Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

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Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

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Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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horseradishHorseradish is native to Eastern and Central Europe and possibly Western Asia. It has been grown for its roots for over 2,000 years. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the first written mention of the root was probably in the 13th century, when a root with the description of horseradish was mentioned in a text describing medicinal cures. Its use as a condiment came later, based on the earliest known written documentation from the 15th century.

The English word “horseradish” has nothing to do with horses or radishes. The word “horse” formerly meant “coarse” or “rough.” “Radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root.” Horseradish is not a type of radish, although they are in the same family.

In Slovenia and in the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, horseradish (often grated and mixed with sour cream, vinegar, hard-boiled eggs or apples) is also a traditional Easter dish. Further west in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, it is called “barbaforte (strong beard)” and is a traditional accompaniment to Bollito Misto; while in the Italian northeastern regions of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it is still called “kren” or “cren”.

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Horseradish is in the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale. It is a perennial in most locations in the US and will spread rapidly in the garden from season to season, if not contained properly. Horseradish plants have large, deep green, spoon-shaped leaves (which are edible), large, deep-growing roots and very fragrant white flowers. The bulk of US horseradish cultivation is in southwestern Illinois, near the banks of the Mississippi River (near St. Louis), where the root has been grown commercially for over 150 years. Cool weather helps give horseradish its pungency, so it is generally harvested from mid-fall right through to early spring.

Horseradish growers employ a wide range of herbicides, including glyphosate (aka RoundUp) to control both weeds and spreading horseradish plants (because horseradish spreads so easily. Other pesticides are used to control insect infestations and disease. If you are concerned about pesticide use in horseradish cultivation, look for organic horseradish at your local farmers’ market.

Horseradish roots are large, tapering to a point, with a dark brown peel and a creamy white interior. Horseradish’s bite comes from the release of compounds when the root is grated (without grating and exposure to air, horseradish roots really don’t smell like much of anything). Vinegar stops this chemical process, which is why most commercial horseradish preparations contain vinegar. For really hot horseradish, leave the grated root exposed to the air for a few minutes (longer than that, it starts to discolor and dry out). For milder horseradish, add vinegar right away.

What to look for:

Look for firm roots with no mushy or black spots. Avoid roots that are floppy or dried out. You can find horseradish root in the produce section of some grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.

horseradish_fresh_harvest

What to Do with It:

Grated horseradish root makes delicious sauces and condiments. It is perfect paired with beef, seafood and roasted vegetables. You can stir freshly grated root (or prepared horseradish) in to mustard for a spicy sauce or mix it with ketchup to make a cocktail sauce for seafood.

Horseradish root is generally not cooked, but grated and mixed with vinegar or other condiments to make sauces. Cooking grated horseradish greatly diminishes the flavor and pungency of the root, so add horseradish at the end of cooking, off the heat. Horseradish root can be used in a number of creative ways in the kitchen. The grated root is commonly mixed with dairy products (like cream, sour cream and crème fraiche) to tame its peppery bite. Also try stirring some horseradish into your next batch of vinaigrette, make a horseradish dip or fold some grated horseradish into mashed potatoes. Creamy horseradish sauce is commonly served with roast beef, but is equally good with salmon, scallops, roasted vegetables (especially potatoes and beets) and, of course, stirred into Bloody Mary mixes.

Some recipes call for fresh horseradish to be grated in a food processor (convenient if you have a large batch to grind), but a Microplane zester makes the best grated horseradish, if all you need is a tablespoon or two. Many recipes for grating your own horseradish recommend that you do so outdoors or in a very well ventilated place and wear gloves and eye protection. The volatile oils that are released from horseradish that is grated are very pungent.

Equivalents:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Horseradish root = 680 g = 2 3/4 cups grated
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh grated Horseradish = 2 tablespoons bottled
  • 1/2 cup grated horseradish = 3 oz / 7 g

A Few Facts:

  • An enzyme found in horseradish, called horseradish peroxidase, is widely used in biochemical research.
  • Horseradish is toxic to horses.
  • Don’t put your horseradish sauce in a silver serving dish: the grated root can tarnish the metal.
  • Horseradish is commonly used as one of the “bitter herbs” required at Passover Seder.

Storage

Uncut horseradish roots will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Cut horseradish should be used right away. Grated fresh horseradish, preserved in vinegar, will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Peeled and grated horseradish can be stored in sealed bags or containers in the freezer for a few months.

horseradish-sauce

How to make prepared horseradish for your recipes:

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh horseradish root
  • 8 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Peel and coarsely grate the fresh horseradish root. Combine grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and salt in a food processor; pulse 4 or 5 times or until the horseradish begins to break down. Add the remaining vinegar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer mixture to a jar and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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Apple Horseradish Sauce

In Trentino, Italy, cooked apples and fresh horseradish are served with roasted beef, chicken or pork dishes. Cream is added to the sauce to temper the sharpness of the horseradish.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 ounce piece of fresh horseradish root
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a heavy 3 or 4-quart saucepan with a cover, place the apple chunks and toss with the lemon juice and salt. Cover the pan, and set it over medium-low heat. Cook the apples slowly for 15 minutes, stirring several times, as they soften. Remove the cover, raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the juices are syrupy and the apples are very soft. Turn off the heat.

Peel the horseradish and grate it into fine shreds, until you have at least 1/2 cup, for a milder taste, or 1 cup, for a stronger taste.

With a potato masher, crush the apples into a chunky sauce. Stir in the grated horseradish and cream and pour into a serving bowl. Serve warm or cold.

beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Horseradish-Dill Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium beets, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane grater (or chopped very fine)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Lettuce for serving

Directions

To roast the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets, two at a time, in aluminum foil. Place the beets on a baking pan and roast until tender. The amount of time will vary by the size and even variety of the beet; but start checking around 45 minutes, as it could take as long as 40-45 minutes more. Use the tip of a sharp knife to test; if the knife goes into the beets with little resistance, they are done.

For the horseradish-dill sauce:

Whisk together the sour cream, Greek yogurt, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne and salt (to taste). Gently fold in the chopped dill. Cover and refrigerate while the beets are roasting to let the flavors blend.

When the beets are done, let cool slightly, then peel or rub the skins off with a paper towel. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, gently toss with the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrange on a platter over lettuce. Drizzle with some of the horseradish-dill sauce. (Serve extra on the side.)

bakedclams_xl

Italian Baked Clams with Horseradish

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 littleneck or cherrystone clams, opened; top shell discarded
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place clams in their half shells on a baking pan; drizzle with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine horseradish and panko crumbs; sprinkle over clams and lightly pat down. Squeeze the juice from 1 of the lemon halves over the clams and drizzle with olive oil.

Place clams under the broiler and cook until crumbs are light golden and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes. Drizzle clams with the white wine halfway through cooking.

Transfer clams to a serving plate..

Cut remaining lemon half into 4 wedges and serve with the clams.

horseradish beef

Italian Beef Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches

Ingredients

Beef

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lb boneless chuck roast
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, if cooking in the oven

Horseradish Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Sandwich

  • 10 whole wheat rolls
  • 1 white onion, sliced thin
  • 10 slices provolone cheese or cheese of choice

Directions

For the beef cooked in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Liberally sprinkle the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden brown. Add the remaining beef ingredients and place the pot in the oven. Cook the roast, turning every 30 minutes, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil. Once cooled a bit, shred the meat into smaller pieces for the sandwiches.

For the beef cooked in a slow cooker:

Place roast in slow cooker and add the remaining beef ingredients, except the oil, over the top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Slice or shred the meat.

For the horseradish sauce:

Mix everything together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Preheat the broiler. Toast the rolls.

Spread a little horseradish sauce on both sides of the toasted rolls.

Add a layer of beef, top with sliced onion and then a piece of provolone cheese.

Place under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted.

salmon

Horseradish Asiago Crusted Salmon

Serves 6

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 4 – 6 oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 3/4 cup fresh shredded horseradish root
  • 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lime

Dijon Sauce

  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions

For the Dijon sauce:

Mix the ingredients together and refrigerate until serving time.

For the salmon:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine grated horseradish, Asiago, melted butter and rosemary.

Brush each salmon fillet with olive oil and coat with the Asiago cheese mixture.

Place each fillet on a well-oiled baking pan and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes)

Remove from the oven to a serving platter and drizzle with the Dijon sauce. Serve with fresh lime.

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Crooners

Crooner is an epithet given to a male singer of a certain style of popular songs. The singer is normally backed by a full orchestra or big band. Crooning is a style that has its roots in the Bel Canto of Italian opera, but with the emphasis on subtle vocal nuances and phrasing found in jazz as opposed to elaborate drama and acoustic volume found in opera houses. Before the advent of the microphone, popular singers, like Al Jolson, had to project to the rear seats of a theater, which made for a very loud vocal style. The microphone made possible a more personal style. Crooning is not so much a style of music as it is a technique in which to sing.

Some crooners, most notably Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby incorporated other popular styles into their music, such as blues, dixieland and even Hawaiian music. Crooning became the dominant form of popular vocal music from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, coinciding with the advent of radio broadcasting and electrical recording.

After 1954 popular music became dominated by other styles, especially rock ‘n’ roll, while the music of latter-day crooners, such as Perry Como and Matt Monro, were categorized as “easy listening”. Crooners have remained popular among fans of traditional pop music, with contemporary performers such as Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Michael Bublé and Engelbert Humperdinck keeping the form alive.

