Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tuna

"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

italianfeast8

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.


veneto cover

Veneto includes the eastern part of the Po Valley and, to the north, a part of the Dolomites. Venice ruled for centuries over one of the largest and richest maritime republics and trade empires in the world. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it was ceded to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence. Besides Italian, most inhabitants also speak Venetian. Veneto is, today, one of the greatest immigrant-receiving regions in the country, the most recent of whom are Romanian, Moroccan and Albanian.

The regional capital is Venice. Other important cities are: Verona, Padua, Vicenza, Treviso, Rovigo and Belluno.

Treviso Piazza

Treviso Piazza

Numerous and important Roman traces can be found in this region: the best known example is the Arena of Verona. In the area around Venice, Byzantine influences are visible (St. Mark and the Cathedral of Torcello) and there are many outstanding examples of Romanesque and Gothic art. The Renaissance palaces are still numerous. In Venice, the Academy Galleries house the major collections of Venetian paintings from the years 1300 to 1700; while the Guggenheim collection exhibits international works of contemporary art, as does the National Gallery of Modern Art.  The Correr Museum is reserved for the Renaissance masterpieces.

Venice Canals

Venice Canals

In Verona, the Civic Museum of Art, is devoted to Verona painters. Padua has the famous Scrovegni Chapel with its Giotto’s frescoes, the Civic Museum and the Botanic Garden, the oldest in Europe. In Treviso, there is the Museum of the Casa Trevigiana with its modern furniture and sculptures.

Take a tour of Veneto via the video below.

Cuisine is a very integral part of the culture of Veneto and the region is home to some of the most recognizable dishes, desserts and wines in Italian, European and World cuisine.

Veneto is an important wine-growing area and produces: Soave, Bardolino, Recioto, Amarone, Torcolato, Prosecco, Tocai Rosso, Garganega, Valpolicella, Verduzzo, Raboso, Moscato, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Nero, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot varietals. Homemade wine making is widespread. After making wine, the alcohol of the pressed grapes is distilled to produce grappa or graspa, as it is called in the local language.

Veneto Vineyards

Veneto Vineyards

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine. It is made from a variety of white grapes of the same name, which is traditionally grown in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The name, Prosecco, is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco, where this grape variety is believed to have originated. Around the holidays, I like to make pre-dinner drinks with Prosecco and different fruit flavors. My family looks forward to this special drink.

Spritz, in the Venetian language also called “spriss” or “spriseto” depending on the area, usually consists of 1/3 sparkling wine and 2/3 Aperol. Campari or gin may also be used.

The cheeses of Veneto include: Asiago (PDO), Piave (PDO), Monte Veronese (PDO), Morlacco and Grana Padano (PDO). The sopressa vicentina (PDO) is an aged salami, cylindrical in shape and prepared with raw, quality pork meat. It may or may not include garlic in its ingredients and comes in medium and large sizes. Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (PDO) is obtained from the fresh meat of a top breed of adult hogs. The aroma is delicate, sweet and fragrant.

Treviso Radicchio

Treviso Radicchio

Radicchio rosso di Treviso (PGI) is a vegetable with a faintly bitter taste and a crunchy texture. The production area encompasses many town districts in the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice. The radicchio, Variegata di Castelfranco (PGI, has a delicate and slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. Veronese Vialone Nano Rice from Verona (PGI) is a type of rice with short, plump grains, which have a creamy consistency when cooked. They are commonly used in risotto dishes and have a high starch content. The Bean of Lamon (PGI) is particularly prized for its delicate flavor and extremely tender skin. The White Asparagus of Cimadolmo (PGI) has a characteristic scent and a very delicate taste. The White Asparagus of Bassano is a typical product of the northern part of the province of Vicenza. The San Zeno di Montagna (Verona) chestnut has Protected Geographical Status.

Tiramisù (a dessert made from mascarpone, coffee, Marsala wine, savoiardi and chocolate) originates from Veneto. Veneto is also home to a golden sweet bread, called Pandoro. This bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipe. Scalete, Pàndolo and Baicoli are all traditional sweets of the city.

Venetian Specialties

Veneto

Fritto Misto di Mare

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The Italian phrase “fritto misto” roughly translates as “mixed fry,” and it encompasses all sorts of fried foods: meats such as sweetbreads, vegetables and even desserts. But in Venice the term almost always applies to the city’s famous frutti di mare—fruits of the sea. The chefs of Venice’s restaurants and cafés feel that frying is one of the best ways to showcase the impeccably fresh fish and seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

In Italy, fritto misto is nearly always served as a first course. In Veneto, bite-size pieces of fish, fried and served with a squirt of lemon juice are a very popular antipasto. A  Venetian fritto is rarely vegetarian, given the city’s available fish. Consequently, you can sample all manner of fresh tiny fish, miniature soft-shell crabs, shrimp and many more. Natives stop by a trattoria at sunset for a plateful; then stroll for a while before dinner.

