = 12 Radishes = 1 cup sliced

1 pound = 1 2/3 cup sliced

Storing Radishes

If you have bought them with the tops on, twist off and discard the tops, and store the radishes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If any seem to be going a bit soft before you use them, you can crisp them up again by soaking them in ice water for an hour or two.

 

As An Appetizer:

Radishes in Red Wine and Thyme

First trim and clean a bunch ( 15 to 25) radishes and set aside.

Use a large deep, skillet and add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add half an onion cut into small pieces and cook till soft and brown.

Remove the onion to a bowl and add 1 clove of minced garlic and cook till aromatic.

Return onions and add 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves (chopped) to the pan.

Add one cup water and one 1/4 cup good red wine and heat to a simmer.

Add radishes and cook until tender.

Remove radishes with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Reduce liquid to make a sauce.

A glass of red wine and some crusty bread are great pairings with this dish.

 

Prosciutto-Wrapped Radishes

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 6 long, red radishes
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh black pepper

Directions:

Wash and peel radishes, leaving stems intact.

Carefully wrap each radish in a slice of prosciutto.

Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

 

Sliced Baguette with Radishes and Anchovy Butter

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 8 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices baguette
  • 5-6 radishes (such as French Breakfast), trimmed, thinly sliced on diagonal
  • Additional chopped fresh chives (for garnish)

Directions:

Mix butter, chopped anchovy fillets and chives in a small bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread a thin layer of anchovy butter over 1 side of each baguette slice. Top each baguette slice with radish slices, overlapping slightly to cover bread. Garnish with additional chopped chives and serve.

 

As A Salad:

Red Radish and Greens Salad

4 servings

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • dash of salt

Salad:

  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red radishes
  • 1 large apple, quartered, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 orange, peeled, membranes removed and separated into sections
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup fennel cut into julienne strips
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

Directions:

Place dressing ingredients in a large bowl, whisk together and set aside.

Combine greens, sliced radishes, apple strips, orange sections, shredded carrots and fennel strips in a large salad bowl.

Toss salad with dressing and place on four plates.

Garnish each salad with 1 tablespoon walnuts and 1 tablespoon feta cheese.

 

Roasted Radish & Farro Salad

Farro is an ancient type of soft wheat that is often used in soups and salads in Italy. Farro’s delicious nutty taste makes a wonderful base to bulk up cooked vegetable salads.

This recipe also gives you a chance to try radish leaves.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can leave them out or substitute another green, such as arugula.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups farro, rinsed
  • 1 bunch radishes, with green tops, rinsed well
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

Combine the farro with 6 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes or until the grain is plump and chewy. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the greens off the radishes, chop and set aside. Quarter the radish roots and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until browned and tender.

In a skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and clove of garlic. Once the garlic begins to turn golden, add the radish greens and cook stirring until wilted, about 3 minutes. Discard the garlic and pour greens into the cooked farro.

Once the radishes have roasted, toss them with the farro and radish greens. Stir in the lemon juice with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

As In A Main Dish:

 

Pineapple Salsa with Radishes and Peppers

Try this sweet, spicy salsa on grilled, spice-rubbed chicken breasts, pork chops or turkey cutlets.

Yields about 3-1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 medium-size fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
  • 4 large radishes, trimmed and cut into small dice (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 medium orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice (about 2/3 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the pineapple, radishes, bell pepper, basil, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper. Let stand while you grill the meat.

  

Chickpea, Carrot & Parsley Salad

Serves four to six as a vegetarian main dish; eight as a side dish.

 Ingredients:

  • 19-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, very coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed shredded carrot (about 1 large carrot)
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes (about 6 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (about 4)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Directions:

Put 1/2 cup of the chickpeas in a mixing bowl and mash them into a coarse paste with a potato masher or large wooden spoon. Add in the remaining chickpeas along with the parsley, carrot, radishes, and scallions. Stir to combine.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Continue whisking, while adding the olive oil in a slow stream. Pour over the salad and toss gently. Season the salad with additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with the feta and pine nuts and serve with warmed pita bread, sliced into wedges.

 

Risotto with Radishes

This recipe goes well with grilled fish.