Frankie Laine

frankie-laine38096

Francesco Paolo LoVecchio (1913-2007) was born to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (née Salerno) in Cook County, IL. His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily, to Chicago’s Near West Side, in “Little Italy,” where his father worked as a barber. The eldest of eight children, Laine grew up in the Old Town neighborhood (first at 1446 N. North Park Avenue and later at 331 W. Schiller Street) and got his first taste of singing as a member of the choir in the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s elementary school across the street from his North Park Avenue home. He later attended Lane Technical High School, where he helped to develop his lung power and breath control by joining the track and field and basketball teams. He realized he wanted to be a singer when he went to see Al Jolson’s talking picture, The Singing Fool. Even in the 1920s, his vocal abilities were enough to get him noticed by a slightly older “in crowd” at his school, who invited him to parties and to local dance clubs. At 17, he sang before a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first night.

Laine was giving dance lessons for a charity ball at the Merry Garden when he was called to the bandstand to sing: “Soon I found myself on the main bandstand before this enormous crowd”, Laine recalled. ”I was really nervous, but I started singing ‘Beside an Open Fireplace,’ a popular song of the day. It was a sentimental tune and the lyrics choked me up. When I got done, the tears were streaming down my cheeks and the ballroom became quiet. I was very nearsighted and couldn’t see the audience. I thought that the people didn’t like me.”

Laine was the first and largest of a new breed of singers who rose to prominence in the post–World War II era. This new, emotionally charged style seemed at the time to signal the end of the previous era’s singing styles and was a forerunner of the rock ‘n’ roll performers that were to come. As music historian, Jonny Whiteside, wrote: “In the Hollywood clubs, a new breed of performers laid down an array of new sounds … Most important of all these, though, was Frankie Laine, a big lad with ‘steel tonsils’ who belted out torch blues while stomping his size twelve-foot.”

Laine began recording for Columbia Records in 1951, where he immediately scored a double-sided hit with the single “Jezebel” /”Rose, Rose, I Love You”. Other Laine hits from this period include “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)”, “Jealousy”, “The Girl in the Wood”, “When You’re in Love”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (with Jo Stafford), “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Granada and “Hey Joe!”.  Laine scored a total of 39 hit records on the charts while at Columbia.

Laine had become more popular in the United Kingdom than in the USA, as many of his hit records in the UK were only minor hits in the US. Songs like “The Gandy Dancer’s Ball”, “The Rock of Gibraltar” and “Answer Me, O Lord” were much bigger hits for him abroad. “Answer Me” would later provide the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s composition, “Yesterday”.  It was also there that he broke attendance records when appearing at the Palladium and where he launched his first successful television series with singer, Connie Haines.

He was a frequent guest star on various other television shows of the time, including Shower of Stars, The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line?, This is Your Life, Bachelor Father, The Sinatra Show, The Walter Winchell Show, The Perry Como Show, The Garry Moore Show, Masquerade Party, The Mike Douglas Show and American Bandstand.

Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and ’60s. When Nat King Cole’s television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (forgoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole’s show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney. In the following decade, Laine joined several African-American artists, who gave a free concert for Martin Luther King’s supporters during their Selma to Montgomery marches. In 2005, he appeared on the PBS special, My Music, despite a recent stroke, performing “That’s My Desire”, and received a standing ovation. It proved to be his swan song to the world of popular music. Laine died of heart failure on February 6, 2007.

Tony Bennett

Anthony Dominick Benedetto (1926) was born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, to grocer, John Benedetto and seamstress, Anna Suraci. In 1906, John had emigrated from Podàrgoni, a rural eastern district of the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. Anna had been born in the U.S., shortly after her parents also emigrated from the Calabria region in 1899. Tony has an older sister, Mary, and an older brother, John Jr. With a father who was ailing and unable to work, the children grew up in poverty. John Sr. instilled in his son a love of art and literature and a compassion for human suffering, but died when Tony was 10 years old.

Young Tony grew up listening to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, as well as jazz artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and Joe Venuti. His Uncle Dick was a tap dancer in vaudeville, giving him an early window into show business. Drawing was another early passion of his and he became known as the class caricaturist at P.S. 141. He anticipated a career in commercial art. However, he began singing for money at age 13 and performing as a singing waiter in several Italian restaurants around his native Queens.

He attended New York’s School of Industrial Art, where he studied painting and music and, would later, appreciate their emphasis on proper technique. To help support his family, he dropped out of school at age 16 and worked as a copy boy and runner for the Associated Press in Manhattan and in several other low-skilled, low-paying jobs. However, he set his sights on a professional singing career and returned to performing as a singing waiter, winning amateur nights all around the city and having a successful engagement at a Paramus, New Jersey, nightclub.

He fought in the final stages of World War II as an infantryman with the U.S. Army in Europe. Afterwards, he developed his singing technique, signed with Columbia Records and had his first number-one popular song with “Because of You” in 1951. Several top hits, such as “Rags to Riches” followed in the early 1950s. Bennett then further refined his approach to encompass jazz. He reached an artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums, such as The Beat of My Heart, Basie Swings and Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. His career suffered an extended downturn during the height of the rock music era.

Bennett staged a comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, putting out gold record albums again and expanding his audience to the MTV Generation, while keeping his musical style intact. He remains a popular recording artist and concert performer in the 2010s. Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2001), two Emmy Awards and has been named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Bennett is also an accomplished painter, having created works—under the name Anthony Benedetto—that are on permanent public display in several art institutions.

Frank Sinatra

Frank-Sinatra-Enterprises

Francis Albert Sinatra (1915 –1998) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was the only child of Italian immigrants, Natalina Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra. Sinatra’s father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O’Brien and served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Captain. Sinatra left high school without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. In 1938 he worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper and later as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard, but music was Sinatra’s main interest and he listened carefully to big band jazz. He began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. Sinatra sang professionally as a teenager in the 1930s, although he never learned how to read music.

Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra the group became known as the Hoboken Four and they appeared on the show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They attracted 40,000 votes and won first prize – a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.

After Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935, his mother helped him get a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week. The following June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record, “From the Bottom of My Heart”, in July, 1939.

Sinatra found success as a solo artist from the early to mid-1940s, after being signed by Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the “bobby soxers”, he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career stalled in the early 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several successful albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961.

From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African-Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them achieve equal rights. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow “Rat Pack” members (a group of entertainers led by Sinatra who worked together on a loose basis in films and casino shows featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) and Reprise label colleagues in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement.

On November 2, 1970 Sinatra recorded the last songs for Reprise Records before his self-imposed retirement. The final song recorded at the session was written by John Denver and titled “The Game is Over”. However, this song was not released officially until The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings suitcase box-set went on sale in 1995 to commemorate his 80th birthday. He was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors and President Reagan said, in honoring his old friend, that “art was the shadow of humanity” and that Sinatra had “spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow”.

Perry Como

Perry_Como_1956

Pierino Ronald Como (1912 – 2001) was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He was the seventh of 13 children of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both emigrated to the US in 1910 from the Abruzzo town of Palena, Italy. Perry was the first of their children born in the United States. He did not speak English until he entered school, since the Comos only spoke Italian at home. His father, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons, even if he could barely afford them. In a rare 1957 interview, Como’s mother, Lucia, described how her young son took on other jobs to pay for more music lessons. Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson. Perry showed additional musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town’s Italian Brass Band, by playing guitar and singing at weddings and as an organist at church.

At the age of 10, Como helped his family by working before and after school in a barber shop for 50¢ a week. By age 13, he had graduated to having his own chair in the barber shop, although he stood on a box to tend to his customers. When Perry was 14, his father was unable to work because of a severe heart condition, so Como and his brothers supported the household.

In 1932, Como left Canonsburg, moving about 100 miles away to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his uncle had a barber shop in the Hotel Conneaut that was about 80 miles from Cleveland. It was also the stop on the itinerary for dance bands who worked up and down the Ohio Valley. Como went to the Silver Slipper Ballroom where Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were playing one evening and Carlone invited anyone, who thought he might have singing talent, to come up and sing with his band. Young Como was terrified, but his friends urged him onto the stage. Carlone was so impressed with his performance that he offered him a job. Three years after joining the Carlone band, Como moved to Ted Weems’ Orchestra and his first recording dates. It was with Ted Weems as a mentor that the young Como acquired polish and his own unique style.

“Mr. C.”, as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show, which set the standards for the genre and proved to be one of the most successful in television history. Como was seen weekly on television from 1949 to 1963, then continued hosting the Kraft Music Hall variety program monthly until 1967. His television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world. Also a popular recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records and his combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time.

Como’s appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct of his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: “50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all.” One of the many factors in his success was Como’s insistence on his principles of good taste; if he considered something to be in bad or poor taste, it was not in the broadcast. Another was his naturalness; the man viewers saw on the screen was the same person who could be encountered behind a supermarket shopping cart, at a bowling alley or in a kitchen making breakfast.

Como received the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance; five Emmys from 1955 to 1959; a Christopher Award (1956) and shared a Peabody Award with his good friend, Jackie Gleason in 1956. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987. Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Como has the distinction of having three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television and music.

Vic Damone

Vic_Damone_1959

Vito Rocco Farinola 1928) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian immigrants from Bari, Italy—Rocco and Mamie (Damone) Farinola. His father was an electrician and his mother taught piano. Inspired by his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, Damone took voice lessons. He sang in the choir at St. Finbar’s Church in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. When his father was injured at work, Damone had to drop out of high school. He worked as an usher and elevator operator in the Paramount Theater in Manhattan where he met Perry Como. Vic stopped the elevator between floors, sang for him and asked his advice if he should continue voice lessons. Impressed, Como said, “Keep singing!” and referred him to a local bandleader. Vito Farinola decided to call himself Vic Damone, using his mother’s maiden name for his new-found career.

