Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Fish

Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.

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A health food for some, a gourmet food to others and a scary little fish for still others.

This tiny little fish swims in schools throughout most of the world’s oceans. Most become food for bigger fish, but sea-going cultures all over the world consume these tiny creatures and have incorporated them into their respective cuisines. This fish is a small, warm water relative of the herring, a Northern European staple, and just as the peoples of the north salted their herring to preserve them, the anchovy has long been salted by fishermen and packers in the Mediterranean where it is a staple. While they were usually consumed fresh and either grilled or marinated, they always preserved some of their catch for later use. Before the advent of canning and refrigeration, salt was the predominant way to preserve them. Salting anchovies changes both their taste and texture. Although Europeans seem to prefer buying whole salted anchovies from their local market, salted anchovies show up in the US mainly in the form of small flat or rolled fillets packed with olive oil – like sardines. Salt-packed anchovies are sold as whole fish with heads removed; while oil packed anchovies are sold de-boned or in pieces. Oil packed fillets are ready to use, while salt packed anchovies must be de-boned and soaked to remove the excess salt.

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After rinsing, salt-packed anchovies have a deep flavor with less saltiness; while oil packed anchovies are saltier due to being preserved in olive oil. In most cases they can be used interchangeably in recipes. Salt-packed anchovies can be stored covered in the refrigerator, where they will keep almost indefinitely. Salt-packed anchovies must be soaked prior for use in a recipe. There are three commonly used soaking liquids: cold water, milk or a combination of cold water and dry white wine. Whatever liquid you choose, use enough to completely cover the anchovies and soak them for approximately 30 minutes. (Many people will change the liquid after about 15 minutes.) You can soak the salt-packed anchovies before or after removing the backbone.

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Anchovy paste can make an acceptable substitute for anchovies in some recipes. (Use ½ teaspoon for every anchovy called for.) Anchovies can be used in recipes as a seasoning ingredient rather than as the main ingredient. Many recipes call for one or two mashed or minced fillets that disappear into the sauce as it is cooked. There are well-known recipes where the anchovy is the main ingredient For example, in an anchovy and garlic paste that is used to spread on slices of crostini or in Bagna Cauda, an anchovy and garlic dip, that is traditional in Northern Italy. The Italian cuisines of Campania, Calabria, and Sicily often rely on anchovies for pasta dishes, such as, Spaghetti con Acciughe that includes anchovies, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs. Anchovies are often minced or mashed into vinaigrettes to season vegetables and salads.

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Bagna Cauda Pot

Consider the health benefits of anchovies:

  • Anchovies are high in Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Anchovies are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Calcium and Selenium.
  • Anchovies are an excellent source of protein – delivering 9 grams of protein for only five anchovies.
  • Due to their size and short life span, Anchovies contain lower levels of heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic,) and other environmental toxins – especially when compared to tuna and other larger fish.

Equivalents:

2 oz Anchovy paste = 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup

2 oz Anchovy fillets in oil = 50g = 8 to 12 Anchovies in oil = 12 drained

1 ½ oz Anchovies, drained = 40g = 8 to 10 Anchovies

1/2 teaspoon Anchovy paste = 1 Anchovy fillet

Once a tin or jar of anchovies is opened, you can store the anchovies in the refrigerator (discard the tin and store them in a sealed container) for up to two months: just make sure the fillets are covered in oil during that time to keep them fresh.

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Here are some recipes where you can incorporate this tiny fish into your cooking. I prefer to purchase anchovy fillets packed in extra-virgin olive oil.

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Bagna Cauda

Serves 6

Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. Raw vegetable pieces are dipped into the hot, garlicky, anchovy-flavored oil until warm – and then eaten, catching every little garlicky drip on a fresh piece of Italian bread. It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
  • Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
  • Italian bread – sliced

Directions

Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, or electric skillet or wok.

To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.

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Tuna Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • One 12 oz jar of roasted peppers, drained
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, optional
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the peppers into 2-inches wide strips.

Combine tuna, lemon juice, capers and anchovies in a medium bowl.

Lay the pepper strip flat, inside facing up, and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.

Tightly roll up the pepper strip. Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter.

Grind some black pepper over the stuffed peppers and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if using. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

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Spaghetti con Acciughe

A classic Neapolitan dish.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Spaghetti or Bucatini Pasta
  • 12 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Big pinch of hot, red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted

Directions

Mince 6 of the anchovies and chop the remaining six coarsely. Set aside.

Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until “al dente” – about 10 minutes.