Serves 6 as main course

For risotto:

  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (48 fl ounces)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

For radishes:

  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound trimmed radishes, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Directions:

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a 3-to 4-quart saucepan. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly, keeping at a strong simmer until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next cup, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 22 minutes. Thin with some of remaining broth if necessary (you will have some left over). Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Prepare radishes:

Whisk together vinegar, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss radishes with dressing and chives. Serve risotto topped with radishes.

If you like to carve, radishes will work.


Earth Day is the day designated for fostering appreciation of the earth’s environment and awareness of the issues that threaten it. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. At present, Earth Day is observed in 175 countries and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network (EDN). The passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act are considered to be products associated with the 1970 Earth Day.

Each year, the Earth Day Network chooses a theme for Earth Day and this year the focus is ,”The Face of Climate Change”.  For Earth Day 2013, they are collecting and displaying images of how climate change has impacted your life and those around you. An interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of Earth Day events around the world.

The idea behind the theme is to personalize the challenge climate change presents by spreading the stories of those individuals, animals and places affected through imagery. Some of the images already part of the project include a man in the Maldives worried about relocating his family as sea levels rise, a polar bear in the melting arctic, a farmer in Kansas struggling to make ends meet as a prolonged drought decimates crops, a tiger in India’s dwindling mangrove forests, a child in New Jersey who lost her home to Hurricane Sandy, an orangutan in Indonesian forests ravaged by bush fires and drought and a woman in Bangladesh who can’t get fresh water due to more frequent flooding and cyclones. EDN is also including many images of people doing their part to address climate change: green entrepreneurs, community activists, clean tech engineers, carbon-conscious policymakers and public officials and average people committed to living sustainably.

There are Earth Day events happening in every corner of the U.S. and around the world and EDN encourages you to reach out to your local environmental organizations to see what opportunities there are.

It is important to remember that while we want many people engaged in Earth Day events, there are small actions that you and the young people in your life can take every day to help ensure a sustainable world.

  1. Start a vegetable garden: kids will learn how plants grow (and that vegetables don’t come from the grocery store) and your food will have traveled zero miles to reach your plate.
  2. Unplug electronics when you’re not using them: many electronics pull energy even when they are powered down.
  3. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about the environment and how you can help to protect it. Borrow some library books and read up on an issue such as pollution, endangered species, water shortages, recycling and climate change. Or, learn about a region you’ve never considered before, like the Arctic, the deserts, or the rain forests. Think about the issues that concern you the most and if you haven’t done so already, join a local group that undertakes activities to help protect the environment in your area.
  4. Buy as little as possible and avoid items that come in lots of packaging. Support local growers and producers of food and products – these don’t have to travel as far and so reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Take your drink container with you, and don’t use any disposable plates or cutlery. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Carry a cloth bag for carrying things in and recycle your plastic bags.
  5. Many of us take up a lot of natural resources with stuff we don’t really need, want or use. Ironically, there’s a still lot of people who don’t have basic necessities. Plus, a lot of your unwanted clutter can be used by local charities to resell for much-needed cash.
  6. Rid litter from our roadways. Many groups use the weekend of Earth Day to clear roadways, highways and neighborhood streets of litter that has accumulated since the last clean-up day. Many companies donate gloves and bags for clean-up groups and communities organize bag pick ups. Once the group has collected the trash and placed the recycled bags along the road, ask the public works department to pick the bags up. It’s a wonderful community project. Great for scout troops or rotary clubs.
  7. Try making up a simple vinegar-and-water counter cleaner or swap out your bleach cleaner for a less-toxic green-based one. You don’t necessarily have to give up your heavy-duty cleaners–just try using them when you really need to disinfect, rather than simply clean.
  8. Get your children involved. By giving their old toys and games to other children who could make use of them, older children learn two lessons: One is about giving to others and the second is about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away.

Cook A Special Earth Day Meal.

Plan a menu that uses locally produced foods, is healthy and has minimal impact on the environment. Favor vegetable and bean products, as these use less resources to grow than mass-farmed meat. If you still would like meat, look for locally produced, grass fed, organic meat or wild caught, sustainable fish. Try and have organic food completely. Decorate the table with recycled decorations made by you and your friends.

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 (32 ounce) box low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cups packed chopped kale
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add broth, kale, tomatoes, carrots and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Add beans and oregano and heat thoroughly. Serve with cheese.

Mediterranean Grass-Fed Ground Beef Kebabs

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds ground grass-fed beef
  • 1/4 cup grated white onion
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium-high heat cooking.