Damone entered the talent search on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and won in April 1947. This led to his becoming a regular on Godfrey’s show. He met Milton Berle at the studio and Berle got him work at two night clubs. By mid-1947, Damone had signed a contract with Mercury Records. His first release, “I Have But One Heart”, reached #7 on the Billboard chart. “You Do” reached the same peak. These were followed by a number of other hits, such as “You’re Breaking My Heart”, based on a turn-of-the-century ballad by Leoncavallo, the opera composer. Damone was also a sought after television guest performer. By the early fifties Vic was a successful recording star, however, it was his recording of “On the Street Where You Live” from the Broadway show, My Fair Lady, that put Damone into super-star status. His version of “An Affair to Remember”, one of the last songs written by Harry Warren, was a huge success.

Damone toured Las Vegas casinos as a performer and, although, he had to declare bankruptcy in the early 1970s, he earned enough as a casino performer to clear up his financial difficulties. He extended his geographical range, touring through the United States and the United Kingdom and, as a result of his popularity, decided to record albums again, releasing them on the RCA label. His final album was issued in 2002 with older albums being re-packaged and re-released. He recorded over 2,000 songs during his entire career. On June 12, 2009, Vic Damone released his autobiography titled, Singing Was the Easy Part, from St. Martin’s Press.

His final public performance was on January 19, 2002 at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. Damone did however step out of retirement on January 22, 2011, when he once again performed at the Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach, Florida to a sold out crowd. Damone dedicated this performance to his six grandchildren who had never seen him perform. In December 2, 2011, at the age of 83, Damone launched an official Facebook profile dedicated to his fans. In addition to posting recent photos, Damone writes that “besides spending time with his family he spends his retirement enjoying golf and football”.

Italian American Cuisine

As Italian-Americans moved to various regions of the United States, their recipes encorporated regional flavors into the classic recipes they brought with them from Italy.

Northeast US

NY Pizza

New York Style Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough is too thick to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. (You can also prepare the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes. Transfer the pizza to the baking stone.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Southeast US

herb-roasted-pork-loin-sl-x

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb.) boneless pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, cut in half

Directions

Combine first 10 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub over pork. Chill, uncovered, 8 to 12 hours.

Let pork stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Bringing it to room temperature will help it cook faster and more evenly.)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Brown pork in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes on each side. Lightly grease a wire rack with cooking spray. Place pork on the rack in a roasting pan. Add the garlic halves.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 135°F.

Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with the roasted garlic.

Northwest US

salmon burger

Salmon Rosemary Burgers

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds king salmon fillet, skinned and de-boned
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 8 onion rolls
  • Lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Directions

Prepare the salmon by cutting into strips, cutting the strips crosswise and chopping the fish until well minced. Be sure to remove any remaining bones.

In a large bowl, mix the minced salmon with the bread crumbs, red onion, Dijon mustard, horseradish and eggs. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Chill at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.

Form the salmon mixture into 8 burger patties. Lightly coat each patty with olive oil.

Place salmon patties on the grill and cook 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Serve in onion rolls with lettuce and tomato slices.

Southwest US

braised chicken

Italian-Style Braised Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

4 servings

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken broth, homemade or 
store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and mixed with a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt
  • 1 pkg thawed frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro

Directions

Pat the chicken dry and season salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, working in batches if necessary, and cook until well browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Decrease the heat to medium. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until soft and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/4 cup of the broth to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pot. Stir in a pinch of salt and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth, the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives and stir gently to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Garnish with the mint.

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What goes great with pasta? Fish! Pasta makes an excellent companion for seafood for many reasons. Percatelli, a thick spaghetti, goes especially well with a spicy tomato sauce made with clams, mussels and shrimp. Fettuccine is superb served in the classic Southern Italian-style, topped with little neck clams in a red sauce flavored with hot crushed peppers. Thin spaghettini is delicious with a garlic sauce made with mussels, parsley and white wine. All these are easy supper dishes for chilly winter nights. They are substantial and restorative, yet easy on the digestion, because they are high in carbohydrates.

Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it and then boiled it to go with meat. Today’s diners welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists now recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy diets. A healthy pasta meal features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta and how much pasta you put on your plate. Pay attention to serving portions in healthy pasta recipes, as a guideline to how much you should eat.

Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy ingredients such as vegetables, beans, herbs, fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil and pasta’s versatility allows for almost endless preparations. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean way of eating reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s generally accepted that in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, people live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods.

Some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the world—from spaghetti with mussels to tagliolini with shrimp and radicchio—can be found in Italy. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine.

It is well known that eating fresh fish is one of the healthiest ways to make sure you and your family are getting your daily supply of proteins and minerals; so serving fish and fish-based pastas are always a wise choice. Fish is relatively economical—especially when part of a pasta dish. Many fish pasta dishes are delicious, visually appealing and, yet, very easy and quick to prepare.

The secret to a perfect plate of pasta is often in its simplicity and in using a very small number of ingredients. Combine just a few really good—meaning fresh, locally produced ingredients, cook them quickly and you’ll always get great results. The few basic ingredients for some of the best Italian recipes are extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, tomatoes and often dry white wine and chili peppers. When these essentials of Italian cuisine are combined with beautiful fresh fish, you can be sure that a delicious dinner is waiting for you.

fettuccine-with-baby-artichokes-and-shrimp-R082429-ss

Fettuccine with Artichokes and Shrimp

4 servings

Ingredients

Shrimp Broth

  • 3 cups water
  • Shells from 1 pound of shrimp
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 slice lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta

  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain fettuccine
  • 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Shrimp Broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 slices Italian country loaf bread or other hearty bread, toasted
  • Lemon halves, and or wedges

Directions

Shrimp Broth

In a large saucepan, combine water, the reserved shells from the 1 pound of shrimp, parsley, lemon and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside until serving time.

Pasta

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

In a large skillet heat oil and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add artichokes to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp and wine to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper, shrimp broth, lemon peel, salt, nutmeg and cooked pasta; heat through. Mix in the parsley.

To serve, place bread slices in 4 shallow soup bowls. Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Add additional shrimp broth, as desired. Squeeze lemon over pasta mixture.

salmon-with-whole-wheat-pasta-R105149-ss

Salmon with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) skinless salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red sweet bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil

Directions

Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a 15x10x1-inch baking pan combine pepper pieces and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the rosemary, the salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.

Remove baking pan from oven. Combine wine and balsamic vinegar and stir into vegetable mixture. Add salmon pieces to the baking pan and turn to coat in the wine mixture. Return to the oven and bake about 10-15 minutes more or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To serve, divide pasta among four plates. Top pasta with vegetable mixture and sprinkle with basil. Place salmon on vegetables and sprinkle with remaining rosemary.

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Tuna Puttanesca

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain penne
  • 5 to 6 oz. can Italian tuna packed in oil, not drained
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black and/or green olives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • Small bunch fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Pour tuna oil from the can into a saucepan and heat. Flake tuna and set aside.

Add garlic and onion to heated oil; saute until onion is soft. Add tuna, capers, olives, crushed red pepper and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and heat to a simmer; adjust salt to taste.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tuna mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with basil.

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Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz whole wheat linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 4 (6 oz.) cans chopped clams, undrained
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander.

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in red wine and boil until syrupy, about 4 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce and clams with their juice and heat until simmering, about 10 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and parsley to clam sauce in skillet. Toss to coat pasta thoroughly.

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Scallops and Pasta in Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 large scallops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces whole grain thin spaghetti

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove scallops from the pan; keep warm.

Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook 15 seconds. Add wine and the next 3 ingredients to the pan. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Add parsley and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss. Place pasta in serving bowls and top with scallops.

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Fish has a high level of protein, is easy to digest and is considered an important part of a healthy diet. Some fish have an added bonus because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids – docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) – occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

Two newly published articles in the March 2013 science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe how the researchers analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids at a systemic level and they also described their underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time. The teams working at Jena University Hospital in Germany and at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the cardiovascular system and were able to show, for the first time, that DHA directly influences blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms and, in children, may improve learning ability. Eating two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and, therefore, offer the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than do fatty saltwater fish. However, some varieties of freshwater trout have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Look for seafood rich in omega-3s, such as:

  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Tuna (fresh)

Only buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. When buying frozen fish, avoid packages placed above the frost line or top of the freezer case. If the package is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. These could mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen — in which case, choose another package.

Healthy Ways to Cook Fish

Baked Fish

Baking fish allows you to get the satisfying crunch of fried fish without all the fat. Just because it’s baked, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy: Watch the amount of butter, oil, mayonnaise, or cheese called for in the recipe.

It’s easy and delicious to cook fish fillets in packets of parchment paper, a technique called “en papillote”. The fish is cooked by the trapped steam. If you don’t have parchment paper on hand, use aluminum foil to make the packets. The fish needs to bake for only 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Broiled Fish

When the weather’s not right for grilling, try broiling instead. Broiling is great when you want a fast, simple, hassle-free preparation with delicious results.

It gives fish a nicely browned exterior with the convenience of a temperature-controlled heat source.  For easy cleanup, line the broiler pan with a piece of greased foil.

