Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: citrus

You can find berries and melons in the supermarket in the winter, but these fruits do not have much taste. So instead, spend your money on fruit that actually tastes good now. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for cranberries and yams, but have you considered persimmons, kiwi, citrus or pears? Winter is when most citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. Winter fruits are also excellent for baking. Here’s how to choose the best fruit, why it’s good for you and how to save money.

Oranges

How to buy:

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season wears on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Try them! Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Why it’s good:

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value of vitamin C), which may help smooth your skin. If you bite into a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks. If you stumble across a few fruits with a grainy texture, use them for juicing or cooking.

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still far from ripe. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Why it’s good:

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

How to save:

Though bananas are relatively economical—ripening bananas cost about 70 to 90 cents per pound—overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet, ripe and unblemished. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before sticking them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread, pancakes and smoothies.

Pineapples

How to buy:

Avoid green pineapples—they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present—starting at the base—and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Why it’s good:

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation.

How to save:

Cutting into a pineapple for the first time may be intimidating. But where your wallet is concerned, it may be worth learning how to do. Prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section cost more per pound—about 50 cents an ounce more—than a whole pineapple. Check your market for whole, peeled and decored pineapples. My market sells these pineapples at the same price as an unpeeled pineapple.

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Why it’s good:

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful compounds that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get a bit of fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

How to save:

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

How to buy:

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying ripe grapefruit can be tricky—the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness.

Why it’s good:

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories. One exception: if you take statins to lower cholesterol levels, consuming grapefruit juice or the fruit may prevent the statins from breaking down in your system, causing the drug to accumulate in high amounts in the body.

How to save:

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

Tangerines

How to buy:

Choose tangerines with a deep orange color that are firm to semi-soft and heavy for their size. Avoid tangerines that have dull or brown coloring or soft spots.

Why it’s good:

One tangerine contains 2.3 grams fiber, 13% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. They are great for eating and you can also juice tangerines. Tangerines are less acidic than most citrus fruits. Use them as you would oranges in salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese or as a topping for dessert.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pudding cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest from 2 oranges, cut into very thin strips

Filling: 1 cup frozen yogurt (vanilla or flavor of choice)

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon oil and water in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

To make orange syrup:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add orange zest, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened and the zest is tender. Several times during the cooking, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep sugar crystals from forming on the sides. Remove from heat and let cool.

To cook and assemble crepes:

Heat a small nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when sprinkled on the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush pan with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil as needed to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Cook 30 to 40 seconds until the top of the crepe has a dull surface and the edges begin to curl. Flip and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the crepe is firm. Remove to a plate and cover with a dry cloth. Repeat with remaining crepes. (The crepes may be stacked between wax paper sheets until serving time.)

Place a crepe on a dessert plate. Spread 2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt across the middle. Fold in half and spoon 1 tablespoon Chocolate Sauce over the top or beside it. Spoon 2 teaspoons orange syrup and zest over the folded crepe. Repeat with remaining crepes.

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 1/2 tablespoons agave necter
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Sift together cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in honey. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in oil and vanilla.

Garcia Studio, Inc. 933 Fielder Avenue NW Atlanta, GA 30318 404-892-2334

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pecans and dried cranberries.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, applesauce, oil, orange zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll the dough with floured hands (it will be very moist) into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until barely golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

The cream cheese in the batter makes the cake quite moist. Because it’s so tender, use a serrated knife for cutting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces block style low fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled baking apples (about 2-3 apples)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons or the cinnamon mixture to the apples and mix. Fold apple mixture into the batter.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 8 fresh pears (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Frozen yogurt, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

Grate enough lemon peel to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in large bowl. Add pears, lemon zest and juice; toss until pears are evenly coated.

Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Mix brown sugar and remaining flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until topping is golden brown and pears are hot and bubbly. Serve warm topped frozen yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: You can also bake this dessert in 9-inch square baking dish or shallow 2-qt. casserole instead of the 8-inch square baking dish.

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Dinner For Two by Patrick J. Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 1

Golden Squash Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Trim fat from steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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

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

Romaine Hearts with Blue Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Directions

Dressing

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

Salad

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

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Tiramisu Cookies

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 2

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Baked Almond Fish with Crispy Potatoes

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

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

For the potatoes:

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

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

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

Creamed Spinach

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Mocha Cream Shake

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Vegetarian Dinner Menu 3

Pesto Pita Crackers

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

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

2 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce

Makes: 2 Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

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

Directions

For sauce:

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

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

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.

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

Sorbet and Melon Parfaits

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Cold soups make a fine first course, a light summertime lunch or even a dessert. They can be a simple purée of fruit or vegetables and liquid or a more complex creation involving spices, wines and liqueurs. But even at their fanciest, cold soups are easy to make, requiring only a blender and some basic ingredients.

Some recipes use stock (most savory soups are better for it), but water works, too. And there is usually no meat in any of them, except if you choose one for a garnish. Most cold soups can be made vegetarian or vegan without much trouble.

The smooth and creamy soups are best made ahead of time, so that they have a chance to chill thoroughly. In fact, you can prepare them even a couple of days in advance. (Just hold off stirring in cream or yogurt until you are ready to serve.) The gazpacho-type soups can be made at the last moment; they should feel hearty and thick. You can purée them, chill them or serve as a beverage. A sweet fruit soup is a simple way to take advantage of an abundance of summer fruit.

A variety of fruits lend themselves to soup—all kinds of berries, stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries) and melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon). While fresh fruit is always best and is mandatory when using melons for soup, frozen fruit can yield excellent results. In fact, making soup is one of the best ways to use up the surplus crop that fills your freezer. Even canned fruit works well.

The vegetables of summer — asparagus, corn, zucchini, avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes to name a few —can be turned into cold soups. The simplicity really lets the flavor of the featured ingredient shine.

Tips on bringing out the best flavor for chilled soups:

Because a fruit or vegetable soup has relatively few ingredients, the taste of each one is easy to detect, so the quality of the fruit or vegetable is critical. Under ripe, overripe, off-flavored or badly freezer-burned ingredients will produce poor results. Shop at a farmers’ market, if possible, and pick vegetables that look ripe with bright colors and feel heavy for their size.

Cold dulls flavor; you’ll almost certainly want to add more herbs, salt and pepper and maybe more acidity. Season generously to start and don’t be afraid to add more just before serving.

Vegetables, like beets and fennel, must be cooked until thoroughly tender so they purée easily. Cook the main vegetable with a little onion for sweetness and garlic for depth. Also add spices at this point. Fresh herbs added just before puréeing provide another layer of flavor.

When melons are puréed, they turn watery. Soups based on them often require no added liquid. For most other fruits, liquid is required:, such as water, milk (whole, low-fat and skim are all good), cream, wine, fruit juice (for example, apple or white grape juice) or some combination of these.

As sweet as it is, when fruit is diluted with liquid, it usually requires some added sugar, honey or agave. Soups can vary from tart, perhaps for a first course, to very sweet for desserts.

The most common additions to cold fruit soups are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. Add fat to most soups in the form of cream or olive oil. Fat not only helps carry flavors but also creates an emulsion for a smoother, more full-bodied soup.