While pasta is boiling, put olive oil, garlic, minced anchovies and chili flakes in a deep-sided frying pan or pot and saute over low heat until the anchovies are “dissolved.” Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies and turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer pasta into the pan containing the anchovy sauce and toss until pasta is well coated. Add some reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Put 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs aside. Add remaining bread crumbs to the pasta and toss again.

Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top ot the pasta before serving.

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Tomato Salad with Anchovy & Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 anchovies, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomatoes, sliced

Directions

Halve the head of garlic crosswise and wrap them in foil, cut side up. Roast in a 450°F oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the cloves into a medium bowl. Add the anchovies and mash them with a fork into a paste.

Whisk in chopped parsley, vinegar, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over tomato slices.

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Italian Fish Stew with Anchovy Pesto

Stew

  • 1 lb cod fillets or other firm white fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 1 28 oz container Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 shrimp

Pesto

  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the chopped plum tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Rinse and dry the fish on paper towels and cut into 1 inch chunks.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and celery until soft.  Reduce the temperature to low and add the fish and the tomato mixture to the saucepan.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the wine.

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the fish is just cooked and the liquid has reduced to a thick soupy consistency.

Add the mussels and shrimp and cook until the mussels open. Discard any that do not open.

Pound together the pesto ingredients with a pestle & mortar or process in a food processor to make a rough paste.

Remove the bay leaf and serve the fish stew in shallow bowls, topped with a tablespoon of the pesto.

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Lamb Chops With Anchovies, Capers and Sage

3 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 rib lamb chops (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 15 sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges, for serving.

Directions

Pat the lamb chops dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper and let rest for 15 minutes.

Over medium-high heat, warm a skillet large enough to hold all the chops in one layer. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add the anchovies and capers. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break down, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the lamb chops in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn them over, and add the sage leaves and red pepper flakes into the pan. Cook until the lamb reaches the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium-rare.

Arrange the chops on serving plates. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, then spoon the sauce over the lamb. Serve with the lemon wedges.

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Figs Stuffed with Anchovy Tapenade

Ingredients

  • 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 ripe, small Mission figs

Directions

Puree olives, capers, anchovy, thyme, and olive oil together in a food processor or chop by hand.

Make a slit in the side of each fig and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of tapenade into the fig. Pinch opening closed. Allow 3 figs per person.

 


Boats on the island of rabbits- Lampedusa, Sicily

Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The community of Lampedusa e Linosa is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione. It is in the southernmost part of Italy and is Italy’s southernmost island. Tunisia, which is about 113 kilometres (70 miles) away, is the closest land to the islands. Sicily is farther at 176 kilometres (109 miles); Malta is a similar distance to the east.

Politically and administratively, Lampedusa is part of Italy, but geologically belongs to Africa, since the sea between the two is no more than 400 feet. It has no sources of water other than irregular rainfall. The fauna and flora of Lampedusa are similar to those of North Africa. The south-western side is dominated by deep gorges, while the southeastern part is mostly shallow valleys and sandy beaches. The entire northern coast contains cliffs: gently sloping on the east coast and steep cliffs on the west coast. Lampedusa’s sea bed features a wealth of fish, coral, sea sponges and oysters in a myriad of shapes and colors.

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Lampedusa, which has an area of 20.2 square kilometres (7.8 sq mi), has a population of approximately 4,500 people. Its main industries are fishing and tourism. A ferry service links the island with Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento, Sicily. Lampedusa has a semi-arid climate. It has very mild winters with moderate rainfall and hot, dry summers. The sea surrounding the island is relatively shallow. Water temperatures stay warm most of the year, with the warmest being in August when the sea typically reaches 27 to 28 °C (81 to 82 °F). The water stays warm until November, when temperatures range from 20 to 23 °C (68 to 73 °F). It is coolest in February and March, when it averages around 16 °C (61 °F).

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Over the last century much of Lampedusa has suffered from deforestation where, previously, it was home to numerous plants and trees. Several measures have been taken to improve the situation and although there is still very little agriculture, some parts of the island are full of beautiful and exotic plants and flowers such as palms, figs, olives, prickly pear cactuses and yuccas.

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The main attractions on the island are all centrally located and concentrated in one area which makes it easier to visit them on foot or by renting a scooter or a moped. Mopeds and scooters are available in several places on the island, however, visitors must be careful with their use of fuel, since there are only a few gas stations on the island. There are several hotels and restaurants located here and a number of stores that sell locally made pottery, wooden items, souvenirs and Italian wines.

