Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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Away from the rolling hills, sweeping vineyards and expanses of the sunflower fields inland, on the Tuscany coast facing Elba Island where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his time in exile, perched high above the Baratti Gulf is the walled town of Populonia. The Populonia Bay is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy, a perfect fusion of nature and history. The Baratti Gulf and the Populonia cape have always attracted inhabitants. Today this area is the site of the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia (close to Piombino, in the Livorno Province). The town sits next to the archeological park which contains the remains of a huge Etruscan settlement. The park tells the story of the Etruscans, a group of people who had an important impact on this territory.

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Populonia is especially known for the wealth of Etruscan archaeology in the area and an impressive collection of artifacts unearthed from the surrounding area, from tools to helmets, weapons, casks and jewellery. Positioned on the summit of a hill for safety reasons, the Etruscans constructed a necropolis at the base to house their dead dating from the late Iron Age (600 BC). Populonia, the only Etruscan town built over the sea, was composed of two different parts: Populonia Akron, the acropolis, the upper part, where there were the temples and the public buildings. Populonia Polis, the lower part, situated close to the Baratti Gulf contained the port, where the main economic and artisanal activities took place.

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The Etruscans were very enterprising and traded with many people from the East. Iron-work was the main economic activity of the Etruscan and Roman civilizations. This region also contained other precious metals, like copper. The Etruscans would sail from the Baratti Gulf to Elba Island, where they would transform the hematite into iron. Because of the region’s economic prosperity immigration increased: people from Spain, Sardinia, Campania and Corsica came to Populonia hoping for a new life. The Etruscans also created a mint: they needed coin for their commercial exchanges and to pay the soldiers who were protecting the area. The coins were made in silver and bronze.

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Many archaeologists tried to discover the remnants of the Etruscan civilization, but they couldn’t succeed due to the terrain The first discoveries were objects found in fishermen nets and at grave sites The Archaeological Park stretches over almost 200 acres between the slopes of the Piombino Mountains and the Gulf of Baratti. The Park includes a significant part of the ancient town of Populonia and is spread over a vast area, which enables visitors to appreciate the transformation that has taken place over the centuries.

The wooded coast overlooks the archipelago and the silhouettes of the islands, including Elba and Corsica, create a picturesque scenes. This is the landscape of the 8th-9th Century B.C., when important houses were built on the Acropolis to accommodate the aristocracies of Populonia. These houses are the remains of the summit of the acropolis and from the beach area on the Gulf of Baratti, one can view the remains of Populonia.

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A network of roads join the houses and temples to the industrial city and the cemeteries which lie on the first hills surrounding the inlet. As in ancient times, the routes follow the original roads, crossing the woods and the scrub areas and opening up to unexpected views over the Gulf of Baratti and the open sea. The deep wooded areas contain the remains of the Benedictine monastery of San Quirico that tell of a lost city and the natural resources and minerals that were once part of the region.

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Inside the park one can walk along three paths: the “Iron Route”, the “Quarries Route” and a naturalistic path. The “Iron Route” goes through the areas where the Etruscan ovens used to be. Then, going up the hills, the ruins of the industrial district can be seen. The “Quarries Route” is a path where the Etruscans used to extract the “panchina stone”, that was used to build Populonia.

Inside the park is an experimental archeological laboratory and a museum that includes vases, precious jewels, bronzes, coins and graphic reconstructions of Etruscan landscapes and activities.

The Etruscans

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The Italians in Central Italy today are descendants of the Etruscans. Not only that, but the Italian language has its roots in the Etruscan language. The Etruscans revered women, so women and men were on an equal footing. The men were clean-shaven and were primarily sailors and merchants. They were also good sportsmen, warriors and skilled farmers.

The Etruscan hillsides were abundant with olive groves and modern potters continue the practice of decorating their ceramics with olives and olive leaves.

The Etruscans grew crops beside the grapes and olives and grew barley, millet, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas and spelt. They also grew beans, peas, garlic and onions, figs, melons, apples and berries.

They kept livestock, especially pigs, chickens, ducks and goats and hunted game from the surrounding forests, such as rabbits, deer and boar. Fish were taken from the rivers and the seas and they were making pasta with the use of a rolling pin.

The Etruscans ate two meals a day, enjoyed holding banquets and made good wine. Their culture and civilization was influenced by the Greek culture and they, in turn, influenced the Roman culture and, in turn, the Tuscan culture, as we know it today.

Etruscan food traced from archaeological findings and frescoes depicts food that is still eaten today. They used herbs like rosemary to flavor their meats, honey to sweeten desserts and they had utensils such as saucepans, pans, graters, pots, colanders, goblets and pitchers and beautiful dining plates. They baked and cooked over open fires and produced a variety of breads, one of which is still eaten today – flat grape bread. Wine was plentiful and stored in terracotta jars underground. It was strong and often drunk watered down. Today you will still Italians who drink wine diluted in this way.

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Grape Flat Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds seedless black grapes

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water. When the mixture foams, after 5 minutes, stir in a pinch of salt, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5-8 minutes until firm, smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it. Set the dough aside for about an hour to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9×13 baking pan. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Enough dough should hang over the edge of the pan to completely cover the top when folded.