In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, parsley, spices, salt and pepper. Using your hands or a large spoon, gently mix the ingredients together until just combined—do not overwork.

Have ready 4 long metal skewers; form the beef mixture into 8 short sausage shapes and thread 2 onto each skewer. Brush with oil and grill, turning frequently, until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve skewers with Tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups small grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Strawberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Italian amaretti cookies or graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup butter or vegan non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Ice cream (optional)

Directions:

Pulse cookies in a food processor until finely ground. (You should have about 1 3/4 cups crumbs.) Add butter and pulse again until completely blended. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and press evenly into the bottom and sides. Chill in refrigerator or freezer while preparing filling.

Put half of the strawberries into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and juicy; transfer to a medium pot. Add sugar, water and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, stirring often, until very thick and glossy, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, until lukewarm, about 20 minutes.

Fill crust with remaining strawberries, pour strawberry mixture over the top and smooth out to ensure it fills in the space between berries. Chill until set, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into slices, top with a spoonful of ice cream, if desired and serve.

 


Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more appealing.

Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.

Spring brings lots of healthy produce, These include asparagus, broccoli, fresh herbs, and leafy greens, which can be found fresh at farmers’ markets and the produce section of supermarkets. Other healthy spring ingredients include strawberries, artichokes, arugula, radishes, garlic, peas and mushrooms. In addition to being loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these spring ingredients tend to lend themselves to lighter preparations, such as steaming and roasting. Fresh produce is often more flavorful than food that’s been stored for a long time, so a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs can be all you need to season it.

So, in the spirit of spring — as the trees are beginning to bud, the flowers are starting to appear and the days are getting longer — I’ve gathered some recipes using the ingredients of spring to inspire us all to keep it fresh and healthy this season.

 

Risotto with Chicken and Spring Peas

Make it a vegetarian option by using vegetable broth and eliminating the chicken.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup loose-pack frozen tiny or regular-size peas
  • 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add the uncooked rice. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the rice is golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring broth to boiling; reduce heat to keep broth simmering. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue to cook, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until all the broth is used; stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. (This should take 18 to 20 minutes total.)

Stir in the peas and carrots with the last addition of the broth. Cook and stir until rice is slightly firm (al dente) and creamy.

Stir in chicken, spinach, Parmesan cheese and thyme; heat through. Serve immediately.

 

Parmesan-Crusted Fish

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless cod fillets (1-1/2 pounds total) or white fish fillets of choice
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1- 10 ounce package julienned carrots (3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Fresh salad greens mixed with Italian dressing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse fish and pat dry; place on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl stir together panko and cheese; sprinkle on fish. Bake, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until crumbs are golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet bring the water to boiling; add carrots. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover; cook for 2 minutes more. Add butter and oregano; toss.

Mix greens with dressing and place on dinner plates. Top with cooked fish.

Serve carrots on the side of the fish.

 

Tomato and Eggplant Fusilli

Ricotta salata is a salty, mild-flavored cheese with a crumbly texture similar to feta.

Serve this entre with a green salad and crusty whole grain Italian bread.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli
  • 1 cup fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded ricotta salata

Directions:

In a large lidded skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir in tomatoes and eggplant. Cook, covered, 15 minutes. (If skillet does not have a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil.) Stir in garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; cover and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fusilli according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cups of the pasta water. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the fusilli to skillet with the tomato eggplant mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water, 3/4 cups of basil, 3/4 cups of ricotta salata, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. (If pasta seems dry, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup pasta water.) Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup ricotta salata.

 

Pork Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 – 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice or whole wheat orzo pasta

Directions:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Stir in pork, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Serve with the cooked rice or orzo and a green vegetable, such as asparagus.

 

Chicken Pomodoro and Garlic Spaghetti

Round out this meal with a green salad.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved, (about 8 oz. each)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half & half
  • cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Coat a large saute pan with nonstick spray. Add oil and heat over medium-high.

Saute chicken until brown, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a plate.

Off heat, deglaze pan with vodka and cook until liquid evaporates. Add broth and milk and reduce until thick, 2–3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked. Turn chicken over to coat in sauce before transferring to a serving plate.

Pour sauce over cutlets and garnish with scallions. Serve with Garlic Spaghetti, recipe below.