To serve 6, you will need about 4 pounds of fish. Here are some suggestions: fresh sardines, anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, shrimp and other assorted shellfish, tiny whiting, sole or whatever else you would like to include.

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup seltzer or club soda

For Dredging:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Fritto Misto:

  • 4 cups vegetable oil, or a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, cut in 1/2 ­inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, steamed and shucked
  • 1 pound smelts or sardines
  • Sea salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper for garnish, optional
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Make the batter: Put the flour and salt in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the wine to obtain a smooth, lump free mixture. Rest 30 minutes. Add seltzer just before frying.

Near the stove, put the seasoned dredging flour in a shallow bowl. Place the finished batter next to it and an empty plate next to that. Put fish and other ingredients for frying and a paper towel lined baking sheet nearby.

Put oil in a large wide, deep pot and fasten a candy thermometer to the side. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Working in small batches, dip a few pieces of fish, first into the seasoned flour to coat lightly, then into the batter. Put battered pieces on the empty plate.

Slip a few pieces into the hot oil and fry 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Remove with tongs or a wire spider and drain on the paper towel ­lined baking sheet. Hold the fried food in a warm oven while continuing to fry additional fish. Make sure to regulate the heat below the pan to keep oil at the correct temperature (adding too many pieces to the oil will cause it to cool.)

Remove pieces of batter from the oil between batches with a fine meshed skimmer.

As soon as you have enough to serve, pile it onto a warmed platter. Sprinkle with sea salt (and crushed red pepper, if desired). Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Continue to fry in small batches until all the fish is used. (Recipe adapted from the New York Times.)

Crespelle with Treviso Radicchio

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The delicate flavor of the béchamel contrasts with the bitter taste of the radicchio, making a balanced and delicious dish.

4 Servings

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 4 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 oz butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling

  • 1 ¾ lb radicchio from Treviso
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • White wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 oz diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Prepare the crepes:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. Then remove it from the heat and let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing the pan and add the remainder to the bowl where you will mix the crepe batter.

Add the flour, eggs and a pinch of salt in  the bowl with the melted butter. Whisk together until you have a smooth, fairly dense batter. Add the milk, slowly, while whisking. You should have a smooth batter without lumps. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan or crepe griddle. Once hot, brush the pan with the reserved melted butter. Use a ladle to add enough batter to cover the entire pan. Try to make the thickness even across the pan.

When the crepe begins to separate itself from the pan, flip the crepe quickly using a spatula and cook the other side. Once you have cooked both sides, place the crepe on a kitchen towel or on paper towels. Continue making crepes until you have finished the batter. Let cool slightly before filling.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:

Put a fairly large pot over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Be careful not to burn or brown it.

Sift the flour and add it to the butter with the salt. Mix using a whisk to make a smooth, uniform mixture, known as a roux. Continue cooking the roux until it is slightly golden, while whisking.

Add the milk and broth to the roux, a little at a time, and mix with a whisk. Be careful not to let any lumps form. Bring the sauce to a boil and continue cooking to thicken it. Remove the pot from the heat.

Prepare the filling:

In the meantime, wash and cut the radicchio into very small pieces. Add the oil to a sauté pan and heat.

Once hot, add the radicchio, salt, pepper, garlic and a little bit of white wine. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Then add the egg yolks, Fontina cheese and the sautéed radicchio.

Assemble for baking:

Place a layer of crepes in a baking dish and cover with some of the radicchio sauce; repeat the layers ending with a layer of crepes. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.

Marinated Grilled Tuna with Anchovy Sauce

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This is an old Venetian recipe for grilled tuna.

Tuna Ingredients

  • 6 slices fresh tuna steaks, about 3/8 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for basting
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges

Anchovy Sauce Ingredients – Makes 1/4 cup

  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions for the tuna:

Place the tuna steaks in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan and add the olive oil, white wine, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours, turning once. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high. You may also use a stovetop grill pan.

Remove the tuna from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, basting with olive oil and turning only once, until deep black grid marks appear, about 3 1/2 minutes on each side.

Directions for the anchovy sauce:

In a mortar, pound the anchovy fillets, garlic and parsley with a pestle until a pest . Slowly pound in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the grilled tuna and serve with additional lemon wedges.

Zalti (Cornmeal, Pine Nut and Raisin Cookies)

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Zaleti” means “little yellow things” in the Veneto dialect. Zaleti are a traditional cookie from the Veneto region. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling, aromatic wine like Prosecco della Valdobbiadene.