Transfer the dough to the baking pan. Spread 3/4 of the grapes over it, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Fold the overhanging dough up over the grapes, covering them completely. Press lightly to seal. Scatter the remaining grapes over the dough, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake the bread until golden brown and the grapes are soft for about 45-60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

This Etruscans served this sauce over what is called bollito misto or mixed boiled meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoons capers (in vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed pickled vegetables (in italy you will find carrots-cauliflower in the jar)
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

Boil the egg and mash it together with the other ingredients – the mixture you will obtain should be smooth and fine. (Use a processor)

Place it in a bowl – add salt, pepper and start pouring in  olive oil until you obtain a creamy sauce.

Before using the sauce, let it rest for some time so that all flavors can blend in.

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Peasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb italian sweet sausage, links
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, cleaned, rough chopped
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil oregano and garlic, undrained
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in heavy 4 quart sauce pan.

Cut sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.

Brown sausage in pan until no longer pink.

Add onion and garlic and stir until softened.

Add spinach, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, beans and red pepper.

Heat to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Etruscan Pici

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Italian type 00
  • A generous 1 cup semolina  
  • Salt

For the sauce

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1⁄2 – 2/3 cup olive oil
  • Grated pecorino cheese, for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

To make the pasta, mix together the flour, semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gradually mix in enough water to make a firm, elastic dough. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in a clean dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Chop the hard-boiled egg with the garlic, parsley, basil and mint, then transfer the mixture to a bowl. Gradually drizzle in enough oil to make a fairly liquid sauce.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Unwrap the pasta.Taking a small piece at a time, rub it back and forth on the work surface (counter) with your fingertips until it resembles thick spaghetti.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil and cook and for 2–3 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, add to the sauce and toss well.

Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with grated pecorino and serve immediately.

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Guinea Fowl in Porcini

Ingredients

  • 1 guinea fowl, cut into 4 pieces
  • 8 small sprigs sage
  • 8 small sprigs mint
  • 4 slices pancetta
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 1⁄2 cups porcini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Stud the pieces of guinea fowl with the sage and mint sprigs and arrange a pancetta slice over each.

Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a casserole and add the guinea fowl. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a shallow pan with the garlic cloves.When the garlic begins to brown, remove with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the mushrooms, mint leaves and tomatoes to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Remove the guinea fowl from the oven, add the pieces to the pan with the mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the guinea fowl and mushrooms to a serving dish and serve immediately

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healthyfat

Research shows that not all fats are created equal in terms of their health effects. For heart health, you should get the majority of your fat from monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (especially the omega-3 kind), consume less saturated fat and strictly limit trans fat because it tends to raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, manufactured trans fat is the worst fat for your heart and, yet, it is still out there in some packaged foods.

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat, which has long been known to help improve cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help fight inflammation, high blood pressure and cancer.

Look for extra virgin olive oil, which, unlike other olive oils, has not undergone refinement that strips the oil of some flavor, phytonutrients and other beneficial compounds. Compare “best by” dates on oils and choose the furthest date, which suggests it’s fresher and more likely to contain higher levels of antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in low to moderate heat cooking; it’s generally stable up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also perfect for dipping, salad dressing and sauces.

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

Similar to olive oil, more than 70 percent of the fats in avocado oil are monounsaturated, plus it naturally contains beneficial antioxidants, including lutein, that is important for eye health. You’ll get the best flavor, aroma and nutrition in unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil, which is mechanically rather than chemically extracted. Extra virgin avocado oil can take the heat a little better than olive oil, tolerating temperatures up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, although this may vary a bit with the variety of avocado used. Avocado oil’s buttery, nutty flavor is also perfect when drizzled on steamed vegetables or grilled asparagus. Fresh avocado slices are good on sandwiches in place of mayonnaise.

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

Most tree nuts—including macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios—contain more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than any other type of fat. Plus, studies suggest eating nuts regularly may help reduce the risk of major diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as boost longevity.

Try a variety of whole, raw, dry-roasted nuts, natural tree-nut butters and nut oils. Some nut oils and nut butters, such as almond, are easier to find and are less expensive than others, such as macadamia and pecan. Delicate nut oils are less heat-stable than other oils. Unrefined nut oils are best used in salad dressings and dips, drizzled over roasted vegetables or tossed with whole grain pasta and herbs.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory and heart-health benefits. Research is not clear, however, on whether supplements can provide all of the benefits of eating fish regularly. Buy oily seafood that is rich in omega-3s but low in mercury, such as salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, Pacific oysters and halibut, herring, mussels and anchovies. In general, aim for at least two 4-ounce servings of oily fish per week (which equates to about 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily).

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Italian Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small head of radicchio—halved, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tender celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably Sicilian
  • 8 peperoncini
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (1 cup)

Directions

In a large salad bowl, mash the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the vinegar and oregano, then whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve.