Poached Fish

This gentle cooking method is perfect for seafood. Poaching keeps fish moist and won’t mask the delicate flavor of the fish.

To poach fish: use vegetable or chicken stock or a homemade broth of aromatic herbs and spices.

Use a pan big enough to lay each piece of fish down flat.

Pour in enough liquid to just barely cover the fish.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and keep it there.

If you see any bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot–the liquid should “shimmer” rather than bubble. The ideal poaching liquid temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F (74 to 82 degrees C).

Steamed Fish

Steaming is another gentle cooking method. It produces a mild-tasting fish that is often paired with a flavorful sauce.

Rub the fish with spices, chopped herbs, ginger, garlic and chile peppers to infuse flavor while it cooks.

Use a bamboo steamer or a folding steamer basket with enough room for each piece of fish to lie flat.

Pour about 1½ inches of water into the pan.

Place the steamer over the water, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.

Begin checking the fish for doneness after 10 minutes.

Grilled Fish

When you’re grilling fish, keep a close watch. Fish only takes a few minutes per side to cook. If the fillets are an even thickness, they may not even require turning–they can be cooked through by grilling on one side only.

Brush the fish lightly with oil and spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

Place fish near the edge of the grill, away from the hottest part of the fire. (Don’t try to lift up the fish right away; it will be stuck to the grill).

Start checking for color and doneness after a few minutes once the fish starts to release some of its juices.

Turn the fish over when you see light grill marks forming.

Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can determine whether fish is properly cooked by slipping the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pulling it aside. The flesh should be opaque and separate easily.

White Wine and Garlic Steamed Clams

This dish makes a great appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds manila or littleneck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large slices sourdough or country bread, each about ½-inch thick

Directions

Scrub the clams and rinse them in four rounds of cold water to remove any sand and grit.

Heat a 12-inch skillet with a cover over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the clams and cook covered until the clams open wide, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter, the parsley and season with pepper. Toast the bread on a stovetop grill or in the broiler about 1 minute, turning once.

Discard any unopened clams and serve right away in bowls with the bread and pan juices.

 

Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon

This is another great appetizer. You can turn it into an main dish by serving the shrimp and sauce over rice or pasta.

The sauce is also delicious spooned over grilled swordfish or any other meaty fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted capers—rinsed, soaked for 1 hour and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Directions

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the oregano and garlic. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Heat a stove top grill.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill shrimp, turning once, until the shrimp show grill marks and are cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp to a platter.

Spoon some the sauce on top and serve. Pass the remaining sauce with the shrimp platter.

MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve with crusty bread.

Red Snapper Livornese

Serve with rice or couscous and a salad or steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound red snapper fillets

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce, wine, capers, black olives, red pepper flakes and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in an 11×7 inch baking dish and arrange the snapper fillets in a single layer in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over all.

Bake for 15 minutes for 1/2 inch thick fillets or 30 minutes for 1 inch thick fillets. Baste once with the sauce while baking. Snapper is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Salmon Rolls

4 servings

Ingredients

1 ¼ pounds center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut lengthwise into 4 strips

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Working with one piece of salmon at a time, spread about 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumb mixture over the salmon.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go. Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the rolls from unrolling.

Place in the prepared dish and repeat with the remaining salmon strips.

Bake the rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Italian Style Paella

Fregola, the pearl-sized pasta that is similar to couscous, makes an excellent substitute for rice in this paella-style dish; it soaks up a lot of the cooking liquid from the dish and still stays chewy.

12 Servings

Ingredients

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 6 ½ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fregola (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 pounds red snapper, cod or monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the fregola and sausage and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, saffron and its soaking liquid and the remaining 6 cups of warm water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil.

Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, cover and cook over low heat until the fregola is very chewy and soupy, about 10 minutes.

Season the shrimp and red snapper with salt and pepper and add them to the pan along with the mussels, nestling them into the fregola. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the fregola is al dente, the fish is just cooked through and the mussels have opened, about 12 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella stand for 5 minutes; the fregola will absorb a bit more of the liquid, but the dish should still be brothy. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle the fregola with the chopped parsley and serve.

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Presenting fine cheeses to your family and guests over the holidays is a special treat. It is elegant, sophisticated and festive, yet can be the most effortless of all your holiday food preparations.

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors on a cheese board. Most cheeses belong to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Here are some examples:

1. Blue: The most intense.

Gorgonzola, Cashel Blue, Fourme d’Ambert, Roquefort, Stilton.

Blue Cheese Combination: Oat cracker + Roquefort + honey

2. Semi-firm: Subtle but rich.

Manchego, Cave-Aged Cheddar, Fontina, Garrotxa, Saint-Nectaire.

Combinations: Baguette + Manchego + quince paste

Dried nectarine + Cave-Aged Cheddar

3. Super-aged: Sharp and nutty.

Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Comté, Aged Gouda, Aged Gruyère.

Combinations: Sea salt cracker + pear + Aged Gouda

Parmigiano-Reggiano + dried sausage

4. Pungent: Strong smelling.

Taleggio, Èpoisses, Langres, Livarot, Pont l’Évêque.

Combinations: Raisin-walnut bread + Livarot

Flat bread + Taleggio + chutney

5. Mild: Soft and creamy.

Fresh Chèvre, Brie, Camembert, French Chaource, Robiola.

Combinations: Wafer cracker + piquillo pepper + fresh chèvre

Wheat cracker + sun-dried tomato + Chaource

Tips

  • You can also select cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.
  • Serve at least one familiar cheese.
  • For a party in which cheese is the main event, plan on buying 3 pounds for 8 people, 6 pounds for 16 or 9 pounds for 24. If cheese is one of many items being served, plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person.
  • Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks and crackers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.
  • Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and caponata. If you have a bit more time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates.
  • Various other sweet and salty items can work as well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples and pears.
  • Separate strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent cheese, place it on a separate plate, so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones. 
  • Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife, firm cheese might require a paring knife and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.
  • Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes the flavor.
  • If you’re serving cheese before dinner, choose lighter cheeses, such as an herb-coated goat cheese or fresh mozzarella.
  • If you’re serving cheese after dinner, then you can go one of two ways — serve just one rich and creamy cheese, such as the easy-to-find triple-crème cheese called St. Andre — or go for full-flavored cheeses like Manchego, Cheddar, Aged Gouda and/or Blue cheeses.
  • Arranging the cheese platter: Never crowd cheeses on the platter or they will be difficult to slice for your guests.

Wine and cheese are a classic combination.

  • Blue cheeses, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola, go well with dessert wines like Sauternes and Ports.
  • To accompany fresh cheeses like a goat or feta, choose a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.
  • Soft-ripened cheeses, like Teleme or Brillat-Savarin, go well with Chardonnay.
  • For aged cheeses, like Cheddar, aged Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano, serve Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Burgundy.

Cheese Appetizers

Focaccia with Pears and Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 large Bosc pear, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking dish.

Transfer the dough to the dish and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

Scatter the cooked onions over the dough. Arrange the pear slices over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cut into small squares for serving as an appetizer.

Smoked Salmon Toasts

Servings: 16

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus 16 small fronds for garnish
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb (about 8 ounces), cored
  • Toast, recipe below
  • 4 ounces sliced cold-smoked salmon, cut into 16 even pieces

Toast

  • 4 slices (about 4-1/2×3-1/2 inches) firm, country bread
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the mascarpone, dill, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the fennel into long, thin strips by pressing firmly against it; season the strips with salt.

To assemble:  spread the toasts with some of the mascarpone and then cut each toast into four even squares.

Top each square with a couple of pieces of the fennel, a curl of the salmon, a dill frond and a few grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with remaining lemon juice.

Make Ahead Tips: You can make the mascarpone spread and cut the fennel several hours in advance. Keep both refrigerated; bring to room temperature before assembling.

Toast

Adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler and turn the broiler on to high. Set the bread on a baking sheet, brush one side with the melted butter. Toast the bread until it’s golden brown and crisp on top, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until golden, about 1 minute. While the bread is still hot, slice off the edges. Let cool slightly. Spread with the toppings before cutting into squares or triangles.

Make Ahead: Toasts can be made up to a day ahead; store them in an airtight container.

Spinach-Cheese Swirls

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix egg and water. Set aside. Mix Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion and garlic powder.

Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface. Brush with egg mixture. Top with cheese mixture and then spinach.

Starting at short side, roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into 20 (1/2 inch) slices. Place on baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 20 appetizers.

Mozzarella Sandwiches with Two Sauces

Makes 12 (antipasto) servings

Ingredients

For anchovy sauce:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 flat anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the marinara sauce:

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Pinch sugar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For mozzarella in carozza:

  • 1 (1-pound) Italian bread loaf, such as pane di casa (5 inches wide)
  • 1 (1-pound) ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 6 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoon milk, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil

Directions

Make anchovy sauce:

Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Discard any foam from top, then remove from heat. Stir in anchovies, capers and lemon juice. Keep warm and covered. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Make marinara sauce:

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep warm. Stir in the basil and parsley just before serving.

Make mozzarella in carrozza:

Cut bread loaf in half. Starting from the middle halves of the loaf, cut bread into 12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices. Sandwich each slice of mozzarella between 2 slices bread, then cut off crusts, forming 4-inch squares (mozzarella slices should be smaller than bread slices).

Put 1 cup milk in a shallow dish and spread flour on a plate. Dip both sides of each sandwich in milk, pressing edges lightly to seal sandwich. Coat with flour, making sure edges are coated well. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill 2 hours.

