Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: farro

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For relatively few calories, soup brings a feeling of fullness and makes it easier to eat less of other foods in a meal. Soup can benefit long-term health by serving as the basis to work more vegetables into meals.

Tomato soup provides a serving of vegetables by itself and then you can add even more vegetables to the soup.

Pureed squash is an excellent base for a soup that is packed with nutrients.

Broth-based soups can be the base for adding several servings of vegetables, also.

Even if you start with commercial soup that’s light on vegetables, you can add  frozen, canned or leftover fresh veggies of your own to enhance the nutrition of this bowl of soup.

The key to making soup a healthy food option is to make sure it is concentrated in the plant foods that we need to increase in our diet and not loaded with what we need to reduce: sodium and saturated fat.

Soup can even be a complete meal. A soup full of vegetables that includes a small amount of meat or poultry can provide a satisfying and healthful meal. All you need to complete this meal is some great tasting bread. Easy weeknight dinner.

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Sicilian Meatball Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup small pasta shells or other small macaroni

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the Parmesan, raisins, bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery and the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, rosemary and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the pasta to the soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the meatballs and simmer gently until the meatballs and pasta are done, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup with Steamed Shellfish

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus 2 tablespoons thinly-sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 1/4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4), cut into small dice
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • One country loaf of bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds mussels or clams, scrubbed or shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chopped basil and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, the broth, salt and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp, about 25 minutes.

Add the bread and the black pepper to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring gently, until the bread absorbs all the liquid, about 5 minutes.

Put the wine, mussels or clams or shrimp and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stainless-steel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, just until the mussels or clams open or the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open.

Mound the bread soup in shallow bowls and surround with the shellfish. Strain any broth from the shellfish pot over the top and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with the sliced basil.

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Vegetable Farro Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti, cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, about 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

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White Bean Soup With Mustard Greens

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 bunch mustard greens or any greens you like, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, such as cannellini
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and fennel and cook, until softened, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic and mustard greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring often, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the beans and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently, being careful not to break the beans, until flavors blend and the soup is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Add Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and additional cheese.

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Squash and Corn Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound yellow or green summer squash, chopped
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the celery and squash to the drippings in the pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Reserve 1 cup of the corn and set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender and process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper to the blender and process until combined.

Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to the vegetables in the Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ladle soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining green onions and 1 tablespoon cheese.


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In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

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The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

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Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough.  Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

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Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

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This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 


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The traditional eating habits of the Mediterranean people are based on the agricultural products of their region, which has a long growing season and a rather mild climate. The traditional diets of the Greeks, French, Italians, Spaniards and Middle Easterners reflect distinct cuisines and culinary practices, but they also have a great deal in common.

Certain foods, such as beef and butter, were never very popular in the Mediterranean region because the region did not support the expansive grazing lands required to raise large quantities of buffalo and steer. Most cheeses are made from sheep’s milk and are lower in cholesterol than those made from cow’s milk. The region’s climate is favorable to growing olive trees, so olive oil is abundant and used in cooking instead of butter. With its monounsaturated fat, olive oil is much healthier than butter.

The Mediterranean peoples consume fish, poultry, game and lamb rather than beef. The meat of sheep, goats and chickens contains some fat, of course, but Mediterraneans usually consume far less meat than their northern European neighbors. Wine, which has certain health benefits, is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and regions like Italy and southern France have, historically, produced wine and wine is what is served with meals.

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Research suggests 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.

The Mediterranean Diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil and it features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts. Here are a few recipes that can get you started on eating like a Mediterranean.

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Eggplant Souvlaki with Yogurt Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for the grill
  • Pinch each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into 20 1/2-inch-wide half-moon pieces
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 6-inch whole-grain pitas
  • 2 cups lightly packed trimmed baby spinach leaves

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

4 metal or wooden 12 inch skewers (soaked if using wooden) or 8 smaller skewers (6-8 inches)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Transfer half of the dressing to a second large bowl. Add tomatoes and eggplant to the first large bowl, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes.