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Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe, fresh California or Florida (large) avocados, seeded and peeled*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coarsely mash (DO NOT PUREE) avocados.
Stir in vinegar.
Fold in remaining ingredients.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Guacamole is best made as close to serving time as possible. For short-term storage, seal in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole.

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Fettuccine with Sardines

Serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed with Italian vinaigrette and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fettuccine (whole wheat works well in this recipe)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two 4 ounce cans boneless, skinless sardines, flaked
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling but not brown, about 20 seconds. Transfer the garlic and oil to a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and transfer to a plate.

Whisk lemon juice, tomato paste, pepper and salt into the garlic oil in the serving bowl. Add the pasta to the bowl along with sardines and parsley. Gently stir to combine.

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

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Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon or any omega 3 fatty fish, about 1/2 inch thick
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 small red and/or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large zucchini, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 pieces; set aside.

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a shallow dish, stir together cornmeal, nuts and salt.

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

Dip each piece of fish into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip fish into egg mixture, then into the nut mixture to coat. Place in the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine peppers, zucchini and squash. Add oil and seasoned salt; toss to coat. Arrange vegetables next to the fish, overlapping as needed to fit.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

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Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds, blanched
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds (about 4-5) red plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Grind almonds, garlic and herbs in the food processor. Add the oil, gradually. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the tomatoes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.


 

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Cucumbers are in season and they are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Want to make something other than cucumber salad? Try pickles. Making pickles isn’t complicated. You can preserve homemade pickles using three basic methods: lactic fermentation (cured with a salt brine), canning (soaked in pickling lime) or refrigeration (immersed in a vinegar solution).

Brined Pickles

Many enthusiasts swear fermentation yields a better pickle than the pickles made with vinegar. They are also called “crock pickles” or “brine pickles”.

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Procedure:

Place the recipe ingredients inside the crock. Make the pickle brine and pour into the crock. Cover with a weight to keep food submerged and drape with a towel to keep out the dust. Ferment at room temperature for 2 or more weeks. Check container daily and skim any scum from the top. Fermentation bubbles may be visible. Taste pickles regularly.

When the pickles reach a flavor you like, you have three options for storing them:

1. Refrigerate to slow fermentation. Pickles should last 4 to 6 months this way. Note that pickled vegetables last longer than pickled fruits, which generally keep well for only 2 to 3 months.

2. Store in a dark, cool spot, such as the basement, where your homemade pickles will continue to ferment but should stay safe for several months.

3. Can fermented pickles for extended storage. The heat of canning compromises their crisp texture and kills the beneficial bacteria, but the flavor will remain. Canned fermented food could last a couple of years.

Kosher Dill Pickles

This recipe, adapted from, The Joy of Pickling, uses grape, oak or sour cherry leaves, which contain tannins believed to help keep fermented homemade pickles crisp. Store-bought, canned grape leaves will also work. Yield: 1 gallon.

Equipment

Clean, gallon-sized glass jar or ceramic crock

Gallon-sized plastic bag or fitted crock weights

Ingredients

  • 1 handful clean grape, oak or sour cherry leaves
  • Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
  • Peeled cloves from 2 to 3 heads of garlic
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 1/4 cup dill seed or 2 handfuls dill fronds

Directions

Place the leaves in the bottom of a clean crock. Slice blossom ends off the cucumbers and pack cucumbers into the crock, smallest ones first, adding garlic cloves throughout. Do not fill the crock more than two-thirds full.

In a separate container, stir together water, vinegar, salt and dill until salt dissolves. Pour this brine over the cucumbers until the liquid is an inch above the cucumbers when you’re pressing them down. If your crock has weights, set them on top of the cucumbers to submerge them. If you don’t have special weights, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with water and set it on top to keep cucumbers submerged. Cover the crock with towel to keep out dust.

Ferment pickles for 1 to 4 weeks at room temperature, checking crock daily. Scum may develop on top; this is normal. Carefully lift off the weight and rinse it to remove scum. Skim scum from the top of the container before replacing the weight and towel. Do this daily.

You may notice bubbles after the first few days, indicating lactic fermentation is underway. After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. Keep fermenting until you enjoy the flavor.

To store, place crock in a cool, dry, dark spot (the basement, for example), or remove pickles to smaller, lidded containers in the refrigerator. (If using metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap between the container and the lid.) You may rinse fermented pickles and cover them with fresh pickle brine and seasonings or strain and reuse the original brine. The pickle flavor will improve after about a month in cooler conditions.

Note: If pickles become slimy or moldy during fermentation, discard them and try again.

Canned Vinegar Pickles

(If you are new to canning methods, the Ball Canning Company has excellent directions. visit their website at  http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started)

Most modern pickling recipes rely on an acetic acid (vinegar) solution and heat treatment to preserve the vegetables. Vinegar pickles can be sweet, spicy or extremely sour. Popular examples include bread-and-butter pickles, sour gherkins and dill beans. You must use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity to produce pickles that are safe for long-term storage.

Distilled white vinegar is the best choice because it’s inexpensive and won’t darken the cucumbers and  its flavor is mild in comparison to cider, malt or wine vinegars. Avoid using rice vinegar and homemade vinegars, because their acidity is usually too weak. Always use canning recipes that have been tested for safety.