Common sources of additional flavor are liquors, especially cognac and rum, and liqueurs-either a contrasting flavor such as Grand Marnier or Amaretto, or a brandy derived from the same fruit as the soup.

Garnishes include dollops of yogurt, sour cream, herbs and, for dessert soups, whipped cream and berries. Garnishes add texture and either reinforce the flavor (fennel fronds for fennel soup) or complement it (tangy sour cream and dill for earthy beet soup).

A blender’s tapered shape draws the ingredients to the blade, where they’re puréed evenly and finely. Keep the blender running for two minutes even after the soup looks puréed to be sure all the spices and herbs are pulverized.

A safety tip: When blending hot liquids, never fill the blender jar more than half full. Leave the fill hole cap ajar, cover the lid with a cloth, hold the lid on firmly and start the blender on low before increasing it to high.

Two-Color Melon Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut up
  • 1 small honeydew, peeled, seeded and cut up
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • Prosciutto or another cured ham, for garnish

Directions:

Place the cantaloupe, orange juice, half the white wine and half the sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl.

Place the honeydew, lime juice, remaining wine and remaining sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate both purées separately.

To serve, place the purées into separate pitchers or measuring cups. With one in each hand, simultaneously pour the two purées down opposite sides of each serving bowl, the purees will remain separate while being served and eaten. Garnish with sliced proscuitto.

Carrot Soup with Herbs

6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (or 1-32-ounce box) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) ready-to-use baby carrots
  • 1 medium thin-skinned white or Red Bliss potato, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 large handful whole fresh dillweed sprigs (including stems), plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill weed leaves (fine leaves only) for garnish
  • 1 small handful whole fresh chives, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped for garnish
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Herbed yogurt garnish, recipe below

Directions:

Combine the chicken broth, carrots and potato in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Lay the whole herbs over the vegetables and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat so the broth boils gently and cook, uncovered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until the carrots and potato are tender when pierced with a fork. Don’t undercook or the soup will not be as smooth as it should.

Set aside until cooled slightly. Using a fork, lift off and discard all the herbs. Using a slotted spoon, remove the carrots to a food processor or blender and remove the potato to a bowl to cool. Strain the broth and reserve. When the potato is cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Add the potato, butter and enough broth from the saucepan to the vegetables to facilitate processing or blending. Process or blend until completely smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed; a processor will take longer and the soup will not be quite as smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Cool slightlyand add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours before serving. If desired, thin the soup with a little water and adjust seasoning before serving.

To serve, add several teaspoons of the herbed yogurt to the center top of each bowl of soup. Partially swirl in the mixture. If desired, garnish servings with small sprigs of dill weed.

Herbed Yogurt Garnish

Stir together 2/3 cup regular or low-fat plain (unflavored) yogurt, 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill weed and 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives in a small bowl. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (so the herbs can infuse the yogurt) and up to 48 hours.

Fennel-Grapefruit Soup with Lemon Olive Oil

The fennel-grapefruit soup can be refrigerated overnight. Olive oil pressed or infused with lemon is available at most supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon flavored olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • One 1-pound fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, plus chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice, strained
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of lemon flavored olive oil. Add the sliced fennel and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until the fennel is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the fennel is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the fennel soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer the soup to a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Just before serving stir the grapefruit juice into the fennel soup. Add the sugar to the soup and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a little lemon olive oil and chopped fennel fronds and serve.

 

Cool Tomato Soup

6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat free half & half
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the plum tomatoes with the water, tomato paste, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and granulated sugar. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the tomatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Add the half & half and simmer for 1 minute.

Puree the soup in a blender and pass it through a coarse strainer into a medium bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate the soup until cold, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, confectioners’ sugar and a large pinch of salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and toss with the dill. Let rest at room temperature until ready to serve the soup.

Ladle the cold soup into bowls, garnish with the roasted cherry tomatoes and serve.

 

Chilled Corn Soup with Roasted Chilies

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 10 ears sweet corn
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 medium potato
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • Roasted jalapeno (or any spicy chili), diced

Directions:

Using a large hole grater over a very large bowl, grate off the corn kernels. Use the blunt side of a knife blade to scrape remaining liquid and corn bits into the bowl after you grate each cob. Set aside the raw corn puree.

Chop onions. In a large pot heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion wilts, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the potato. Add potato and water or broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cook until onions and potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add corn. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Roast chilies in the broiler or on a grill. Set aside until cool and remove the skin. Be sure to use gloves when handling hot chilies.

Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor (do this in small batches to avoid splashes and burns).

Chill the soup thoroughly.

Add salt to taste. (Do this at the temperature at which you plan to serve the soup; chilled soup will need more salt than hot soup because cold dulls flavor.)

You will need to add a fair amount of salt, if you used water as your base liquid. Keep adding salt, about 1/4 teaspoon at a time, and tasting until you notice  the corn flavor coming through.

Garnish with roasted sliced jalapeno chilies before serving.

 


Grilling vegetables is not difficult. With so many possible vegetable choices and recipes, the biggest challenge is narrowing them down to just a few special recipes that take advantage of the outdoor grill flavor. Many different kinds of vegetables can be grilled with great results. Beets become sweet on the grill. Potatoes get crisp on the outside and stay sweet and moist on the inside. Carrots and onions caramelize.

Select vegetables that are firm and that can hold up to slicing and grilling. Slice them in large, thick (at least 1/4-inch) sections, since small pieces can easily fall through the grid and into the fire. Cut zucchini lengthwise or on a long diagonal, for example. If you plan to prepare a recipe that calls for smaller pieces, try grilling them on skewers or wrapping them in foil packets. Vegetables such as peppers can simply be grilled whole, then peeled and sliced.

Soak vegetables in cold water for about 30 minutes before you grill them to keep them from drying out. Pat dry.

Because vegetables lack fat, they need oil, liquid, or some sort of marinade to prevent them from burning and sticking and to keep them moist. Brush vegetables with oil (preferably vegetable oil because it has a high smoke point) or a flavored oil mixture, such as a salad dressing or your own mixture of oil and herbs or other seasonings. Marinate the vegetables for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

White wine, oil, garlic, onion and celery salt make a good marinade, as do beer, oil, garlic and cloves. Lemon juice also makes a good base for a grilling marinade. Try pineapple juice, soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic for firm vegetables. Orange juice, turmeric, ginger, garlic and lemon zest make a light marinade for summer squash or softer vegetables.

Consider the texture of the ingredient to determine marinating time. Mushrooms, summer squash, and tomatoes may need only 30 to 40 minutes to marinate. Tougher ingredients, such as, sliced carrots or potatoes can marinate for a couple of hours.

To further prevent food from sticking to the grill and to aid in cleanup, spray the grid with nonstick cooking spray before heating (never spray into the fire) or wipe the grill rack with oil before you start cooking.

Special equipment is minimal. A special grill top basket is useful to keep small veggie foods from falling into the fire. Metal or wood skewers are useful for making kebabs that are easily rotated on a grill. (Wood skewers should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to threading the vegetables so they won’t burn on the grill.) Heavy-duty foil is the best type to use for lining grills or for wrapping food in packets for grilling.