Zaleti, a rustic type of cookie once served only during the Carnival season, are now available year round. Like all rustic, farmhouse recipes, zaleti can be prepared in many ways. Each home cook had her own recipe and would prepare the cookies using the ingredients she had available. The peculiar characteristic of these cookies is their yellow color, which comes from the corn flour – an ingredient present in all of the farmhouses in centuries past – that is used in the batter. Carlo Goldoni mentions the cookies in his 1749 book “La Buona Moglie”.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb cornmeal
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
    5 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz raisins, soaked in warm water
  • 2 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Lemon zest, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder together.

With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the drained raisins, pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3.2 inches long. Place them onto a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minute. The baking time can vary according to the size of the “zaleti”.


 

hotsandwiches

Winter is the time of year when we crave warm, home-cooked food. We love getting cozy with a variety of winter comfort food recipes, from mashed potatoes and gratins to mac n’ cheese.

Comforting or not, though, those classics are typically loaded with butter, milk, heavy cream and refined carbohydrates, piling on pounds that can stick around long past the winter thaw. But you don’t have to give up on comfort food just yet.

Hot and hearty sandwiches are the best of all worlds on chilly days: filling, warming and easy to eat. They can be delicious, yet healthy. Whether you grab a bite as you’re rushing around or fix yourself a dinner plate, the following Italian sandwich recipes will give you comfort.

hotsandwiches5

Tuna Panini

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Mozzarella or Fontina cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sliced bread and butter pickles, optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a panini press or griddle.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on the bottoms and add a few pickles slices, if desired.

Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter.

Place the sandwiches in the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

hotsandwiches1

 

Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 crusty rolls, such as ciabatta, sourdough or hero, split horizontally
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2  pounds thin chicken cutlets
  • Directions

Heat a stove top grill pan.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the, chicken, tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes Remove to a plate.

Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and grill them, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.

"Party Primer" August 09

Sausage-and-Pepper Heros

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 pound red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Italian chicken sausages, about 5 ounces each
  • 3 long hero rolls, split lengthwise

Directions

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet and add the oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened and just beginning to brown, 6 minutes. Place the vegetables in a heatproof bowl, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while you cook the sausages.

Prick the sausages with a knife and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausages to the vegetables and keep warm.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler. Fill the rolls with the sausages and peppers, cut each one in half and serve.

hotsandwiches3

Eggplant Parm Sandwiches

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the baking pan
  • Salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2-pounds of eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 4 long hero rolls, cut in half and split lengthwise

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes with their juices, garlic and the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the sauce with salt. Set aside.

Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.

Put the eggs and bread crumbs in 2 separate shallow bowls. Working with 1 slice of eggplant at a time, dip the slice in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then coat with the bread crumbs. Place the slice of eggplant on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. You may need a third baking sheet.

Bake the eggplant slices until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Lightly oil a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a single layer of eggplant. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with a few mozzarella slices and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the parmesan. Tear one-third of the basil leaves and place over the cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients for a total of 4 layers, ending with a layer of eggplant and a thick layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top.

Wrap the entire pan in foil and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 1 hour, until heated through.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Remove the foil from the top of the pan and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned on top.

Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.

Cut wedges of eggplant to fit the rolls and serve.

FOOD WINE PULLED PORK SANDWICH POMPANELLA FENNEL SALAD

Pepper Pork and Fennel Sandwiches

Aleppo chili pepper comes from Syrian town of Aleppo, just east of the Turkish border. These red chilies are also known in the Mediterranean region as halaby peppers. Moderately hot, the crushed, dried peppers are celebrated for their rich, fruity flavor that’s sometimes described as a cross between cumin and cayenne. It has a moderate heat level with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Aleppo pepper offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red pepper flakes.

6 servings

Ingredients

Pork

  • 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Sandwiches

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 4 cups (packed) arugula
  • 6 toasted ciabatta rolls, split, for serving

Directions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered in the pan, for 10 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board.

Combine the pan juices with the reserved juices in a microwave safe bowl.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Reheat the juices in the microwave or in a pan.

Shred the meat and toss with the hot pan juices.

Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.


LOST IN WINTER  by Leonid Afremov

LOST IN WINTER by Leonid Afremov

Tips For Eating Healthy

Choose whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, unrefined and unprocessed foods. You’ll typically find the least processed foods around the perimeter of the store.
Eliminate artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats from your diet.
Beans, nuts and legumes are great sources of plant-based protein.
Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body.
Nuts, seeds and avocados (all plant-based whole foods!) are great micronutrient-dense sources of healthy fats.
Minimize or eliminate extracted oils (like canola) and processed fats (like margarine).

Dinner # 1

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Citrus Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine, such as Riesling (or chicken broth)
  • 4 (6-oz) salmon fillets, skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon country Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Chop garlic and dill.

Cut half the orange into 1/4-inch-thick slices (rounds), then cut slices into quarters. Squeeze remaining 1 1/2 oranges for juice (about 1/2 cup).