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Procedure:

Heat vinegar, water and seasonings to make a brine. Pack whole or chopped ingredients into sterilized canning jars. Cover with hot brine, leaving appropriate head space. Apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath.

Vinegar-Preserved Old-Fashioned Lime Pickles

This combination of ingredients and techniques makes a super-crisp, complex flavored sweet-and-sour pickle. Pre-soaking cucumbers in pickling lime keeps them very crisp.

Yield: 4 quarts.

Equipment

4 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings

Water bath canner with rack

Candy thermometer

Ingredients

Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed

Soaking Solution

  • 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 gallon cold water

Syrup Mixture

  • 2 quarts cider or white wine vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar will darken pickles)
  • 6 cups granulated sugar or 5-1⁄4 cups honey (honey will darken the brine)
  • 2-1⁄2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice, store-bought or homemade
  • 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced

Homemade Pickling Spice

Enclose the spices in cheesecloth and close the top with kitchen string.

  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1-inch piece of turmeric root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small, whole, dried chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

To prepare cucumbers for soaking:

Cut them into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or ceramic) container mix pickling lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and soak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking in cold water at least two more times to completely remove the pickling lime. Drain well.

In a large pot, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice or your homemade spice packet. Add onions. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to make a syrup.

Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars and lids in boiling water. Pack cucumbers and onions into the jars and pour hot syrup over them, leaving a half-inch head space. Use a knife or chopstick to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean. Apply lids and rings.

The pickles can be canned via low-temperature pasteurization to avoid the higher heat that softens them.

To pasteurize:

Fill the canner halfway with water and heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set filled jars in the canner and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make adjustments to maintain 180 degrees for the duration. The thermometer reading should never exceed 185 degrees. (Learn more about how to make pickles using the low-temperature pasteurization method at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.)

Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The flavor of vinegar pickles will improve after about a month in storage.

Refrigerator Pickles

Sometimes called “quick pickles,” refrigerator pickles are technically vinegar pickles minus the canning. You can adjust a refrigerator pickle recipe — to use less salt or sugar or none at all — without food-safety fears. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp because the cucumbers are not subjected to heat. Making pickles using this method is fast and they are typically ready to eat within a day but should be consumed within a few months.

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Procedures:

Prepare vinegar solution and pour over sliced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 6 pickling cucumbers
  • 3/4 ounce fresh dill

Directions

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seeds and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.

Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise or in thick round circles and place in a 1 quart glass jar; add fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will stay good for roughly a month.

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Any combination of vegetables can be used in place of the cucumbers in the easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Here are a few examples:

  • 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
  • A few pieces of cauliflower
  • 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos

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Interested in learning how to prepare Nordic Food? Here is your chance.

From September 13-20, 2014, New York City will be hosting the second annual NORTH Food Festival. You can attend one of the elegant dinners or attend the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship where Chefs battle it out for the prestigious title of Nordic Hot Dog Champion. If you will be in the area, you may want to sign up for some cooking classes. Here are just two of the featured classes. The remainder are listed on the website.

Cooking Lessons on Preparing  Nordic Seafood

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-taste-and-cook-with-the-future-of-food-seafood-from-norway-tickets-12487589717

Cooking Lessons on Nordic Pastry Making

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-nordic-pastry-class-with-chef-maria-ostberg-presented-by-fika-tickets-12487679987

Here is a Video from the 2013 Festival to pique your interest.

http://vimeo.com/77597221

For more information on the North Food Festival:

http://honestcooking.com/north-food-festival-new-york-city/

 


tomatoseason

A single plant can produce over a dozen tomatoes, which means you can give a basket to the neighbors and still include almost every meal with this nutrient-rich fruit. Serve them in pasta, pizza, vinaigrettes and even desserts. Paired with the right spices, tomatoes can be sweet, tangy or tart.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy fresh produce is to free it from heavy sauces or other flavor-masking extras. Serve a Mediterranean-inspired stuffed tomato with feta, olives and a little basil. It’s a great complement to any grilled entrée or add a little chopped chicken to the mix and serve on its own. Use sturdy, ripe tomatoes for optimal flavor and presentation.

When the temperature climbs, dinner cravings often tend toward light and simple. Make a pasta dish that’s packed with the freshest of ingredients, including fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. A little olive oil adds flavor that rounds out the simple sauce.

Fresh tomato salsas, chutneys and dressings add color and flavor to almost any meat. Try it with grilled sea bass for a refreshing summer dish. A warm vinaigrette dressing pairs well with fluffy couscous, so make extra to use on other main dishes.

Update pizza night by replacing the standard jarred tomato sauce with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Top a store-bought pizza dough with the pesto, then layer on chopped tomatoes, garlic, provolone and a few sprinkles of basil and bake for a quick homemade pizza.

Looking for some new ideas on how to use tomatoes? Have you thought of these?

tomatoseason1

Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup torn crusty country bread
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, sweet pepper quarters, onion wedges and garlic between two 15x10x1 inch baking pans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and vegetables are lightly browned on edges.

