Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tuna

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The key to making a delicious burger is to keep things simple. Many failed burgers are the result of overcomplicating the process. If you start with good-quality ingredients and apply basic grilling techniques, then you really don’t need to do much to turn out a delicious burger. Use high-quality ground meat (go for grass-fed beef, if you can; it has more flavor) that has some fat content (80 to 20 ratio of lean-to fat), which is needed to keep the burger moist and to enhance its flavor. Handle and cook the burgers with care. Other types of ground meat, particularly lean meats, like chicken or turkey, may need a few extra ingredients to achieve the same results.

When you’re forming burger patties, be gentle with your ground meat mixture. If you pack the meat too tightly, the density will make the patty seem tough. Form the burger into a round that is the same size as your bun (it will shrink as it cooks) and then very gently press the middle of the patty to form a small dent — this helps the patty retain an even thickness during the cooking process.

Salt can draw moisture out of the meat mixture, so don’t add it to the ground meat. Instead, season both sides of a burger just before cooking.

Medium heat is best when it comes to burgers; if you cook your burger at too high a temperature, it can cook unevenly.

Don’t be tempted to press on the burgers as they cook (since they won’t puff up as much in the center) and turn the burgers gently as they cook, so you don’t lose meat juices and flavor.

Here are some burger recipes to suit all tastes.burger1

The Perfect Burger

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • Oil for the grill
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground grass-fed beef (80-85 percent lean)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices sharp white cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 4 sandwich rolls or buns
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings
  • 4 lettuce leaves, such as green-leaf, Boston or romaine
  • Ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high; brush grates with oil.

Gently form beef into four 1-inch-thick patties, about 4 inches in diameter. Make an indentation in the top of each patty. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill burgers 3 minutes. Turn, top with cheese, and grill 3 minutes for medium-rare.

Toast rolls face-down on the grill until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds.

Sandwich burgers in rolls with tomato, onion, lettuce and condiments.

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Chicken Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 toasted hamburger buns
  • Lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, for serving

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion, bell pepper and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; cool to room temperature.

Add chicken to vegetable mixture in the bowl. Mix to combine. Shape mixture into four 4-inch-wide patties. Brush burgers with remaining oil and sprinkle the burgers with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil the grill.

Grill burgers until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Place chicken burgers on buns and top with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise or sauce of choice.

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Pork Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella
  • 4 toasted buns

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil the grill. In a bowl, mix pork with fennel seeds. Form into 4 patties.

On a large piece of foil, combine oil, peppers and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Fold foil around the vegetables and crimp ends. Grill the foil packet until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Season patties with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side.

In a medium bowl, mix the vegetables with vinegar. Top each patty with vegetables and a slice of mozzarella. Cover grill and cook until cheese is bubbling, about 1 minutes.

Serve burgers on toasted buns.

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Tuna Burgers

6 burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh center-cut tuna
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled to remove strings and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 6 buns
  • Condiments of choice: cheese, horseradish sauce, etc.

Directions

Cut tuna into 1/4-inch chunks with a very sharp knife, trimming away any dark parts. Coarsely chop tuna by hand until it begins to hold together. Transfer to a bowl over a bowl of ice.

Add garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, anchovy, basil, celery, ginger, salt and pepper; combine well. Chill for up to 6 hours until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium high and oil the grill grates. Form tuna into 6 patties and place on the grill,  4 minutes per side for rare to 7 or 8 for well done.

Serve with arugula on toasted buns brushed with mayonnaise or other condiments.

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Mediterranean Lamb Burgers

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Olive oil
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kalamata olives, chopped

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grill grates. In a medium bowl, mix lamb, cumin and coriander. Form into 4 patties.

Coat the burgers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Serve burgers on buns with crumbled feta cheese and chopped olives.

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Black Bean Veggie Burgers

These burgers are great if you are cooking for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The meat burgers can go on one side of the grill and the bean burgers on foil can go on the other side of the grill. In order to keep veggie burgers from falling apart on the grill, make sure all the ingredients in the burger are thoroughly dry before combining them.