Whisk eggs in a large shallow bowl, then whisk in 3/4 teaspoons of salt and remaining 3 tablespoons milk.

Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Dip sandwiches, 1 at a time, in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and fry 2- 3 at a time, turning once with a slotted spatula, until golden, about 6 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven set at the lowest temperature.

Cut in half diagonally and serve with anchovy sauce and marinara sauce.

Provolone Pesto Terrine

This recipe comes from my sister, who made it for us many years ago. I don’t know the origin of the recipe but It was a big hit and everyone in the family has the recipe. It is perfect for this season with its Christmas color combination.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup prepared Basil Pesto: see post for a homemade version: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained, blotted dry and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb thin sliced provolone cheese
  • Thin Italian bread slices
  • Cheesecloth, cut large enough to line a loaf pan

Directions

In a food processor combine cream cheese, garlic and white pepper. When smooth and creamy, place in small bowl and fold in pistachios.

Wet cheesecloth and ring dry. Completely line a loaf pan (8×4 inches), letting excess hang over edges.

Cut provolone slices in half. Slightly overlapping slices, line bottom and sides of the pan, extending halfway up. Divide remaining provolone cheese into 3 equal stacks and set aside.

Spread 1/2 of the pesto mixture over the provolone in bottom of the loaf pan. Cover pesto with 1 of the stacks of provolone, overlapping as you go.

Sprinkle cheese with 1/2 of the sun dried tomatoes. On top of that, evenly spread all of the cream cheese mixture, then sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 of the tomatoes.

Cover that with another stack of provolone cheese.

Cover with the remaining pesto, and then cover that with remaining stack of cheese. Fold the cloth over the top of cheese, compact slightly, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, invert onto a serving dish, remove cheesecloth, and garnish with basil and pistachios. Serve with slices of crusty bread.


Enjoying a meal together on a weeknight is a goal for many families. But adults often find themselves pressed for time on weeknights and that time crunch can make it difficult to enjoy a home cooked meal.

Time is not the only thing getting in the way of family meals: school activities, long commutes or late hours at the office, etc., can make it difficult for a family to sit down together. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse notes that family dinners are one of the most effective ways for parents to engage in the lives of their children. Studies have also shown that families who eat together tend to eat healthier, as parents can effectively monitor their kids’ diets, including whether or not their youngsters are getting enough fruits and vegetables, when they are dining together.

While it may not be feasible for parents and kids to scale back their busy schedules, there are steps parents can take to make weeknight meal preparation quicker. By shortening the time it takes to make meals on weeknights, families might be able to sit down to dinner together more often.

* Plan ahead. The most effective way to make more time for family meals is to plan ahead. Planning meals on the fly encourages everyone to fend for themselves, making it difficult for families to enjoy nutritious meals they can eat together. Plan for the coming week’s meals on the weekend, when you can survey your pantry and make a trip to the grocery store, if needed. Planning ahead also allows you to prepare certain parts of a meal in advance, which will save you time on busy weeknights.

* Make cold meals. Dinner does not have be served hot and cold meals often take less time to prepare. Consider serving salad or sandwiches on those nights when you are especially pressed for time. When serving sandwiches, serve them on whole grain bread to add nutritional value to the meal.

* Turn breakfast into dinner. There are no laws regarding what qualifies as dinner and what does not, so families without much time on their hands on a weeknight can turn breakfast into dinner. Eggs are both quick and easy to prepare and they can be served alongside toast and grapefruit. When making omelets for dinner, add some spinach or another vegetable to make the meal more nutritious.

* Lean on seafood more often. Seafood can be healthy and delicious, but that’s not the only reason it’s an ally to time strapped families. Seafood doesn’t take much time to cook, even dishes that take more time than simpler dishes, like sauteed shrimp, will still take less than 30 minutes to complete. That’s significantly less time than meals where beef, pork or poultry is the main entree.

* Leftovers aren’t just for lunch. Leftovers are often relegated to lunch, but extras from a meal cooked over the weekend can be used as a quick go to meal on a hectic weeknight. If the family enjoyed the meal the first time around, there’s no reason they won’t enjoy it again.

*Have a collection of quick recipes you can fall back on. See recipes below for a place to start.

*To save on time, take a closer look at your family’s favorite recipes and consider what can be made ahead — whether in the stages of slicing and dicing, or cooking a step in advance, or making smart choices by stocking your freezer or pantry with useful ingredients. The combination of helpful hands and a few simple organizational shortcuts will shift your dinners from hectic to manageable.

*Many recipes can be prepared through certain stages and refrigerated. Dishes with multiple components like a sauce or topping, such as a stir-fry or pasta dish, can often be partially made, reserving the final stages of assembly and cooking for the last minute to ensure freshness. The majority of casseroles can be made completely in advance and refrigerated in their baking dishes.

*Keep a stock of canned beans, grains and dried pastas in your pantry and fill the freezer with boxes of pre-cut or partially cooked vegetables, like frozen spinach or chopped broccoli. Look for items with packages that have short lists of ingredients and ones that you recognize, keeping preservatives and additives low.

Even families with hectic schedules can employ a few tricks to make dining together more convenient.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Parmesan Crumbs

I like to grill Italian sausage, prior to putting the eggplant on the grill, to round out this delicious Italian meal.

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 pounds eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread the bread crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil; toss well. Bake for 8 minutes, until the bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown.

Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with the basil and cheese.

Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, fanning them out.

Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and hot, about 1 minute per side.

Arrange the tomato slices over the eggplant and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and serve right away.

Grilled Salmon with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives

Preserved lemons are a Middle Eastern ingredient made from lemons that have been cured in lemon juice and salt. Look for them at specialty-food shops. Serve the salmon with broccoli rabe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • One 2-pound, center-cut salmon fillet with skin
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 8 large green olives, such as Cerignola, halved and pitted

Directions:

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the shallot, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice. Using a knife, make 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin, 1 inch apart. Rub the preserved lemon mixture into the slits. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes. Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the fish to a platter, skin side up. Scatter the olives over the fish. Cut the salmon crosswise into 6 pieces and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The seasoned salmon can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Quick Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Stew

This light, simple stew is a great way to use a bounty of fresh summer vegetables in an easy one-pan meal. Serve with good Italian bread.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into coins
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut into coins
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 bunch (6 oz.) thin asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-in. pieces
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add carrots and cook until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in broth, chickpeas, squashes, corn, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, then stir in tomatoes and asparagus and cook until squashes are tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and garnish with basil.

Hanger Steak with Garlic Onion Sauce

Serve slices of steak with a fresh green salad and your favorite summer vegetable.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 hanger steaks (1 1/2 lbs. total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Directions:

Sprinkle steaks with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add steaks and cook, turning once, until medium-rare, 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; tent with foil.

Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Add green onions and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour in broth, wine and vinegar and cook, stirring to release browned bits, until reduced by two-thirds. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and serve with sliced steak.

Chicken Cheesesteaks

Cheesy sandwiches get a kick from a bit of cayenne. If you prefer an even more robust flavor, spread the rolls with a mixture of Dijon mustard and chili paste instead of butter. Serve with pickles and sliced fresh vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves ( total 1 lb.) sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 submarine or French bread rolls, split
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup shredded jack cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and seasonings and cook until chicken is browned and no longer pink inside, 6 minutes.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon butter inside each roll and toast rolls, opened up, in the oven on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes. Lay 1 lettuce leaf in each roll. Sprinkle cheese over lettuce, then divide chicken mixture among rolls.

 

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If you’re ready to take your grilling techniques to the next level, add a plank or a wrap the next time you grill. Backyard barbecuers know that two simple, inexpensive tools can expand their repertoire of healthful and delicious dishes prepared on the grill.

Plank Grilling

The use of a plank — simply a piece of wood that doubles as a flavor agent and a cooking surface — offers several advantages to plain, old grilling.

1. It adds the subtle flavor of the wood to whatever is being grilled on top of it.

2. It provides a barrier against the flames, allowing foods to cook more slowly and evenly.

3. It provides a solid platform for delicate foods that can easily break apart and fall into the open spaces of a regular grill surface.

4. It does all this without adding one single calorie to your food.

Want to give plank grilling a try? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Plank grilling is used most often to cook fish. Salmon is a favorite, but Arctic char, trout, tilapia or mahi mahi would work fine, too. (Please remember to make sure your seafood is sustainable.)

2. Choose wood that has an aroma and flavor that works with what you’re grilling. The most commonly used woods are cedar, hickory, maple, hickory, cherry or apple. Also, only use wood that’s untreated, as well as stain and paint free.

3. Immerse the wood in water and soak for a minimum of one hour before grilling. This will help prevent it from catching fire. You can also add wine, apple juice or citrus to the water to intensify the flavor.

4. When the plank is finished soaking, rub a light coat of oil on the top surface. The oil will add a few calories, but it will prevent the fish from sticking to the plank. Then place the fish on the plank and whatever seasoning you prefer. (Some chefs prefer to warm the plank on the grill first, before adding the fish, to prevent warping.)

5. Put the plank with the fish directly on the grill and close the lid. Count on it taking up to 50 percent longer to cook because it’s cooking indirectly; this is also why you don’t need to flip it over on its other side.

6. You may want to baste the fish as it’s cooking with the same wine or juice that you used to season the plank. But you don’t have to.