Place roasted vegetables and any pan juices in a large food processor. Add bread. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir in vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to make a thinner consistency. Cover; chill at last 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Spoon soup in bowls. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley.

tomatoseason2

Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 thin slices firm-texture whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Chop enough meat to measure 2 cups; save the remaining chicken for another use.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups chicken, the spinach, green onions, basil, vinegar, oil and garlic. Toss to evenly coat.

Cut a 1/4 inch-thick slice from the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Place shells, open sides up, on a serving plate. Discard tomato seeds. Chop enough of the tomato pulp to measure 1/2 cup; reserve remaining pulp for another use.

Stir the 1/2 cup tomato pulp into the chicken mixture.

Divide chicken mixture among tomato shells. Top with bread cubes and cheese.

tomatoseason3

Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pork rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large clove mashed garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dry the pork chops on paper towels. Heat the oil in a heavy, 10-12 inch oven-proof skillet with a cover.

Brown the chops, 2 or 3 at a time, on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. As they are browned, transfer them to a side dish.

Add the onions, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and the next four ingredients.

Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the pork chops to the pan and push them into the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to simmer on top of the stove, then set the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chops are done.

Arrange the chops on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chops. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

tomatoseason4

Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornmeal and 2 cups of the remaining flour.

You can also use the dough hook on the electric mixer for this addition and the addition of the remaining flour below, instead.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to oil the surface.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Punch down dough; let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Place dough in the prepared baking pan. Gently pull and stretch dough to the edges of the baking pan, being careful not to overwork dough.

Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange tomato and artichoke slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Let stand for 15 minutes. Change paper towels as necessary so all of the excess liquid is absorbed from tomatoes and artichokes.

Using your fingers, press deep indentations in the dough 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary. Arrange tomatoes, artichokes, onion rings and garlic slivers evenly on top of dough.

Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

tomatoseason5

Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) fish fillets (3/4- 1 inch thick) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season fish with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook fish in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in capers, basil, oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Return fish to the pan with the tomato sauce and heat gently. Serve fish topped with the sauce.


pizzacrust6

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

It All Starts with Crust  

Whole-wheat flour. Forgo the traditional white-flour crust and make your own whole-wheat dough for some extra protein and fiber.

Tortillas. Rice and beans aren’t the only ingredients that can top a tortilla. Make your own whole-wheat tortilla for a perfect thin-crust alternative.

Pita bread. Pita pockets are the perfect size for a personal pizza and the whole-wheat variety adds an extra nutrition.

English muffins. With all the nooks and crannies, an English muffin pizza crust can toast up perfectly in the oven and are great for making mini-pizzas for a light lunch.

Matzo. Think of this as the ultimate thin-crust pizza. Super simple and super crispy.

Cauliflower. For a lighter option, forgo the extra carbs and turn cauliflower into a healthful, delicious pizza crust.

Zucchini. Similar to cauliflower, zucchini is easy to make into a lean, green, pizza crust.

Portobello. These mushrooms are a perfect bed for any pizza sauce and toppings.

Quinoa. This grain isn’t only great on top of salads or in soups. Cook up your own quinoa crust for a nutty, protein-packed alternative to classic pizza dough.

Leftover rice. Another use for that leftover rice from dinner last night. Add just a little flax-seed meal and Italian seasoning, and you’ve got an easy, inventive crust.

And Then There’s Some Crazy Toppings!

  • Start with a whole-wheat crust, spread on a thin layer of goat cheese. Layer on some roasted beets and drizzle with oil. Bake until crispy and top with a handful of fresh arugula before serving. Drizzle with some high-quality balsamic vinegar.
  • Toast a large tortilla until slightly crisp. Remove from oven and top with pumpkin puree, chicken sausage and kale.
  • Start with a zucchini crust. Add pesto. Top with :broccoli or spinach or asparagus and sliced artichokes. Dollop with some pieces of fresh mozzarella and bake until crisp.
  • On a whole-wheat crust, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. Bake until the cheese starts to brown. Top with sliced figs, grapes, strawberries and blueberries or any combination. Add a drizzle of honey.
  • On a whole-wheat pita, spread a few tablespoons of fresh tomato sauce. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and sliced cooked  sausage. Top with some mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Bake a few minutes to melt the cheese.

pizzacrust

Polenta Pizza Crust

Who says pizza has to be made from bread dough? Best of all, it’s gluten free!

Makes: one 11” x 14” rectangular crust

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups Polenta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 3½ cups of water to a boil. Add the salt.

Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water and stir. Reduce the heat and continue stirring for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and stir to incorporate. Add the chopped parsley, oregano and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Stir to combine.

Remove the pan from the heat and prepare an 11×14 inch baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Using a spatula (a silicone spatula works the best), spread the polenta evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the pan and refrigerate for about an hour to set the polenta. You can also chill it overnight.