The most magnificent beach on the island is the Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) and a vast area around this beach has been declared a nature reserve encompassing both the land and sea areas. There are hardly any structures in the area and fishermen are not allowed to fish nearby, which means snorkelling is excellent. This is a protected area because the beach is one of the last remaining places where sea turtles regularly come to lay their eggs. There is a rescue center and hospital located here where the islanders care for the sea turtles, should they get accidentally injured. In 2013 Rabbit Beach, located in the southern part of the island, was voted the world’s best beach by the travel site TripAdvisor. The island got its name since it was once filled with rabbits, however, now only a few rabbits can be spotted here.

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Since the early 2000s, the island has become a primary European entry point for migrants, mainly coming from Africa. In 2011, many immigrants moved to Lampedusa during the rebellions in Tunisia and Libya. By May 2011, more than 35,000 immigrants had arrived on the island from Tunisia and Libya and by the end of August, 48,000 more had arrived. Most were young males in their 20s and 30s. The situation has caused division within the EU, the French government regarding most of the arrivals as economic migrants rather than refugees in fear of persecution. Italy has repeatedly requested aid from the EU in managing refugees, but has been turned down.

Historically, Lampedusa was a landing-place and a maritime base for the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In 1553 Barbary pirates from North Africa raided Lampedusa and carried off 1,000 captives into slavery. As a result of pirate attacks, the island became uninhabited. The first prince of Lampedusa and Linosa was Ferdinand Tommasi, ancestor of the writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who received the title from Charles II of Spain in 1667. A century later, the Tomassi family began a program of resettlement.

In the late 18th century, the Prince of Lampedusa leased the island to Salvatore Gatt, a Maltese entrepreneur, who settled on the island with a few Maltese workers. After Malta fell under British protection in 1800, they considered taking over Lampedusa as a naval base instead of Malta, but the idea was dropped as the island did not have deep harbors and was not well-developed. In the 1840s, the Tomassi family sold the island to the Kingdom of Naples. In 1860, the island became part of the new Kingdom of Italy, but the Italian government limited its activities there to building a penal colony. In June 1943, during the Second World War, as a precursor to the Allied invasion of Sicily, the island was secured without resistance in Operation Corkscrew by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Lookout.

The first telephone connection with Sicily was installed only in the 1960s. In the same decade an electric power station was built. In 1972, part of the western side of the island became a United States Coast Guard LORAN-C transmitter station. In 1979, Lt. Kay Hartzell took command of the Coast Guard base, becoming “the first female commanding officer of an isolated duty station”.

In the late 1980s, an increase in tensions developed and the area around the island was the scene of multiple attacks. On April 15, 1986, Libya fired two Scud missiles at the Lampedusa navigation station on the island in retaliation for the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi and the alleged death of Colonel Gaddafi’s adopted daughter. However, the missiles passed over the island, landed in the sea without causing damage. On 4 January 1989, U.S. Navy aircraft from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan fighters approximately 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the island. The base commander was advised by the U.S. Sixth Fleet Intelligence at La Maddalena that the Libyan president, Muammar al-Gaddafi, had threatened reprisals against the American commanders at Sigonella and Lampedusa. An Italian media frenzy followed that event which put Lampedusa in the spotlight. The NATO base was decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to Italian military control.

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Pickled Seafood

Pickled Seafood

The Cuisine of Lampedusa

Until recently, the cuisine was distinguished in three ways. The first one was called the cuisine of the Monsù and it was prepared for the rich and noble people. A second type was the popular cuisine, basically dishes that the poor people, who were in the majority, cooked daily. They were trying to imitate the Monsù Cuisine by simply changing the main ingredient. If the Nobles had meat they had eggplant/aubergine instead. The third type was and is street food. Even today, you can find stands along the streets that sell chickpea fritters, potato croquettes or grilled lamb offal.

Fish and seafood are the specialities, however, and, even if you are not a big fish fan, you cannot fail to be impressed by the exquisite way the Lampedusans cook their fresh catch-of-the-day, often in a sauce of tomatoes, capers, potatoes and olives.

Here are recipes for some of their specialties:

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Caciocavallo all’Argentiera or Fried Cheese

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 slices of Caciocavallo cheese
  • Oregano
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar

Directions

In a frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and after a minute add the slices of cheese. Let them cooked covered for a couple of minute,turn and cook until the slices become golden.

Add the vinegar, the pepper and sprinkle with oregano. Place on a serving dish with fennel and radicchio.