Garlic Spaghetti

Makes: 4 servings

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Heat oil in the same pot over medium-high. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in pasta water, parsley, lemon zest and cooked and drained spaghetti; toss to coat.

Season spaghetti with additional salt, black pepperand red pepper flakes to taste.

 


The Italian Easter table is an array of symbolic dishes of the season. Every province has its own unique specialties that represent resurrection, fertility and rebirth. The spectrum covers earthy foods, both savory and sweet. An ancient Italian saying, “Natale con i tuoi, la Pasqua con chi vuoi”, means “Christmas at home and Easter with whomever you wish.” But for the most part, Italians return to the family home to celebrate the holiday.

A traditional meal is usually roasted leg of lamb with fresh rosemary and crushed garlic. It is served with asparagus, homemade pasta and a large salad. Vegetables typically play an important part in Italian meals, especially spring vegetables because they are tender and delicate. These include early peas, baby artichokes, asparagus, spinach and Swiss chard side dishes. They are also an important ingredient in egg-rich savory tortes that are combined with hard-boiled eggs and different kinds of cured meats. These tortes are served as appetizers or main dishes throughout the holiday.

Torta Pasqualina (Easter Cheese and Spinach Pie)

You may substitute 2 sheets of puff pastry for the homemade dough. See directions below.

For the dough:

  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Water

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or Swiss chard
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese, drained in a sieve for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Egg Wash For Puff Pastry:

1 Large Egg

Directions:

For the dough:

Mix the flour, oil and salt and gradually add enough water (about 1 cup) to make a stiff dough that leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly. (The dough will become sticky if too much water is used.) Knead the dough thoroughly and divide it into 10 equal-sized balls. Put on a lightly floured pastry board and cover with a damp cloth for 15 minutes.

For the filling:

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain thoroughly and cook in as little water as possible until soft. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onion until soft but not brown. Drain the greens and chop finely. Add to the onions and cook for a few moments. Set it aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta with milk, add a pinch of salt and put aside.

Brush a large deep pie dish or 9 inch springform pan with olive oil.

Roll one ball of pastry into a wafer-thin sheet larege enough to fit in the pan, keeping the rest of the pastry balls under the damp cloth. Place the dough in the prepared pie dish, brush lightly with oil and trim off excess pastry. Repeat this with five more balls of pastry, brushing each layer with oil and layering one on top of the other.

Spread the cooked onion and greens on top of the sixth layer of pastry, and spread the ricotta mixture on top. Hollow 4 wells in the filling and crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan.

Roll out the remaining balls of pastry in precisely the same manner as teh bottom layers and place them, one by one, on top of the filling brushing each layer with oil.

Prick the top layer with a fork, brush it generously with oil and trim off any overlapping pastry.

If using puff pastry:

  • Allow the pastry to come to room temperature.
  • Roll out the two layers until fairly thin, making them large enough to cover the springform pan with a enough overhang to cover the filling.
  • Lay one layer over the other to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • Put the filling into the pan, smoothing it evenly.
  • Make four hollows evenly spaced around the filling and carefully crack the eggs into the hollows.
  • Fold the overhanging edges of pastry over the top of the pie, folding to fit.
  • Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water and brush over the top of the puff pastry.

Bake either pie in a 400-degree oven for about 40-50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown. It may be served hot or cold.

Torta Pasqualina

Eggs, the symbol of life, are an essential component of Easter foods. In nature, hens lay fewer eggs during the long winter and more in spring, as the days grow longer and temperatures get warmer. Aside from dyed and decorated eggs, Easter treats include egg-shaped cookies and marzipan and chocolate eggs.

Easter bread and pastry are found on every table. On the sweet side are round breads from Sicily and Abruzzo with colored hard-boiled eggs baked into the loaf. Also popular for Easter is Colomba, a sweet bread baked in the shape of a dove. The dough contains candied citrus and is topped with toasted almonds and sugar crystals.The dove is a universal symbol of peace.

PASQUA: FIRST COURSE

Easter feasts encourage an adventurous spirit in the kitchen. At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Italians are likely to stick to traditional dishes, but at Easter, there is much more diversity. There is no typical antipasto or even primo piatto (first course) for Easter, but young cured meats and cheeses are usually served in some form.

Some popular first course dishes include: Fried Artichokes, Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad), swordfish or tuna seasoned with grapefruit and generous platters of young pecorino, fava beans and salumi.