Once chilled, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until slightly crispy on top. Remove from the oven and apply  pizza toppings of choice. Return to the oven just until the toppings are heated. Cut into serving pieces.

pizzacrust1

Whole Wheat Sandwich Pizza Dough

This pizza dough has a thick crust – more like focaccia. Top with prosciutto, figs and pesto for an unusual sandwich.

Makes: one 9×13” thick crust pizza

Ingredients

For the starter:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • Extra water
  • Kosher salt

Directions

For the starter:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F). Let the mixture stand 5 minutes—it should start to foam and bubble a bit. Add flour and mix well. Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

Make the dough:

Add the remaining 1 cup water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix together. You can use a standing mixer or food processor as well.

Add the bread and whole wheat flours and using the paddle attachment mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky, but still slightly tacky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1½ hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly oiled 9×13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes. After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make small depressions on the top. Apply toppings of choice or use the bread for sandwiches.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes longer. If the top of the bread browns too quickly, cover it with some aluminum foil.

pizzacrust2

Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

Makes four 8” personal pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potato (about two medium sweet potatoes)
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (or use gluten-free flour as an alternative)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk or nondairy milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare the sweet potatoes:

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Peel, dice, the sweet potatoes and then place them in the boiling water until soft.

Drain and mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Allow to cool. Add the milk, olive oil and salt and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine.

Dust hands with flour and gently knead the dough until it is well mixed. You may want to turn the dough out onto a floured work surface for more space. You can add a little more flour to reduce the stickiness of the dough, but not too much, as it should still be slightly sticky.

Separate into 4 equal parts and form into rounds. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press one of the dough balls in the center. Press out from the middle of the ball, forming a flat, round disc (about 8  inches diameter). Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes. Add  toppings of choice and return to the oven to bake for 10 more minutes.

pizzacrust3

Quinoa Pizza Crust

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa plus enough water to cover for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup  water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Place the quinoa in a bowl and pour in enough water to cover the quinoa. Let it sit for about 8 hours to soak .

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or baking pan and brush with oil. Place in the oven to preheat.

Drain the quinoa, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place the quinoa in a blender. Add the 1/3 cup water and the seasonings and blend. Add more water as needed, until the batter resembles a thick pancake-style batter.

Once the oven reaches the set temperature, pour the batter into the skillet and quickly spread it out evenly across the bottom.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the underside is well-browned and starting to crisp. Use a large spatula and carefully flip the crust over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and top with desired toppings. (Such as, tomato-based pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pork sausage or greens.)

As with any pizza, be careful not to overload on toppings or the crust will get soggy.

Return the pan to the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is well-browned on the bottom and crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Slice into serving pieces.

pizzacrust5

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded (1 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup. grated fresh parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Dry zucchini well with clean paper towels. Shred the zucchini using a hand shredder, then take all the shredded pieces and squeeze out all the excess water in between two paper towels.

Combine the zucchini, flour, eggs, oil, herbs and the cheeses until well-blended.

Once the dough is fully formed, spread evenly to about 10 inches on a pizza pan covered with parchment paper, then bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crispy.

Carefully turn the crust over with a wide spatula so the other side cooks as well. This will prevent sogginess. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Once cooked, remove from the oven and add whatever toppings you choose (see below for ideas).

Turn the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Once topped, put the pan back in the oven for about 8 minutes until heated.

Some Topping Ideas Or Use Your Imagination:

  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
  • 2-3  sautéed garlic cloves
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced bell peppers
  • Thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with garlic
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced onion
  • Pesto
  • Fresh Mozzarella or Italian Fontina cheese

Dear Readers: What is the most unusual pizza you have created or eaten?


summersoup

Summer’s soup recipes are wonderful and on a warm day what could be lovelier than a bowl of cold soup. Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs. But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet.

These soups make elegant starters for a dinner yet are just as comfortable for outdoor eating, picnics and barbecues. The hotter the temperature, the cooler the soup needs to be, so add ice cubes or serve in chilled bowls. Not too hot, then serve at room temperature, which also gives soup maximum flavor.

A summer soup made with the bounty from your local farmers market or CSA is a great way to eat healthy and support local growers. Whether you’re using fruits, vegetables or a combination of both, you’re likely to come across some interesting flavors you haven’t experienced before. Flavoring your summer soups with an array of spices will add diversity.

Even though most summer soups are served cold or chilled, most must start out being cooked on the stove. When you can, you might want to do any of the necessary cooking in the cooler morning hours, so you won’t be heating up the kitchen right before mealtime. This strategy will give your soup plenty of time to chill. Chilled soup leftovers make an easy and quick lunch, also.

Cold soups need to chill at least two hours to taste their best at serving time. If you need to chill your soup quickly, place it over ice to cut down on the refrigeration time.

Fruit Soups

Fruit soups are a refreshing way to start or end a summer meal. Berry soups are often a combination of sweet and tart flavors. Tartness is important, since some of the flavor may fade while the soup cools. Buttermilk or yogurt are often used to add a smooth tartness.

Fresh lemon juice is often used to bring out the flavors of the fruit, but be careful when using lemon — too much can turn your soup an unappealing brown. Color is an important aspect of these cool, lively dishes.