Some Popular Vegetables For The Grill

Asparagus: Cut off ends. Soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pat dry and brush with olive oil. Place on grill, turning every minute. Remove when tips start to turn brown. You can add some extra flavor to asparagus by mixing a little sesame oil in the olive oil before you brush them.

Bell Peppers: Cut through the middle of the pepper top to bottom. Remove stems, seeds and whitish ribs. Brush lightly with oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Corn on the cob: Gently pull back the husks but don’t remove. Remove the silk and cut off the tip. Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Dry and brush with butter. Fold the husks back down and tie or twist the ends. Place on the grill for about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn oten to avoid burning.

Eggplant: Cut lengthwise for smaller eggplants or in disks for larger eggplants. Soak in water for 30 minutes. Pat dry, brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes on each side.

Garlic: Take whole bulbs and cut off the root end. Brush with olive oil and place cut side down over a hot fire. Grill garlic bulbs for about 10 minutes or until the skin is brown. Use to flavor other grilled vegetables or meats.

Mushrooms: Rinse off dirt and pat dry. Brush with oil and grill. 4-5 minutes for small mushrooms, 6-8 minutes. Use a grill basket for small mushrooms.

Onions: Remove skin and cut horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush with oil and grill 3-4 minutes on each side. Use a wide spatula to turn onion slices, so they do not fall apart.

Potatoes: There are many ways to grill potatoes. You can do them whole for a baked potato. Rub with oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally. Or, cut into thick wedges, brush with olive oil and grill until browned.

Tomatoes: Cut in half, top to bottom. Brush with a light coating of oil and grill cut side down 2-3 minutes.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes per side. They can also be cut down the middle into halves and grilled.

The following grilled vegetable recipes will make great sides for your next barbecue.

Grilled Ricotta Basil Tomatoes                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 6 round large tomatoes or 12 small round tomatoes
  • One pound of ricotta cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 12 small, whole basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

Preheat your grill to medium and grease the grill grates with oil.

Combine the ricotta cheese, whole egg, parsley, marjoram, chopped basil and garlic, mixing well.

Rinse the tomatoes and cut into halves. Scoop out the seedy pulp, leaving the outer flesh and skin of the tomatoes intact. If using small tomatoes, do not cut in half, just hollow out the center of each tomato.

Coat the tomatoes lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some of the ricotta filling into each tomato half.

Place the stuffed tomatoes directly on the grill grate, making sure they are placed securely between the grates.You can also place the tomatoes in a grill top basket.

Grill for five to ten minutes over medium direct heat, until the filling has firmed up and you see some bubbling around the tomato edges.

Insert whole basil leaves into the filling of each tomato and serve immediately.

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

Set up your grill in a 2-zone configuration, one side hot, the other side cool.

Peeling isn’t necessary, but you can do it if you prefer. Cut potatoes into halves lengthwise and then into thick fries. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle the oil over the top and toss to coat.

Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over potatoes. Toss to coat.

Lay fries on the grill so they’ll get horizontal grill marks and close the lid. Cook about 3 minutes, or until potatoes have brown grill marks on one side. Turn the potato fires over. Cook and turn until all sides are marked. 

Potatoes are done when easily pierced with a fork. You may need to move the fries to the indirect-heat side, if they’re not done after good grill marks are formed.

Grilled Summer Fresh Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 each yellow, orange and red pepper
  • 18 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette, divided (recipe below)

 Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Cut each pepper lengthwise in half. Remove and discard seeds.

Make the filling: Combine the chopped tomatoes, chopped basil and 2 tablespoons of the Balsamic dressing,

Fill each half with some of the tomato filling and, then, top each pepper half with mozzarella cheese.

Grill 8 to 10 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender.

Place peppers on a platter and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

 Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 3/4 cup

Grilled Artichokes                                                

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 small artichokes, trimmed and halved
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Salt to taste
  • Spicy Lemon Aioli, recipe below

Directions:

Preheat grill and oil the grill grates.

Cut lemon in half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl. Save for later. Cut lemon into quarters.

Boil artichokes in water with 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, lemon quarters and thyme. Cook until artichokes are just tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove from the water and set aside for about 5 minutes, allowing them to dry.

Brush with olive oil and place on the grill cut side down. Grill for about 3 minutes or until they start to brown. Turn and grill for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved lemon juice and salt.

Serve with the Spicy Lemon Aioli, if desired.

Spicy Lemon Aioli

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients and season to taste.

Grilled Zucchini-and-Summer Squash with Citrus Splash

4 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 zucchini, each halved lengthwise (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 yellow squash, each halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

 Directions:

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Peel onions, leaving root intact; cut each onion into 4 wedges. Add onion, zucchini, and yellow squash to bag.

Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill and oil grill grates.

Drain vegetables in a colander over a bowl, reserving marinade. Place vegetables on a the grill and cook for 8 minutes or until tender; turn and baste occasionally with the reserved marinade.

Place the vegetables on a serving platter; sprinkle with the basil. Serve the vegetables with any remaining marinade.

Marinated Mushrooms

The mushrooms are a great side for grilled meats.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of small crimini mushrooms
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Preheat your outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel and trim the tips from the stems.

Juice and zest the lemons and combine with the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Whisk the dressing thoroughly.

Lightly brush the mushrooms with a little of the dressing. Set the rest of the dressing aside.

Grill the mushrooms over medium-high heat for two to three minutes. Turn mushrooms over and grill another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the grilled crimini mushrooms to the reserved dressing. Mix well.

Allow the mushrooms to marinate for about one hour on the countertop. You can make this recipe the day before and refrigerating overnight.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

Parmesan Garlic Corn                                                    

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat grill and grease grill grates with oil.

Remove husks and silks from the corn. Combine grated garlic and butter in a small glass bowl.

Place bowl in the microwave for 10 – 15 seconds on high.

Grill corn until lightly charred and deep, bright yellow (about 15 – 20 minutes). Turning often to keep from burning.

Brush garlic butter over corn and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley.

Crusty Grilled Onions                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 Vidalia onions or other sweet onions, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Directions:

Heat the grill to medium-high and grease the grill grates.

Pulse seasonings in the processor until thoroughly combined and place in a shallow bowl.

Brush onions on all sides with oil and coat in the seasoning mixture.

Place onions on the grill and cook until golden brown and a crust has formed, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until thoroughly cooked and crusty.

 


Spaghetti Squash is rounded and oblong in shape, measuring as much as 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. When ripe, it is typically light yellow in color and weighs around 5 pounds. It is also sometimes called vegetable spaghetti, (the more common term for it in the UK), noodle squash, vegetable marrow, squaghetti and mandarin squash. The “spaghetti” name comes from the fact that when it is cooked, the flesh of the vegetable is long and stringy in appearance, like spaghetti. It rose to popularity in the US and Europe during the 1970’s.

In the early 1990′s a new variety of orange spaghetti squash came on the market. Orangetti is slightly sweeter and higher in beta-carotene than standard spaghetti squash.

