Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olive Oil

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ArtichokeBlossom The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

How To Buy Artichokes

Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.

How To Prepare Artichokes

Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke.  Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

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How To Cook Artichokes

Boiling Method:
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.

Steaming Method:
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

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Baby Artichokes

Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.

Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).

Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.

Cooking Artichokes

Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.

Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.

artichokes and potatoes

Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes 
  • A bunch parsley, minced
  • Pepper to taste

Directions

If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.

Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.

When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.

Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.

GrilledBabyArtichokes

Grilled Baby Artichokes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.

Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.

When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.

This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.

artichoke pizza

Artichoke Cheese Pizzas

This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.

Ingredients

  • One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.

Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.

Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.

artichoke stuffed

Stuffed Artichokes

This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.

Ingredients

For 2-double ingredients for 4

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Half small onion sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.

Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

To prepare stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.

In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.

Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.

fish

Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
  • 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.

Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.

Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.

In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.

To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.

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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

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On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

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Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

Antipasto

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

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Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

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Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

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Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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In ancient mythology, the nine muses and Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, are often depicted with rosemary in their hands. Carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity, rosemary is also a symbol of friendship and loyalty. Through the ages, this aromatic herb has been linked with memory and remembrance. In ancient times, a sprig was often placed in the coffin to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten. In the Middle Ages, it was common to keep some sprigs under the pillow to chase away bad dreams. Additionally, rosemary was used in purification rites and was known for its therapeutic qualities. The ancients believed that when used in moderation, rosemary could be a great digestive tonic and anti-inflammatory booster. To this day, this herb’s refreshing scent makes it a popular element in various health and beauty products.

In Italy you will find as many herbalist shops as you will pharmacies. Italians have been using natural cures and herbal teas for thousands of years. A herbalist must have a special degree in order to prescribe herbal remedies. Herbalists say that rosemary aids in blood circulation and helps fight against fragile capillaries, but it is not recommended for those with high blood pressure. In addition to its long and colorful legacy, rosemary has been an important ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine for centuries.

Rosemary growing wild in the Italian countryside.

A perennial plant from the Lamiaceae family, rosmarino is a familiar sight in the Italian countryside, growing in the wild throughout Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean regions. The botanical name, Rosmarinus officinalis, is derived from the old Latin term meaning “dew of the sea,” probably referring to its pale blue flowers and the fact that it often grows near the sea. The fresh leaves – thin, spiky, evergreen needles – have a particularly potent fragrance and flavor.

In Italy, rosemary is predominantly used to flavor roasted and grilled meats, poultry and fish. It is often coupled with garlic, wine and vinegar. When grilling, it’s a great idea to first marinate the meat in rosemary, sage, bay leaves, thyme, pepper and olive oil; then, just prior to cooking, sprinkle rosemary leaves and branches directly on the hot charcoal or in a grill box for a gas grill. The wonderful aroma of the burning herb will permeate whatever you are grilling.

Rosemary is often used in vegetable preparations – particularly, roasted potatoes and mushrooms. Cannellini beans are also enhanced by this herb. Rosemary is one of the five herbs comprising a bouquet garni – the bundle of fresh herbs used in stocks and stews. Unlike many other aromatic herbs, rosemary does not lose its flavor by long cooking. Another notable use of rosemary – alone or with other herbs – is to flavor olive oil.

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Fresh rosemary is now available at most grocery stores. You’ll often see it in packages of 4- to 5-inch sprigs or as bundles of long, straight branches. Be sure the leaves look fresh, green and pliable, not dry, brittle or blackened. Store rosemary in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp dishtowel for up to one week.

Homemade Infused Oil

Homemade infused oils are a great way to add an extra shot of flavor to your cooking, salads and marinades. They make perfect gifts for food lovers and serious cooks. Good flavorings to use include fresh herbs, garlic, whole spices, pink peppercorns or dried chilies.

Infused oils have the potential to support the growth of bacteria, so you should follow the procedures for bottling flavored oils carefully and make sure that any ingredients you use are washed and thoroughly dried first. Use pretty recycled bottles or jars for these oils.

Ingredients:

Use one of the following:

  • 1 large sprig (about 6 in.) of rosemary
  • 3-4 large ribbons of lemon peel
  • 3-4 whole chilies

2 cups light olive oil

Bottles or jars for storing

Directions:

It’s important to sterilize all bottles or jars and their lids before adding any ingredients. The dishwasher does a great job or after hand washing, place them upside down in a cold oven and heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Leave the bottles in the oven for 10–15 minutes. Place them upside down on a clean cloth until you are ready to use them, so dust or dirt, which could contaminate the oils, can’t be trapped inside. Alternatively, you can boil the bottles in a large saucepan covered with water for 15 minutes, dry them thoroughly with a fresh clean cloth and turn them upside down on another cloth until they are ready to be used.

Make the flavored oil a week before you want to give it as a gift. For rosemary oil, bruise a large sprig of fresh rosemary with the end of a rolling pin. For lemon oil use 3-4 large ribbons of lemon peel and for chili oil use 3-4 whole chilies cut in half lengthwise.