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Rigatoni Con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (Rigatoni with Swordfish and Eggplant)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 lb. swordfish, into 1 inch squares
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • Fresh basil or mint
  • Sea salt
  • Chili flakes

Directions

Keeping the skin on, dice the eggplant into half-inch squares.

Heat a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan on medium heat.

Add eggplant squares and cook until brown.

Remove eggplant and place on a white paper towel. Set aside.

Add 2 cloves of diced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and add 4 torn basil or mint leaves to the sauté pan. Saute until garlic is light brown. Add the swordfish and saute until slightly browned. Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and eggplant. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Boil water in an 8-quart pot adding 1 tablespoon of salt. When water comes to a boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente.

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and then previously fried eggplant squares. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Drain rigatoni and add directly to the sauté pan. Saute for 1 minute mixing well. Pour onto a serving platter and add remaining basil or mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Polpette di Sarde al Sugo (Sardine Balls in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh sardines
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) crustless day-old bread, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano here
  • 1 tablespoon raisins, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) marinara sauce, simmering in a pot
  • Flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dry white wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the sardines, removing their heads and boning them; chop them and put them in a bowl. Soak the bread in warm water for a few minutes, squeeze it to remove the excess moisture, and add it to the bowl, together with the parsley, the cheese, the raisins, the pine nuts, the egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into small fish balls; roll them in flour, and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil to cover the bottom og the pan and the bay leaf. Once they are browned, sprinkle some white wine over them. When the wine has evaporated, use a slotted spoon to transfer the fish balls into the pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cover and cook over a low flame for 40 minutes.

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Zucca Rossa in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Pumpkin)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar pumpkin or acorn squash
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint

Directions

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut the flesh lengthwise into wedges, each about the length of your hand from fingertip to wrist. Remove the rind. In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin wedges. Cook until soft and deep golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the wedges over and add the garlic. Drizzle the pumpkin first with the honey and then with the vinegar over the pumpkin, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the liquids reduce to a glaze, turning the pumpkin pieces, if necessary. Add mint and transfer pumpkin wedges to a platter and drizzle pan juices on top. Serve room temperature or hot.

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Biancomangiare (Sicilian White Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 4-1/4 cups whole cold milk
  • 4 oz corn starch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Peel of 1 orange, cut into wide strips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • Garnishes: cinnamon, chocolate or almonds

Directions

In a saucepan add the milk,  sugar and cornstarch in the cold milk. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Add the orange peels and cinnamon, if using. Place over medium heat and let it boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon making sure you stir the bottom of the pan or it will burn. When it gets thick take the pan off the heat and remove the orange peels. Pour the mixture into a mold or in single-portion cups and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 8 hours. Add garnishes, if desired.


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10 Piece Chicken Nuggets with Large French Fries

$6 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $24

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Cheeseburger with Large Curly Fries

$4 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $16

Eating healthy should not be a privilege or reserved for people who can “afford” it. Fresh fruits and vegetables actually don’t cost more than burgers, fries and sodas. In fact, they’re often less expensive, so shopping for good, fresh produce shouldn’t be an impossible achievement. The family friendly, healthy dinner recipes below are full of nutrition, but they don’t skimp on taste. Plus, at less than $1 per serving, the recipes are easy on the wallet and the waistline. They are also easy to prepare.

Luckily, many of these pantry staple foods cost less than $2 per package. A 1-pound bag of brown rice, for example, sells for about $1.75 and cooks up into about 10 side dish servings — that’s just 18 cents a serving. Prices may vary slightly based on the store, location and time of year. If you have the items below stocked in your pantry and refigerator, you will be able to make delicious meals and save money.

Brown Rice

Great for side dishes, rice salads, casseroles, soups and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dry, uncooked rice. Price per serving: 18 cents. A 1-pound bag costs about $1.75 and contains 10 servings.

Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta

Great for hot and cold pasta dishes.

What’s a serving? 2 ounces of dried pasta which means you get about 8 servings in a one pound box or bag of dried pasta. Price per serving? About 24 cents. You can get a 16-ounce box or bag of store-brand dried pasta for about $1.69.

100% Whole-Wheat Bread

Great for hot and cold sandwiches, bread stuffing, bread pudding and breakfast.

What’s a serving? 2 slices, the amount you’d use to make a sandwich. Price per serving: About 18 cents. You can get a 22-ounce loaf of store-brand 100 % whole-wheat bread for about $1.99. (My store often has buy one, get one free.) Each loaf has about 22 slices or 11 servings of 2 slices each.