Popular pasta dishes for Easter are Lasagna, in all its varieties and Baked Pasta, for which every household in Italy has a different recipe. Those who have the time and skill to prepare homemade pasta, might make their own local specialty (such as, orecchiette, cavatelli or pici), or stuffed pastas such as ravioli or tortelloni. An alternative to pasta is risotto made with fresh seafood and baby peas or asparagus.

PASQUA: THE MAIN COURSE

For secondo (the main course), roasted or grilled meat is usually served. For centuries, the most popular choice for Easter has been lamb—not just in Italy, but in many other Mediterranean and European countries too. In Rome lamb is marinated with lemon and rosemary and then roasted.

Another typical Roman recipe is Grilled Lamb Chops served with roasted potatoes and artichokes. In Tuscany, lamb is slowly braised with onions and carrots, then served with seasoned cannellini beans. In the Puglia region, boiled lamb is served with fresh herbs and vegetables. In Trentino, polpettine (little meatballs) are made with ground lamb, scallions, parsley and rosemary and served with tomato sauce as an entree.

PASQUA: DESSERT COURSE

Dolci (dessert) is an important part of the Easter feast. Chocolate eggs are among the favorite. In Italy and they contain a surprise inside for the children.

The Pastiera Napoletana is another authentic Easter tradition, originating in Naples, this cake is made with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and orange-blossom water.

The Pizza Pasqualina, a dessert made with cinnamon and chocolate, is a specialty of northern Lazio.

In Sicily, cassata and cannoli are the traditional desserts; and in Sardinia, Casadina, a puff pastry dessert stuffed with ricotta and raisins, is usually served.

Pane di Pasqua (Easter Bread) is a famous Easter treat made all over Italy. Sometimes it is prepared as a dessert and other times as a savory pastry. 

In vegetarian households, the symbolism of the “sacrificial lamb” can be represented by small lamb-shaped cakes and pastries that are eaten for dessert.

EASTER MENU:

Lemon Gnocchi with Peas and Spinach

Potato gnocchi are flavored with fresh citrus, sweet peas and baby spinach

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces fat free half & half
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Fine Sea Salt
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (1-pound) package Potato Gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Directions:

In a large skillet, combine peas, half & half, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until leaves are wilted. Remove pan from heat and mix in lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water, if needed.

Mix hot gnocchi with the vegetable sauce in the saucepan. Add some of the reserved pasta water, if needed. Stir to coat. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Serves 4 

Roman Grilled Lamb Chops

Though this classic Easter recipe for lamb originated in Rome, it has long since become a national favorite. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 lamb chops
  • 3 fresh bay leaves, finely ground
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • A few juniper berries
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions:

Layer the lamb chops in a large container.

With a mortar, a knife or an electric grinder, finely grind all of the herbs and spices—including the salt and pepper. (If you use a knife, use the flat side to first crush the juniper berries, peppercorns and salt.) Place them in a bowl, then mix with the wine and the olive oil, stirring with a fork. Pour this marinade into the container with the layered lamb chops. Marinate overnight.

Ideally, lamb chops are best grilled on an open coal fire or barbecue, but you can also cook them on the stove in a cast-iron grill or a heavy pan. They will be ready very quickly—lamb chops (unlike pork chops) can be served rare or medium-rare, according to your preference. Serve them hot with a couple of lemon wedges.

Roasted potatoes are usually served with this dish.

Serves 4

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; spread them evenly on the sheet pan, and bake, turning occasionally with a spatula, until golden brown on the outside and creamy inside, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, finely chop the rosemary and garlic together. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on top of the stove.

Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle with sea salt and 2 tablespoons of the rosemary-garlic mixture. Mix well.

Return the pan to the oven to heat the seasonings through.

Serve as a side dish.

 

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe, thick stems removed and discarded, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5-6 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and 1/2 cup water; season to taste with salt and pepper and toss gently.

Cover and cook until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli rabe is completely tender, 2 minutes longer. Stir 1/4 cup of the pecorino into the broccoli rabe. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino over the broccoli rabe and serve.

 

Springtime Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces chilled mascarpone cheese
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for ganish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, olive oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Set them both aside.