7. Have a spray bottle filled with clean water standing by. If the plank catches fire; don’t panic. Just give it a spritz to extinguish the flame.

8. When the fish is cooked, remove it from the plank and serve.

9. The plank can be reused, if it’s still in good shape. Just soak in water to clean and allow to dry completely before storing.

How To Grill On A Plank

Step 1: Choose a grilling plank

Cedar lends the most intense, aromatic flavor to salmon, but other woods are excellent for plank-grilling, too.

Here are some examples:

Alder: Adds a mild, mellow flavor

Cherry: Imparts a rich woody flavor

Hickory: Gives food a strong, smoky flavor

Maple: Adds a mild and sweet flavor

Tip: Look for grilling planks at specialty cookware stores, hardware stores, and grilling supply outlets.

Step 2: Prepare the plank

Plank-grilling gives salmon the flavor imparted by a smoker with the convenience of a grill. Be sure to prepare the wood properly to increase moisture for cooking and prevent burning.

Take these steps to prepare your wooden grilling plank:

Rinse the plank with water to remove any dust.

Fill a sink or other large container with water.

Submerge the plank in the water, placing a weight on top of it. Soak the plank for 1 to 4 hours.

Enhance the plank’s flavor by adding 1 tablespoon salt to the water. If desired, you may also stir in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, citrus or berry juice or flavored liqueur to add more flavor.

Step 3: Prepare the fish (for example-salmon)

Leave the salmon filet whole or cut it into serving-size portions or use individual salmon steaks. You can add a dry rub, marinade or herb mixture to flavor the salmon. Apply rubs to the salmon up to 24 hours in advance. Add marinades or herb mixtures to the salmon 2 hours or less before cooking.

Step 4: Prepare the grill for direct grilling

For a charcoal grill:

Light coals using lighter fluid, an electric starter or a chimney starter. (If using lighter fluid, wait 1 minute before igniting the fire.) Let the fire burn until the coals are covered with a light coating of gray ash. Arrange coals evenly across the bottom of the grill, covering an area 3 inches larger on all sides than the plank.

For a gas grill:

To light a gas grill, open the lid. Turn the gas valve to “on” and ignite the grill as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the burners on high. Close the lid and preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5: Time to grill

Reduce heat to medium.

Place the plank on the grill rack and allow it to preheat for about 5 minutes or until it begins to crackle and smoke.

Lay the salmon on the plank, cover the grill and allow the salmon to cook for 18 to 22 minutes, depending on its thickness.

To test for doneness, insert a fork into the thickest part of the salmon. If it flakes easily, it’s finished cooking.

Tip: The plank should be approximately 8 inches from the heat. If you do not have control over the plank height, closely monitor the salmon while on the grill to make sure it doesn’t overcook. 

Banana Leaves

Wrap Grilling

Another way to add flavor and prolong cooking time is by wrapping the food before grilling it.

What to wrap it in? Consider these ideas:

1. Aluminum foil — Assemble a simple pocket of aluminum foil and you’re ready to make a Grilled Tuna Melt, Corn or Potato Packets or Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Packets. No calories added.

2. Corn husks — Besides grilling corn on the cob inside its own husk (just soak the corn cobs in cold water for a couple of hours, then grill, husks on, for 30 minutes), you can also use husks to create wraps for fish or chicken.

3. Tortillas — Wrap a whole grain tortilla around some turkey pepperoni, a little tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella, for healthy grilled pizza quesadillas.

4. Banana leaves — Available at most Asian grocers, banana leaves are wonderful for wrapping around a light and flaky fish. The moisture from the leaves will give the fish a light steaming, and the subtle taste of banana provides a hint of sweetness.

5. Cedar wraps — Sometimes you want the flavor of smoked wood in your food, but you may need a little more shelter than a plank can provide. Use cedar wraps – wafer thin strips of wood that wrap around individual servings of shrimp or fish. Tie them up with scallion greens and they look like presents for your dinner guests.

Cedar Paper Grilling Wraps:

Grilling with cedar paper grilling wraps is a healthy way to cook seafood, meat and vegetables. Cedar paper grilling wraps are great on the grill and even great in the oven, where the cedar paper infuses a smoky cedar flavor into your food. Cedar paper grilling wraps are made from red cedar from the Pacific Northwest.

Soak the cedar paper grilling wraps in water, wine or apple juice in a dish, or oversize zip lock bag for 10 minutes.

Heat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high (about 375 degrees F).

Place the food face down in the center of soaked cedar paper grilling wraps in same direction as the grain of wood. Fold the cedar paper’s edges towards each other until they overlap. Tie the cedar paper grilling wrap with butcher’s twine string (you can also used soaked scallion greens) and place on grill, seam side up.

Smoke your food in the cedar paper wraps directly on the grill grates or grill pan, close the lid (if using a grill), and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the food is cooked to your liking. If you are using a gas grill; do notkeep the lid open.

Serve cedar paper grilled wrapped foods straight on a plate or remove food from cedar paper wraps and garnish food with chives.

Cooking Tip #1:

Keep open bottles of alcohol away from heat source.

Cooking Tip #2

Leave the cedar paper grilling wraps seam side up and do not turn them over. This way juices remain in the cedar paper wrap and natrual steam keeps your food moist.

Recipes Using A Plank

Salmon on a Plank with Rosemary and Garlic

This healthy grilled salmon recipe gets flavor from the smoking cedar plank under it and from fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 2-pound salmon fillet

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons black pepper

  • 1 untreated cedar plank

Directions:

Soak cedar plank in water for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill. Place the salmon fillet on the cedar plank. Pour lemon juice over the fish. Evenly coat the fillet with garlic and black pepper. Place rosemary sprigs on top and place on the grill over medium heat.

Watch to make sure that the cedar wood doesn’t catch fire. You can pour small amounts of water on the wood around the edges if it starts to get too charred. Cook salmon for about 20 minutes, as directed above in the tips.

Cedar Plank Smoked Burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef

  • 2 drops liquid smoke

  • 1 large onion, cut into four 1/2-inch slices

  • 2 ounces Havarti cheese or smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

  • 4 hamburger rolls 

Directions:

Heat grill to high. Mix ground beef with liquid smoke and shape into 4 burger patties.

Place soaked cedar plank on the grill. Turn heat under plank down to low. Place patties onto plank (you may need to use two planks depending on how big your cedar planks are).

Place onion slices on greased grill grates. Lower heat to medium. Lower lid and cook to desired degree of doneness. (Gently turn onions halfway through cooking time; if they are done before burgers, move to a plate and cover with foil.)

Place 1 onion slice on top of each burger and top with 1/2 ounce shredded cheese. Lower lid and let cheese melt slightly. Serve immediately.

BBQ Chicken on Cedar Plank

Chicken Dry Rub

Mix all the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Coat the chicken with the rub, cover it and refrigerate overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons powdered yellow mustard 

  • 1 teaspoon dried sage

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Grilling the Chicken:

Once your grill is at the right temperature and (all the coals are grey or a gas grill reads medium), put the whole chicken, breast side up, on the cedar plank and put it in the center of the grill, directly over the heat. You want good heat directly under the cedar plank so the cedar will smoke through the whole cooking process. 

Chicken should be cooked (depending on size) in 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can use a meat thermometer to check the chicken temperature (160-165°F). Remove to a serving plate and carve.

Wrap Grilling Recipes

Cedar Grilled Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined.

  • 2 limes, squeezed

  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

  • 3 cloves of organic garlic – pressed through a garlic presser

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 small orange, unpeeled

  • 1 each: green onion, zucchini slice and rosemary sprig

Directions:

Soak cedar paper grilling wraps and butcher twine or scallion green in water for 20 minutes.

While the cedar paper grilling wraps are soaking, combine all ingredients and mix well and let mixture stand for 15 minutes. Cut orange in circular slices.

Lay down two orange slices on the cedar paper and then place 4 or 5 shrimp on top of the orange slices. Next lay a piece of green onion, zucchini and rosemary on top.

Wrap both ends of the cedar paper grilling wraps together and tie. Cut and remove any excess twine. (You can also use chives or scallion greens soaked in water to tie the wraps.)

Heat grill to 400 degrees F (medium hot). Then Place cedar paper grilling wraps on the grill grate for 12-15 minutes; cover with the grill lid. Peek at the shrimp and if they are pink, they are cooked.

After shrimp is cooked. Remove and let rest for 1 minute.

Serve in cedar paper grilling wraps.

Foil Potato Packets on the Grill

Great side dish.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

  • Olive oil

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Other seasonings of choice (e.g., Oregano, Rosemary, Italian seasoning, Parsley etc.)

Directions:

Place the diced potatoes in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and other seasonings of choice.

Tear off 8 sheets of foil into sizes that are big enough to hold and wrap around 1/4 of the potatoes. Place two sheets of foil on top of each other to make a double layer, so you have 4 groups.

Spray the foil with cooking spray, then layer 1/4 of the potatoes in the middle of each double-layer foil sheet. Fold the foil up over the potatoes and twist the edges to seal.

Cook on the grill over direct medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Be very careful when opening the packets, as the steam will be very hot.

Grilled Chicken and Peppers Packets

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb total)

  • 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

Directions:

Grease unheated grill rack and heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

Place each chicken breast in the center of a 12-inch by 18-inch piece of foil. Divide bell peppers and onion evenly over the chicken breasts.

In small bowl, stir together barbecue sauce, orange juice, salt, black pepper and red pepper. Evenly drizzle over chicken and vegetables.

