Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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dressing

Salads are

  • a great source of fiber
  • an excellent way of getting multiple fruit and veggie servings
  • a filling dish that usually has a low-calorie count

But, having a salad alone doesn’t ensure good nutrition. Too much cheese, fried meats and bread can ruin a healthy salad. Another culprit is the salad dressing itself. Store-bought dressings have lots of trans fats, sugars, artificial ingredients and a surprising number of calories.

So, what’s a health-conscious, calorie-conscious person to do?

Start from scratch! Homemade salad dressings give you the flexibility to use fresh, natural ingredients and make healthy substitutions where they are needed.

Salad dressing is one of those foods where we tend not to notice how much we’re putting on and, if you’re watching calories, they can add up fast. One tip for keeping serving sizes reasonable: It really only takes a small amount of an oil-based dressing to coat the leaves of a salad. The trick is to put a small amount in a bowl and toss the salad very well. This not only uses less oil, it tastes better when the salad has an even coating of dressing instead of being poured on the top.

It’s quite surprising how much sugar and other carbohydrate can be added to salad dressings, so keep sweeteners to a minimum.

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The best oils for salads dressings have high amounts of monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is probably the best choice, at 73% monounsaturated fat and it also has other good-for-you nutrients. Canola oil has 59% monounsaturated fat.

In the summer when fruits, vegetables and fragrant herbs are in abundance, homemade dressings are refreshing drizzled over just about anything. When you think healthy, you don’t think creamy, cheesy salad dressings. But, there are definitely ways to balance taste and nutrition without giving up either. Making healthy substitutions to your salad dressing is not as challenging as it may seem. In fact, it’s rather easy.

Herbs (dill, chives, rosemary), spices, garlic and shallots help add flavor to any salad dressing. Red or white wine vinegar, lemon or orange juice (or any citrus) and chicken or vegetable stock are low-fat and can replace some of the oil when making a vinaigrette. Mustards like Dijon can also replace a portion of oil as well as add thickness to the dressing. Classic vinaigrettes generally contain a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Using some of the ingredients mentioned above, you can bring those calorie numbers down, yielding a healthier and more flavorful dressing.

Tofu might not seem like an obvious substitution choice, but pureed in the blender it’s a perfect base for a creamy dressing. Tofu is also a great source of protein and calcium. Low-fat sour cream and low-fat plain yogurt also make good substitutions in creamy dressings, like Thousand Island.

The key is to reduce the high calorie and fat ingredients and bump up the ingredients that add flavor and texture.

dressing 7

Balsamic Herb Vinaigrette

Balsamic vinegar, a reduction that comes from grapes, is a low-calorie liquid; a tablespoon only has about 14 calories. Additionally, it’s low in sodium and fat, making it an excellent base for a healthy salad dressing.

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Whisk everything together and set aside until you are ready to make a salad.

dressings 1

Creamy Herb Dressing

I like this drizzled over seafood salads.

Makes ½ cup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated egg substitute or 1 large pasteurized egg yolk
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh dill leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fennel fronds
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Directions

Pulse egg, garlic and vinegar in a food processor until smooth. With motor running, gradually drizzle in oil and process until emulsified. Add dill and fennel and process. Add a tablespoon of water, if needed, to make the dressing the consistency of heavy cream; season with salt and pepper.

dressing 2

dressing 3

Orange-Poppy Seed Dressing

Delicious over a fruit salad.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Directions

Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender; process until blended. Pour into a serving bowl and stir in the poppy seeds.. Cover and refrigerate.

dressing 4

Blue Cheese Dressing

Excellent over roasted beets.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.

dressing 5

Homemade Coleslaw Dressing

Dressing makes enough for half a medium cabbage and one carrot, shredded.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise 
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced onion 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yellow mustard 
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill.

Mix with your favorite coleslaw ingredients the day you are planning to serve the coleslaw. Chill the coleslaw before serving.

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Healthy Caesar

Yield:1 cup – 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces cubed Parmesan
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 11/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 11/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup silken soft tofu
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Starting on the lowest speed, chop the cheese cubes in the blender until it settles into the bottom of the jar, gradually increasing the speed. Add the garlic down the chute and chop until minced.

Next, add the mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt,pepper and tofu to the blender and blend until smooth. While the blender is running, drizzle olive oil down the middle and blend until it reaches salad dressing consistency.

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Dressing for Salads with Fruit and Nuts

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Whisk together the vinegars, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oils. Taste and adjust seasonings.

dressing 8

Thousand Island Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

In a blender or food processor blend all ingredients and salt, if needed, until smooth, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water, if necessary to thin to a desired consistency.

dressing 9

Yogurt-Feta Dressing

Good over sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine feta, yogurt, 1/4 cup olive oil, mint, lemon zest and juice; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth, adding more oil if you need it to reach a smooth consistency.

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Easter

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

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

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

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

bloody mary

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

Eggs-1

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

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

Easter Brunch Menu

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

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

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

Dough

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

Glaze

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

Directions

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

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

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

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

To make a braid:

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

To bake the bread:

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

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

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

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

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

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

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

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

Ingredients

For the salad:

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

For the dressing:

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

Directions

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

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

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

To make the dressing:

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

For the lentils:

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

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

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Mustard Sauce

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

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

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

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

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

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

Icing

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

Directions

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

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

To ice the cookies:

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

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

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natural_sweetnersLooking for alternatives to refined sugars?

Natural sweeteners like unrefined brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt syrup, rice syrup, honey and agave nectar are common these days and for good reason. Each has a unique flavor and set of uses that’ll satisfy any craving for sweetness in everything from your salad dressings to your roasted pork loin.

Today, the main sources of commercial sugar are sugar cane and sugar beets, from which a variety of sugar products are made:

Granulated white sugar is common, highly-refined all-purpose sugar. Look for organic varieties for a more natural choice.

Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar) is granulated white sugar that’s been crushed to a fine powder that is used for icing and decorations.

Unrefined brown sugar (raw sugar) is slightly purified, crystallized evaporated cane juice. This caramel-flavored sugar comes in a variety of flavors, including demerara, dark muscovado and turbinado.

Unrefined dehydrated cane juice is generally made by extracting and then dehydrating cane juice with minimal loss of the original flavor, color or nutrients.

Turbinado sugar is a sugar cane-based, minimally refined sugar. It is medium brown in color and has large crystals. It’s often mistaken for traditional brown sugar because of its light brown color, but it’s made in a different way. Many people consider it to be healthier than both white and brown sugars, since it is generally less processed and less refined. Recipes that call for turbinado sugar tend to use it as a replacement for traditional brown sugar. It contains more moisture than regular white or brown sugars, which can be beneficial in things like cookies or muffins.

natural

Honey: – the world’s oldest-known unrefined sweetener. Honey’s flavor and color are derived from the flower nectar collected by bees. This accounts for the wide range of honey available around the world. Note that dark honey generally have a stronger flavor than lighter ones. Since bees can forage up to a mile from their hive and are indiscriminate in their nectar choices, so when a particular flower is named on the label of a honey container, it simply means that flower was the predominant one in bloom in the harvest area.

Here are a few of the most popular varieties:

Clover: mild flavored and readily available in colors ranging from white to light amber

Wildflower: generally dark with a range of flavors and aromas depending on the flowers that provided the nectar

Alfalfa: light in color with a delicate flavor

Orange Blossom:  distinctive citrus flavor and aroma and light in color

Blueberry: slightly dark with a robust, full flavor

Tupelo: fragrant, light and mild

Chestnut: dark, tangy and slightly bitter with a high mineral content

Storage tip: Keep honey in an airtight container and, if used infrequently, at temperatures below 50°F. Liquid honey will eventually crystallize but can be returned easily to a liquid state by placing the container in warm water for a few minutes.

Maple syrup is simply the boiled down tree sap of the sugar maple tree. As for maple sugar, it’s twice as sweet as white sugar and has a caramel flavor. Until the arrival of the honeybee (introduced from Italy in 1630) maple sugar was the only form of concentrated sweetener in North America. Both maple syrup and maple sugar are among the least refined sweeteners.

Storage tip: Refrigerate maple syrup to help it retain flavor, prevent slow fermentation and mold formation. When you store it right, maple syrup will keep for a year or more. If your syrup develops sugar crystals, simply warm the syrup to dissolve them.

Molasses: With its strong, fragrant dark caramel flavor, it is about 65% as sweet as sugar and is actually produced during the refining of sugar. (The syrup remains after the available sucrose has been crystallized from sugar cane juice.) Light molasses is from the first boiling of the cane, dark molasses is from the second and blackstrap, the third. Though molasses can be sulfured or unsulfured, unsulfured molasses is preferred because the fumes used in manufacturing sugar aren’t retained as sulfur in the molasses.

Date sugar is not extracted from anything. It’s just dried dates, pulverized into a powder. Date sugar is very sweet. It clumps and doesn’t melt, so it can’t be used in all the ways we use white sugar. Still you can usually substitute it in recipes that call for brown sugar. Some cooks suggest that you use only two-thirds the amount of date sugar in place of brown or white sugar called for in your recipe, otherwise, the end result may taste too sweet.