4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil.

Dry black beans well on paper towels. In a medium bowl, mash the black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion and garlic. Place on paper towels to dry well.

Then stir into the mashed beans.

.In a small bowl, stir together the egg, chili powder, cumin and hot sauce.

Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in the bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
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Place patties on oiled foil and grill about 8 minutes on each side.

'Mom slipped a healthy one in so it's kind of like playing hot dog roulette.'


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Throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, nearly every meal begins with an assortment of appetizers. Stuffed vegetables are often on the appetizer tray with an emphasis on eggplants, peppers and tomatoes seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Many of the most popular stuffed vegetables served as a main course in these regions are stuffed grape leaves, artichokes filled with savory breadcrumbs and sausage and hearty cabbage leaves rolled around a meat and rice stuffing.

An easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is by making them your meal’s main event. Stuffed vegetable recipes—including stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes and stuffed squash—use usually hollowed out and filled with lean meats, flavorful cheeses or even more vegetables. Any sturdy vegetable can be used for stuffing. Leftovers can often be used for the filling, such as risotto to stuff tomatoes.

Getting vegetables ready for stuffing is quite simple, but the technique varies from vegetable to vegetable. It’s important to always use the freshest, ripest vegetables available, avoiding those that are oversized and or soft. Cut ripe tomatoes in half, then scoop out most of the pulp with a spoon to create a shell. For peppers and squash, remove the seeds and stringy bits of flesh and you’ll be left with a natural cavity to fill.

Many stuffings are interchangeable and work well with other vegetables. You can add diced ham or sausage for a meatier taste, nuts for a crunchy texture or experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.

Pack the stuffing into the vegetables, place them in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish. Bake until the vegetables soften and the filling is cooked through and golden brown.

Liquids like tomato sauce, wine, broth or water are often poured around the vegetables to keep them moist and provide even more flavor.

Stuffed vegetables taste good hot or at room temperature. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre, a first course, a main course or a side dish.

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Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 8 small tomatoes
  • 6 oz olive oil-packed tuna, drained and oil reserved
  • 10 pitted Kalamata olives, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon reserved tuna olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Gently scoop out tomato seeds and pulp, leaving the shell intact.

Set shells cut side down to drain on the paper towels.

Mix tuna, olives, parsley, capers, tuna olive oil, thyme and pepper, breaking up any large chunks of tuna.

Spoon tuna mixture into tomatoes and chill until serving time.

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Orzo-Stuffed Peppers

You can prepare these up to 12 hours before serving. Just cover the baking dish with foil, refrigerate until time to bake the peppers.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 3 cups baby arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 small bell peppers, halved and seeded

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cook the orzo according to package directions in boiling, salted water in a saucepan; drain.

Heat oil in the pot and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is tender. Add arugula, feta, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper; stir.

Add drained orzo and mix thoroughly.

Season the inside of peppers with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Fill peppers and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover with foil; bake until the peppers are tender ( about 35-40 minutes).

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Stuffed Portobellos

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 (4-inch) portobello caps
  • 1 1/3 cups lean ground beef or ground turkey, lightly packed
  • 3/4 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons lower fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Remove the brown gills from undersides of the mushrooms, using a spoon; discard the gills.

Combine beef with the remaining  ingredients in a medium bowl.

Spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into each mushroom cap.

Place caps on a baking sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are lightly browned.

Sprinkle each cap with Parmesan cheese before serving.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 zucchini, small to medium size
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces scallions, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Cut zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving about ¼ inch attached to the shell. Lightly salt the zucchini shells.

Chop the zucchini pulp.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the sausage till browned. Add the zucchini pulp and garlic and saute for a minute or two.

In a bowl, combine the scallions, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, red pepper and pine nuts.

Add the sausage mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon mixture into scooped out zucchini shells and sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.or until the zucchini shells are tender and the tops are lightly brown.

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Stuffed Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash each pepper and ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup beef broth, plus extra if needed
  • Additional parsley for garnish

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring a small amount of water (about 1 inch) to a boil.