The word “squash” is of Native American Indian origin. And the squash plant is generally known to be native to North and Central America since ancient times, along with maize and beans. So it is entirely reasonable for most people to think that spaghetti squash originated in North America. However, it was actually developed in Manchuria, China during the 1890’s. We are not sure when or how squash was first introduced to China. But we do know that by the 1850’s, the Chinese were growing and using some varieties of squash for fodder. Perhaps the “spaghetti” variety was developed in an effort to come up with a variety that was easier to grow.

So, how did this Chinese squash make its way to America? In the 1930’s, the Sakata Seed Company, a Japanese firm, was looking for new types of plants to promote and came upon the Chinese squash. They developed an improved strain and introduced it in seed form around the world. The Burpee Seed Company in the US picked up and marketed Sakata “vegetable spaghetti” seed (as it was then called) in 1936.

While it found some limited acceptance in rural family gardens, vegetable spaghetti was not exactly an instant American hit. In fact it was still pretty much unknown in urban America up until the World War II era. During the war, however, some popular household staple foods were in short supply. In that environment, vegetable spaghetti grew in popularity as a substitute for Italian spaghetti noodles, that could be grown at home in one’s “victory garden.” After the war, however, when food shortages were no longer an issue in the US, vegetable spaghetti once again faded into obscurity. It was scarcely heard from again until around the 1960’s, when it was reborn in California as “spaghetti squash.” Frieda Caplan’s specialty produce company in Los Angeles—the one that made such a success out of the newly dubbed “kiwi fruit”—is popularly credited with making spaghetti squash a marketing success in the US.

Spaghetti squash became popular among the hippie counterculture, where it was touted as a healthy “natural” alternative to “processed” food. It eventually went mainstream and by the 1980’s, spaghetti squash had become fairly well known and common throughout the US. Today the squash continues to have a steady following, particularly among vegetarians. But also among dieters—since it is such a low calorie, low carb food.

One of the reasons for the popularity of squash is its nutritional makeup. One cup of the vegetable has:

* Only 42 calories, making it attractive to those watching their calories (just watch how much butter or sauce you add).

* Only 10 grams of carbohydrates, making it attractive to those on low carb or low glycemic index diets.

* 0 grams fat or cholesterol, making it attractive to those watching their cholesterol.

* Only 28 mg of sodium, making it attractive to those watching their sodium intake.

* Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, potassium, and trace amounts of zinc, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium and copper—things everybody needs.

Purchasing Squash

Spaghetti Squash is available year round in most large supermarkets. When selecting spaghetti squash at the market, look for hard, dense vegetables that feel heavy with no soft spots or bruises. Also look for uniformity of color with no green in it (either pale yellow or orange—depending on the variety). If it is green it isn’t yet ripe. It should be at least 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length with a 5 inch (12.7 centimeter) girth. 

I am sure you have heard that spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, so you’ve lugged one home from the store. Now what do you do with it? Just about any way you can think of to apply heat can be used to cook spaghetti squash. The big question is: to cut or not to cut it before cooking? You can do it either way. Here are the pros and cons of each. (Cooking times will vary with the size of the squash/pieces of squash.)

Cutting Up Spaghetti Squash Before Cooking

Advantages: It cooks faster.

Disadvantages: Like any winter squash, hacking it up takes muscle and a sharp knife or cleaver. It’s also a bit more work to scrape out the seeds and pulp when they are raw.

Method: Cut it in half (lengthwise) or quarters. You don’t want to cut it up too small unless you want short strands. Scrape out the seeds and pulp as you would with any squash or pumpkin.

Bake rind side up about 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Microwave 6 to 8 minutes (let stand for a few minutes afterwards)

Boil 20 minutes or so. Separate strands by running a fork through the flesh from top to bottom.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash Whole

Advantages: It’s easier.

Disadvantages: It takes longer to cook and you need to take care to not burn yor hands when removing the hotbpulp and seeds.

Method: Pierce the squash several times with a sharp knife. (Do this especially if you’re microwaving it, so you don’t end up with the squash exploding.)

Bake about an hour in the oven at 375 degrees F.

Microwave 10 to 12 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes afterward to finish steaming.

Boil for half an hour.

Slow Cooker/Crock Pot: Put it in with a cup of water and let it go on low all day (8 to 10 hours).

When done, cut open “at the equator” (not lengthwise), remove seeds and pulp (use tongs and an oven mitt — it is HOT) and separate strands with a fork.

Did You Know? Any squash seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds. They are low-carb, nutritious and delicious.

Spaghetti Squash Storage Tip

Like pumpkin and other squashes, whole uncooked spaghetti squash is best stored between 50 to 60 degrees and will last up to six months this way. On the other hand, spaghetti squash will keep several weeks at room temperature.

How To Serve Spaghetti Squash

A meat sauce made of ground meat of choice, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic can be mixed with spaghetti squash and topped with Italian cheeses.

Adding shellfish to spaghetti squash is a way to serve the vegetable to people who enjoy seafood dishes. Shrimp scampi is also good over spaghetti squash.

Many people enjoy mixing it with regular cooked spaghetti  to reduce the  amount pasta in a dish or even serving it with a marinara or alfredo sauce.

Cooked spaghetti squash can also be chilled and tossed with a light vinaigrette.

There are several simple ways of serving spaghetti squash without the addition of meat or shellfish and there are a variety of preparations for this squash.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano cheese)

Directions:

Cook squash. To bake, pierce a few holes in the squash with a large knife, skewer or ice pick to allow steam to escape. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then halve lengthwise or crosswise. Scoop out seeds and fibers and discard. Use a fork to scrape out the squash flesh. It will naturally separate into noodle-like spaghetti strands.

Saute the minced garlic in the olive oil in a skillet until it’s softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano to the garlic and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon the garlic-tomato mixture on top of squash strands. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serves 4 to 6.

Spaghetti Squash Salad with Pine Nuts and Tarragon

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3 large (9 pounds) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Arrange the spaghetti squash halves cut sides up on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash cut sides down and pour the water and wine into the pans. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the squash is barely tender. Flip the squash cut sides up and let cool until warm.

In a small bowl, combine the white wine vinegar with the lemon zest and lemon juice, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the 2/3 cup of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

Working over a large bowl, using a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash, separating the strands. Pour the dressing over the squash and toss to coat. Add the tarragon, cheese and pine nuts and toss again.

Roasted Salmon with Spaghetti-Squash Salad

  • One 3 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red chile, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 2 large kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into thin half moons
  • 2 tablespoons shredded mint

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the squash until al dente, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil with the lime and orange juices, garlic, chile and orange and lime zests. Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully transfer the squash halves to a large bowl and let cool. Using a fork and starting at 1 end of each piece of squash, scrape and separate the strands. Pat dry with paper towels.

Spread the salmon slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon for about 3 minutes, or until cooked through.

In a medium bowl toss the cucumbers, mint and dressing with the squash strands. Mound the salad on plates, top with the salmon and serve.

Spaghetti Squash With Garlic, Parsley and Breadcrumbs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and place the squash on top. Bake for one hour, until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from half of the squash and place in a bowl. Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands. You should have about 4 cups of squash. (Use some squash from the other half if necessary). Set aside the other half for another dish.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and bread crumbs. When the bread crumbs are crisp —after about a minute — stir in the squash and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the garlic and oil and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. 

Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Onion

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 zucchini (1 lb), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 8 ounces sliced cremini or white mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Pierce squash (about an inch deep) all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Cook in an 800-watt microwave oven on high power (100 percent) for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.

Carefully halve squash lengthwise (it will give off steam) and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put on a platter.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately-high heat, saute onions and garlic, stirring frequently until golden, about 6 minutes. Then stir in zucchini, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, covered, until softened occasionally stirring, for about 7 minutes. Spoon mixture over squash.

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1/2 teaspoon leaf oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Shredded basil for garnish

Directions::

Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place spaghetti squash, cut side down, in a baking dish; add water to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake spaghetti squash in a 375° F. oven for about 30 minutes or until the spaghetti squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash, separating strands with a fork.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion, red and green pepper and garlic until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and squash. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole; stir in 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° F. for 25 minutes. Sprinkle spaghetti squash with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and cook for 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Top with basil.

 


Italian Easter dessert recipes are a mixture of tradition, symbolism, light textures and rich tastes. Each region in Italy has its own specialty desserts, so you would have to travel the country to understand the entire array of Easter desserts available in Italy.

Italian Easter Cookies

At Easter-time in Italy, cookies made of light and airy meringues are very popular. For an added after dinner touch, try a chocolate-espresso. Almond biscotti, a twice baked cookie, for dipping in after-dinner-drinks are also popular.

Italian Easter Pastries

Pastries abound in Italian desserts–for Easter, too! — including the well known cannoli and the layered chocolate, liquor and cake pastry known as tiramisu. For most Italians though, Italian sponge cake is preferred for a light finish to a large meal, especially when topped with fruit and flavored syrup.

Italian Easter Fruits, Nuts, and Grains

Fresh fruit is a popular dessert any time of year in Italy. But it can also be found in tarts, fried pies or served whole with Italian cheeses.

Rice even makes an appearance in Italian Easter dessert recipes. Black Easter Rice is made by mixing rice with milk, dark chocolate, cocoa, candied fruit, orange zest and spices.

Italian cooking uses almonds and nuts as additions to cake batters, pastry toppings and fillings.

Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pastiera)

No Easter celebration in southern Italy would be complete without a slice of sweet ricotta pie. Each region has its own version.

In Naples, the ricotta pie is called “pastiera” and it is thickened with softened wheat berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups wheat berries
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup candied citrus
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Cover wheat berries with 2 cups water in a bowl; soak, changing water daily, for 3 days. Drain and boil in a pot of fresh water for 15 minutes; drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 1 whole egg and stir with a fork until just combined. Turn out dough onto a work surface.

Knead just until well combined, then form into a disk.

Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

While dough is chilling, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of zest from the lemon, avoiding the white pith.

In a large saucepan, combine milk and zest; bring to boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Spread wheat berries on a plate and cool; discard zest.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate the remaining 4 eggs.

In a large bowl stir together wheat berries, ricotta, remaining cup sugar, candied citrus, egg yolks, orange extract, finely grated zest from the orange, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and cinnamon.

Beat egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks and fold into ricotta mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan; dust with flour.

Divide dough into 2 pieces, one larger than the other (three-quarters and one-quarter).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece into a 15-inch round with a floured rolling pin.

Fit dough into prepared pan, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out remaining dough into a 9-inch round. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into crust. Arrange strips over filling to form a diagonal lattice.

Crimp edges of crust. Bake until filling is set and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of the pie and remove the side of the pan. Chill cake at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Italian Easter CookiesItalian Lemon Ring Cookies

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Sugar Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make circles or braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks.

Icing: Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired, before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.

Pinza Goriziana (Traditional Easter Cake)

A soft and light dessert from Italy’s Friuli region.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 9 egg yolks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Powdered Sugar, optional

Mix together 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and 1/3 cup milk in an electric mixer bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, then let it rise for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, knead it again, adding half of the remaining flour (1 ¾ cups), all of the remaining sugar, half (2 ½ oz.) of the butter (melted and allowed to cool), 1 egg, 6 egg yolks, half of the remaining milk (1/3 cup) and a pinch of salt. Mix together until you have a soft dough and let rise for another hour.

After the dough has risen a second time, add the remaining flour, 3 egg yolks, the remaining milk, the other half of the melted butter, the lemon oil and rum. Mix together until smooth and uniform, then shape the dough into a ball. Let rise for another hour.

Place the dough in a round baking dish lined with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it onto the dough. Bake the “Pinza Goriziana” in a 320° F oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, when cool.

Easter Knot Cookies

These are  traditional cookies from Italy flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. They are tied in loose knots and baked, then frosted.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup milk and oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the sugar mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 5 inches long.

Tie into loose knots and place cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 5 minutes on the bottom shelf and 5 minutes on the top shelf of the preheated oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.

When cookies are cool, dip them into the icing and sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

To make the icing: cream together the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Beat in 3 tablespoons milk, one tablespoon at a time.

 

Italian Easter Egg Basket (Pupa Cu L’ova)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 eggs, uncooked and dyed in Easter egg colors

Directions

Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each. Add the anise extract, mix thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to bowl. Mix until a dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough, roll into a ball, flatten it to make a 4-inch round and place on a baking sheet. Place a colored egg in the center.

Pinch another piece of dough, roll into a “rope” 1/4 inch in diameter and cut into 2 pieces, each long enough to crisscross over the egg. (See photo above.)

Seal the edges to the round by pressing firmly. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

 Barbara Lucchi's Ciambella Romagnola

Italian Ring Cake

A traditional cake that is easy to make. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, dipped into warm milk or caffè latte. It’s also served at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or with the slices drizzled with zabaione or  fruit sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted over a double boiler or in the microwave and allowed to cool
  • 4 1/8 cups unbleached flour
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk, plus a little more at the end
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, optional

Directions:

Put the sugar into the electric mixer bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with the mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.

Add about a third of the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for a minute more.

Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds. Next, add the lemon zest.

Beat in half of the milk and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.

Add the baking powder and beat until creamy.

Butter a 10 inch tube pan and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.

Pour the batter into the pan. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter.

Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake the cake on a low rack for 40-45 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.


Winter is a great time to experiment with fruits like the kumquat, which can be added to a salad for a low-calorie, high-vitamin option. You can also try star fruits, which are great for heart health, or the flu-fighting quince. Certain varieties of tropical and citrus fruits, which are grown in places like Florida and Hawaii, have the highest levels of heart-healthy antioxidants of any fruit, so you can still make your heart happy without having to purchase fruit flown in from another hemisphere.

Some Not So Common Winter Fruits

Kumquats

The tiny little olive-sized citrus fruits are full of disease-fighting antioxidants, which are contained in their sweet, edible skin. A serving of five (which is about five calories) also contains one-fifth of your daily fiber needs, along with a healthy dose of potassium and vitamins A and C. The most commonly found variety is the Nagami, and California and Florida are home to most of our domestic crop, which peaks between November and March.