Bring up 2 long sides of each piece of foil and double-fold with a 1-inch wide fold. Double-fold each end to form a packet.

Place packets, seam side up, on grill grate. Cover and grill packets over medium heat, 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the chicken breast reads 160-165°F and juices run clear. Place packets on plates. Cut a large X across top of packet; fold back foil. Be careful of the hot steam.


Many of the dishes humans have eaten for generations — such as rice and beans or tomatoes drizzled with olive oil — have withstood the test of time, not simply because the ingredients taste delicious together, but because they’re more nutritious together than they are on their own. The concept is called “food synergy” and it explains how two foods can be greater than the sum of their parts. Here are a few of the most powerful food synergies currently known to science.

Eggs and Cheese

The vitamin D found in egg yolks makes the calcium in dairy more available to your body — important not only for bones, but for heart health as well.

Rosemary and Steak

Marinate your steak with rosemary before cooking. The herb is rich in antioxidants such as, rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, that help neutralize carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when steak reaches a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Tomatoes and Olive Oil

Cancer and heart disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids (the most well known of which is lycopene) are found in abundance in tomatoes. They’re fat-soluble and, as such, they’re more available to your body when you eat them with fats such as, olive oil or mozzarella cheese.

Garlic and Fish

Both of these foods fight inflammation and disease, but together they’re even more powerful. Research has shown that a combination of garlic and fish lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol more effectively than eating the foods on their own.

Raspberries and Chocolate

Scientists have discovered that when raspberries and chocolate are paired together, their disease-fighting flavonoids (quercetin in raspberries and catechin in chocolate) are even more effective at thinning the blood and improving heart health.

Turmeric and Black Pepper

The spice turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties — it’s being studied for its potential to fight cancer, improve liver function, lower cholesterol and avoid Alzheimer’s disease. When you combine it with black pepper, your body absorbs much more curcumin (turmeric’s active ingredient).

Salmon and Red Wine

Plant compounds in grapes known as polyphenols do more than promote good circulation — they also help your body absorb more of the brain-healthy omega-3s in fish.

Oatmeal and Oranges

Phenols (a type of plant compound) in oatmeal and vitamin C in oranges, both lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. When eaten together, their ability to improve cholesterol and prevent heart disease is four times greater than what they’re capable of individually.

Lemon and Spinach

The vitamin C in lemons helps your body absorb more of the plant-based iron found in spinach, a mineral that prevents mood swings and promotes happiness.

Red Wine and Almonds

Together, the antioxidant resveratrol in red wine and the vitamin E in almonds boost the body’s ability to thin the blood and improve the health of blood vessel linings.

Vinegar and Sushi Rice

Vinegar decreases rice’s ability to raise blood sugar levels by 20 to 40 percent.

Beet Greens and Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a good source of vitamin B6, which helps your body absorb the magnesium found in beet greens (B6 helps facilitate the transfer of magnesium across cell membranes). These nutrients work together in the body to ease the symptoms of PMS and ADHD.

Green Tea and Lemon

The vitamin C in lemon makes more of the catechins (a type of antioxidant) in green tea available to your body.

Banana and Yogurt

Bananas contain inulin, which research indicates fuels the growth of yogurt’s healthy bacteria (which helps regulate digestion and boost immunity).

Apples and Cranberries

These Thanksgiving staples are rich in a wide variety of antioxidants such as quercetin and anthocyanidins. Research shows that when you eat these foods together, their antioxidant activity is significantly higher than if you eat them separately.

Chicken and Carrots

Chicken contains zinc, which is what your body needs to efficiently metabolize the beta-carotene in carrots into vitamin A, a nutrient you need for healthy skin and eyes and a strong immune system.

Fish and Broccoli

Fish contains the mineral selenium and broccoli is rich in a disease-fighting compound known as sulforaphane. Research shows that selenium and sulforaphane together are 13 times more effective at slowing cancer cell growth than when eaten alone.

Whole-Grain Bread and Peanut Butter

Together, these two foods contain all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs to build bones, muscles and hormones.

Broccoli and Pine Nuts

The vitamin C in broccoli helps keep the vitamin E in pine nuts effective.

Blueberries and Walnuts

Blueberries contain phytochemicals, known as anthocyanins, that protect the brain from oxidative damage and walnuts are a rich source of omega-3s that make you smarter. Research has shown that these compounds are even more powerful at sharpening memory and improving communication between brain cells when they work together.

Garlic and Onions

The organosulfur compounds in garlic and onions are more powerful in combination than solo. Together, they help remove plaque from arteries and keep blood vessels flexible and healthy.

Source: The Happiness Diet, published by Rodale, 2011.

Recipes for Some of These Nutritional Twins

 

Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce

This warm, velvety sauce is naturally sweetened with honey or agave nectar. Use it to dunk slices of healthy fruits, such as apples, cherries, orange slices, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, dried apricots or pineapple. It also makes a rich-tasting topping for low-fat vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon cholesterol-free butter spread
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

Directions:

Cook the first 4 ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until mixture is smooth. Whisk in peppermint extract, if using. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Reheat before serving.

Italian Style Salmon with Braised Broccoli

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds wild Alaskan salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 portions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 heads broccoli (1-1 1/2 pounds), trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

Season salmon with half the rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour before cooking. Cut the broccoli into florets with 2-inch-long stalks. Remove the tough outer layer of the stalk with a vegetable peeler. Cut the florets in half lengthwise.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wide saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add raisins, pine nuts and the remaining rosemary; toss to coat with oil. Cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are fragrant and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, skinned-side up, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the salmon over, remove the pan from the heat and let stand until just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.

To serve, divide the broccoli among 4 plates. Top with salmon and spoon raisins, pine nuts and any liquid remaining in the pan over the salmon.

No Knead Anadama Corn Bread

Anadama Corn Bread is made with molasses, an unrefined sweetener that imparts much more flavor than white sugar. It rounds out the rough edges in the whole wheat used to boost the fiber and vitamin content of the bread.

Method is based on the procedure used in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables and Gluten-free Ingredients By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) granulated yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 3 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • Water

Directions:

Whisk together the cornmeal, wheat germ, flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Combine the water and molasses and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You may need to get your hands wet to get the last bit of flour incorporated, if you’re not using a machine.

Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next week.

On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Allow the loaf to rest for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough), covered loosely with plastic wrap, on a pizza peel prepared with cornmeal or lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, you can let the loaf rest on a silicone mat or greased cookie sheet.

Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler pan on any other rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with water. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaf with two quarter-inch-deep parallel cuts.

Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (or place the silicone mat or cookie sheet on the stone). Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, until richly browned and firm.

If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it two-thirds of the way through baking (after 20 minutes), allowing the bread to finish baking on the baking stone. (Smaller or larger loaves will require some adjustments in resting and baking time.)

Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Blueberry Tart with Walnut Crust

12 servings

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted (see Tip)
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (see Tip)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
  • Pinch of salt

Filling

  • 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, divided
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

 You will need a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan.

Preheat oven to 325°F. 

To prepare crust:

Coarsely chop walnuts in a food processor. Add graham cracker crumbs, sugar and process until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.

Whisk egg white in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the crumb mixture, butter, oil and salt; toss to combine. Press the mixture onto the bottom and a 1/2 inch up the sides of the tart pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until dry and slightly darker around the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

To prepare filling:

Beat cream cheese, sour cream and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

When the crust is cool, spread the filling evenly into it, being careful not to break up the delicate crust. Arrange blueberries on the filling, pressing lightly so they set in the filling.

Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup over the berries. Chill for at least 1 hour to firm up.

Tips

Make Ahead : Refrigerate for up to 1 day.

To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F, stirring once, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes.

To make crumbs, pulse graham crackers in a food processor or place in a large sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. (You’ll need about 14 graham cracker squares to make 1 cup of crumbs.)

Homemade Peanut Butter

Below is a recipe for homemade peanut butter — 100 percent natural — that factors in the conventional peanut butter flavors that wowed the Cook’s Illustrated judges, but also boasts the natural goodness of freshly roasted peanuts. Pair it with the Andama Corn Bread for a Nutritional Twin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound raw peanuts in the shells, roasted (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

Directions:

Roast peanuts according to the instructions in Easy Roasted Peanuts in the Shell Recipe below. Opt for a longer roast if you want a robust, dark-roast-flavored peanut butter.

Allow the peanuts to cool slightly before shelling and skinning them by rubbing them between your fingers. (A dry salad spinner can help make quick work of spinning off the skins . Spin about a cup of peanuts at a time.)

Add the peanuts, salt, honey and molasses to a food processor and process for a couple of minutes, scraping the sides down every now and then. Continue to process, as you slowly add the oil in a stream, until the mixture is fully blended and smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should last 2 to 3 months.

Roasted Peanuts in the Shell

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound raw or green peanuts in the shells, rinsed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoonkosher salt

Directions:

Toss peanuts with oil and salt until well-coated.

Spread out onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on how intense you want the flavor) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shake the pan a couple of times during roasting to stir the peanuts. Watch carefully to prevent scorching. Let peanuts cool a few minutes before serving, as they will harden and become crunchier.

 


Most people think of meat when they think of barbecue. But you might be surprised to learn that one of the first recorded barbecue recipes — found in a third century Greek food manifesto called, The Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus, (Dinner Table Philosophers) — featured bonito wrapped in grape leaves and grilled directly in the embers.