Place wine, orange juice, garlic, dill and orange slices in large sauté pan and cover; bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 7 minutes.

Season salmon on both sides with the garlic seasoning and pepper. Add salmon to the wine mixture; simmer 4 minutes on each side or until salmon reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (or opaque and separates easily). Transfer salmon to serving dish.

Add marmalade and mustard to the wine mixture; cook and stir 1 minute or until marmalade dissolves and sauce thickens. Remove pan from the heat; gently stir in butter.

Pour sauce over salmon. Serve.

Asparagus-Almond Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons smoked almonds
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Cut asparagus into bite-size pieces, removing the tough root end.

Chop almonds. Shave the cheese. Halve the tomatoes.

Preheat a large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Place oil in the pan, then add asparagus; cook and stir 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, vinegar and pepper; cook and stir 2–3 more minutes or until the tomatoes and asparagus are softened.

Remove pan from the heat; sprinkle with nuts and cheese. Serve.

Dinner #2

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Seasoned Pork with Lemon Couscous

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped, unpeeled eggplant
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (1 medium)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 – 1/2 inch thick boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

Directions

In a large skillet heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add eggplant, garlic and red onion; cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl.

Meanwhile, trim fat from the chops. Sprinkle chops with Italian seasoning.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops; reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until just pink in the center (145 degrees F on an instant read thermometer), turning once. Remove from heat; let rest in the pan for 3 minutes. Place pork chops on a platter and cover with foil.

Return eggplant mixture to the skillet and add broth and dried tomatoes. Bring to boiling. Stir in couscous, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt; remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach. Divide couscous mixture among serving plates. Top with chops.

Dinner #3

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Carrot Ginger Soup

Serve a small cup of this soup with the baked egg dish below for a meatless dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • Juice from 1 orange, about ¼ cup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (32 oz carton) vegetable broth

Directions

Sauté onion in olive oil until it begins to soften.

Add carrots and cook for 3 minutes.

Add ginger and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, simmer covered for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Purée soup in a blender or with a hand immersion blender until just blended.

Add orange juice and reheat.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano Baked Eggs with Swiss Chard

Serves 4

Serve with thick slices of your favorite bread.

Ingredients

  • Butter for the ramekins
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 cups packed thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves (reserve chard stems for another use)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 small tomatoes, halved, seeds removed, diced 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or small gratin dishes.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chard; cover the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water if the skillet begins to dry out. Remove from the heat and pour off any excess liquid.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese and half of the tomato. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared ramekins. Break an egg into each ramekin and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pile remaining tomato around the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the egg whites are  set, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner #4

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Panko-Crusted Steak Over Vegetable Ragù

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 8 oz whole baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean steak (such as filet, sirloin or top round)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut zucchini, onion, tomato and bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cut mushrooms in half.

Whisk tomato paste, water and balsamic vinegar until smooth; toss with vegetables and 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. Place vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer; bake 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove to a serving platter.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and paprika until blended. Coat both sides of the steak with the bread crumb mixture. Place steak on a second baking sheet; bake 10-12 minutes or until the temperature reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (for medium-rare). Slice the steak and serve over the vegetable ragu..

Note: If you unable to find smoked paprika, regular paprika will work as well.

Dinner #5

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Tuna Parmesan

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 to 6 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces fresh asparagus
  • 1 – 5 ounce package mixed baby salad greens
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions

Thaw fish, if frozen. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Finely shred 2 teaspoons peel from one lemon. Squeeze juice from the lemon.

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon peel and juice, olive oil, pepper and salt; set aside. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges; set aside.

Snap off and discard woody bases from the asparagus. Place asparagus in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Bake, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the tuna dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the dressing over medium heat. Add tuna; cook for 8 to 12 minutes or until browned and the center is slightly pink.

Divide greens among serving plates; top with tuna and asparagus. Drizzle remaining dressing over all. Top with the shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.


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

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

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

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

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Bagna Cauda Pot

Consider the health benefits of anchovies:

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

Equivalents:

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

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

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

1/2 teaspoon Anchovy paste = 1 Anchovy fillet

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

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

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Bagna Cauda

Serves 6

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Tuna Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

Cut the peppers into 2-inches wide strips.

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

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

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

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

Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

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Spaghetti con Acciughe

A classic Neapolitan dish.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top ot the pasta before serving.

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Tomato Salad with Anchovy & Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Italian Fish Stew with Anchovy Pesto

Stew

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

Pesto

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lamb Chops With Anchovies, Capers and Sage

3 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Figs Stuffed with Anchovy Tapenade

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

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

Directions

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

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

For the salsa:

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

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

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

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


lunchtime

The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

lunchtime1

Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

lunchtime3

Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

lunchtime2

Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

lunchtime4

Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

lunchtime5

Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.



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