Slice kumquats and add to a salad or use in place of oranges in your recipes. Diced kumquats and avocado make a great salsa when mixed with red onion, cilantro and lime. At the market, look for firm fruits that are bright orange in color (green ones aren’t ripe), and store kumquats them at room temperature for two or three days or for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Carambolas or Star Fruit

Exotic fruits are generally higher in vitamin C, higher in potassium and lower in calories than domestic fruits. Carambolas, or star fruits, are no exception. High in inflammation-lowering polyphenols, they’re also great for your heart and full of fiber. Most of the star fruits you’ll see in stores now come from Hawaii or South Florida. Look for firm, shiny, evenly-colored yellow fruit. Handle with care, as star fruit bruise easily. Ripen them at room temperature for a few days until light brown ribs form and a full, fruity aroma develops, then refrigerate them for up to a week. The carambola’s taste has been described as a cross between citrus, apple and pear, and you can eat them as is, or slice them into fruit salads.

Rambutans

In Hawaii, the decline of the sugarcane plantations has led to a growing specialty fruit industry and antioxidant powerhouses rambutans, lychees and longans are now grown there. The rambutan, also known as hairy lychee or hula berry, is a tropical treat and their season runs from September through March. They might even be better for you than green tea. Rambutans have higher levels of the antioxidants: flavonoids and anthocyanins, both of which are believed to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and cardiovascular problems. They also contain iron and calcium. Look for rambutans in Asian and other specialty markets and handle them with care — they’re fragile and keep only a day or two at room temperature. If you’re not eating them right away, place them in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate. To enjoy them, simply peel and pop into your mouth or add them to a fruit platter.

Longans

A relative of the lychee, longans are native to China but now are grown in Hawaii and in Puerto Rico. Stock up on them this time of year because they are traditionally used to settle upset stomachs and reduce fevers, making them great natural flu remedies. Also known as “dragon’s eye,” it’s easy to see why—the fruits have a black seed centered in translucent white flesh—and they taste similar to a chewy grape. You can find Hawaii-grown longans in Asian markets nearly year-round. Store them in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for a week or two. You can simply rinse, peel and seed longans to eat as snacks or add them to fruit salads and desserts.

Persimmons

A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that a persimmon a day could be better for your heart than an apple, because they contain significantly higher concentrations of dietary fiber, minerals and phenolic compounds that prevent atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. An added bonus: the antioxidants in persimmons can help control diabetes and the cell damage it causes. Their flavor and texture has been compared to plums or apricots, with spicy undertones, and you can use just the pulp or the entire fruit in puddings, pureed in ice creams, breads or cakes. Try them in savory dishes, too, like salsas, stir-fries and salads.

Asian Pears

Though their softer Bosc relatives are long gone by now, hard-when-ripe Asian pears are perfect for cold storage and easy to find in farmer’s markets and grocery stores this time of year. Asian pears have significantly more fiber than other pear varieties and are good for your heart. Select the most fragrant, unblemished Asian pears when shopping; a sweet scent is the best indication that the pears are ripe. They can be kept for up to a week at room temperature or up to three months in the refrigerator. Their sweet pear flavor and crunchy texture make Asian pears perfect additions to salads and are delicious grated into slaws. They work well in place of apples in recipes from holiday stuffings to baked dishes. Try sauteing them to serve alongside meat entrees.

Some Common Winter Fruits

Oranges

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season goes on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Oranges are filled with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value), which may help smooth your skin. If you chose a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the orange’s flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Bananas

Though there are hundreds of varieties of bananas, the Cavendish is the variety most familiar to North Americans. Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still green. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

Though bananas are relatively economical–ripening bananas cost about 90¢ per pound–overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet and ripe. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before placing them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread and smoothies.

Pineapple

Avoid green pineapples–they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present–starting at the base–and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Pineapple is full of vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation. Though convenient, prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section may cost more per pound than a whole pineapple. Many markets though sell pineapple peeled for the same price as an unpeeled one.

Pomegranates

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful free radicals. (Free radicals are compounds in the body that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer). Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying grapefruit can be tricky–the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness. Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories.

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

Recipes Using Winter Fruits

 

Appetizer

Pears with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears, each cored and sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces blue cheese cut into slices
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cup arugula

Directions:

Roll up an arugula leaf, a piece of pear (lay on its side)and a piece of cheese in a slice of prosciutto.  Repeat with the remaining pear slices.

First Course

 

Sicilian Fennel Salad with Oranges, Arugula, and Black Olives

Serves 4

In Sicily , this salad is traditionally prepared with chicory , a slightly peppery , tender-leafed green. Substitute with arugula if you can’t find chicory .

  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bunches trimmed arugula or chicory
  • 2 cored, halved, trimmed medium fennel bulbs
  • 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives

Directions:

Trim off and discard peel and all of the white pith from oranges, then slice crosswise into thin rounds and set aside. Mix together the extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in a large salad bowl, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tear arugula into large pieces and arrange in the salad bowl. Slice fennel bulbs into long strips. Toss salad just before serving, adjust seasonings, then arrange orange slices and black olives on top.

Second Course

 

Braised Chicken with Kumquats and Green Olives

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. chicken legs or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into ¼ inch half-rounds
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup kumquats
  • 1 cup green olives
  • Salt and pepper
  • Couscous, cooked according to package directions

Directions:

Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large pan with a cover over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally , for about 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add onion and garlic to pan and saute over medium heat until transparent. Add wine and bay leaves and reduce over high heat until syrupy . Return the chicken to the saucepan, skin side up and add enough chicken broth to cover 2/3 of the chicken. Tuck the kumquats and olives into the broth, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over couscous and serve.

Side Dish

Baked Applesauce

Makes 12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. (about 10 medium) assorted apples, such as McCoun, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold or HoneyCrisp, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/3 cup fresh apple cider
  • 4 lemon slices, paper-thin, or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (3-inch) piece stick cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, agave syrup, or honey, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place apples, cider and lemon slices or juice in large Dutch oven or heavy casserole with a cover. Toss apples to coat them with lemon. If using, add cinnamon stick or sprinkle on cinnamon and sweetener and toss again.

Bake apples, covered, for 60 to 75 minutes, until very soft and moist. Stir to combine soft apples and liquid into applesauce. If mixture is too thin, bake the applesauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer. Cool to room temperature before serving. Applesauce thickens as it cools. The applesauce keeps, covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Dessert

 

Orange-Scented Olive Oil Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 1/3 cups sugar or 1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons sugar alternative, such as Truvia or Domino Light
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 1 ⁄2 cups flour, plus more for dusting baking pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 ⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Sugar crystals for garnish, optional

Directions:

Trim about 1/2″ from the tops and bottoms of the oranges; quarter oranges lengthwise.

Put oranges, 1 cup of the sugar or 1/2 cup of the sugar alternative and 4 cups water into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and orange rind can be easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with cooking spray and dust with flour; line pan bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Set pan aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Remove orange quarters from syrup, remove and discard any seeds, and put oranges into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until oranges form a chunky purée, 10–12 pulses. Add remaining sugar, reserved flour mixture, vanilla, and eggs and process until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add olive oil; process until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40–45 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk orange juice and confectioners’ sugar to make a thin glaze. Remove cake from the pan and transfer to a cake stand or plate. Using a pastry brush, brush orange glaze over top and sides of cake; let cool completely . Garnish cake with sugar crystals, if desired..