Old-Fashioned Oats

Great for hot or cold cereal, granola, crumb toppings for desserts and muffins.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup dry oats. Price per serving: 13 cents. A 42-ounce container of store brand oats costs around $3.99 and each container has about 30 servings of dry oats.

Quinoa

Great for salads, side dishes, breakfast or in any recipe for rice.

$0.60 per ¼ cup serving, about $4 per box. It may be hard to pronounce (that’s keen-wah), but it’s easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. Filled with protein and fiber, this superfood also contains nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own.

Canned Tuna and Salmon

Great for sandwiches, fish cakes, casseroles, several types of salads and appetizers.

What’s a serving? A 6-ounce can is about 2 servings. Price per serving: About 70 cents for chunk white albacore in water. You can buy a 6-ounce can of solid white albacore in water for about $1.99 or a 6-ounce can of chunk white albacore in water for about $1.39. The best deal is usually with chunk light in water for 85 cents per 6-ounce can. For salmon $0.75 per serving or about $1.50 per can.

Jarred Marinara Sauce

Great for pasta dishes, pizza, casseroles, appetizers, Italian sandwiches and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup. Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 24 or 28-ounce jar or can of marinara or pasta sauce for $1.67. Watch for store sales.

Dried Lentils and Beans

Great for casseroles, salads, soups and stews and more. Lentils are the most user-friendly of the beans because they cook quickly without pre-soaking. Generally you just need to cover 1 cup of lentils with 3 cups of water or broth and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dried lentils. Price per serving: 10 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag for $1.29. Each 16-ounce bag makes about 13 servings of lentils. That small bag of lentils is deceiving because the lentils are dried, but once cooked, you will see the value.

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Below is a list of fresh, nutritious foods that cost less than $1 per serving.

Chicken Breasts

$0.75 per 4 oz serving, about $2.99 per pound.  Forgo fast food on a budget — a small fresh chicken breast is cheaper and filled with healthy, lean protein. Grill, bake, use in salads or slice for a whole-wheat wrap with veggies.

Eggs and Store-Brand Egg Substitute

Great for: Making quick omelets or breakfast. You can also blend half egg substitute and half eggs to make scrambled eggs, quiches, frittatas or egg casseroles.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup. Price per serving: 25 to 37 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce carton of refrigerated egg substitute for $1.99 to $2.99 and supermarkets eggs, ($0.19 per egg) for about $2 per dozen. Eggs are a quick, delicious and inexpensive protein.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Great for: A quick snack, parfaits made with fruit and granola, salad dressings and smoothies.

What’s a serving? Most individual servings come in 6 ounce or 8 ounce containers. You can save money by buying a larger container of Greek yogurt and then making your 6 or 8 ounce portion from it. Price per serving: individual servings can cost about 89 cents each and sometimes less when found on sale.

Low-Fat Milk

$0.25 cents per cup, about $4 per gallon. One calcium-filled glass can help keep teeth strong. Add a splash to a fruit smoothie or enjoy in a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.

Cottage Cheese

$0.88 per 1/2 cup serving, about $3.50 per 16 oz container. This mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes.Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries for a sweet protein-packed treat.

Apples

$0.50 to $0.75 per apple (depending on variety) Full of vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Snack with peanut butter or add thin slices to a sandwich.

Bananas

$0.20 to $0.50 per banana, about $0.60 per pound or $2 per bunch. Filled with fiber and potassium. Add to your cereal or vanilla ice cream!

Cantaloupe

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $2.50 to $3 per melon. Filled with antioxidants, cantaloupe is inexpensive and contains many servings.

Watermelon

$0.30 per 1 cup serving, $ 4 to $5 per melon and filled with vitamin C — a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health.

Pears

$0.85 each, about $1.75 per pound (depending on variety). White fleshy pears may help prevent strokes. They’re also full of fiber. Try the Bartlett, Bosc and Anjou varieties.

Oranges

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound (in family sized packages). Oranges aren’t just about their vitamin C. This citrus fruit is also filled with fiber, folate and potassium.

Garlic

$0.30 per bulb. It’s also full of antioxidants to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Add to a pan of veggies or tomato sauce to spice up the flavor or roast it in the oven for a sweeter flavor.

Onions

$0.18 each, about $0.59 per pound. Onions pack a surprising nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants. Sautée and add to an omelet or add a sandwich for extra flavor.

Sweet Potatoes

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound  High levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene (which may help prevent cancer and protect us from the sun) and also helps keep skin silky smooth.

Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.50 a pound. Squash is a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Delicious roasted.

Kale

$0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), about $2 per bunch. Kale contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.

Broccoli

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, $2 per bunch. Broccoli has high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Beets

$0.35 each, about $1 per pound. Beets are packed with folate, fiber and vitamins, making them one of the best health bargains around. Roast or add to a salad.

Spinach

$0.50 per cup (raw), about $2 per bunch. These greens are nutrient dense with vitamin A, K, and calcium. Try sautéing them with mushrooms or use to replace lettuce in your next salad.

Carrots

$0.50 each, about $2 per pound. Carrots provide a nutritious crunch along with vitamin A. They’re perfect for dipping into hummus and taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.

Frozen Vegetables

Great for: Side dishes, casseroles and stews.

What’s a serving? 1 cup. Price per serving: around 25 cents. Frozen vegetables come in 12-ounce to 24-ounce bags that cost anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 and contain 6-8 cups, depending on the vegetable and the size of the bag. A bag of petite peas or a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach will cost about $1.19. You will do even better when they are on sale, so stock up.

Dinner #1

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Kielbasa Apple Kabobs

Serves 4-6

Kielbasa are fully cooked smoked sausages traditionally made of pork, but also available made with beef, turkey or chicken. The cooking time is short for these as the sausage is already cooked. I like to serve this dish with sauerkraut, an inexpensive side dish, but you can also serve brown rice.

Ingredients

  • 10 wooden or metal skewers
  • 1 pound fully cooked kielbasa sausage
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red apple, such as Braeburn or Gala, cored
  • 1 tart green apple, such as Granny Smith, cored
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling.

Cut kielbasa, onion and apples into 2-inch pieces. Combine in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt. Toss to coat.

Preheat grill to medium high. Thread sausage, onion and apple pieces on skewers, alternating them. Grill 3 to 5 minutes each side, until apples and onions are slightly blackened on the edges, yet still crisp inside, and the sausage is very hot.

Dinner #2

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

You can use leftover chicken or turkey in place of the ground meat. Serve this meal with a cucumber salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Topping

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Filling

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, optional
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen or canned green peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Scrub potatoes and pierce several times with a fork. Place in a baking pan and bake until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool while you make the filling.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, wash and slice mushrooms, if using. Peel onion and garlic. Dice onion. Mince garlic.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, in a large skillet over medium-high, cook beef or turkey, mushrooms and onion, crumbling the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks, until the meat is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.

In a colander, drain off liquid and the mixture return to the skillet. Add thyme and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in peas, salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and place in a medium bowl. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth. Spread over the filling. Bake until hot and bubbling at the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving

Tips:

  • Substitute another green vegetable for the peas, if you prefer—spinach, green beans or lima beans are all good options.
  • This dish reheats well, so consider making it over the weekend and reheating it on a busy weeknight. Prepare through Step 4, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, at 350 degrees F until hot throughout.

Dinner #3

Food Styling by Catrine Kelty

Spinach Salad with Eggs

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (any type)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Wash and dry spinach. Remove stems. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat right away. Let sit 12 minutes. Remove eggs and place in a bowl of ice cold water until cool. This will make it easier to peel the shells. Peel and chop eggs.

In a large bowl add spinach, eggs and dried cranberries. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

In a jar, add oil, vinegar, honey and salt. Cover tightly with lid. Shake well.

Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to coat spinach leaves.

Tips:

  • Make double the dressing. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week. Use on other salads or to flavor sandwiches.
  • To save time, cook eggs in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Make extra eggs, if you like. Use them for breakfast or to make egg salad.

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Squash and Orzo

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large winter squash (such as butternut or acorn)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half. Remove seeds. Chop rosemary.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the cut sides of each squash half. Sprinkle each with rosemary and red pepper flakes.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place squash halves on the baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 30–35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Keep squash loosely covered with foil.

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Drain in a fine mesh colander. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat well.

Cut each squash half into thirds. Remove skin from the squash and cut squash into cubes. Place over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  • Orzo and squash reheat well without losing flavor or quality. Cook the entire meal the night before. Refrigerate until ready to serve the next day.
  • For faster cooking, cook squash halves in the microwave. Heat for 7 minutes on high or until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork.

Dinner #4

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Chicken Burger and Fries

Serve with a salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small bell pepper
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 whole wheat burger buns
  • Lettuce and tomato slices

Directions

Finely chop bell pepper and onion.