Peel onions and using a slotted spoon, place the onions in the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes; remove to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice off the top of each onion. Remove the center, leaving a 1/2-inch shell.

Chop the centers and tops of the onions; set aside.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; remove to a paper towel to drain.

In the drippings, saute the chopped onion until tender.

Add the butter and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley.

 

Add the bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Stuff the onion shells with the mushroom mixture; place in an ungreased shallow 1 quart baking dish. Pour broth around the onions.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 45 minutes or until tender, basting frequently during the first 15 minutes with the broth, adding more if needed. Sprinkle with additional parsley before serving.


 

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Use in-season spring ingredients to create some healthier dinners this week. After a few weeks of holiday eating and chocolate candy, you may want to eat a bit lighter.

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells or shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

For the marinade:

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and salt. Pour marinade over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to coat shrimp. Marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the risotto (15 to 25 minutes).

For the risotto:

In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in peas. Let stand about 1 minute or until heated through. (Rice should be tender but slightly firm and creamy.) Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Cook shrimp in a skillet or on the grill as described below. Serve shrimp with risotto and lemon wedges.

SKILLET: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade to the skillet. Cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring frequently.

GRILL: Drain shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between shrimp. Brush shrimp with the reserved marinade.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place kabobs on the grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover and grill for 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling.

Dinner Menu 2

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Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pound boneless pork top loin roast
  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or use thawed  frozen artichoke hearts, if you cannot find fresh
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole baby carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine rosemary, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Trim fat from meat. Place meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; spread the remaining oil mixture over the meat. Arrange potatoes around the meat. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash artichokes if using fresh; trim stems and remove loose outer leaves. Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into quarters. Place quartered artichokes in a medium bowl; toss with lemon juice.

In a covered large saucepan cook artichokes and carrots in boiling, lightly salted water for 10 minutes; drain.

Add artichokes and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to combine with potatoes. Roast for 15 to 35 minutes more or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F and vegetables are tender, stirring vegetables occasionally.

Remove from the oven. Cover meat and vegetables with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before slicing meat.

Dinner Menu 3

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Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillweed
  • Paprika and coarse salt

Directions

In a 3 to 4 quart pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, rice, stock and salt. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 35 minutes until rice and carrots are very tender. Cool slightly.

Using a handheld immersion blender, process the mixture in the pan until completely smooth. Whisk in milk and creme fraiche.

Heat and stir over low heat. For a thinner texture, stir in additional milk. To serve, sprinkle with green onion, dillweed, paprika and coarse salt, if desired.

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White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-5 ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced and toasted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beans, tuna, arugula, red onion and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Dinner Menu 4

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Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in meaty chicken pieces (breasts and thighs), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep skillet with a cover. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Scatter the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley and oregano over chicken pieces in the skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the wine and the chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and place on a serving platter.Place the the chicken on top of the spaghetti and pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Dinner Menu 5

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Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Boiling water
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large slices country-style white or whole grain bread
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp cooked

Directions

Place asparagus spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour enough boiling water over the asparagus to cover. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright colored and crisp-tender. Drain. Finely chop three of the asparagus spears; set aside.

In a small bowl use a fork to mash the avocado; stir in lime juice. Stir in the chopped asparagus; set aside.

For the omelet:

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, the water, salt and pepper until combined but not frothy.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat until the skillet is hot. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add half of the egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Immediately begin stirring eggs gently but continuously with a wooden or plastic spatula until the mixture begins to come together. Stop stirring. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the egg is set.

Remove from heat. Using a spatula, lift and fold an edge of omelet to opposite edge. Transfer to a warm plate. Cover with foil and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining egg mixture to make a second omelet.

Toast bread. Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 2 of the bread slices. Top with each with half the bacon, half the asparagus spears, omelets and the remaining 2 slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half to make 4 servings.