Fish is meant to be grilled. The direct heat cooks fish fast, easy and without removing moisture. Grilled fish is quite flavorful and juicy, just make sure it doesn’t stick. You can literally get fish off the grill in a matter of minutes, thus making fish the perfect after work meal. Fish is also great for dinner parties. Before dinner you can place the fish in a marinade or season it and light the grill a few minutes before everyone wants to eat.

The hardest part of grilling fish is knowing when it’s done. This is generally the trickiest part of grilling, but don’t worry. When fish is cooked the meat will flake easily with a fork and will appear opaque all the way through. If any part of the meat is still glossy and partially translucent then it’s not done. Most fish cooks quickly, so watch closely. Fish on the bone is more tolerant, requiring at least 10 minutes on each side for a whole two-pound fish. Thick fillets or steaks should be turned after five minutes.

Fillets are also good candidates for grilling, but have a greater tendency to dry out or to stick to the grill grate or break apart when you attempt to turn them.

To make this easier, always start out with a fish steak or fillet that is evenly cut. If one part is much thicker than another, it will be difficult to get the thick part cooked before the thin part dries out. If you have a fillet that is uneven consider cutting it in two. Put the thick half on first and when it’s about halfway done, put the thin half on. This way you will get the fish cooked to perfection without burning anything.

Uneven salmon fillets

The grill should be very hot and oiled, too (more on this later). Using direct heat will give the fish handsome grill marks. Once you have seasoned the fish, whether with a dry rub, a marinade or herbs, brush it with oil.

After oiling the grates put the fish on the grill and leave it until you are ready to turn it. Turn gently and leave it there until it is ready to leave the grill. With fillets you can tell they are ready to turn because the edges are flaky and opaque. Steaks and whole fish hold together better but take longer to grill. If you are grilling a whole fish stuff it with herbs and lemon slices. This not only adds to the flavor but creates a space to let the heat through. Also keep some fresh lemon juice mixed with olive oil handy while you are grilling. You can brush this on as you grill to add flavor and keep the fish moist.

The very best advice I can give you is this: buy two of the largest spatulas you can find.

I prefer metal spatulas because they are sturdier. They should be broad, at least eight inches across, and the blade should taper to a sharp edge. If possible, buy spatulas with long handles; more than 12 inches is good.

For fish steaks or compact fillets, gently place one spatula on top of the fish to secure it. Firmly but gently ease the second spatula under the fish to separate it from the grilling surface. Turn the steak or fillet sandwiched between the two, then gently slide them out.

Some other suggestions: 

Another easy way to turn a large fillet is to cover it with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil, slide a spatula under the fish, turn it over onto the foil, then lift the fillet a bit to slide the foil out.

A whole fish can simply be rolled over: making sure you have room on the grill to achieve this.

The first step, before you even light the grill, is to clean it thoroughly.

Scrub the grates with a wire brush. Then, once they are hot, brush them with oil.

Hold a thick wad of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil with long-handled tongs. Avoid using a long-handled basting brush for this job because the bristles might melt from the heat. Silicone brushes can melt at temperatures over about 650 degrees, and the grates can — and should — get hotter than that.

Here are some techniques to add to your cooking:

Plan ahead. Marinate fish before grilling or spray it with wine or another flavorful liquid as it cooks to prevent it from drying out.

Preheat the grill for 10 minutes to get the grates very hot.

Grill in a pouch. Enclose fish in edible leaves (banana, grape, or even cabbage) and grill until the fish flakes easily with a finger.

Another option is to grill the fish in foil packets, however, when you bundle the fish in foil it will not get any smoke or char from the grill, which means the fish effectively steams in the packet. It’s a healthy option, so many people might find it appealing. (Be cautious when opening the package as steam will escape.)

Grill on a plank. Season the fish on both sides, set up your grill for indirect grilling, then cook the fish directly on a water-soaked cedar (should be soaked for 1 hour) or alder wood plank (available from most cookware stores). No turning is necessary and the drama factor is impressive.

Grill in a basket. Invest in a wire mesh basket designed specifically for grilling fish. You can also use a cast iron pan on the grill.

If your grill has very widely spaced grates and you don’t want to buy a grilling pan or grilling basket, you can go the frugal route and grill on aluminum foil. (You can now even find nonstick coated foil for grilling.) Though you may not get the nice char marks, you will definitely have an easier time grilling the fish. I have found that if you make a few holes in the foil with a cake tester or fork and oil the foil, the fish will brown nicely even when cooked on top of the foil. After the fish is cooked, you can just slide the foil onto a serving plate. Easy.

Many chefs use the technique of grilling on herbs to infuse fish (as well as meat and poultry) with flavor. All you do is lay a thick bunch of herbs onto your grill grates or in a grill basket. Then simply grill the fish on top of the herbs and turn as usual. Use hardy herbs such as rosemary or thyme or even fennel fronds. It’s a good idea to toss the herbs in the same marinade as your fish (or spray with oil) to get them lubricated, so they don’t burn immediately on the grill.

Flat Skewers

Grill on skewers. Skewer chunks of fish or even a whole fish and suspend the skewers between bricks positioned opposite each other on the grill grate.

Support the skewers on foil covered bricks.

One of my favorite meals in the summer is grilled local line caught swordfish sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little panko bread crumbs; finished with lemon juice, capers and olive oil. It is delicious.This method works with any so-called “steak” fish including tuna, halibut, monkfish, grouper or salmon.

Marinated Tuna Skewers

4 servings

A simple marinade adds a lot of flavor to tuna skewers. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/3 pound (1-inch-thick) tuna steak, cut into 32 (1-inch) cubes
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Olive oil for grill

Directions:

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, basil, soy sauce and mustard. Add tuna and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, then thread tuna onto 8 skewers.

Season skewers with salt and pepper. Grill on oiled grill rack, turning frequently, until fish is cooked to your liking, 6 to 10 minutes.

Blackened Grouper on the Grill

You may be asking “can’t I just do it on the stove?”. The answer is yes, but you will fill your house with smoke and realize outside is a much better idea.

Ingredients:

Cast iron or nonstick pan (all metal, no plastic handles)

2 Grouper fillets, skin removed

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Blackening Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper (make it a full tablespoon if you like a lot of heat)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Place the pan on the grill and light the grill to high heat. The pan needs to heat up on the grill for at least 10 minutes.

Dry the grouper fillets very well.

Mix all of the rub ingredients together well and then spread the rub out on a plate.

Melt the butter in a separate shallow dish, large enough to fit the fillets. Place both dishes on a tray and carry out to the grill.

Dip each fillet in the butter, covering both sides and then transfer to the plate with the rub and coat each side of the fish with the blackening rub.

Immediately place the fish into the very hot pan on the grill.

Cook, with the lid open, for 2 – 3 minutes, lifting the bottom of the fish carefully to check on the crust. You want a nice, blackened crust without burning. If the grill pan is very hot, this should only take around 3 minutes.

Turn the blackened grouper and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate.

Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • 4 tender celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
  • Six 6-ounce skinless mahimahi or any firm fish of choice

Directions:

In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until just softened, 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, artichokes, olives, pine nuts, sweetner and capers and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, 8 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and let cool.

Heat a grill. Rub the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 9 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates, top with the caponata and serve.

MAKE AHEAD  The artichoke caponata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Breaded and Grilled Shrimp and Scallops

I’m fortunate enough to live on the Gulf of Mexico, so that means we have access to fresh seafood and the grill all year long. There is nothing better than our Gulf shrimp, so I am always looking for a new recipe or technique for grilling these shrimp. You must be sure to oil the grates for this recipe or you will have bread crumbs stuck to the grill.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Shrimp
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Sea Scallops

Directions:

Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the tail as well.

Mix the lemon juice, zest, olive oil and garlic together in a glass bowl.

Place the shrimp and the scallops in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes (no longer or the lemon juice will cook the seafood).

Remove the shrimp and scallops from the marinade and place them on skewers. Use double skewers to prevent the shrimp and scallops from rotating when you move them around the grill.

Cover the bottom of a plate with the breadcrumbs and then roll each skewer into the crumbs, covering all sides with the breadcrumbs while pushing them into the seafood to make them stick.

Let the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers sit in the refrigerator for about 20 more minutes while the grill heats. (This aids in the crumbs adhering to the shrimp and scallops).

Heat the grill to high heat and oil the grates The best way is to use a folded paper towel dipped in oil and then use tongs to rub down the grates.

Place the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers on the grill and grill for about 3 – 4 minutes. Don’t move the skewers once they are on the grill or you will lose a lot of breadcrumbs.

Flip the skewers over and continue to grill for another 3 minutes and then remove the skewers from the grill to a serving platter.

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Onions and Red Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, with skin
  • 2 small sweet onions, halved crosswise but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers—stemmed, cored and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram

Directions:

In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce and brown sugar with the 2 tablespoons of oil; add the salmon and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Light a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill. When hot turn off one burner or leave an area of a charcoal grill without direct heat.

Drizzle the cut sides of the onions with oil and grill over moderately high heat, cut side down, until nicely charred and starting to soften, about 15 minutes. Turn the onions and cook until tender, about 15 minutes longer. Push the onions to the cool side of the grill.

Oil the peppers and grill them, skin side down, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Turn and grill for 5 minutes. (Remove the charred skin if desired.) Push them over to the onions.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and grill, skin side down, for 8 minutes. Turn and grill until the salmon is just cooked through, 4 minutes longer.

Transfer the salmon, peppers and onions to plates and sprinkle with the marjoram. Drizzle the onions and peppers with the oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme.



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