To prepare salad:

To the second large bowl, add cucumber, bell pepper, olives and onion; toss well with dressing and set aside.

Prepare the yogurt sauce:

In a small bowl, combine all yogurt sauce ingredients. Set aside in the refrigerator until serving.

Heat grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grate with cooking oil. If it is too cold to grill where you live, a stovetop grill or grill pan can be used.

On each skewer, thread tomatoes and eggplant, dividing ingredients evenly among the skewers. Mist skewers with cooking spray.

Place skewers on the grill; close lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until tender. On an indoor grill turn skewers often to cook evenly.

Mist pitas with cooking spray and grill, turning once, until lightly toasted and warm, about 1 minute. Cut into quarters and divide among 4 serving plates.

Add spinach to the salad and toss. Serve with souvlaki, yogurt sauce and pita bread.

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Farro, Shrimp & Tomato Risotto

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 28 oz canned or boxed Italian diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 large bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups farro, rinsed
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, add tomatoes, leeks, fennel, farro, broth, tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups water; stir to break up tomato paste. Cover, bring to boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the farro is tender.

Remove lid, add shrimp and stir to combine. Replace lid and continue cooking until shrimp are pink and opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Divide among soup bowls and garnish with parsley.

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Swiss Chard with Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches (about 1 1/4 pounds) Swiss chard, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup pitted and roughly chopped Kalamata olives (about 16)
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Separate leaves from the stems of the Swiss chard. Roughly chop leaves and set aside. Cut stems into 1-inch pieces.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper, and saute until onion is translucent about 6 minutes.

Add Swiss chard stems, olives and the water; cover and cook 3 minutes.

Stir in Swiss chard leaves; cover and continue cooking until stems and leaves are tender, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Artichokes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 – 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
  • 12 oz package frozen artichokes, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus additional for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet with a cover over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add chicken and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side to quickly brown. Remove chicken pieces to a plate.
Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and add the remaining oil and garlic; cook for 1 minute, until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the potatoes and peppers and cook for about 4 minutes, until the potatoes begin to brown.

In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, yogurt and arrowroot and whisk until smooth. Stir yogurt mixture into the skillet. Stir in artichokes and dill. Return chicken pieces to the skillet, nestling them on top of the vegetable mixture.

Cover the skillet and cook for 30 minutes, until the artichokesand potatoes are tender and the sauce is thickened.

Serve chicken and vegetables with the sauce and garnish with additional dill.

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Whole-Wheat Pizza

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and, subsequently, gained popularity throughout the Middle East region. The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella and has a salty flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound homemade or store bought whole-wheat pizza dough at room temperature, recipe below
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) haloumi or feta or ricotta salata cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Oil a pizza pan.

Place tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor; season with salt and pepper. Pulse 3 to 4 times until ingredients are incorporated but chunky.

Place the dough in the pizza pan. Using your hands stretch the dough until it covers the surface of the pan.

Spread tomato sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with cheese and pine nuts; season with salt and pepper.

Bake until the crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Toss arugula with vinegar and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle arugula and olives over baked pizza. Cut into serving pieces.

Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 2 one pound loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm (115 degrees) water
  • 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour

Directions

Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

In the bowl with the yeast, whisk in the sugar, oil and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to the oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

Use one ball of dough for the pizza above and freeze the second dough for another time.


sides7

The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a huge meal, generally featuring a large roasted turkey. The majority of the dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World. However, many of the classic traditions attributed to the first Thanksgiving are actually myths.

According to what is known about “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. William Bradford (Plymouth Colony Governor) noted that, “besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” There were definitely wild turkeys in the Plymouth area, however, the best existing account of the Pilgrims’ harvest feast comes from colonist, Edward Winslow, author of Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Winslow’s first-hand account included no explicit mention of turkey. He does, however, mention the Pilgrims gathering “wild fowl” for the meal, although that could just as likely have meant ducks or geese. Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except for the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner.