In a medium bowl, combine bell pepper, onion, ground meat, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Divide mixture into 4 pieces. Form pieces into patties about 4 inches across.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add burgers. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add water to the pan. Cover and cook until the burgers reach 165ºF, about 10 minutes more.

Serve on whole wheat buns with lettuce, tomato, onion and condiments of choice.

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Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil. Coat with non-stick cooking spray before placing the sweet potatoes on the pan.

Scrub sweet potatoes. Pat dry with a paper or kitchen towel.

Leaving the skin on, cut sweet potatoes into thick French fry strips, about ½-inch wide.

In a large bowl, mix paprika, salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add oil. Blend with a fork until there are no lumps.

Add sweet potato strips to the bowl. Toss until they are coated on all sides.

Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking pan. For the crispest fries, be sure sweet potatoes do not lie on top of each other.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn fries over and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until fries are crispy and tender.

Dinner #5

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Crunchy Oven Fried Fish Fillets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 egg whites or 1/3 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 1 pound tilapia, catfish or pollock fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Stir flour, seafood seasoning, salt and pepper together in a shallow dish and set aside. In a bowl, beat egg whites until white and frothy. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs with cornmeal and basil.

To bread the fillets, dip first into flour, shaking off any excess, then into egg whites, then into bread crumb mixture.

Spray a shallow baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Lay fillets flat in the dish, tucking under any thinner ends or edges for more even cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is crispy and flakes easily with a folk.

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Bow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Prepare zucchini sauce while pasta is cooking.

Peel and mince garlic and grate zucchini.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Cook until mixture softens and zucchini yields some liquid, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid. Add 2 teaspoons cooking liquid to the zucchini mixture. Add drained pasta. Stir, coating pasta evenly with the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed.

Transfer pasta to large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and toss to combine.


molise

Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.

Campobasso

Campobasso

Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.

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Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.

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Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.

Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.

Antipasto Course

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Baked Caciocavallo Cheese

Serves 8

  • 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.

Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

First Course

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Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 7 ounces anchovies
  • 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Hot pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.

Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.

Second Course

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Breaded  Rib Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8 rib lamb chops
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.

Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.

Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.

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Braised Peas with Onion

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.

Dessert Course

molise7

Italian Almond Orange Cake 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at  room temperature, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.

In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.

Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions.  Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.


Football7

Football season is back! And the return of America’s most popular sport means the return of many beloved traditions – including lots of fried and fatty foods washed down with calorie-laden drinks. When football season arrives, there seems to be a different type of energy floating around in the air. Rivalries between friends pop up for 18 weeks or so. Saturdays and Sundays (and now we can add Monday and Thursday evenings) are filled with large quantities of beer and food; not to mention, sitting in front of the TV most of the day.

Your waistline won’t be affected if you skip a workout or indulge every now and then. However, for 18 plus weeks indulging in football style food (chips, dip, pizza, wings…you know…) could lead to weight gain.

Instead of sabotaging your healthy routine, why not do something about it. Create healthier snack options and incorporate exercises throughout the day. Give these  ideas a try next time you find yourself glued to the couch watching football.

Baked pita crisps and cut-up raw veggies served with salsa, guacamole, hummus, bean or other low-fat dips.

Snack mix made with mini whole-grain cereal squares, seeds (toasted sunflower or pumpkin), unsalted nuts, mini-pretzels, dried cranberries.

Popcorn – air-popped or microwaved (save money – to make about 5 cups –  put 1/4 plain popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top a few times and press closed, cook on high for about 2 1/2 – 3 minutes), add 1 tablespoon olive oil or melted margarine high in omega-3’s, low in saturated fat and without trans-fat and seasonings that you like; go light on the salt.

Pistachios or peanuts in their shells slows down the eating.

Salsa: Use in place of mayonnaise-based dips to save loads of calories and fat grams.

Cut-up fruit.

Greek yogurt: Use in place of sour cream for dips. Greek yogurt offers the same flavor at a fraction of the calorie tally.

We all like to munch on crunchy snacks while watching football. However, chips and a dip are not the best option, especially when the whole bag can be devoured in the span of an hour. Why not swap the chips for nutritious veggies? Put a variety of bright colors on the table. It’s eye-catching and full of flavor to lay out carrots, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes or broccoli.

For Subs choose 100 percent whole-grain bread with fresh turkey or grilled chicken, avocado and lots of veggies. Cut the sandwiches in quarters to keep portion sizes in check.

football8

Who doesn’t like grilled food? Grill instead of ordering in pizza and wings.