Fruit soups are fun to garnish in creative ways, with whole berries, sliced fruit or a bit of sour cream. Soups served this way have visual appeal

Vegetable Soups

Cool summer vegetable soups are a nice variation from serving a salad. They can also be a hearty meal by themselves. Unlike the desired smoothness of a fruit soup, summer vegetable soups are often rich and full of texture. For additional texture, add beans, rice or bread to the mix.

Again, there’s nothing like a summer farmers’ market to offer you an array of vegetables for creating soups: spinach, avocados, cucumber, tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn and asparagus, for example. Any of these creatively combined with herbs and spices in a summer soup will revive your weary taste buds after a long summer day.

Remember, when cooled, some of the flavors of your vegetables may fade, so you need to start with the freshest ingredients you can find. Newly picked vegetables will give you the most satisfying results.

summersoup1

Blueberry Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream, plus extra for garnish

Directions

Combine blueberries, water, cinnamon stick, honey and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until most of the blueberries have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids) or use an immersion hand blender. Place a fine sieve over the pan and pour the soup through it back into the pan, straining out any solids. (Discard the solids.)

Whisk cornstarch and milk in a measuring cup until smooth. Whisk into the blueberry mixture. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Boil, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, loosely cover and chill until cold, at least 5 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before serving, whisk 1 cup sour cream into the soup and ladle into bowls; top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and swirl it decoratively into the soup. Garnish with additional blueberries, if desired.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 2 and chill for up to 1 day. The finished soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

summersoup2

Herbed Zucchini Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, (about 3 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and zucchini strips

Directions

Place broth, zucchini and tarragon (or dill) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Reheat over medium-high, slowly stirring in cheese until it is incorporated. Remove fromthe  heat and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve with garnishes.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

summersoup3

Chilled Melon Soup with Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve grnished with basil leaves. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

summersoup5

Chilled Tuscan-Style Tomato Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (1-inch cubes) country-style Italian bread
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, each cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Additional basil leaves, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In small skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Remove skillet fromthe  heat.

In food processor pulse bread until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes and garlic; pulse until soup is almost pureed. Pour soup into a bowl; stir in chopped basil, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish each serving with basil leaves. Makes about 6 cups.

summersoup4

Peach Soup with Shrimp and Crab

8 servings

Ingredients

Seafood Topping:

  • 8 ounces chopped cooked shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced hot fresh pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Soup:

  • 3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup matchstick-cut radishes
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced fresh hot pepper

Directions

To prepare seafood topping:

Combine shrimp and lime juice in a medium bowl; add crab; toss gently to combine. Stir in 3 tablespoons onion and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt). Chill at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

To prepare the soup:

Combine peaches, 1/3 cup juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of the peach mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed peach mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining peach mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup onion and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

To serve: Ladle about 1/2 cup of soup into a shallow bowl and top with 1/4 cup of the seafood topping.

summersoup6

Cucumber Soup with Watermelon and Mint

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large cucumbers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 block (1-pound) silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (about 1 lemon) lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed, chopped and divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 2 tablespoons of mint and stir to combine. Working in batches, purée allthe  ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer soup to a large pitcher, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Before serving, taste soup and adjust seasonings, if needed. Divide soup between chilled bowls and top evenly with watermelon, reserved chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.


drinkssnacks0

Summer Drinks

The sky is bright, the days are long and the weather warm: think Iced tea!  Now, with so many delicious loose-leaf tea varieties, you can really experiment to make easy, delicious and, most importantly, healthy iced tea for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some combinations to add some excitement to your cold tea.

Iced Tea Preparation Tips

Here are some guidelines for making iced tea.

As with any tea, you want to brew the tea first, using the correct-temperature hot water and proper steeping time. The only difference with iced tea is that it’s important to add double the amount of tea to strengthen the tea flavor. Once you add ice, the tea is going to dilute.

With green and white tea, the leaves are delicate and, therefore, boiling water will singe them. It’s best to heat the water to 175°F and steep for 2 1/2 minutes.

With black tea, use boiling water and steep for up to 5 minutes. You don’t want to leave the tea for too long or it will become bitter.

Once the tea is done steeping, pour over ice and it is ready.

If you’re making a cup for just yourself, use 2 teaspoons of tea.

Making iced tea for a crowd? Pitcher sizes vary, but generally one cup of loose-leaf tea for a large pitcher will be sufficient. Make the tea in a large pot, sweeten to taste and pour over ice when ready.

drinkssnacks 1

Add Flavor To Iced Tea Drinks

Sencha Green Tea with Rose Petals and Cherry

This combination is naturally sweet, so no sugar is needed. Simply add some dried cherries and rose petals to sencha tea (a Japanese green tea). You receive great metabolism-boosting benefits from the green tea as well as antioxidants and vitamins.

Orange, Apple, Hibiscus Tea Cooler

Another unique, refreshing blend that is surprising in its depth and flavor is orange peel, apple peel, hibiscus and rosehip. They come together to create a caffeine-free fruit combination that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. It does have a hint of tartness to it, so add a bit of honey or agave to give it a slightly sweet taste. This tea is also packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C, which rosehip and hibiscus are rich in. It can be added, as well, to summer coolers and even sangria. Pour it into Popsicle molds to create a refreshing treat.