The White House Cookbook, 1887, by Mrs. F.L. Gillette, et al., had the following menu: oysters on the half shell, cream of chicken soup, fried smelts, sauce tartare, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, parsnip fritters, olives, chicken salad, venison pastry, pumpkin pie, mince-pie, Charlotte russe, almond ice cream, lemon jelly, hickory nut cake, cheese, fruit and coffee.

sides5

1943 Thanksgiving Dinner Aboard the Navy Ship U.S.S. Wake Island

 

Many other foods are typically served alongside the main dish—so many that, because of the amount of food, the Thanksgiving meal is sometimes served midday or early afternoon to make time for all the courses. Copious leftovers are also common. Many diners would say the meal is “incomplete” without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dumplings, noodles, corn on the cob or hominy grits, deviled eggs, green beans or green bean casserole, sauerkraut (among those in the Mid-Atlantic; especially Baltimore), peas and carrots, bread or rolls, cornbread (in the south and parts of New England) or biscuits, rutabagas, turnips and salad.

There are also regional differences, as to the type of stuffing or dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make their dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing from white, wheat or rye bread as the base. One or several of the following may be added to the dressing/stuffing: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausages or the turkey’s giblets. The traditional Canadian version has bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. Rice is also sometimes used instead of bread in some parts of Canada.

Other dishes reflect the regional or cultural background of those who have come together for the meal. For example, many African-Americans and Southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens, along with chitterlings and sweet potato pie; while Italian-Americans often have lasagna on the table alongside the turkey and Ashkenazi Jews may serve noodle kugel, a sweet dessert pudding. Other Jewish families may consume foods commonly associated with Hanukkah, such as latkes or a sufganiyot (a type of jelly doughnut). It is not unheard of for Mexican Americans to serve their turkey with mole and roasted corn.

In Puerto Rico, the Thanksgiving meal is completed with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or arroz con maiz (rice with corn), pasteles (root tamales) stuffed with turkey, pumpkin-coconut crème caramel, corn bread with longaniza, potato salad, roasted white sweet potatoes and Spanish sparkling hard cider. Turkey in Puerto Rico is stuffed with mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish). Cuban-Americans traditionally serve the turkey alongside a small roasted pork and include white rice and black beans or kidney beans. Vegetarians or vegans have been known to serve alternative entrées, such as a large vegetable pie or a stuffed and baked pumpkin or tofu substitutes. Many Midwesterners (such as Minnesotans) of Norwegian or Scandinavian descent serve lefse (a soft, Norwegian flatbread) at their holiday meal.

So, if you are not a traditionalist, you may want to change things around a little and try some new sides for your holiday meal. Much of the preparation in the recipes below can be done ahead of time.

sides2

Creamy Farro Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 ounces wild mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Red-pepper chili flakes
  • 1 bunch spinach (10 ounces), stemmed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add farro, stirring until toasted, about 1 minute. Add wine and reduce by half. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and creamy, 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Roast, stirring once, until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes.

Re-warm the farro over medium heat and add the spinach, stirring until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

sides6

Creamy White Bean and Vegetable Mash

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups cooked white beans, drained (equivalent to one 16-ounce can)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery and carrot until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes and white beans and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

Mash vegetables (or put through a ricer), adding reserved cooking water to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil before serving.

sides3

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Pinch red-pepper chili flakes

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cut side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar. Season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Fill the squash cavities and serve.

sides4

Sweet Potato-Ginger Spoon Bread

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Butter forthe  baking dish
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 small sweet potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
  • 2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and dust with cornmeal.

Cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash until very smooth; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Whisk in cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, 1 to 3 minutes; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mixture, egg yolks, sugar, molasses, ginger and salt.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Very gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish, place on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and set, about 35 to 40 minutes.