For centuries, people have rendered fat, squeezed olives, collected cream and caught fish to obtain the fatty acids their brains, nervous systems, immune systems and body cells need to function well. Luckily for us, things are a bit easier these days and the oils we need for good health are readily available. Not all oils are created equal, though. No one oil can be used for all things; instead, each has its distinct place in the kitchen.

Keep these basic categories in mind when you’re cooking:

For baking: Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best.

For frying: Because they stand up well to the heat, peanut, palm and sesame oil are ideal for frying.

For sautéing: canola, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.

For dipping, dressings and marinades: When it comes to making dressings and marinades, or finding oil that’s perfect to serve alongside crusty bread for dipping, you’re looking for flavor. For this purpose look to avocado, flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.

TYPES OF OILS

Avocado Oil: Pressed from avocados, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated, making it a heart-healthy choice. Use it in salad dressings or to saute fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.

Canola Oil: A cousin to cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s a variety of rapeseed that’s part of the mustard family. It’s beneficial due to its fatty acid profile and omega-3 and low saturated fat contents. It is perfect for light cooking, sauces and desserts, such as, homemade mayonnaise or tender cakes.

Coconut Oil: Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is ideal for light and subtly flavored dishes. This oil is particularly good to use for making popcorn and hash browns.

Corn Oil: Most corn oil is extracted only from the germ of the corn kernel and is golden yellow in color; unrefined oil will have a darker color and richer corn taste. Use in salad dressings and dips with stronger flavors like peppers or garlic.

Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of the winemaking industry. Use it on salads and raw veggies or in dips, sauces and salsas. Mix grapeseed oil with garlic and basil, then drizzle it on toasted bread.

Olive Oil: A mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and one of the oldest known culinary oils, olive oil is a heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Extra virgin olive oil results from the first cold-pressing of olives. Regular olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over hummus or grilled vegetables.

Peanut Oil: Peanut oil’s high monounsaturated content makes it heart-healthy. Peanut oil is excellent for frying, light sauteing and stir-fries.

Sesame Oil: The seed of the sesame plant provides sesame oil, which has a high antioxidant content. Unrefined sesame oil is a key flavor component in sauces or dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat frying and toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips. 

HEALTH FACTS

Fats and oils also play crucial roles in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing raw materials for making hormones and contributing to a healthy immune system. But remember everything in moderation. Since all fats are calorie-rich, remember not to overindulge.

Fats are one of the three major nutrients of the human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and protein.Triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body. Think of fats as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape. Every triglyceride “brick” consists of a mixture of three fatty acids — saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

A particular fat is defined by the combination of fatty acids that make up its “bricks.” The triglyceride bricks in olive oil, for example, have many more monounsaturated fatty acids than it does saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, making olive oil a monounsaturated fat.

MONOUNSATURATED

Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are more chemically stable than polyunsaturated fat but not as stable as saturated fat. This means they keep better than polyunsaturated oils but not as well as saturated oils.

They are most appropriate for light cooking or used raw in salad dressings and the like. Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut and sesame. When stored at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are typically liquid, but they are likely to solidify when stored in the refrigerator.

POLYUNSATURATED

Due to their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to rancidity than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish oils. These are liquid at room temperature. 

Many experts don’t recommend polyunsaturated oils for cooking because they are so easily damaged by heat. They are best used in their raw form, and used quickly at that. Never keep polyunsaturated oils beyond their expiration date. If cooking is necessary, use low temperatures. Polyunsaturated oils should be stored refrigerated in dark bottles.

SATURATED

Saturated fats are the most chemically stable, giving them a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. Typically solid at room temperature, saturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and tropical oils.

In general, animal fats such as butter, cream and tallow are predominantly saturated, however, two of the most highly saturated fats — coconut oil and palm kernel oil — come from vegetable sources. Furthermore, animal fats like lard, chicken fat and duck fat are predominantly monounsaturated, while fish oils are predominantly polyunsaturated. And, it is interesting to note that the fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the animal.

 Animal fats have their place in the kitchen. Many believe that lard makes the best pie crust, and several traditional Hispanic dishes rely on lard for their distinctive flavor. Butter is the most common animal fat in the kitchen and good quality butters are available, as are cream and other dairy-based products used in cooking.

TRANS FATS

Trans fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th. century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat and pressure. This saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids. This is done to make vegetable oils, which are normally liquid at room temperature, solid and more chemically stable, thereby extending the shelf life of products in which they are used. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.

Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.

The Trans Fat Labeling Law

Effective since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food vendors who are not affected by the labeling law.

Some packaged products may still contain significant amounts of trans fats, such as: margarine, shortening, baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers and snack foods such as potato chips.

SOME FACTS ABOUT OIL

Heat and light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. For the record, you’ll know your oil is rancid if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should toss it and buy fresh oil.

Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy or solidified when refrigerated. It doesn’t affect their quality at all. A few minutes at room temperature and the oil will be back to normal.

Heating oils beyond their smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals — is never a good idea. Always discard oil that’s reached its smoke point, along with any food with which it had contact. Unsure of an oil’s smoke point? Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the correct temperature.

Some oils are refined to make them more stable and suitable for high temperature cooking. Keep in mind, though, that the process removes most of the flavor, color and nutrients from the oils, too. That’s why refined oils are acceptable for baking and stir-frying, where their high smoke point and neutral flavors are a plus. On the other hand, unrefined oil is simply pressed and bottled so it retains its original nutrient content, flavor and color. Unrefined oils add full-bodied flavor to dishes and are best used for low- or no-heat applications.

Recipes To Try 

COCONUT OIL

 

Whole-Wheat Ginger Scones

Coconut oil is the perfect non-dairy fat to use for scones and other baked goods. These scones have the same rich, flaky texture that scones made with butter have, along with a subtle and pleasing coconut flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or mild honey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger

Directions:

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir in the sugar. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle.

 Add the coconut oil to the food processor or mixer and pulse several times or beat on low speed until it is distributed throughout the flour and the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal; if you’re using a mixer, it will still have some lumps.

Beat together the buttermilk and agave or honey in a small bowl and add to the food processor or mixer. Add the ginger and process or mix at medium speed just until the dough comes together.

Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares, then cut the squares in half on the diagonal to form 12 triangular pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 12 scones.

GRAPESEED AND WALNUT OILS

 

Radicchio Salad With Beets and Walnuts

Walnut vinaigrette is especially good with bitter greens like radicchio.