Put your choice of dry ingredients into a clear, sterilized glass bottle (at least 2 cups in capacity) and add 2 cups of light olive oil. Make sure the dry ingredients stay below the surface of the oil or they may turn moldy.

Secure the lid firmly and shake well once a day for a week to allow the flavors to develop. Add a gift label with instructions to store the oil in the refrigerator and use within a week.

Easy Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Topping:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh rosemary chopped
  • Sea Salt
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

To make the dough:

Mix the water and olive oil with the dry yeast (you’re looking to dissolve the yeast) in a medium bowl or measuring cup. Thoroughly mix the remaining dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and add the yeast mixture. With the paddle attachment mix for 2-3 minutes. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes; you’re looking for a fluffy/not too dense dough. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest 30-45 minutes or until it doubles in size.

To make the focaccia:

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a 10 by 15 inch cookie sheet and thoroughly coat the bottom with the oil. Stretch the dough on your cookie sheet (you’re looking for a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch). Next, create dimples in the dough with your fingertips and drizzle a bit more olive on the dough. Next, add fresh rosemary and sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes, depending on how thin or thick your dough is. You’re looking for a golden brown top and a somewhat crunchy bottom.

Italian Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups kale, minced
  • 1 15 oz can diced low sodium tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 15 oz cans low sodium navy beans, drained
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Using 5 tablespoons of broth, saute onion, carrot and celery in large soup pot over medium low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.

Add the rest of the chicken or vegetable broth, the kale and tomatoes.

Simmer for 30 minutes over medium heat.

Add beans, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, so beans can heat through.

Mustard & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

These potatoes start out looking very wet, but the mixture cooks down to leave the potatoes crisp and tangy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry vermouth or other dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch dice

Serves four to six.

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vermouth, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.

Pour the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.

Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are brown on the outside and tender, 50 to 55 minutes. Serve hot. 

Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme

Roasted in an herb-infused oil, the shrimp turn pink and fragrant in just a few minutes minutes.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs, halved
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1-1/2 lbs shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), preferably wild from the US, peeled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

Pour the oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Add the thyme, rosemary and black and red pepper and bake until the oil mixture is fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the dish and toss with tongs until coated. Bake the shrimp until just pink and firm, 7-8 minutes.

Add the vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss well, and let rest at room temperature until the oil cools slightly, about 5 minutes and serve.

Serve the shrimp with rice and sautéed broccoli raab. 

Italian Style Roast Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork loin, about 4-1/2 pounds
  • 4-5 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut about a dozen slits all over the pork, making some deep and some shallow.

Finely chop rosemary leaves and garlic together. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in some salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture with a little olive oil to hold the rosemary and garlic together. Using your fingertip, insert a small amount of mixture into each slit in the pork, pushing mixture to the bottom of each slit.

Place the butter in a shallow roasting pan and put it into the oven to melt; spread butter around pan evenly. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped onion over the melted butter. Place the pork loin directly on top of the onions; do not use a roasting rack. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the pork and add wine to the pan.

Roast, uncovered, basting with the wine about every 20 minutes for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Transfer the pork to a carving board and let rest 10-15 minutes before carving.

Grilled Tuscan Chicken 

Basting the chicken with lemon juice while it’s on the grill gives it a tangy taste. For the marinade, steeping the rosemary in hot water intensifies the flavor of the herb.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 or 10 serving pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Sliced lemon for garnish

Directions:

Heat grill to medium. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup water and rosemary to a boil; remove from heat, cover and let steep 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender. Add oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth; let cool.

Combine chicken and pureed rosemary oil in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag and turn to coat. Cover and let marinate at least 15 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, turning chicken occasionally.

Remove chicken from marinade; place on grill. Discard marinade. Cook, basting frequently with lemon juice and turning as needed to prevent burning, until cooked throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.


In the summer when fruits, vegetables and herbs are in abundance, homemade sauces and dressings made from these ingredients are simply delicious drizzled over just about anything.

When vegetables are puréed in a blender or food processor with some additional ingredients, they add bright flavor, creamy body and vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your salad bowl of leafy greens.

But don’t stop there, serve homemade no-cook sauces over grilled beef, chicken, pork or seafood, tossed with beans or pasta, drizzled over grilled vegetables or over cooked grain salads.

No-cook sauces use up produce, spice up summer foods and save time and energy during the hot summer months. Not only do herbs and vegetables taste great when eaten fresh, they’re also healthier since there’s no heat or water to dilute their nutrients.

Aside from the health benefits, no-cook sauces also eliminate the use of unhealthy fats, like butter and cream. No-cook sauces mean limited oven and stove use, which helps keep the kitchen and house cooler. The best part of no-cook sauces, though, is the aroma of fresh chopped herbs and vegetables that fills the kitchen and lingers in the air as these sauces rest a bit before being used.

During the summertime, it is great to serve pasta dishes with raw sauces; the Italians call them “pasta con salsa a crudo”. With raw sauces, there’s no cooking beyond boiling the pasta—the only heat applied to the sauce is the gentle warmth from the cooked pasta. Children usually love these dishes and they’re fast and easy to prepare. Keep your pantry well stocked with high-quality condiments (see below), check out what looks good at the market and you’ve got dinner for family or guests at a moment’s notice.