Barley Malt Syrup: Made from soaked and sprouted barley, which is dried and cooked down to make a thick syrup. Barley malt is a sweetener that’s slowly digested and gentler on blood sugar levels than other sweeteners.

Storage tip: I keep this sweetener in the refrigerator, so it does not develop mold.

Rice Syrup: Made in almost the same way as barley syrup and it is usually a combination of rice and barley. Some of the best Chai teas are sweetened with rice syrup.

Agave: Nectar is a multi-purpose sweetener obtained from the core of the Mexican Agave cactus, the same plant whose sap is a source of tequila. Agave nectar may resemble honey — its color ranges from pale to dark amber — but it’s slightly less viscous and dissolves more easily in liquids. Keep in mind that agave nectar is about 25% sweeter than sugar and that darker agave nectar has a more robust flavor with a hint of molasses.

So which one is the best?

The truth is that no sugar, regardless of where it comes from, will ever be optimal for regular consumption. From the above natural sweeteners, blackstrap molasses and pure maple syrup are the most nutritious. But whatever sweetener you choose, make sure that you get the least processed, pure version of it! In other words, if you are going to consume a sweetener, it is best if it comes from the fruit, herb or vegetable kingdom and be as raw/living as possible (not overheated and not overly processed) for optimum health.

Want to substitute natural sweeteners for refined sugar in recipes, keep this guide handy.

Sweetener

Substitution Ratio

Reduce Liquid?

Confectioners’ sugar

1 3/4 cups for each 1 cup sugar

No

Brown sugar

1 cup firmly packed for each 1 cup sugar

No

Turbinado sugar

1 cup for each 1 cup sugar

No

Maple syrup

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 3 tablespoons

Honey

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 1/4 cup

Barley malt or rice syrup

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 1/4 cup

Molasses

1 1/4 cups for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 5 tablespoons for each cup used

wafflesOld-Fashioned Waffles (Barley Malt Syrup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond milk or 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup (room temperature)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Preheat a waffle iron.

In a large bowl, use a fork or whisk to vigorously mix the milk, vinegar, oil and barley malt syrup.

Add remaining dry ingredients and mix together until the  batter is smooth.

Coat the waffle irons with non-stick cooking spray and cook waffles according to waffle iron instructions.

carrotmuff

Carrot Spice Muffins (Agave Nectar)

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or a mixture of 3/4 cups whole wheat and 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flours)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax-seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine. Add the carrots and raisins and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

ham

Ham with Maple Syrup and Orange Marmalade Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 (7-pound) pre-cooked spiral-sliced ham
  • 1 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a sharp paring knife, make shallow crosshatch cuts all over the outside of the ham. Arrange ham in a large roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine syrup, marmalade, juice, ground cinnamon, pepper and cloves in a small bowl to make a glaze. After the ham has baked for 30 minutes, remove it from oven and increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Arrange oranges and cinnamon sticks around ham in the roasting pan, then brush ham and oranges liberally all over with the glaze, pouring remaining glaze over the ham. Return to the oven and bake, basting about every 10 minutes, until ham is hot throughout and caramelized on the outside, about 45 minute more.

Transfer ham to a platter and set aside to let rest for 15 minutes. Arrange oranges and cinnamon sticks around the ham and serve.

honey-dressing-sl-1886379-x

Broccoli with Honey-Lemon Dressing

Serve this salad dressing over fresh garden greens, steamed green beans, asparagus or broccoli.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli, steamed

Directions

Whisk together chopped fresh parsley and next 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If chilled, let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Whisk before serving. Pour over cooked broccoli before serving.

gingerbread

Gingerbread Squares (Molasses)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat (1% or 2%) milk
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • Cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper, letting paper extend about 1 inch over the short ends of the pan. Spray the paper and flour the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat oil and brown sugar together until light. Beat in molasses. Beat in eggs one at a time. In 3 additions, stir in flour mixture, alternating with additions of milk, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in 2 tablespoons of crystallized ginger.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and level the top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Lift gingerbread out with the edges of the paper and cut into 12 squares.

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lambbasic1_wide-d28234fec2b2afb46e2aad61985c3d451a8870b6-s40-c85One of the best ways to cut the cost of your shopping bill but still enjoy good quality meat is by buying cheaper cuts. It’s easy to end up buying the same things each week, such as chicken breasts or pork chops, but these are the more expensive cuts of meat. Many of the cuts that our grandparents ate regularly are forgotten about, even though they make great tasting, inexpensive meals and can be used in a variety of recipes. Don’t be put off buying cheaper cuts of meat because you are unsure of what to buy or you don’t know how to cook them.

A great way of finding out more about the cheaper cuts of meat that are available in your area is to talk to your local butcher or your local supermarket meat department manager. When shopping for lamb, always check the dates that are stamped on the packaging to know if you are getting fresh meat. If lamb is not contained in a package, look at the color of the meat, as that is a major factor in determining how fresh it is. Lamb should be pink/red in color. Any meat that is dark red is older and will not be as tender. Also, look for other markings on the label that will give you more information about the lamb. USDA Prime will be the highest in tenderness and flavor. USDA Choice is still high quality meat, but slightly less tender. While USDA Prime has somewhat of a higher fat content, all grades of lamb have similar protein, vitamins and nutrients.

Cheaper cuts of meat often come from tougher, muscled areas of the animal and require slow cooking in stews or casseroles to soften them up. By slow cooking these cuts of meat, which can be done either in a slow cooker or in a covered pot in the oven, you can easily make tasty meals. Where dishes call for “braising” or “stewing”, you can often use any of the cheaper cuts of meat. Braising refers to the cooking technique, where the meat is browned first in a pan and then cooked for several hours in liquid on low heat in a covered pot.

Less Expensive Lamb Cuts

Lamb Breast

This is one of the cheapest cuts and can be very versatile – it can be roasted, stuffed or rolled.

Lamb Shanks

Lamb shanks have become popular in recent years, which has pushed the price up a bit. But they are still a good value and are suitable for slow roasting, stewing or braising. Lamb Shanks are excellent on a dinner party menu. They also make for a delicious meal, when slow roasted in individual aluminium foil packs with white wine and herbs.

Whole Lamb Shanks

Whole Lamb Shanks

Shanks are a cut of lamb taken from either the shoulder (fore shank) and arm of a lamb or the upper part of the leg (hind shank). The fore shank includes part of the shoulder, as well as part of the leg, while the hind shank includes only part of the rear leg. Lamb shanks have a paper-thin membranous covering and a thin layer of fat. While a lamb shank is leaner than other parts of a lamb, the meat can be tough. This cut of lamb must be braised or roasted.

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Cross Cut Lamb Shanks

Osso buco is the name for a classic Milanese dish of cross-cut slices of veal shank, which are often labeled osso buco and slowly braised in a vegetable-rich, tomato-based sauce until the meat is so tender, it falls away from the bone with the merest nudge of a fork. The shanks are traditionally served over saffron risotto or polenta.

If you’ve ever seen a whole veal shank, you’ll understand why cutting it crosswise into thick sections makes complete sense. The same is true of lamb shanks, pork shanks and turkey legs. Ask to have them cross cut for a nicer presentation, because it is so much more appealing to serve shanks in slices rather than as joints on a platter. Most likely, you’ll have to place a special order with the butcher in your market, but lamb shanks are much cheaper than veal.

browned-shank

Tips For Slow Cooking Lamb

  • Brown the lamb first, in batches if necessary. This will caramelize the meat and improve its flavor.
  • Although lamb is a little more fatty than other meats, don’t trim all of it away before cooking. The fat contains a lot of the flavor and helps make the meat tender. The excess will rise to the surface of the cooking liquid and can be skimmed away.
  • Remember to only lightly season slow-cooked dishes at the beginning of cooking. As the meat braises the cooking liquid reduces and concentrates the sauce, which can easily become too salty.
  • When simmering lamb, do it over a low heat so that the liquid bubbles only very gently around the meat. This will keep the meat tender.
  • Keep an eye on slow-cooked lamb. Unless you want it so tender it falls apart. Check it after about 45 minutes for tenderness, as lamb cooks much faster than other meats. 

lamb ossobuco

Lamb Osso Bucco

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  1. 2 lamb shanks trimmed of fat and cross-cut into 1 or 1 ½ inch thick pieces
  2. 2 heaping tablespoons flour
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  6. 1 onion, chopped
  7. 2 carrots, chopped
  8. 1 stalk celery, chopped
  9. 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  10. 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
  11. 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  12. 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  13. 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  14. 1 bay leaf
  15. 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Drop the lamb pieces into the bag and shake, thoroughly covering the pieces with the flour mixture.

Pour the olive oil into a Dutch Oven and brown the shank pieces over medium-high heat. Remove the browned lamb and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery to the skillet. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, tomato sauce, wine, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Add the browned lamb and return to a simmer.

Place the pan in the oven, covered, and bake for 1 hour.

Turn the meat. Cover and cook another hour or until the lamb is tender enough to fall off the bone easily.

Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. It is traditional to serve this dish with risotto.

shankpan

Lamb Shanks in Foil Packets

Ingredients

  • 4 (2-1/2-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 (2-1/2- to 3-inch) strips orange zest
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter

Directions

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.

Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put 1 rosemary sprig, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Set aside.

Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the herbs. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the wine drippings evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a teaspoon of the butter.

Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap. Bake for 2-1/2 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.

Transfer the contents of the packets to large pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the liquid from the packets. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

lamb shanks and pasta

Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Shanks and Winter Vegetables

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks, cross-cut into 1-inch-thick slices, as for osso buco
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • Juice and julienned zest of 1 orange
  • Juice and julienned zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 thick parsnip, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 small rutabaga, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 small celery root, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 pound dried pappardelle, fettuccine or other wide, flat pasta
  • 1/4 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Dry the pieces of meat with a paper towel, season them well with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides; set them aside. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan; cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Add in the wine; simmer 5 minutes. Add the stock, orange juice, lemon juice, tomato paste, rosemary, the browned lamb shanks and any juices they have released. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Stir in the orange and lemon zest, parsnips, rutabaga, mushrooms, tomatoes and celery root. Cook, partially covered, until both the lamb and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. Set aside to cool. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add it back to the stewed vegetables. Discard the bones.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, reheat the lamb and vegetable stew; bring to a simmer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta directly from its cooking pot to the pot with the stew. Add the cheese and parsley; toss to combine. Season well with salt and pepper and serve in heated bowls, garnished with lemon wedges.

Jewish lamb shanks

Lamb Shanks – Jewish Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Kosher lamb shanks (about 1 pound each), cross cut and visible fat removed
  • Kosher (coarse) salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium onions, halved root to stem and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Soak the lamb shanks in water to cover in a large bowl, changing the water frequently until it runs clear. (This will take about 15 minutes in all.) Remove the lamb shanks, dry them very well with paper towels and then season them all over with salt.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and brown them on all sides, about 15 minutes altogether. Remove the shanks and set them aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook the onions until they are soft, about 10 minutes.

Mix saffron with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and add to the pan. Stir to mix well, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the remaining chicken stock and return the lamb shanks to the pot.

Place the pot in the oven and roast, covered, turning and basting the shanks frequently, for about 1 hour.

Add the apricots and prunes and continue roasting, covered, until the meat is very soft, about 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the shanks to a platter and keep warm. Remove as much fat as possible from the sauce, using a spoon or a fat separator. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks, garnish with toasted almonds. Serve by itself or over couscous.

slow cooker lamb

Slow Cooker Wine Braised Lamb Shanks

Ingredients :

  • 4 large lamb shanks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Burgundy wine (or beef broth)
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules

Directions

Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Place in a 5-qt slow cooker. Sprinkle with the parsley, garlic, oregano and lemon peel.

In a small saucepan, saute the onion and carrot in oil for 3 – 4 minutes or until tender.

Stir in wine or broth and bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour over the lamb.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove lamb and keep warm. Strain cooking juices and skim fat. In a small saucepan, bring juices to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Serve with the lamb.

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When the cold weather comes around and the holiday season appears, mint can provide some warmth and comfort to your holiday meals. Mint can adapt itself to the coming season and instead of adding it to iced tea, use it to garnish pork roasts, vegetables, sauces and desserts. My supermarket has fresh mint bunches available all year.

Whichever way one eats it, drinks it or prepares it, mint is an herb with many beneficial uses for good health. In fact, the reason most of our ancestors grew this pungent herb was for its many health benefits. Naturalists still employ peppermint to treat gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome and the common cold.

This herb, belongs to a large family with over 30 species, the most common being peppermint and spearmint. Native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia, mints interbreed often, making it difficult for even an expert to distinguish all the varieties. All mints contain the oil menthol, which gives them that characteristic cooling, cleansing feeling.

The Greeks believed mint could clear the voice and cure hiccups. In fact, mint is part of Greek mythology and according to legend – Menthe, originally a nymph and Pluto’s lover, angered Pluto’s wife, Persephone, who in a fit of rage turned Menthe into a lowly plant, to be trod upon. Pluto, unable to undo the spell, was able to soften it by giving Menthe a sweet scent, which would perfume the air when her leaves were stepped on.

Mint is a perennial and its seeds can be sowed in flats or in the ground. Once the tenacious herb takes hold in your garden, it is very easy to propagate it by cuttings and transplanting once the root system is well established. Mint needs humid soil and only moderate sunshine. It will grow in, out and around all garden plants, not unlike a weed, this herb is dedicated to spreading throughout the garden. The trick is to continuously cut them back and restrict their growth, otherwise, this herb will take over your garden. Mint can be grown in large garden pots, which is how I grow it, so I can contain it. I learned not to put in a pot with other herbs because it strangles the other herbs and they quickly die.

According to legend this is a good herb for keeping ants away from doors and combating mice and fleas. Keep mint leaves near food, beds and wardrobes. Use it to freshen the house like an air freshener and it can be simmered in a pot of water with rosemary and lemongrass to create a unique potpourri.

The mint varieties come in a number of useful flavors. There is chocolate mint perfect for desserts, spearmint and peppermint for drinks and garden mint for general cooking. Pineapple mint is delicious in salads. To reduce the effects of tannin and caffeine in your favorite tea, brew fresh mint sprigs in your teapot with your favorite tea. Steep for 2-3 minutes. Longer for a more potent flavor.

Many cooks like to add chopped mint leaves to scrambled eggs and omelets, for a change of pace flavor. Add the mint at the end of cooking the eggs. Too much heat will turn the mint bitter. Fresh mint leaves are good addition in salads. Mint is commonly paired with peas. carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans and corn to pep up the flavor.

Mint Gelato

In Italy, mint grows everywhere and is used widely in cooking. Here are some examples of how mint fits in the Italian cuisine.

  • Fresh mint is used in combination with anchovy, red onion and peperoncino for Roman-style artichokes.
  • Mint is simmered in a veal with porcini mushroom braise.
  • Polenta is served with snails cooked in tomato, onions, wine and mint
  • A mint verde is mixed into fresh cheese and spread on crostini or tossed into hot pasta.
  • Minced mint is added along with parsley and basil to caponata and salads with fennel, olive and blood oranges.
  • Chopped mint is added to charred eggplant salad, pickled eggplant and marinated mushrooms.
  • Mint is sometimes used in the Tuscan tomato and bread salad called panzanella.
  • It is also used in tripe dishes and ragus made from wild rabbit or boar.
  • Mint is used to flavor cold seafood dishes, especially octopus salad, and rice dishes.
  • In some areas mint enhances trout and other mild fish that are simply sautéed and dressed with olive oil, sweet onion, fresh mint and lemon.
  • Mint is added to meatballs in Sicily.
  • Melons are tossed with fresh mint and balsamic vinegar.
  • After dinner, it is tossed with sugar and berries.

Mint-Almond Pesto

This pesto can be used on everything from a mozzarella salad, to a plate of fresh pasta and even as a topping for grilled rack of lamb. I like to serve it over cooked green beans.

Ingredients

  • 2 big bunches of mint
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup toasted almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash the mint very well and pick off all the leaves on the woody stems. Put the mint, garlic, parmesan and almonds into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and add the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to mix.

This pesto can be frozen. If you want to make some ahead of time– just omit the parmesan cheese until you’re ready to eat the pesto.

Risotto with Peas and Mint

Ingredients

Servings 4

  • 3/4 lb arborio rice
  • 10 oz. package frozen peas (do not thaw)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 ½ oz pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, divided
  • 4 sprigs mint
  • 4 tablespoons white wine

Directions

Divide onion in half. Chop one half and add it to a medium saucepan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook until onion is soft. Add the frozen peas, pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep warm.

Chop remaining onion. In another large saucepan heat olive oil and saute the onion; pour in the rice and toast it, then add the diced pancetta. Add the wine and allow to evaporate.

Add the broth with the peas, 1 cup at a time, until all the liquid is all absorbed by the rice. (Takes about 20 minutes.)

When the rice is cooked, remove pan from the heat and add the remaining butter and cheese.

Serve garnished with mint leaves.

Fresh Shrimp with Oranges and Mint

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 sweet navel oranges, divided
  • 8 plum tomatoes, divided
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, divided
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 16 fresh jumbo shrimp

Directions

Prepare 16 orange garnish slices using 1 orange: slice off ¼ inch from the top and bottom of the orange and remove the rind. Segment the orange, using a knife to discard the tough inner membrane on each segment. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Make an x with a knife on the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from water and let cool. Peel the skin from the tomatoes. Remove seeds. Cut 1 tomato into thin strips (julienne) and set aside.

Slice the remaining 3 oranges in half. Remove the orange pulp from each half using a grapefruit knife, carefully removing the orange pulp without any rind or outer membrane attached.

Julienne several mint leaves and set aside.

Chop the remaining tomatoes and place them in a skillet with the orange pulp. Simmer for two minutes with salt, pepper and one mint leaf.