SONY DSC

Lemon-Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Directions

Cut an “X” in the core of each brussels sprout. Place in a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle oil and lemon juice over the brussels sprouts; sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon.


grains cover

Grains are made up of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the high-fiber outer coating. The germ is the protein and nutrient dense portion. The endosperm is a source of carbohydrate, along with some protein. A grain is “whole” if these three parts have been left intact. If it’s processed (e.g., cracked, rolled), it’s still considered a whole grain, if it retains its original balance of nutrients. When grains are refined, the bran and germ are removed (taking many nutrients with them), leaving just the endosperm. An example of a refined whole grain is white rice (though usually white rice is enriched to replace some of the nutrients stripped during processing).

grains wheatberries

Wheat berries

The terms “hard” and “soft” refer to the protein and gluten content of wheat. Hard wheat is made into pasta and bread flour, while soft wheat (lower in protein and gluten) is milled into pastry flour. Wheat berries can be cooked whole for a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Once cooked (simmered in boiling water for up to an hour), they are a great addition to soups, stews, salads and desserts.

grains polenta

Polenta

Polenta is made from ground corn, as is cornmeal. They differ in how they’re ground (in both the method and the fineness of the grind). Polenta makes a delicious base for sauces (ragu, mushroom, gorgonzola) and sausages; it’s also good grilled or layered in casserole dishes.

grains short brown

Short Grain Brown Rice

Short Grain Brown Rice has fat kernels that are plump and round. They have a high starch content, which helps keep it moist and sticky. Short grain rice can be used for risotto if soaked overnight or parboiled before making the risotto.

Warm Farro and Mushroom Salad

Farro

Farro is the Italian name for emmer wheat, an ancient strain of hard wheat from the Fertile Crescent in western Asia. Often confused with spelt due to their similar taste and texture, farro comes in perlato (pearled) and semi-perlato (semi-pearled); opt for semi-perlato as it has more of the fiber-and nutrient-rich bran intact (or buy whole farro if you can find it). It comes in three grades: long, medium or cracked. If you purchase long or medium farro, you will need to crack it yourself in a coffee grinder or blender for maximum freshness.

Farro is beloved in Italy – and more recently in North America and other European countries as well – for its roasted, nutty flavor and distinctive chewy texture. Because farro contains a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, it behaves much like risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But unlike risotto, farro doesn’t become gummy; instead, it retains its tender, distinct bite, even if it sits awhile after cooking.

Farro’s tough husk makes it more difficult to process than other commercially produced grains, but that husk also helps protect the grain’s vital nutrients. With a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, farro is also rich in magnesium and B vitamins. As a type of wheat, farro is unsuitable for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat sensitivity or allergy.

Note: as with all grains, pearled farro will take less time to cook than semi-pearled, which will take less time to cook than whole.

Cooking time: 25-40 minutes. Liquid per cup of grain: 2 cups

How to cook farro: Combine with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for up to 40 minutes, or until grains are tender and have absorbed all of the liquid.

grain stew

Farro and Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi pearled farro
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 large)
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini (2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 14 ½ ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • Parmesan cheese (4 ounces), grated

Directions

Rinse farro. In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups water to boiling. Stir in the farro. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain.

In a large skillet bring the 3 cups of chicken broth to boiling. Add the chicken breasts, salt and pepper. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a cutting board. Cool slightly. Coarsely chop or shred chicken. Set aside. Reserve broth.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil and add the onions, zucchini, celery and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir in reserved broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in cooked farro and chopped or shredded chicken. Cook and stir until heated through. Top with grated cheese.

grains casserole

Breakfast Polenta Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red onion (1 small), diced small
  • 1 1/4 cups unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (1 large), diced small
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse polenta
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

The night before serving:

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and sauté the onions over medium-low heat until golden brown. While the onions are cooking, steam the potatoes in a small amount of water in a covered pot until they are tender.

Add the steamed potatoes to the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook the potato/onion mixture until the potatoes are browned. Set aside in a covered bowl.

Cook the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is no longer pink. Drain and cool. Refrigerate the onion-potato mixture and the sausage separately overnight.

The next morning:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To prepare the polenta,

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta, Italian seasoning and a ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and smooth (approximately 7 minutes).

Pour the polenta into an ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish. It will firm up as you scramble the eggs.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour in the eggs and scramble them until slightly firm but still wet. Remove from the heat. (The eggs will finish cooking in the oven.)