Beat butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well until mixture turns pale yellow. Turn the speed down to low and add the flour mixture and milk mixture, alternating both. Continue to beat until combined.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds of the way full with batter. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 17 minutes. Check with a toothpick to be sure. Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

Frosting: In a bowl, beat the mascarpone, vanilla, lemon zest and sugar at a medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle the top of each cupcake with a little lemon zest.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

 


There are around 5,000 different species of crab, which can be found all over the world. 4,500 of these species are said to be “true” crabs, while the other 500 are made up of different species of hermit crabs.The majority of crabs live in the water, however, there are a small number of crabs that live on land and breathe air.

The majority of the crab population can be found in the waters around China, followed by the U.S. and Japan.  While most crabs are found in the Asian seas, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of crabs. Crab dishes are very popular in Japan, France, Spain, Hong Kong, the U.S., Canada and Portugal.

Crabs and crustaceans were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome. In particular, Apicius, a well known “foodie” of the time, described how to cook crustaceans in his book, De Re Coquinaria, and it seems that he was a real fan. Legend has it that when he learned that there were extremely large lobsters living along the coast of Libya, he hired a boat and sailed there just to try them. Once he arrived and discovered that the local lobsters were almost identical to those found in Rome, he turned around and came back to Italy without even debarking.

Although there are many different types of crab and each offer their own distinctive taste and texture, all crabmeat is essentially sweet. The many crab species fished from North America’s coastal waters vary greatly in size, appearance, taste and texture and lend themselves to an immense array of dishes. There are six varieties that are used the most and are commercially available, either live, cooked, frozen or in lump form (that is, picked from the shell and packaged).

If you are planning on cooking the crab at home and eating it straight from the shell, it is best to buy live crabs for better taste. Frozen crabs can also be bought. Buy your crabs from a well-known and reputable fish market or, as a second choice, from a large supermarket. If you are buying from the latter, make sure to find out how long the crabs have been in the tank. If it is longer than a week, they should really be avoided.

When I was young, my family and I would spend our summers at the shore. One of the activities involved crabbing in the bay near our house. My father would take me to the dock very early in the morning. It was a simple affair: string, bait and a basket. My father would attach the bait to the string, drop the bait end into the water and tie the other end to the dock. My job was to check the strings every once in awhile to see if we caught a crab. If we did, we would pull up the string and place the crab in a covered basket. Believe or not, we caught many crabs this way, more than enough for dinner. My father would be very happy and always bragged about the crab catch. He loved to make spaghetti sauce with crabs cooked in the sauce. I was not a fan and didn’t eat crab then. Times have changed.

If you are buying live crabs, it is best to consume them when they are as fresh as possible, preferably on the same day, although they will keep overnight in the refrigerator. Put the live crabs in a bowl or a container where they can still breathe and cover them with damp paper towels or a damp cloth. Place them in a cold area of your refrigerator until you are ready to use them. 

Boiling live crab

Pour 5 quarts of water into a large pot and add 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a rapid boil.

Grasp the live crab by the back legs and drop it into the water headfirst. Bring the water back to the boil and only then start timing.

You should cook large crabs (about 2 lb.) for around 15-20 minutes and smaller crabs around 8 – 10 minutes.

The crab’s shell should turn a bright orange when done.

When the crabs are done, immerse them for a few seconds in cold water, so that cooking stops and they do not overcook.

Defrosting a whole crab

If you have decided to purchase pre-cooked frozen crab, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight in order to defrost.

If you need to defrost the crab quickly, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a sink full of cold water. Do not use hot water. A two pound crab will defrost in one hour.

Storing cooked crab meat

Freshly cooked crab meat is best eaten on the same day, however, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. The cooked meat should be removed from the shell beforehand.

Cooked crab meat can be frozen and will keep for four months. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped or placed in an airtight container before freezing.

Some of the more common types of crab are described below.

Alaskan King Crab are the largest and most sought after crab in the world due to its size, which can reach up to 25 pounds and measure up to 10 feet. It may be large, but only about one-fourth is edible, primarily the legs and claws. Only males are harvested. The delicately-flavored meat is snowy white with a bright red outer edge. Their preferred habitat is in the coldest waters in the world. King Crab is caught chiefly by commercial fisherman in various areas in the Pacific Ocean near Alaska: Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, St. Matthew Island, Pribilof Island and the Kodiak Islands.