Process the tomato and orange mixture in a blender with 3 tablespoons of olive oil to make the sauce. Store in the refrigerator to chill.

Sauté the shrimp in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until opaque in the middle. Add the julienne tomato, 4 orange segments and julienne mint leaves.

Place the orange sauce on eachof 4 platse. Place equal amounts of the shrimp mixture in the middle and garnish with a mint leaf, three orange segments and drizzle with remaining olive oil over the top.

Tuscan-Style Cauliflower

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. whole grain rotini or other short pasta
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole jarred roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 1/4 pound cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • Black pepper freshly ground to taste
  • Toasted fresh bread crumbs

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain.

Heat oil in a 14 to 18 inch skillet. Add onion and mint. Cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the leaves and core the cauliflower. Break the florets away from the central core and cut into small pieces.

Add cauliflower to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly for about 12 to 15 minutes, until cauliflower is softened and light brown but not mushy. Stir in sliced roasted red pepper and cream. Toss hot pasta into the skillet with the cauliflower.

Add the grated cheese, black pepper and red chili pepper flakes. Toss to coat; top with toasted bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Lamb Chops with Mint Gremolata

Ingredients:

For the lamb

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 rib or loin lamb chops
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 mint sprigs, stems included and cut in pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata

  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • Leaves from 1 bunch of mint, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

For the lamb:

Place lamb chops, olive oil, torn mint, garlic and pepper in a large, sealable plastic bag. Toss to coat lamb chops and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove chops, wipe off excess marinade and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element. Have a broiler pan or baking sheet lined with greased aluminum foil ready. Place chops on pan.

Broil for 5 to 7 minutes on each side (medium-rare to medium) until nicely browned.

Make the gremolata:

Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground (about the consistency of very coarse sand).

Transfer to a medium bowl, then add the mint, lemon zest, garlic, salt, black pepper to taste and the oil; mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve the lamb chops with equal portions of the gremolata.


California’s Mediterranean climate is similar to Italy’s, so the Italian immigrants felt at home and were able to bring their food and culture to this new land. The California soil was ideal for planting crops Italians were used to growing, such as eggplant, artichokes, broccoli and Sicilian lemons. Italians also brought with them a love of wine as well as a history of making it.

Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit “Nostra Storia” on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region (Sierra Nevada Mountains) of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American history despite the fact that the Italians are the 4th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans and two million Californians of Italian descent (based on the 2000 Census).This exhibit is part of the determination of this current generation of Italians, to see that the Italian immigrant story is told and included in the history of the nation.

California’s gold country has been profoundly influenced by Italian culture for the last 160 years. Immigrants from Italy’s northern provinces were drawn here by the lure of gold, but it was the allure of the California foothills where they found the terrain and climate similar to that of Italy, that convinced them to stay. California’s fledgling economy provided unparalleled opportunities for Italian businessmen and unclaimed land was available for agriculturalists. Settlement soon brought women and children and, within a decade, Italians represented a significant portion of the population in the region, numbering among the gold country’s leading farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The Mother Lode also offered women unique advantages and Italian women proved wonderfully resourceful when necessity demanded. The 1870s saw a second wave of immigration, as Italian laborers arrived to work in the large, corporate-owned gold mines. Descendents of many of these Italian pioneers remain in the gold country to this day.

Del Monte

Across the state, the Italians also settled on the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880′s, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy in the Italian neighborhoods across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America, which became the largest bank in the world.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy, promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Largest wine vat in the world, Asti, about 1900. The vat is still there, but today it contains water for fire protection instead of wine. (Cloverdale Historical Society collection)

Oakland, the other city by the bay, was a magnet for Italian immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century. Some relocated from San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; many more came to Oakland predominantly from Italy’s northern regions. As they established new roots and adopted new ways, they congregated largely in north Oakland’s bustling Temescal neighborhood and these Italian Americans nurtured their old country customs and traditions for generations–giving us a rare glimpse of bygone days.

Los Angeles’, “Little Italy”, presents a history of the city’s vibrant Italian enclave during the 100-year period following the arrival of the city’s first Italian pioneers in 1827. While Los Angeles possesses the nation’s fifth-largest Italian population today, little is known about its Italian history which has been examined by only a handful of historians over the past 50 years. Much of LA’s historic Little Italy has been masked by subsequent ethnic settlements, however, the community’s memory lives on. From pioneer agriculturalists and winemakers to philanthropists and entertainment personalities, Italian Americans left a lasting impression on the city’s social, economic and cultural fabric and contributed to Los Angeles’ development as one of the world’s major metropolises.

San Pedro Port

While the downtown cluster (St. Peter’s Italian Church, Casa Italiana and the Italian Hall) may loosely be construed a Little Italy, San Pedro today represents one of the few visible local nuclei of Italians. This clustering on the Los Angeles landscape has arisen for a unique reason. Until recently, San Pedro was geographically and occupationally compact due to its function as Los Angeles’ port and due to what was, formerly, a significant fishing industry. San Pedro Italians came from two Italian island fishing communities: Ischia and Sicily. Although they arrived with the migrations of the early 20th. century (the Sicilians later), the independent nature of this group’s trade and the relative geographic compactness of San Pedro, fostered the preservation of ethnic loyalty.

Attracted by the mild climate and abundance of fertile land, Italians came to the Santa Clara Valley from all regions of Italy. Beginning in the 1880s, Italian men, women and children filled the numerous canneries and packing houses, supplying the rest of the nation with fresh produce. Once the largest ethnic group in the valley, the Italians’ impact on the region has been profound. Here are some of their stories:

Rodolfo Mussi was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1914 to an Italian immigrant father, who worked in the coalmines. Rodolfo’s mother died at a young age forcing the family to return to Italy. The village of Riccione in Northern Italy did not offer much hope to young Rodolfo, who at age sixteen returned with his father’s permission to the United States. His father let him leave Italy on one condition: that he head to California not Pennsylvania. At sixteen with little money, no family or friends or command of the English language, Rodolfo went to work in the mud baths in Calistoga. He later moved to Stockton and went to work on a farm. He noticed a plot of land that was not being farmed and inquired about the property. He had no money to purchase the land or equipment to farm it, but his determination impressed the landowner, Mr. Lucas, who leased the land to Mussi. After thirty years, Mussi secured a twenty-five year lease and his sons still lease and farm the same land today

Joseph Solari II’s great grandfather arrived in Stockton in 1877 and his family was among the first to grow cherries in the area. Four generations of the Solari family farmed in Stockton and their products are sold around the country through the California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1901. The cherries and plums are packed on the Solari Ranch and then sent to the east coast. The Solari family was also involved with the founding of two additional organizations: the San Joaquin Marketing Association (1922) and the San Joaquin Cherry Growers (1935).

In addition to cherries, Stockton was also known for its tomatoes. Two families cornered the market for quality tomatoes and tomato products. The Cortopassi family business began in 1942 with fresh-packed canned tomato products. Today, their products are available only through food service distributors in the United States and Canada. George Lagorio began farming in 1945 on thirty acres. Today the Lagorio family farms over 10,000 acres. The ACE Tomato Company founded in 1968 ships worldwide today. Their Specialty Products include olive oil, walnuts, cherries and wine grapes. George’s daughter, Kathleen Lagorio Janssen and her husband Dean expanded the family business a few years ago with the purchase of olive orchards. Now the company also produces extra virgin olive oil.

Italian immigrants to San Jose, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, came from many Italian regions, but a majority of them arrived from villages in southern Italy and Sicily. There were two primary Italian neighborhoods in San Jose,  as its population grew in the early to mid twentieth century. The Goosetown neighborhood included Auzarias Avenue and North 1st. Street. This neighborhood bordered Willow Glen, where many Italian Americans still reside. The second neighborhood was around North 13th. Street and it included Holy Cross Church and Backesto Park. One Italian immigrant who eventually made his home in San Jose was Mario Marchese, who was born in 1878 in Palermo Sicily. He left home for New York in 1903 with other family members and, when he arrived in NY, he took a job moving furniture. In 1907 he married his boss’s daughter, Domenica Pavia. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they took the train west to California in search of a better opportunity. Mario and Domenica had ten children and lived in the Italian neighborhood known as Goosetown. Mario initially worked as a prune picker and was eventually hired by Navelete’s Nursery to oversee the orchards.

 

Brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo were born in Messina, Sicily and emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and 1911 respectfully. They eventually settled in Boston, went to college and fought for the U.S. in World War I. They started D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts in 1923. Stefano travelled to California in 1925 on a wine grape buying trip. He observed the fertile farmland in San Jose and, soon after, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California was launched and they were growing vegetables in San Jose. The broccoli seeds arrived from Italy and were planted over twenty-eight acres, making them the first to introduce broccoli to the public under their brand, Andy Boy, trademarked in 1927. They remain one of the largest fresh produce growers in the country and the company is still family run.

Women Cannery Workers 

The Bisceglia Brother’s Canning Company employed many Italian immigrant women and was located on South First Street close to the Goosetown neighborhood. They earned less pay than the men but worked less hours. The women worked on the assembly line peeling, cutting, pitting and slicing by hand. By the 1930s and 1940s women were promoted to supervisors, better known to the employees as floor ladies. These women supervised thirty-five to forty-five women on the production line and they typically supervised their own ethnic group.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped to shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us. 