Traditional Iced Tea with Mango

If you’re looking for something more traditional, try organic black tea with some dried mango. The mango infuses the black tea with a fruity flavor.

drinkssnacks8

Tropical Sangria

Ingredients

  • 3 cups mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 orange, cut into small wedges
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 750 ml cold Rose’ wine, chilled
  • 1 cup orange juice, chilled
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, chilled
  • Fresh pineapple chunks for garnish

Directions

Gently mix berries with the honey and let sit to macerate about 20 minutes. Just enough to be slightly softened. Pour into a large pitcher.

Add brandy, triple sec, juices and chilled wine. Stir and chill. Top with ice cubes.and serve in wine glasses. Garnish with fruit.

drinkssnacks

Cucumber Mojitos

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 cups agave syrup, honey or natural sugar
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle light (white) rum
  • 2 cups sparkling water or lemon-lime soda
  • Crushed ice

To serve:

  • 1 medium medium cucumber, cut into thin rounds for garnish
  • Fresh mint
  • Lime wedges

Directions

Combine water, cucumbers, mint, agave syrup and lime juice in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Combine cucumber mixture and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well. Refrigerate up to 4 hours.

To serve:

Fill glasses with crushed ice. Fill each glass halfway with cucumber mixture and top with sparkling water or soda. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, sprig of mint and a lime wedge.

For a kid-friendly alternative: make a double batch of cucumber mixture (one for adults; one for kids), omitting the rum in half of the mixture. Top with lemon-lime soda.

drinkssnacks3

Watermelon Lemonade

12 servings

Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Lemonade:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds

To make sugar syrup:

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and boil for 10 minutes. Place the sugar syrup in the freezer or refrigerator while you do the rest of the preparation.

To serve the lemonade:

Mix the chilled sugar syrup, water, lemon juice and lime juice in a big bowl or pitcher. Add the ice cubes, diced watermelon and other fruit. Stir well and chill until icy cold.

Snacks

With gardens and markets overflowing with ripe fruits and veggies, summer is the easiest season to eat healthfully. These recipes will let you enjoy summer’s bounty and feel good — all season long.

drinkssnacks4

Green Goddess Dip with Crudites

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, blotted dry with a paper towel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or other white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups assorted vegetable pieces for dipping (such as cucumber, celery, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas, mini sweet peppers, fennel, endive, blanched green beans and/or broccoli)

Directions

In a food processor combine avocado, parsley, tarragon, chives, mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, vinegar, milk. lemon peel and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl, if needed.

Transfer dressing to a serving bowl; cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Serve with assorted vegetable pieces for dipping.

drinkssnacks5

Grilled Sherry-Garlic Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 fresh large shrimp in the shells (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

For the marinade:

In a large bowl whisk together sherry, parsley, garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and salt, whisking until salt is dissolved. Set aside.

To butterfly the shrimp in shells:

Using small kitchen shears and starting at the head, cut through the shell along the entire backside of each shrimp (do not remove the shell). Remove and discard the vein. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep cut from head to tail, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Rinse; pat dry with paper towels.

Add shrimp to the marinade and, using your hands, gently lift and toss the shrimp to work the marinade into the openings, being careful to keep shells intact. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 3 hours. Drain shrimp; discarding marinade.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Grill shrimp and lemon pieces on the grates directly over medium-high heat, covered, 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque and lemon pieces are lightly charred, turning once.

Transfer shrimp and lemon pieces to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

drinkssnacks6

Oven-Fried Dill Pickles

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 30 crinkle-cut dill pickle slices (about 1 cup), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add drained pickles, stirring to coat evenly.

In a food processor combine panko, cornmeal, paprika, pepper and garlic powder; cover and process about 20 seconds or until evenly fine crumb forms. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.

Working in batches, add a few buttermilk-coated pickles to the panko mixture, stirring with a fork to coat. Shake off excess crumbs. Arrange pickles in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly coat tops of pickles with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn pickles over. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

drinkssnacks7

Smoked Tuna Bites

6 servings

Ingredients

Tuna Spread

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 5 ounce can or pouch chunk white tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento, drained

Appetizer

  • 24 thin water crackers
  • 1/2 of an English cucumber (about 8 ounces), cut into 24 slices, each about 1/8 inch thick
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, onion, 1 tablespoon chives, the oil, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke until creamy. Flake tuna with a fork.

Add tuna and the pimiento to the cream cheese mixture; stir until well mixed. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To assemble:

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the tuna mixture on each cracker. Top each with a cucumber slice and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tuna mixture. Sprinkle with chives.

drinkssnacks9
Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices, plus 2 teaspoons for the bruschetta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 16 slices toasted Italian bread

Directions

Slice eggplant in thin circles, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and Italian seasoning.

Bake them on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Finely dice the eggplant and combine with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil.

Spread on toasted baguette slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a platter and serve.



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