Spread the potato mixture, sausage, Parmesan and cheddar over the polenta. Pour the eggs on top of the entire dish. Bake until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

grains peppers

Farro-Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 ½) ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups corn
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 4 large red sweet peppers

Directions

In a medium saucepan combine broth, farro and water. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain farro, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid; set both the farro and cooking liquid aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the Italian seasoning. Add corn and green onions. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in reserved farro, salt and black pepper; cool slightly. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and 1/2 of the basil.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes from the peppers. Fill pepper halves with the farro mixture. Place stuffed peppers in a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Pour the reserved cooking liquid into the dish around the peppers. Cover dish with foil.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes more or untilthe  peppers are crisp-tender and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining basil.

grains risotto

Brown Rice Risotto

Add your favorite ingredients, if you wish.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or large shallot, chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups any chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley

Directions

Bring medium pot of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Stir in brown rice, adjust heat so that water bubbles steadily, and cook without stirring, until rice is swollen and half-tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain. (Alternate, soak rice in water to cover overnight. Drain)

Put oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion or shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add the wine. Stir and let liquid come to a boil. Reduce heat slightly.

Begin to add the stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

When rice is just about tender and mixture is creamy, add the Parmesan, then taste and add more salt or pepper (or both) if necessary. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve.

grain oie

Italian Pastiera (Wheat Berry Pie)

Pastry

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Directions

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them in through the feed tube along with the lemon zest and pulse the machine in short bursts, about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.

Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until the dough holds together.

Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead to form a smooth, tight dough.

Press into a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water (or orange flower oil)
  • 1/2 cup minced candied citron, lemon peel and orange peel
  • 1/3 cup hulled wheat berries soaked overnight and boiled in lightly salted water for about 30 minutes or until tender. (Use pearl barley or cooked rice if you can’t get the wheat berries.)

Directions

Put the ricotta, eggs, sugar and orange flower water in a large bowl and mix the ingredients well.

Mix in the candied fruit and wheat berries.

To Assemble the Pastiera

Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

Cut off about 1/3 of dough and set aside.

With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick. Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough sticking to either the board or the rolling-pin.

Place the dough in the pan to fully cover the bottom and sides.

Cut off any excess dough from the pan rim. If the dough breaks just patch it.

Pour in the ricotta mixture.

Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling is well settled.

Roll out the reserved dough into a 9×12 inch rectangle (the pastry should be about an 1/8 inch thick) and cut 1/2 inch lattice strips on a diagonal.

Loosely place the lattice on top of the ricotta mixture. (You can brush a beaten egg wash on the lattice and rim crust to get a more golden color.)

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the ricotta filling is well set and a skewer place in the center comes out dry. Rotate the pastiera once to ensure even baking.

Dust the top with confectioners sugar. Serve at room temperature.


fallsoup

Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

fallsoup1

Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

fallsoup2

Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

fallsoup3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

fallsoup4

Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

fallsoup5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.


apple

Apples are the number one fall fruit. Fall also brings with it a renewed interest in baking. The most difficult part about encountering the appetizing display of apples in the store is deciding which apple is best for which project. All are great for munching out of hand, but texture, flavor and size, all contribute to whether a certain apple is best for apple crisp or applesauce.

Munching

If you’re simply in need of a good snack, apples fit the bill. Here are some favorite varieties for eating out of hand or using raw in salads.

Honeycrisp apples are extra crisp and tangy. They are excellent eaten raw, but will also hold their shape when baked.

With red skin and light green patches, Fuji apples are juicy and fragrant.

Crisp and mildly sweet, Gala apples are a satisfying snack.

Pink Lady apples are pinky red in color with crisp, juicy flesh and a complex flavor.

Baking

Whether stuffed or baked for a side dish or a dessert or chopped up and hidden under a layer of dough or crumble topping, these apples hold their shape during cooking.

Rome apples are very large with green-speckled red skin. This variety makes an impressive dessert when baked whole.

Extra tart with thick, “apple green” skin, Granny Smiths are the perfect opposite to the sweeter baking apples, like Golden Delicious, for balanced pies and crisps.