(Sources: We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change A California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities.  www.weareca.org  The California Italian American Project is designed to make available to students and researchers basic information and resources about California’s original Italian communities.)                       

California is where pizza became “boutique” food, starting in the 1980s, as part of a larger attraction to the Mediterranean cuisine. Alice Waters put a wood-burning oven into her café at Chéz Panisse and Wolfgang Puck became famous by feeding Hollywood stars $100 caviar pies. Puck’s pizza man, Ed LaDou, went on to found the California Pizza Kitchen chain. The chain is widely known for its innovative and non traditional pizzas, such as the “Original BBQ Chicken Pizza”, BLT, Thai Chicken and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. The chain has over 230 locations in 32 US states and eleven other countries, including 26 California Pizza Kitchen ASAP kiosks designed to serve passengers at airports and shopping malls. The company licensed its name to Kraft Foods to distribute a line of premium frozen pizzas in 2000 and Nestlé purchased Kraft’s pizza lines in 2010.

Chéz Panisse’s wood-burning oven

Italian Recipes That Make Use of California’s Bounties

Sweet Pepper Martini

Makes 2 Drinks

Giuseppe Luigi Mezzetta, founder of G. L. Mezzetta, immigrated to America from Italy to start a new life. He eventually saved enough money to bring his new wife, Columba, to California where their son, Daniel, was born in 1918. Giuseppe continued to work hard and was soon able to earn a better wage as a janitor for two large import/export firms. In 1935, father and son decided to open a small storefront business and the new company began importing Italian peppers, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean table.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Mezzetta Roasted Bell Pepper Strips, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vodka or gin
  • 4 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, to garnish

Directions:

In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker add and mix all of the ingredients except the vodka. Fill the skaker with ice and add the vodka. Shake vigorously.

Strain the drink, using a fine mesh strainer, and pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sweet cherry peppers.

(Note: to prepare simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cool the syrup before using.)

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

During his 25 years as a chef/restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has been acknowledged by the Culinary Institute of America, IACP, Food & Wine Magazine and many more for his success as both a Chef and restaurant professional. He has developed over 10 restaurants, including his hugely popular Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, California (Napa Valley), his new Spanish restaurant Coqueta on Pier 5 in San Francisco and his first in California, Tra Vigne, of which he was executive chef/partner until 2000. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

I visited Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, two years ago when I was in California, and the food was outstanding. Restaurants don’t come any better than this one.

Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Makes 16 arancini; serves 4

Arancini, or rice-balls filled with a melting cheese, are for leftover-risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you’re better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini always remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the telefono filo effect. If you want to make these a few hours ahead, pour panko crumbs into a baking dish and rest the arancini on the panko before covering the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups leftover risotto or cooked Arborio rice, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups Blanched Basil Pesto, double recipe below
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
  • Peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Directions:

Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the risotto and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.

Cut off about 1/2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then with your hands ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.

Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Blanched-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Powdered vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid-is my secret for keeping pesto a fresh, appetizing green. The herbs go in boiling water and then straight into an ice bath, so I like to use a large sieve or colander to transfer all the herbs in one smooth move.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Set up a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds. Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water that you can from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

In a blender, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add the cheese and whir for a second or two to mix. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Press plastic wrap directly top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s Note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just a minute or two; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise

Chef David Katz, owner of Panevino, and faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America created this recipe to specifically pair with Mirassou wine. Chef Katz has spent nine years in the Napa Valley as a working chef and instructor at CIA Greystone focusing on the business of cooking and on food and wine education.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • 1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole pitted green olives, rinsed
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.  Select a 3 to 4 quart oven-safe baking dish, and set it aside. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring the skillet to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then pour the tomato mixture into the oven-safe baking dish. Arrange the chicken pieces over the tomato mixture, skin-side up, and sprinkle the shaved cheese over the chicken. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center of the largest piece of chicken.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta and a crisp green salad.

Italian Padella

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“Padella” is Italian for skillet, as “paella” is in Spanish.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1/4 pound salt pork
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 pounds squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups cooked peas
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed
  • 24 clams, scrubbed
  • 8 large prawns, shelled, deveined and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons pimientos

Directions:

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, salt and vinegar; mix with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Rub chicken with oregano paste.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; brown. Add sausage, ham, salt pork, onion, green pepper, capers and coriander. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes.

Add rice and tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes. Add medium shrimp, squid, broth and saffron; mix well and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas.

Steam mussels and clams in water until open; add large prawns and pimientos. Transfer rice mixture to large serving platter; top with mussel mixture.


Unlike traditional canned jam, these preserves do not require long days of preparation, exact cooking times (or any cooking at all sometimes), sterilizing jars and hours of your time.

All that’s needed is fresh ripe fruit, clean jars or containers that can go in the freezer, sugar and pectin to help the jam set. Since freezer jams use much less sugar and often are uncooked, they look and taste more like fresh ripe fruit than conventional jam. They’re versatile, too. Enjoy them on toast for breakfast, of course, but they’re also delicious spooned over yogurt or ice cream for dessert or stirred into a sauce for a roasted pork loin or chicken.

There are only a few things to keep in mind before starting in order to get the best-tasting results:

Since the fruit will not be cooked, make sure it is perfectly ripe—the jam is only going to be as good as the fruit used. Also make sure to use the right kind of pectin; otherwise the jam won’t set.

All fruit contains pectin, some more than others, and it is the combination of the fruit’s natural pectin and acid along with added sugar that causes jam to set after it has been cooked to a temperature of 220°F. Because freezer jams aren’t cooked and use less sugar, the fruit’s natural pectin needs to be boosted with commercial pectin, which is available in most supermarkets.

There are two main types of commercial pectin: regular pectin, which needs to be boiled with the sugar and water in order to set (jell) and “no cook” pectin that is designed specifically for uncooked freezer jams. Pectin is available in powder and liquid form.

Types of Pectin

Below are two of the well known brands of pectin. There are other brands depending on where you live. Be sure to use a pectin (the package will tell you) that is made for freezer jams.

SURE-JELL PREMIUM FRUIT PECTIN is a dry pectin product that can be used to make either cooked jams and jellies or quick-and-easy freezer jams and jellies. 

SURE-JELL FOR LESS OR NO SUGAR NEEDED RECIPES is a dry fruit pectin that can be used to make recipes with at least 25% less sugar than other regular pectin recipes. Look for the pink box!

MCP® PREMIUM FRUIT PECTIN is a dry pectin product that can be used to make either cooked jams and jellies or quick-and-easy freezer jams and jellies. It is available on the West Coast.

CERTO® LIQUID FRUIT PECTIN was the first commercially produced pectin product and was introduced in 1912. Liquid pectin can be used to make either cooked jams and jellies or quick-and-easy freezer jams and jellies.

Ball® Brand RealFruit™ Instant Pectin is prepare in less than 30 minutes with no cooking required!

Ball® Brand RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Needed Flex Batch Pectin is great for lower-calorie jam. “It has been reformulated for improved flavor and performance. Be assured of a good set each time, as this formula provides more flexibility for sugar while maintaining a good gel,”according to the company.

While the great thing about these jams is the ability to control the amount of sugar, it’s important to remember that the less sugar you use, the less firm the jam will be. The directions on most boxes of pectin advise using the exact amount of sugar recommended or the jam will not set properly. This is simply a matter of taste; I prefer to have a jam that is a little runnier and a lot lower in sugar. The main thing to remember is to stir the pectin into the sugar thoroughly or it will clump together.

Whether you’re wondering how much pectin you’ll need, or which kinds of fruits will work best, this tool will assist you. Pectin Calculator: http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/reference/pectin.aspx

Hints for Success:

When making freezer jam with pectin, make sure that the ratios of sugar to fruit to pectin is what is recommended by the pectin manufacturer regardless of the pectin brand you use.

Since the jam is not sterilized by boiling, it must be frozen or refrigerated to keep from spoiling.

Cover the jam with clean, tight-fitting lids—never with paraffin. Leave a 1⁄2 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion during freezing and cover.

Using the paddle and your stand-type mixer to crush berries will incorporate air into your jam. The jam will be opaque and lighter in color, but quite attractive.

Once the pectin begins to set up thickening the jam, do not stir. Continuing to stir will break down the pectin and make for a syrupy jam.

Recipes Follow Using Freezer Jam Directions.

Variation 1 – No Cook- This version uses fresh berries and Ball Instant Pectin — there’s no cooking whatsoever.

Double Berry Freezer Jam

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant pectin
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh raspberries

 Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together sugar and pectin, set aside. In a large bowl, mash fruit with a potato masher until crushed. Add sugar mixture to fruit and stir for 3 minutes. Ladle into containers and set aside for 30 minutes to set. Cover and store in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Varination 2 – Quick Cooked- Low or no-sugar needed pectin allows you to use considerably less sugar than traditional cooked jam recipes. This version does require some cooking and works best with sturdier fruit like peaches, pears and plums.