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Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh beets with tops
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces sliced ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the tops from beets; set tops aside. Place beets and rosemary on a piece of heavy foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold in remaining edges to completely enclose. Roast beets about 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully open the packet to release the steam. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skins from the beets and cut into wedges. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry the beet greens. Thinly slice just the beet greens and discard the stalks.

In a large bowl gently toss warm beets, shredded beet greens and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the greens are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

On a large platter or four salad plates arrange the beet mixture. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts. Top with cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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Calabria is a region in southern Italy, forming the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula. Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence dating as far back as 700,000 BC. It was the Greeks who occupied the shores of Calabria and Eastern Sicily forming Magna Grecia or Great Greece. The area was home to the poet Theocritus and mathematician and inventor Archimedes, and it remained part of the Greek Empire until the Romans annexed it in the 3rd century B.C.

The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The most populated city and the seat of the Calabrian Regional Council, however, is Reggio. It is bordered to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 5,822 sq mi and has a population of just under 2 million. The area is seismically and volcanically active.

Calabria

The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine and are included in the Pollino National Park. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests.

In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and exhibits natural scrub land as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and olive and chestnut trees. The region boasts the second highest number of organic farmers only after Sicily. The region is the second-highest for olive oil production   The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since the 18th century, exclusively the in coastal area of Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions.

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Along the coastlines, the climate is Mediterranean with average low temperatures of 8 °C (46 °F) in the winter months and average high temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months. Along the Apennines and in the inland areas, the climate is mountainous (continental) with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms.

Calabria is one of the least developed regions in Italy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is represented by service industries (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%).

The 485 miles of its coast make Calabria a popular tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of large cities in much of its territory have allowed maintaining low levels of marine pollution. In fact, the region is considered by many a natural paradise, which attracts a number of tourists from all over Italy. The most popular seaside destinations are: Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo, Scilla, Diamante, Amantea and Soverato.

The interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture that attract a number of tourists. Fortresses, castles, churches, historic centers and cemeteries are common elements in the interior of Calabria.

Some mountain locations attract tourists even in winter. Sila and Aspromonte are two national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello, Lorica and Gambarie.

The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish.

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Pasta  is also very important in Calabria. Pasta dishes that include peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage mixed into the eggs are also prevalent.

Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, ‘Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and aubergines packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The chilli pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chilli was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as ‘nzudda) served during holidays. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons,particularly watermelons, are abundant in Calabria

Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.

Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.

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calabria5

Sun Dried Tomatoes

This particular recipe is Calabrian; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes, as many as you want
  • Oregano
  • Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
  • Basil
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack, dust them with salt, put them out where the sun will shine on them all day (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting).

Leave them in the sun until dusk and then bring them inside.

Continue putting them out in the morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.

When they have dried, rinse them with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your taste, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press down well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread or sliced and served as a garnish for main dishes and vegetables.

calabria7

Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

At times, Calabrians add seafood to this dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, cut thin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 hot pepper
  • A bunch of parsley,finely  chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons of oil the tomatoes were packed in
  • Salt

Directions

Chop the tomatoes and heat them for 3-5 minutes in a skillet with the oil, the garlic, the basil, the hot pepper and a pinch of salt. Don’t overcook or the tomatoes will dry and toughen. Turn off the heat and keep warm.

Cook the pasta in abundant salted water. Drain it’s al dente, transfer it to a bowl, pour the tomato mixture over it. Mix well. Garnish with the minced parsley and oregano.

calabria3

Calabrian Marinated Tuna

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh tuna, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
  • 8 ounces (200 g) pitted black olives
  • One lemon
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh hot pepper (chili flakes)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Pat the fish dry and grill it, basting it lightly with olive oil; turning it once. Figure a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.

In the mean time blend the remaining ingredients with more oil to make a sauce. Marinate the fish in the sauce for at least an hour before serving it.

calabria8

Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 6 pork chops with bone
  • Crushed or powdered hot pepper to taste (Calabrians like things hot)
  • Fennel seeds
  • Salt

Directions

Lightly pound the chops to flatten them out, sprinkle them with salt and then rub fennel seeds and hot pepper into them.