For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • 1 very small garlic clove, puréed
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 4 small golden or red beets, roasted, peeled and cut in wedges
  • 1 large or 2 small radicchio,
  • 2 tablespoons broken walnuts
  • 4 to 6 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons minced chives

Directions:

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, Dijon mustard and garlic until combined well. Whisk in the grapeseed oil and the walnut oil. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

AVOCADO OIL

Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Citrus and Avocado Oil

Delicately flavored avocado oil can lose its personality when heated; pour a touch of the oil over food just before serving.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 – 6-ounce skinless fillets white or Mexican sea bass or grouper (about 1″ thick)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons avocado oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a small sharp knife, cut off all peel and white pith from fruit. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juices from membranes; discard membranes. Drain fruit, reserving 1/2 cup juices. Return segments and juices to bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat fish dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add grapeseed oil. Add fish; cook without moving, occasionally pressing fish gently with a spatula to keep all of surface in contact with pan, until fish is golden brown and releases easily from pan, 4–5 minutes.

Turn fish, transfer to oven, and roast until just opaque in the center, 3–5 minutes.

Place fruit and avocado on plates. Top with fillets. Spoon 2 tablespoons citrus juices over fruit on each plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon avocado oil over fish and fruit.

PEANUT OIL

 

Sear-Roasted Pork Chops with Balsamic-Fig Sauce

Be sure that the oven has reached 425°F before starting to sear—most ovens take 20 to 30 minutes to heat up thoroughly.

Serves four. Sauce yields about 1/2 cup, enough for four servings.

For the Pork:

  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoons. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork:

Heat the oven to 425°F. Turn the exhaust fan on to high. Pat the pork chops with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each total). Heat a 12-inch heavy-based ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirl it around the pan, and then evenly space the pork chops in the pan. Cook without touching for 2 minutes.

Using tongs, lift a corner of the pork, check that it’s both well browned and easily releases from the pan, and flip it over. (If it sticks or isn’t well browned, cook for 1 to 2 more min. before flipping.) Cook the second side for 1 minute and then transfer the skillet to the oven.

Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F and is just firm to the touch, about 5 to 8 minutes. Using potholders, carefully remove the pan from the oven, transfer the pork to a large plate, tent with foil, and let it rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet. Return the pan to high heat and add the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Cook, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until the broth is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 min. Stir in the figs, honey, and thyme and cook until the sauce is reduced by another 1 to 2 tablespoons, about 1 min. Add the butter and swirl it into the sauce until it’s completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops.

OLIVE OIL

Olive Oil-Braised Vegetables

Serves 4-6

Ingredients0

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 lemon, ends trimmed, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
  • 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold or new potatoes
  • 1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs marjoram, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put the olive oil, anchovy paste, chili flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary , and lemon slices in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Place over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally , until fragrant and the garlic and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pot and stir once or twice to coat in oil. Cook, covered, without stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 30 minutes.

Stir vegetables gently, replace the lid, and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender, about 30 minutes more.

Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in parsley and marjoram. Drain vegetables and place in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper.


Winter salads can’t rely on ripe tomatoes and delicate butter lettuce to make them shine. Instead hearty greens, salty cheese, dried fruit, and crunchy nuts are the flavorful ingredients that make winter salads delicious. Use the ideas below as a springboard to create your own winter salads.

Avoid the wilted lettuce mixes flown in from faraway places. Instead, select hearty greens, crunchy chicories, or crisp cabbage that flourish in winter. Many greens you may be used to cooking, chard and  kale in particular, are perfectly good for salads.

Hearty greens and chicories can handle a lot of flavor, Feta, goat, and blue cheeses are all great matches for winter salads—just crumble them on top. Olives—either whole pitted, or pitted and chopped—are also good additions.

 

Hearty greens and chicories have a lot of body and texture of their own, so feel free to add crunch to the dish. Nuts, croutons, slices of radish, pieces of fennel, slim coins of carrots—anything that will work your teeth and jaws just a little bit.

 

The slightly bitter taste of winter greens and chicories can be altered with a little bit of sweetness. Roasted beets are good to use, as are winter fruits like pears, oranges, kumquats or dates. Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or blueberries add texture and sweetness.

Like a Caprese Salad or Marinated Green Beans, summer salads don’t always involve leaves. Good winter salads don’t have to involve greens. Roasted beet salads, celery and red onion salads or lemony lentil salads are all examples of leafless salads.

Lunch or First Courses

Winter Citrus Salad with Honey Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 navel orange
  • Salt
  • 1/2 small red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Lime or lemon juice to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried.
  • Arugula

Directions:

Peel citrus, removing as much pith as possible, and cut into segments. Remove any pits, layer fruit on a serving dish, sprinkle with salt and garnish with chopped onion.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasoning as needed and drizzle over salad.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

Apple-And-Zucchini Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (if not available substitute another vegetable)
  • Lettuce (whatever is in season)

Directions:

Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously.

Combine apple and next 3 ingredients; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Roasted Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds beets (gold beets are attractive if you can find them), stems removed and washed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and thinly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the beets with salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil, leaving a little hole in the top facing up, and set in a roasting pan. Cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes or until very tender.

Meanwhile, mix together the rest of the olive oil, red onion, Serrano, ginger, sugar, and red wine vinegar.

When beets are done and cool enough to handle, peel and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley.

Dinner Salads or Second Courses

Potato Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small uncooked red potatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 pound green beans
  • 2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz seedless grapes, halved (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add salt and potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from water with a slotted spoon or strainer; set potatoes aside but maintain water’s boil.  Add green beans to boiling water and blanch until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, coat broiler rack with cooking spray; preheat broiler. Broil chicken five inches from heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 10 minutes; set aside. ( You can also use a stove top grill pan.

When chicken has cooled, slice into bite-size chunks; place in a large serving bowl. Slice potatoes into 1-inch chunks and cut green beans into 1-inch pieces; gently toss with chicken. Add celery and grapes.

To make dressing:

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice, broth and mustard; then, whisk in tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Drizzle in oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while, until dressing turns creamy, about 1 minute. Toss salad with dressing, taking care not to break up potatoes. If desired, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

 

Tuscan-Styled Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and oil reserved
  • 15-oz can small white beans, (cannellini or great northern, rinsed)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons reserved tuna oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:

Combine tuna, beans, tomatoes, scallions, tuna oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir gently. Refrigerate before serving. Garnish with parsley.

What’s in the Refrigerator Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Rotini or Penne pasta
  • 4 cups mix-ins (see below)
  • Dressing: Herbed Vinaigrette (recipe follows) or
  • Homemade Buttermilk Dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Add desired mix-ins and half of dressing. Toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours; toss again before serving. Add additional dressing, as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Suggested Mix-Ins:

Crisp-tender cooked vegetables: green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, edamame, zucchini, yellow squash

Raw vegetables: shredded or sliced carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, avocado, spinach, radish, onions

Other: olives, cheese – shredded, crumbled or cubed, herbs

Meats: Salami strips, cooked chicken, cooked tuna and shrimp, crab, cooked salmon, grilled ham, leftover beef steak slices, prosciutto

Dressings:

Herbed Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley

Directions:

In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil. Whisk in mustard and garlic. Add herbs.

Makes 3/4 cup.

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt garlic and herb seasoning blend (Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Coarse-ground black pepper

Directions:

In small bowl, stir together buttermilk and mayonnaise. Add remaining ingredients; stir to mix well. Add additional buttermilk if needed for consistency. Let stand about 10 minutes to thicken or chill until needed.

Makes 1 cup.

 

 

 



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