Peach, Plum & Fig Freezer Jam

Peel the peaches but leave the skins on the plums to give this jam a tangy-tart edge.

Makes: 3 cups

 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons no-sugar needed pectin
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped peaches
  • 1 ½ cups chopped plums
  • ½ cup chopped fresh figs
  • Juice of one lemon

 Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together sugar and pectin, set aside. In a medium saucepan combine fruit and lemon juice, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar and pectin mixture and bring to a hard boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat. Ladle jam into containers, cover and set aside to set for 2 hours to set. Transfer to freezer and store for up to one year.

Variation 3 – Using a sugar alternative.

Strawberry Freezer Jam with Truvía ® Natural Sweetener

This jam has 88% fewer calories and 89% less sugar** than the full-sugar version.

38 servings (1 Tbsp per serving)

5 Calories Per Serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed strawberries
  • 2⁄3 cup Truvía® natural sweetener 
  • 1⁄2 packet (25g) pectin for no-sugar-needed recipes
  • 1⁄2 cup water

Directions:

Wash and rinse freezer proof containers with tight-fitting lids.

Wash and hull strawberries. Crush 1 cup of berries at a time using a potato masher, leaving some bits of fruit. (Do not purée)

Measure 2 cups of crushed fruit and place in large bowl.

Blend together Truvía® natural sweetener and pectin until thoroughly mixed in a large saucepan.

Stir in water and bring Truvía® natural sweetener, pectin and water mixture to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Add fruit into hot pectin mixture and stir for 1 minute until thoroughly mixed.

Pour jam into prepared containers, leaving 1⁄2 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion during freezing and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours until set.

Store jam in the freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw each jar in the refrigerator before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

 

Homemade Cherry Freezer Jam

Recipe makes five ½ cup containers of jam.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups washed and pitted cherries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons low sugar pectin

Directions

Place berries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a lid. Simmer over a low heat until berries are easily mashed and syrup develops. Mash fruit to your desired consistency. Use a blender if you want it smooth. Stir in pectin. Pour into storage containers. Cool before placing in the refrigerator or freezer.

This method can be used with most types of fruit, especially berries. Use your homemade freezer jam to top toast, stir into yogurt or add to a smoothie.

Store homemade jam in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for one year.

Peach Freezer Jam

If you want to use glass canning jars, be sure to choose wide-mouth dual-purpose jars made for freezing and canning. These jars have been tempered to withstand temperature extremes.

Six 8-ounce jars

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted and quartered (5-6 peaches)
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened white grape or apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1.75-ounce package “no sugar needed” fruit pectin
  • 1 to 3 cups sugar depending on how sweet you want the jam

Directions:

Chop peaches in a food processor. Measure out 3 cups. (Reserve the rest for another use, such as a smoothie.)

Place white grape (or apple) juice, lemon zest and juice in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin; continue stirring until completely dissolved. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be “stirred down”), stirring frequently. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Immediately stir in the chopped peaches. Stir vigorously for 1 minute. Stir in sugar amount to taste, until dissolved. (I use only one cup, but the jam is a little loose.)

Divide the jam among six 8-ounce jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between the top of the jam and the top of the jar (this space allows the jam to expand as it freezes). Cover with lids and let the jam stand at room temperature until set, about 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year. Defrost frozen jam in the refrigerator.

Variations: This recipe can be adapted to make other fruit jams. Substitute 3 cups chopped or crushed fruit of your choice for the peaches and follow Steps 2 through 4. Cranberry-raspberry juice can be used instead of apple or white grape juice. Omit lemon zest and lemon juice if desired. Here’s the amount of fruit you’ll need to start with to get 3 cups chopped or crushed:

  • Blueberries: about 2 pounds or 2 1/2 pints; remove any stems, crush with a potato masher
  • Cherries, sweet or sour: about 2 1/4 pounds; remove stems and pits, finely chop
  • Raspberries: about 2 pounds or five 6-ounce containers; crush with a potato masher
  • Strawberries: about 3 pounds; hull and crush with a potato masher

Strawberry Freezer Jam With Liquid Pectin

4 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed or finely chopped ripe strawberries (approximately 1 quart whole, washed and stemmed)
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3-ounce pouch liquid fruit pectin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Place the prepared strawberries into a large bowl. Measure the sugar into a separate bowl. Add the sugar to the strawberries and thoroughly mix; set aside for 10 minutes.

Stir the liquid fruit pectin and lemon juice in a small bowl. (Do not heat the pectin.) Stir the pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.

Pour into clean containers. Leave 1/2 inch of space to allow for expansion during freezing. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set (but not longer than 24 hours). For immediate use, store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Freeze remaining containers for up to 1 year.

To use, thaw and store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

  • Note: You want bits of fruit in the jam, so if you’re using a food processor, use the pulse or on-off switch so you don’t end up with a puree. You can also use a potato masher, crushing only 1 cup of berries at a time.
  • Note: Use rigid plastic or glass containers, with lids that seal tightly. Consider 1- or 2-cup sizes, so the contents are consumed within 3 weeks of thawing.

Orange Blueberry Freezer Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, crushed
  • 1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid fruit pectin

Directions

Rinse four clean 1-cup freezer proof containers with lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place sugar in a shallow baking dish; bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 tablespoon peel from the orange.

Peel and chop the orange.

 In a large bowl, combine blueberries, warm sugar, grated peel and chopped orange; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pectin; stir constantly for 3 minutes to evenly distribute pectin.

Immediately fill all containers to within 1/2 in. of tops. Wipe off the top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature until set, but not longer than 24 hours.

Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 12 months. Thaw frozen jam in refrigerator before serving.

Yield: 4 cups.


Basil is undoubtedly the most loved and popular herb in Italy. Although we tend to associate the herb with Italy and other Mediterranean countries, it actually originated in India and was brought to the Mediterranean via the spice routes in ancient times. Tulsi, as the herb is known in Hindi, means “Sacred Basil,” and some of the many varieties of the plant were incorporated into Indian cooking centuries ago. From India, basil traveled not only to Europe and Africa, but spread to other parts of Asia as well, most notably to Thailand. Today, there are at least a dozen varieties grown for culinary use.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum bacilicum) and, its close relative, basilico genovese are the only varieties used in Italian cooking. Its flavor has been described as spicy and peppery, with a hint of clove and mint – but of course this doesn’t come close to capturing its unique essence. Perhaps it’s more helpful to talk about what it pairs with best: olive oil, garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme – and, of course, tomatoes. Basil and tomatoes seem to have been made for each other – as in the famous, insalata caprese – tomato mozzarella salad, as well as, tomato sauces. But, this herb also enhances other vegetables – such as zucchini and eggplant, to name just a few, and is widely used in many pasta dishes.

If you’re growing basil in your garden or on a window sill,  cut the basil leaves, often, from the top of each stem. The leaves grow back quickly and stronger. Basil preserves well in oil and can also be frozen. It is rich in antioxidants and, some claim , it has anticancer and antiviral properties. In Italy, basil is believed to help along the after-lunch nap that millions of Italians still enjoy on hot summer afternoons.

Basil is one herb in particular that really shines when it’s fresh. Just think of a homemade marinara sauce using fresh basil — would it be the same using dried? But beyond those familiar dishes we most associate with basil (tomato sauce, pizza, meatballs, pesto), the herb can actually work wonderfully well in many more dishes, including cocktails and desserts.

Basil is my favorite herb and I grow quite a bit of it every year – at least 4 containers worth, Naturally, I cannot let it go to waste. As a result I have become very creative in using this herb in any number of ways. I also freeze it for use in winter time tomato sauces. Not quite as good as the fresh leaves, but way better than dried.

Emerald Gimlet

1 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 3 big basil leaves
  • Ice Cubes
  • 1/2 ounce Lemon Simple Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces good Vodka

Lemon Simple Syrup:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Mix the basil leaves with ice in a cocktail shaker. Add lemon simple syrup, lime juice and vodka. Shake and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime slice or a basil leaf.

To make lemon simple syrup: 

Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it rest until it cools to room temperature.

Add the lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon or disposable stirrer.

Transfer the lemon simple syrup to a sterilized glass bottle. Store the simple syrup in the refrigerator between uses.

 

Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

Fresh basil and a bit of garlic are whirled into a simple fresh basil vinaigrette for your next salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, whirl the basil, oil, vinegar and garlic until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 cup.

Corn, Tomato & Basil Salad

Use only the freshest, sweetest corn for this recipe – corn that’s so tender and sweet you can eat it raw! This salad is wonderful as a side with any grilled meal or as part of any no-cook summer dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 ears sweet corn
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs basil

Directions:

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix oil, vinegar and salt. Add onion to the dressing. Set dressing aside.

Husk corn and cut off kernels. Core, seed and chop tomatoes. Cut basil into thin strips (chiffonade).

Toss corn and tomatoes with the dressing. Let marinate for a few hours at room temperature.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Chilled Summer Squash and Basil Soup

4 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mixed summer squash
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Lemon quarters for serving

Directions:

Roughly chop the squash, onion and garlic.