Alaskan Snow Crab are the type of crab you mainly find in a seafood restaurant. There are four species of Snow Crab and two species are found in Alaskan waters. Alaskan Snow Crab are mainly caught by commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea waters and the Chukchi Sea. Many of the same crabs are also found in Japan. Their habitat is in very cold waters. Snow Crab grow by molting when they shed their exterior. Then they grow tissue to fill each new, larger exo-skeleton. They molt several times per year when they are young but only once per year when they get larger and mature. The average snow crab weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

The Blue Crab habitat is mainly around the Chesapeake Bay area on the Atlantic coast, areas in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas as far south as the Bahamas. This species of crab has blue highlights and their shells are extremely sharp. Blue crabs can also be eaten in it’s soft shell stage. To eat these crab in the soft shell stage, they have to caught, processed and cooked before they molt to their hard shell state. 

Dungeness Crab is a type of crab that inhabits grass beds and water bottoms all the way from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down through the Pacific Ocean waters of California and even into parts of the Gulf of Mexico. They are named after Dungeness, Washington, which is located near Port Angeles, WA, in the Puget Sound area. This area is where Captain George Vancouver explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along the northern area of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula in the late eighteenth century. Dungeness Crab is considered a characteristic food of the Great Pacific Northwest.

Stone Crabs have large, very hard claws that are prized for their meat. Most of the harvest comes from Florida, where it is harvested from October 15 to May 15. Only the claws are eaten, so fishermen twist off one claw from each stone crab and toss them back to grow a new one. Crabs will regenerate new claws within 18 months. The law requires the claws of just caught stone crabs be boiled for 7 minutes and then either put on ice or frozen. The freezing process seems to remove an unpleasant iodine taste which is often noticed in the meat. To serve, the claws are cracked with a mallet and served cold with dipping sauces. Minimum size for claws is 2 to 2.75 ounces. The meat has a firm texture and a sweet flavor.

Red Rock Crabs and their cousins, the Jonah Crab, are light to dark brownish red, depending on where they are caught. The further north they are fished, the darker the shells get. Red Rock crabs are found along the Atlantic coast all the way from Nova Scotia to the shores of Florida. Neither are sold in upscale fish stores or in the major supermarkets, but you may be able to find them in Spanish or Chinese markets.

Freshwater Crabs: There are many species that live in freshwater- especially in the streams and billabongs of Australia- but also on every other continent.The Southern European Crab, pictured above, has been eaten by people since Roman Times. Unfortunately, freshwater crabs are threatened by human activities more than most groups of animals and many species are in danger of becoming extinct.

The four basic types of shelled meat that you can buy and their uses follow:

Jumbo Lump or Lump Crab Meat

Jumbo Lump meat comes from the pair of large muscles that drive the crab’s swimming legs. With care and skill these lumps can be removed intact, resulting in the prized whole Jumbo Lump with its incomparable visual appeal. Grades identified simply as lump are from smaller crab varieties.

Use Jumbo Lump when you want to display beautiful white meat in:

Crab cocktails

Solid-meat crab cakes

Crab Louis – lumps of crab meat and hard boiled eggs on Boston lettuce, with Russian dressing.

Crab Imperial – a baked dish combining crab with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce, spooned into scallop shells, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese or bread crumbs and browned.

Lump or Backfin Lump Crab Meat

Lump or Backfin is the preferred grade for many traditional crab dishes. It has the same fine flavor and texture of Jumbo Lump, but is in slightly smaller pieces. Some companies call this grade Lump, some Backfin and some Backfin Lump. If you purchase a can labeled Lump, it will be all lump meat and will not contain any Jumbo Lump.

Use Lump or Backfin when you want beautiful white crab but don’t want the expense of Jumbo Lump, for example:

Crab Benedict (Eggs Benedict with crab instead of ham)

Gazpacho: add a 1/2 cup of crab to the center of the soup

Pasta:  add to Spaghetti Carbonara instead of bacon or add a cup to Fettuccini all’Amatriciana

Risotto

White Crab Meat

 

White crab meat is ideal for crab cake recipes that have multiple ingredients (bread crumbs, vegetables) that are mixed with mayonnaise and in crab recipes where the size and shape of the crab flake becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the ingredients.