Braeburn apples are very crisp, sweet and tangy, making them great for baking or eating raw.

Golden Delicious are excellent all-purpose apples that are particularly good in pies and crisps.

Jonagold apples have a honeyed sweetness and crisp yellow flesh. This variety holds its shape during baking or sautéing.

Sauces

These apples break down beautifully with heat, making them perfect for purées and sauces.

Cortland apples are sweet and juicy and their flesh breaks down easily with cooking making them perfect for applesauce. These crisp apples are also great raw as their flesh resists browning.

With shiny, deep red skin and bright white flesh, Empire apples are crisp and a little spicy. Cored and stewed, this variety cooks down into a beautiful rosy pink sauce.

Stout Macoun apples are tender, juicy and sweet, making them also perfect for applesauce.

Tart-sweet McIntosh apples are juicy with a great fragrance, but they don’t stand up to long cooking times.

Apple3

Easy Homemade Apple Cider

The best cider has a balance between sweet and tart. Use half sweet and half tart apples in making the recipe below.

  • Red Delicious: Large, firm red apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Yellow Delicious: Large, firm yellow apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Jonathon: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple, with red near the top, descending to green lower down the fruit.
  • Granny Smith: Medium/small, crisp, tart apple with green color.
  • Gala: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple with yellow skin blushed with orange to red tinge.

Ingredients

  • 10 apples, half sweet and half tart from the list above, quartered
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Directions

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

apple1

Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds and the apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

apple6

Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 crisp apple (Fuji, Pink Lady or Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Put the sweet potatoes in a microwavable dish, loosely cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

In batches, puree the broth, cider, cooked onion and squash until smooth. Return all the ingredients to the stockpot, stir in the sage and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Right before serving, core and dice the apple. In a small skillet saute the apple, honey and lemon juice until warm. Serve the soup warm and garnish each serving with a spoonful of apple.

apple5

Italian Farro with Apples

Farro, a wheat like grain, makes a delicious alternative to rice or a side-dish for pork, chicken and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hulled whole-grain farro
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Fuji apple (8 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sort farro, discarding bits of hulls and other debris. Pour farro into a bowl, cover completely with cool water, stir, and skim off and discard any additional hulls that float to the surface. Drain farro.

Heat oil in a 5-to 6-quart pan over high heat, add celery and onion and cook stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.. Add farro to the pan and stir until the grains are coated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover pan, and simmer (mixture foams, so check and stir occasionally to keep it from boiling over) until farro is tender to the bite and no longer tastes starchy, about 25 minutes. Stir in parsley, cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apple; cut into about 1/4-inch dice and mix with the lemon juice. Stir into the  farro mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into a serving bowl.

apple 2

Classic Apple Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Remove thyme leaves from their stems and divide in half. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and half the thyme leaves, pressing lightly so seasonings adhere.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling hot. Add the pork chops and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, turning only once, to brown. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add butter to the pan and heat until foamy. Add shallot and remaining thyme leaves and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add apples, broth and remaining salt and pepper to the skillet scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until apple is tender and sauce reduces slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Return pork chops to the skillet, along with any juices that have collected at the bottom of the plate, to the skillet and cook just until the pork registers 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.. Transfer the pork chops to a platter and spoon the apple mixture over the chops.

apple4

Ricotta Cheesecake With Apple Topping

Crust

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, (20 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (8 ounces) light sour cream, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup apple cider

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Place pan on wire rack.

In a food processor, process ricotta cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla bean until ricotta is smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream; process just until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining cheese mixture in two additions. Pour over the baked  crust.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the edges rise, and the center is just set, but still jiggly. Place on wire rack to cool completely (cheesecake may crack). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the topping:

In a large skillet, combine the sugar and water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the apples and butter. Stir to coat the apples. Return the pan to the heat and cook, turning apples occasionally, until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the apples are tender, add the cider and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the topping into a bowl, cover and let cool.

To serve the cheesecake, remove the pan sides and, with a large spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Spoon the topping over the cake and serve.



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