In a large saucepan heat oil; add squash and garlic. Cook vegetables gently to soften, partly covered, in the heated oil, stirring now and again.

Pour in 4 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Add 3/4 cups of the basil leaves, then blend together with an immulsion blender until smooth with tiny flecks of basil visible. Season to taste.

Allow to cool, then chill for four hours or overnight. The soup may be a little thick, but the basil ice and lemon juice addition will thin it.

Meanwhile, place the remaining basil leaves and the remaining stock in a shallow container. Push the basil into a single layer and freeze the mixture until set.

Break the ice into cubes and add pieces of the basil ice to each serving of soup. Garnish with lemon quarters.

 

Orange-Basil Grilled Mahi-Mahi

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound filleted Mahi-Mahi, skin on (or fish of choice)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed green beans, for serving

Directions:

Make the sauce by combining and mixing the ingredients together. Set aside.

Oil and lightly salt the fish. Place fish on a greased grill pan, skin side up, then slide the pan under a hot broiler until the skin is blistered.

Turn the fish over with a wide spatula and spoon on some of the sauce.

Cook for a minute or two. Lift fish onto plates (or shallow bowls) and pour over the rest of the sauce.

Serve with green beans.

Tip: Take care not to overcook the fish; – it must stay moist to be at its best.

Basil Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh summer side dish. For the nicest presentation, use long, relatively skinny zucchini.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium 2-inch-wide zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Trim both ends off the zucchini and cut each in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the underside of each zucchini, so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.

Place the zucchini halves in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on High until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, steam in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large skillet or pot.)

Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zucchini. Serve.

 

Grilled Beef Braciole with Tomato-Basil Sauce

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

For the beef:

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

3 (8-inch) pieces butcher’s twine, soaked in cold water

Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Directions:

Heat the grill to high and oil the grill grates.

For the sauce:

Cut the tomatoes in half, brush them with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the tomatoes on all sides until slightly charred and soft. Remove the tomatoes from the grill, chop and place in a serving bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, onion, vinegar, basil and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while the beef cooks.

For the beef:

Place the steak on a flat surface.

Combine the cheese, basil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the steak on the side facing up with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over the steak, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides.

Starting with the long end, tightly roll the meat up like a jelly roll and tightly tie with the butcher’s twine on the ends and in the center. Brush the entire outside of the steak with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place on the grill, seam-side up and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve several slices per person topped with some of the tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

 

Green Apple and Basil Granita

8 Servings

Guests will welcome this refreshing granita after a heavy meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1,000-mg) tablet vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

Equipment: cheesecloth

Directions:

Crush the vitamin C tablet in a large bowl with the back of a spoon. (Vitamin C will keep the basil bright and green.)

Line a sieve with a dampened triple-layer of cheesecloth and set it over the bowl with the vitamin C.

Puree apples with the water in a food processor (do not use a blender) until almost smooth, then pour into the cheesecloth lined sieve. (Do not clean processor bowl.)

Squeeze as much clear juice as possible through the cloth and discard solids remaining in the cheesecloth.

Puree basil with sugar until it is deep green, then add apple juice mixture and puree until combined.

Freeze mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish, scraping and stirring with a fork every 30 minutes, until frozen, at least 3 hours. (It will be too hard to scrape once fully frozen.)

Make ahead: Granita can be made 2 days ahead (cover once frozen). Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes and re-scrape before serving in glass dishes.


Key ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine include olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet — one of the world’s healthiest — are hard to ignore. These people are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.

Numerous research studies suggest that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re trying to eat foods that are better for your heart, start with the principles of Mediterranean cooking.

Stock your pantry and cook at home.

Use whole, unprocessed ingredients and control portion sizes, salt and calories.

Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.

Love Italian food, then a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. Typical standbys are Penne with Vodka Sauce or Pasta with Broccoli Rabe.

Experiment with “real” whole grains that are still in their “whole” form and haven’t been refined. Quinoa, a grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet, cooks up in just 20 minutes, making it a great side dish for weeknight meals. Barley is full of fiber and it’s filling. Pair it with mushrooms for a steamy, satisfying soup. A hot bowl of oatmeal with some fresh summer berries is perfect for breakfast. Even popcorn is a whole grain—just keep it healthy by eating air-popped corn and forgo the butter (try a drizzle of olive oil instead).

Supplement your intake with other whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread and pasta. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” on the food package and in the ingredient list—it should be listed as the first ingredient. But if you still find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites, phase in a whole grain by using whole-grain blends of pastas and rice or mixing whole grains half-and-half with a refined one (like half whole-wheat pasta and half white).

By displacing meat at some meals, you can lower your saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonoids. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once a week. Swap out most of your red meat and replace it with skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. Start by making a few small changes.

Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health. Make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; for example, use a little diced pancetta in a tomato sauce for pasta. If you do have a hankering for a steak, it’s OK to indulge, just do so occasionally and choose a lean cut, like top loin, sirloin, flank steak or strip steak and limit your portion size to 4 ounces.

Use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. There are many dessert recipes now that use olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with balsamic vinegar is delicious for dipping bread and is a healthier alternative to butter. Other plant-based oils, such as canola or walnut oil, are also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Aim for 4 to 8 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1/2 to 2 cups depending on the vegetable. Pick vegetables in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Start your day out with a spinach and Cheddar omelet, have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch and have roasted carrots and a green salad for dinner. Big green salads are a great way to include several vegetable servings at once.

Snack on a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds in place of chips, cookies or other processed snack foods, which are often loaded with sugars, saturated fat and trans fats. Calcium-rich low-fat cheese or low-fat and nonfat plain yogurt with fresh fruit are other healthy and portable snacks.

Generally a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, fresh fruit is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth. If it helps you to eat more, drizzle slices of pear with honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit. Keep fresh fruit visible at home and keep a piece or two at work so you have a healthful snack when your stomach starts growling. Lots of grocery stores stock exotic fruit—pick a new one to try each week and expand your fruit horizons.

Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque buildup. Remember, “1 drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.

Eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table with your family and friends to savor what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. You’re more apt to eat just until you’re satisfied then until you’re busting-at-the-seams full. This is the perfect time of year to make some changes to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and local fresh caught fish is more available. These delicious dinners can all be enjoyed during a leisurely, relaxing dinner on the patio on a warm summer evening.

Fusilli with Green Beans, Pancetta and Parmigiano

Serves three.

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. whole grain fusilli or other twisted pasta
  • 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/2 -inch squares (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled but kept whole
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, put the pancetta in a cold 10-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pancetta starts sizzling, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the pancetta until golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of its fat, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Add the beans to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and season the beans with salt and pepper. With the pan still over medium heat, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the olive oil. Toss to combine. Add another 1/4 cup pasta water and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Sea Bass With Citrus-Olive-Caper Sauce

Buy Eco-friendly Mid-Atlantic Sea Bass

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea bass fillets (about 5 oz each), skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 lemons, peeled and thinly sliced, segments halved
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Directions:

Place broiler pan as close to heating element as possible and heat 5 minutes. On a plate, coat fillets on both sides with 1 tablespoons oil. Carefully remove pan from broiler and place on the stovetop.

Arrange fillets on pan, skin side down; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Broil fish 6 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together lemon slices, juice, oregano, capers, olives, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoons pepper.

Place fish on platter; top with citrus-olive-caper sauce.

Grilled Chicken with Feta and Red Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Grilled chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Red pepper sauce:

  • 2 pounds grilled red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces sliced feta cheese (4 slices)

Spinach leaves for serving plate

Directions:

To prepare chicken: place chicken, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; place in refrigerator and marinate 2 to 24 hours.

To grill the peppers: preheat grill. Place peppers on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag to let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers.

To prepare sauce: place grilled peppers, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.

Preheat grill to medium and oil grill grates. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken 7 minutes, turn, place feta cheese slices on top of the chicken and cook 7 more minutes or until cooked through.

Arrange spinach on serving plate, top with chicken and serve with red pepper sauce.

Orange and Olive Salad

Serve with flatbread or pita.

Ingredients:

  • Two heads romaine lettuce
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted, sliced in half
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • Orange slices and orange zest for garnish

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Wash and dry the romaine and arugula. Toss in a large bowl with the olives, onion and oranges.

Add freshly ground black pepper to taste (the olives may be salty, so don’t add any salt at this point).

Whisk the dressing ingredients, seasoning it to taste. Slowly pour some of the dressing over the salad while tossing well to coat all.

Be careful not to use too much dressing for the amount of greens. Garnish with very thin slices of orange and orange zest.

Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Almonds

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cored and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Large pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 3 large oil-packed anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound swhole grain paghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

For stuffing:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large cabbage

Cooking sauce for cabbage rolls

  • 3 containers (26-28 oz. size) tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of water to boil, adding the rice and turmeric. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cook the lentils in 3 cups of boiling water until soft.

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil in a skillet.

Mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl.

For the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, rice, lentils, almonds and raisins.

Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling, beginning at the thick end of the leaf. Fold this end over the filling, folding the edges in as you go to make a neat roll.

Place the rolls in one or two casseroles, covering with the sauce.

Bake the cabbage rolls covered at 350 degrees F, 45-60 minutes until cabbage is tender. Cool slightly and serve from the dish they were baked in.


Turkey is an ideal grilling food. From ground turkey burgers and turkey franks, turkey tenderloins and other cuts for the grill, turkey provides you with a wide range of tasty, healthy and convenient meal solutions.

During grilling, turkey cooks best by indirect heat on an outdoor covered gas or charcoal grill with a pan of water placed beneath the grilling surface to catch the dripping turkey juices. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings and whole turkeys are all suited for grilling. Whole turkeys that weigh 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. However, you will need quite a bit of charcoal or gas for a whole turkey, which can take anywhere from three to four hours to cook on the grill.

Do not stuff a whole turkey. Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach the required temperature of 165°F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Grilling time depends on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals and the outside air temperature. Estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 165-170°F.

Keep food safety in mind before preparing any turkey and remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. Hands should be washed again and rinsed along with all utensils, equipment and countertops that have been in contact with any raw food (especially raw poultry) before preparing foods. It’s 20 seconds of prevention that can eliminate 90% of foodborne illness.

How to Grill Turkey

Bone In Turkey Breast

Grilling a turkey breast is an excellent way to enjoy a turkey dinner without making it a big deal. 

Prepare a barbecue grill with a rectangular metal or foil drip pan under the grates for indirect cooking. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of a turkey breast, not touching the bone.

Place turkey, bone-side down, on the grates directly over the drip pan. Grill turkey, covered, on medium 55 minutes.

If using a basting sauce, brush turkey with sauce and continue to grill, covered, 10 minutes. Brush again with sauce; continue to grill, covered, about 10 minutes more or until a thermometer registers 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer turkey to a carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Boneless Turkey Breast

Marinate a boneless turkey breast with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Then, preheat a grill to medium high and place a boneless turkey breast, skin side down, on greased grill grates. You’ll want to turn the grill down to medium to avoid burning the skin. After the breast browns, turn it over and cook until the temperature reaches 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer. Slice the turkey and serve on top of salads, with fruit or on your favorite sandwich roll.

Turkey Tenderloins

Tenderloin

Turkey tenderloins are the tender long strip of white meat hidden under the turkey breast. Because this strips of meat is an underused muscle of the turkey, it is very tender. One of the best ways to cook turkey tenderloin is with a dry rub and then grill on a hot grill.

Combine one tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, sage, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl. Rub this mixture on a turkey tenderloin and wrap in plastic wrap or put in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least two hours (overnight is best).

Rub grill grates with vegetable or canola oil and preheat  the grill. Place the seasoned turkey on the grill and cook five minutes on each side. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature is 165 degrees F. Take the turkey off the grill and let rest for five minutes to let the juices rest back into the meat.

Turkey Legs

Rub turkey legs with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and let rest several hours to allow the flavors to develop. Be sure to grill turkey legs over a medium-low heat for tender crispy results. In the end, you’ll be able to pull the meat right off of the bone and enjoy as is, with your favorite salsa or smothered with spicy BBQ sauce.

Ground Turkey

How to avoid parched pucks.

Season ground turkey with your favorite herbs and spices. Since ground turkey is lower in saturated fat than ground beef, you need to add olive oil or another liquid to the mix to make a juicy healthy burger. Make sure to place burgers on a well-greased, preheated grill to prevent sticking. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked all the way through to 165-170ºF. Grill some onion slices and peppers on the side and you’ll amp up the flavor even more.

Rosemary Grilled Turkey Breast

Ingredients:

  • 5 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 4 1/2 lb. bone-in turkey breast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub all over the turkey breast, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place a heatproof drip pan beneath the grill grates on one side of the grill and preheat to medium. Turn off the side of the grill with the drip pan. Pour about 1/4 inch of water into the drip pan, then place the turkey on the grill over the drip pan, skin-side facing up and cook over indirect heat, covered, at about (375-400°F) for 30 minutes.

Check to make sure there is still water in the pan and add more if necessary. Also, check that the grill temperature has remained constant and adjust accordingly.

Continue cooking for 35-45 minutes, then check temperature of the turkey. When turkey reads 165-170°F on a meat thermometer it is cooked through. Transfer to cutting board to rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve. 

Red Pepper, Basil, and Turkey Roulade with Basil Aioli

6 servings

This recipe uses a combination of direct and indirect heat, which can be accomplished using a charcoal or gas grill.

If you have a gas grill, you can easily use it to roast the peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red bell peppers
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves plus 2 cups large basil leaves
  • 1 boneless turkey breast half

Directions:

Roast peppers:

Roast peppers on the grill over high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blackened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, broil peppers on rack of a broiler pan about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.) Transfer to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Chop peppers and pat dry.

Make Aioli Sauce:

Finely grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon and squeeze 2 teaspoons juice. Puree zest, juice, mayonnaise, garlic and the 1/3 cup chopped basil in a food processor until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, while preparing roulades.

Butterfly turkey:

Remove and discard skin from the turkey breast, Cut turkey breast in half crosswise and chill 1 piece, covered, while working with the other.

Holding a sharp knife parallel to the work surface and beginning on a long side, butterfly turkey by cutting horizontally almost in half (not all the way through), then opening it like a book.

Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and, with flat side of a meat pounder, pound turkey to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Butterfly and pound remaining piece of turkey.

Make roulades:

Season turkey pieces well with salt and pepper and divide roasted peppers between them, spreading evenly and leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Top peppers with whole basil leaves and sprinkle with cheese. Beginning with a short side, roll up each turkey piece, gently pressing on filling while rolling (don’t roll too tightly, or filling will slip out of the ends) and tie roulades crosswise with string. Season roulades with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill:

If using a charcoal grill, light a full chimney of charcoal and place on one side of the grill. Charcoal will be ready for cooking when it turns grayish white, 10 to 15 minutes. If using a gas grill, light all burners.

First grill over direct heat:

When fire is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack 3 to 4 seconds), place roulades on lightly oiled grill grates directly over the fire and grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until seared on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Then grill over indirect heat:

If using a gas grill, turn off 1 side of the grill. Move roulades away from the fire and grill over indirect heat, covered, turning roulades occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into several places on each roulade registers 165-170°F, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Discard string, being careful not to unroll turkey, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Serve roulades with sauce.

BBQ Turkey Legs

Turkey legs, seasoned with smoky, sweet-flavored barbecue sauce, taste delicious when prepared on the grill. Instead of worrying about the turkey legs sticking to the grill, cook them covered in aluminum foil. Keep the turkey legs moist in the foil by basting the meat on a regular basis with your favorite BBQ sauce. To improve flavor, brining is an important first step for turkey legs.

Ingredients:

Brining Solution

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 8 turkey legs

Directions:

In a large bowl or pan, combine the water, salt, brown sugar and liquid smoke. When salt and sugar have dissolved, add the turkey legs.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain brine from turkey legs, discard the brine and gently pat turkey dry with paper towels.

Preheat the grill to medium. The temperature should read between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a charcoal or gas grill.

To brown the skin and lock in flavor, sear each turkey leg on the grill on direct heat for approximately two minutes on each side.

Baste each turkey leg with a generous amount of barbecue sauce. Make your own or use a commercial brand.

Wrap each turkey leg loosely in foil. Avoid tightly covering the drumsticks, since this can prevent heat from circulating properly around the meat.

Cover the grill and cook the turkey legs for approximately one-and-a-half hours. Baste them with barbecue sauce every 20 to 30 minutes to keep the drumsticks moist.

Check the internal temperature to determine when the meat is cooked thoroughly. The meat thermometer should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove the turkey legs from the grill.

Then add more barbecue sauce, rewrap the legs in the foil and allow the turkey legs to rest for 30 minutes before serving them.

Turkey Burgers with Barbecued Onions

One way to keep the turkey moist is to add milk  and  lightly mix them together. Overhandling the meat can make tough burgers.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Spanish onions, halved, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons prepared barbecue sauce
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (not lean — use a mix of dark and white meat)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or regular paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sesame seed buns

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions; stir-fry onions 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir in barbecue sauce; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cover; keep warm.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Lightly mix turkey, milk, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl; form into 4 patties.

Grill until cooked through, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Place on buns and top each with onions.

Grilled Turkey Tenderloins with Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless turkey breast tenderloins
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Marinade

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Peach Salsa

  • 4 small peaches, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 2 limes, about 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
  • 1 hot pepper, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion or sweet onion

Directions:

Season tenderloins with garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.

Place the tenderloins in a large plastic storage bag. Pour marinade over tenderloins and coat well. Seal bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Oil grill and preheat to medium-high.

Remove tenderloins from marinade and discard the marinade.  Grill tenderloins turning frequently, about 25 minutes or until done and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

While turkey is grilling prepare salsa. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

Slice the tenderloins into about 3/4-inch slices and spread peach salsa evenly over tenderloins.

 



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