White crab meat is a more economical alternative for:

Appetizers

Bisques and chowders

Omelets

Pizza

Sandwiches and salads

Stuffed tomatoes

Claw Crab Meat

Claw Crab meat is the “dark meat” of the crab. The reddish-brown claw and leg meat is actually more flavorful than the white meat and is preferred by many who like the more robust flavor and appreciate the lower price. Claw meat also stands up to bolder seasonings. Some people mix it with Backfin Lump for visual appeal, while keeping the overall price down.

Try claw meat and, if you like the flavor, you may have an economical alternative and a reason to enjoy crab more often. You can use it in any preparation, but especially in

Cheese melts

Crab tacos

Cioppino or other fish stews

What To Look For In Canned Crab Meat

When you do a comparative test among different brands of canned crab meat, you can immediately discern differences in the size, color, texture, shell content, scent and the flavor of the meat. Each bite of crab meat should taste and smell the same. If it doesn’t, you need to find a better brand.

Cooking With Crab

If you are planning on buying crab legs, try not to buy ones that have been thawed, since they will not retain their taste and freshness. Always try to buy frozen crab legs or pre-cooked and frozen crab legs.

Thawed crab legs can be maintained in the refrigerator for two days before they go bad, but they should really be cooked as soon as they have been defrosted.

To defrost frozen crab legs, place them in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. If you place them on a rack in a watertight container, they can drain as they are defrosting.

Pre-cooked frozen crab legs can be heated in a number of ways, even in the microwave. My preferred way is to bake them in the oven.

To bake crab legs

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.

Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8 – 9 minutes.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 artichokes
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons crab boil or Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 cup crab meat
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the stems from the artichokes to leave a neat, flat base. Lay each artichoke on its side, and cut away the upper third with a sharp knife. With kitchen shears, remove the prickly leaf tips from each remaining leaf. Rub the cut sides and bottom with a lemon slice, squeezing lemon juice onto the cut areas and set aside.

Place the prepared artichokes, lemon slices, crab boil and bay leaves in the boiling water and simmer, partially covered, until the bottom is tender and can be pierced with a sharp knife and an outer leaf pulls out easily, about 25 minutes.

Drain the artichokes upside down in a colander.

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

To the onions in the pan, add the garlic and oregano and continue to cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs, crab meat, lemon zest, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix well and adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, press the leaves gently back so that the artichoke opens to reveal the inner choke and prickly leaves. Pull out the cone of undeveloped white leaves and gently scrape out the choke with a spoon. Gently pull the leaves outward from the center until the leaves open slightly.

Fill the artichoke cavities with the crab stuffing and pack a little bit into the space between the leaves.

Place the artichokes in an earthenware baking dish and drizzle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the dish and place in the oven. Bake until the artichokes are golden brown and the bread crumbs develop a crust, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle each with some grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional lemon wedges.

Cioppino-Style Roasted Crab

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 2 – 15-ounce cans chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 - 2-pound cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned, quartered, cracked or 2 pounds Alaska king crab legs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in large deep ovenproof skillet or large metal roasting pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to high and boil 2 minutes. Add clam juice, tomatoes with juice, 1 cup water, bay leaves, parsley and crushed red pepper and bring to boil. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15 minutes. Add crab pieces; nestle into sauce. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until crab pieces are heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Place crab with juices in large bowl to serve.

Spaghettini with Crab and Spicy Lemon Sauce

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped fresh parsley plus whole sprigs for garnish
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, sliced crosswise (optional)

Directions:

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in large skillet over medium heat. Mix in the next 4 ingredients.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta, 1/4 cup cooking liquid, chopped parsley and crab meat to skillet. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats pasta, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large platter.Top with prosciutto, if desired. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley sprigs. 

Roasted Shellfish with Fennel and Citrus

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds stone crab claws or Canadian snow crab legs, shells cracked with mallet or cut with scissors
  • 1 1/2 pounds small clams, scrubbed
  • 16 mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh chives

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a heavy large roasting pan over 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add oregano and fennel and stir 1 minute. Add olive oil, cracked crab, clams and mussels; stir to coat. Place pan in the oven. Roast until crab is heated through and clams and mussels open, stirring occasionally and transferring clams and mussels to a platter as they open, about 10 minutes.

After all the shellfish has been transferred to the platter (discard any clams and mussels that do not open); tent with foil to keep warm. Heat the same roasting pan over 2 burners over high heat. Add shallots and wine and boil 1 minute. Add citrus juices and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Whisk in butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over shellfish. Sprinkle with chives and serve.



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