Swap the Buffalo wings for lean chicken breast tenders. Chicken breast (without skin) is a great source of protein and a better option than fatty, breaded wings. To get your Buffalo wing fix, grab your favorite hot sauce and drizzle it on the chicken as it grills on the BBQ. Grill sliders with interesting toppings, instead of regular size burgers.

Beer and football seems to be the trendy thing. However, for every beer you drink have a glass of water.Try to limit your beer intake, as beer packs on the pounds. Have iced water with fruit slices in a pitcher. It’s easy to make and it’s full of flavor. (I like to thinly slice a lemon, a lime and an orange to add to a pitcher of ice water.)

During commercial breaks move around. Stand up and stretch or take walking breaks. Create a challenge with your friends and do x-number of push ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, planks, etc.

If you are at the game, take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Get up and stretch or walk around the stadium periodically.

Remind yourself to only eat if you are hungry – not just for something to do during the game.

Here are some healthy recipes for your game day fun.

football

Barbecue Spice Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2-15 ounce cans no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue spice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine garbanzo beans, oil, barbecue spice, paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt and onion powder.

Spread in an even layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast about 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring once halfway through roasting. Cool completely.

football1

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lower-fat tub-style margarine (50% to 70% vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 cups popped popcorn

Directions

In a Dutch oven heat and stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, margarine and salt over medium heat until just boiling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Add popcorn and toss until coated.

Place coated popcorn in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large piece of foil to cool.

football2

Italian Parmesan Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound homemade or frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons light butter with olive oil, melted

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions.

Roll each portion into a 15-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel: hold one end of a rope in each hand and form a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other and then twist. Then lift the ends across to the bottom of the U-shape; press to seal.

Arrange shaped pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper; let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl stir together Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush pretzels evenly with the melted butter and sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until browned. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack.

football3

Yogurt Fruit Dip

Ingredients

  • 1-6 ounce carton plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash ground cloves
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 pear, cored and cut into wedges
  • 6 slices fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small bowl combine yogurt, maple syrup, the 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, the nutmeg and cloves. If desired, sprinkle dip with additional ground cinnamon. Serve fruit with the dip.

football4

Grilled Shrimp with Red Pepper Dip

Make a double batch of the roasted red pepper dip and add your favorite cut up vegetables in a bowl alongside the shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen extra jumbo shrimp in shells (about 32 total)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 whole roasted red sweet peppers or use 2 whole jarred roasted peppers
  • 8 ounce carton reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions
Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto small wooden (soaked in water) or metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Lightly brush shrimp with the oil.

For a charcoal grill, grill shrimp skewers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling. Allow about  8 to 10 minutes for the shrimp. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place shrimp skewers on the grill rack directly over the heat. Cover and grill as directed.)

Place cooked shrimp skewers in a shallow dish. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours.

For dip: in a blender or food processor combine roasted peppers, sour cream, salt and black pepper. Cover and blend or process with on/off pulses until mixture is coarsely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Serve shrimp skewers with dip.

football6

Smoky Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-16-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14 1/2-oz can diced no-salt-added tomatoes
  • 1-15 ounce can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 ounces finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Reduced-fat sour cream, optional

Directions

Put a large nonstick soup pot on medium-high heat and add the oil and beef. Break the meat up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, beef is no longer pink and no excess liquid is left in the pan (about 5 minutes).

Add remaining ingredients except the salt, pepper, cheese and sour cream. Stir, then cover the pot and cook over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, then remove the bay leaf. Pour into serving bowls or mugs and top each with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

football5

Healthy Turkey Meatball Subs

Meatballs

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Marinara sauce, recipe below
  • 12 small whole wheat hoagie buns or firm hot dog rolls, split and warmed
  • 12 slices (one ounce each) mozzarella cheese, cut in half

Directions

Make the marinara sauce.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt and parsley and mix thoroughly. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the meatball mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and then transfer to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Turn over halfway through baking.

Add the baked meatballs to the marinara sauce and heat.

To make the sandwiches:

Spoon the hot meatballs with some sauce over the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of mozzarella, cut in half, over the meatballs. Spread a little more sauce over the meatballs, then fold the tops of the rolls over and serve.

The sandwiches can be assembled and wrapped individually in foil. Rewarm the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes before serving.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (26-28 ounce) containers crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and the salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.


watermelon7
One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

watermelonx

Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

watermelon2

People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

watermelon1

Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

watermelon5

In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

Watermelon6

Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

watermelon3

Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

watermelon4

Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

watermelon8

Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

watermelon9

Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.



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