Grill them over medium hot coals or medium high on a gas grill, turning once, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes.

Transfer chops to a platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 


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For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish:  safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers

Tuna

Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.

Salmon

Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.

Sardines

These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.

Anchovies

Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.

Crabmeat

While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.

Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.

Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.

Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.

Clams

While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.

cannedfish2

Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
  • 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese

Directions

Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

cannedfish6

Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed

Directions

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).

Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.

For serving:

Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.

Tips:

To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.

Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.

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Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
  • 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives

Directions

Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.

Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.

cannedfish1

Tuna Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
  • 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

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Salmon and Potato Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.

Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.

Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.

Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

cannedfish4

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.

Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.


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Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.

The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:

Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad. 

Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.

Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.

With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.

While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.

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Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
  • Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
  • 4 cups arugula
  • Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.

Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.

Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.

Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.

Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.

To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.

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Pea Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.

Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.

Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.

Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.

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Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.

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Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped

Directions

Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.

Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.

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Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves

Directions

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately

 


"Tuscany Delights" painting by Lisa Lorenz.

“Tuscany Delights” painting by Lisa Lorenz.

Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. … You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh? … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick. (Michael learning to make gravy from The Godfather.)

For a crowd-pleasing reunion meal, serve this family style menu with plenty of garlic bread and red wine for a comforting Italian-American feast. All the dishes in this menu can be prepared several days ahead, except for the pasta, and heated before serving.

I have many memories of the Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses while I was growing up. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its distinction were the meats that were cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs and my favorite, braciole. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared and simmered for hours in tomato sauce.

Sitting down together for a family meal has been in decline in America for decades. According to surveys, however, that’s beginning to change. This is good. Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to do well in school and more likely to have a healthier diet. In addition the treasured memories children develop are irreplaceable.

“Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!)” — as my grandmother would say.

Menu for 12-16

  • Braised Artichokes and Stuffed Cherry Peppers
  • Braciole and Pasta
  • Sautéed Greens and Garlic Bread
  • Dessert: Italian Cookies

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Italian American Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions

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

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and mix with the garlic powder and parsley.

Using a basting brush, coat the bread generously with the butter mixture. Place the Italian bread on a medium baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

italianfeast1Braised Artichokes

This dish can be made ahead. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 large artichokes, outer leaves trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 lemons, halved and juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the bottom.

Heat oil in an 8 to 10-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine, artichokes, lemon juice and squeezed lemon halves, salt and 10 cups water; boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer artichokes to a serving platter, cut each half, in half, and keep warm.

Discard all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid; return the pan with the liquid to medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; spoon sauce over artichokes to serve.

italianfeast2

Tuna Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Make this appetizer a day or two before the party, so they can marinate.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (32-oz.) jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, seeded and stemmed

Directions

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Stuff each pepper with a little of the tuna mixture. Transfer to a covered dish and pour the remaining oil over the peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

italianfeast3

Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

This entire dish, with the exception of the pasta, can be prepared well in advance and reheated.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and finely diced
  • 24 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef steak (top sirloin or round), pounded to 1/16″ thickness (about 3 lbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 lbs penne or rigatoni or pappardelle pasta

Directions

To make the filling:

Mix together raisins, 3/4 cup parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, prosciutto and garlic in a bowl; set aside.

Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper and place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks or kitchen string and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves and return beef rolls to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, gently stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the meat rolls from the sauce, remove toothpicks, transfer to serving platters and cover plates with foil. Keep warm.

Continue cooking sauce until thickened, while you cook the pasta.

Pour some of the sauce over the meat rolls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Mix some of the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the braciole and pasta.

italianfeast5

Sautéed Greens and Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium heads escarole (or greens of choice), cored, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F

Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. You may have to wait until some of the leaves wilt before adding more.

Stir in peppers; season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top; transfer skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 12 minutes.

italianfeast6

Pine-nut (Pignoli) Italian Cookies  

Makes about 48 cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, from 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer bowl, beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and lemon peel until smooth.

Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks. They freeze very well.)

italianfeast7

Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups finely ground almonds, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.



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