You’ll always be able to whip up easy, fast pastas if you keep ingredients like these on hand:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Prosciutto
  • Capers
  • Black and green olives
  • Anchovies
  • Dried chiles
  • Sardines
  • Canned tuna
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Fennel seeds
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Dried pasta of various shapes and sizes

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This sauce is perfect for burgers, chicken, pasta and sandwiches.

Ingredients:

  • 3 roasted red bell peppers from a large jar or homemade
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 sun-dried packed in oil, drained
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Place garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add roasted peppers and remaining ingredients; puree until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 6 large fresh vine ripe tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Chop tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Add garlic, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Toss gently.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 2 to 4 hours

When ripe tomatoes sit at room temperature, they get juicier and juicier.

Toss this sauce with pasta or spoon it over grilled chicken, beef or vegetables.

Creamy Zucchini Dressing with Tahini and Lemon

This tart sauce perfectly dresses up grilled fish or vegetables and makes a tasty dressing for a tossed green salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (paste made from ground sesame seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Whirl until smooth. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Easy No-Cook Homemade Barbecue Sauce

No cooking – just brush on your grilled meats or vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pineapple Juice

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk together. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for later. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Cucumber-Dill Sauce

Use this sauce with grilled salmon, swordfish, shrimp, baked potatoes or veggie burgers.

Makes: 4 cups

In a medium bowl, combine:

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium red onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1/2 cup finely minced fresh dill
  • 4 tablespoons Champagne or white-wine vinegar
  • A few drops of Tabasco
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve:

Stir in 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Sauce can be stored, refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Fresh Mango-Mint Chutney

Try it with: grilled tofu, pork or tuna

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 2 large mangoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup julienned fresh mint, according to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1/2 hot red pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Directions:

Let rest at least 1 hour at room temperature. Adjust seasoning, if needed and serve.

Chutney can be stored, refrigerated, for 3 days, but it is best if consumed the same day it is made.

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Experiment by trying different vinegars and mustards to perfect your blend. A mild honey such as clover or orange blossom works best in this recipe. Toss dressing with salad greens or serve as a dipping sauce for chicken, fried mozzarella sticks or vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Whisk the mayonnaise with the olive oil to combine. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at once or chill in a covered container for up to 5 days.


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

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

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

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

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

Tips on bringing out the best flavor for chilled soups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two-Color Melon Soup

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Carrot Soup with Herbs

6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Herbed Yogurt Garnish

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

Fennel-Grapefruit Soup with Lemon Olive Oil

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

Servings 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

 

Cool Tomato Soup

6 Servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

 

Chilled Corn Soup with Roasted Chilies

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Chill the soup thoroughly.

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

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

Garnish with roasted sliced jalapeno chilies before serving.

 


Think beans are just for cold weather?

Think again. In a crispy cool bean salad, beans are lighter, yet still as filling.  This side-dish favorite can be prepared in countless ways. So pick your bean base from one of the choices below and then try one the recipes in this post:

Kidney: For a meatier main dish, mix these rich beans with barley, fresh green peppers and a can of tuna and then top with an olive oil and lemon dressing.

Black:  For a Tex-Mex style salad, simply mix beans with corn, tomatoes, green onions, fresh cilantro and top it all off with a sprinkling of lime juice and olive oil.

Green:  Crisp and garden fresh, green beans will give your salad lots of crunch. Toss them with cherry tomatoes, soft feta cheese and grilled corn. Add a lemon-mint vinaigrette to really bring out the flavors.

Pinto:  Make a spicy salad by mixing pinto beans with cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, onions, celery and fresh parsley. Toss in an herbed vinaigrette and add a splash of Tabasco for extra flavor.

Garbanzo:  A highly versatile bean, garbanzos are great mixed in couscous with roasted bell peppers, red onions, cucumbers and feta cheese. Toss in a honey-Dijon dressing to finish.

Beans are eaten around the world with all kinds of flavorings and accompaniments. Black beans, for example, seem well-suited to Mexican style salads, while the flavors of the Mediterranean—green beans, anchovies, basil, thyme and fruity olive oil—enhance creamy white beans. Indian flavors—cumin, ginger, yogurt and cilantro—are great for chickpea salads as are Middle Eastern flavors—garlic, parsley, olive oil and feta.

You can easily make these salads by opening a can or two of beans and mixing them with seasonings and your favorite salad dressings. However, 1 cup dried beans gives you 2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked beans and, with the exception of chickpeas which actually take well to canning, most beans suffer, becoming quite mushy when canned. When you use canned beans, you also miss a chance to add extra flavor to your salads. Including a few aromatic vegetables and seasonings in the pot when cooking dried beans is an opportunity to add depth and character to the final dish. If you do use canned beans, try a few brands to see which you like best. The organic ones taste better and usually have little or no salt. Just remember to always rinse canned beans well before using.

Most beans improve in flavor and texture when cooked a day in advance. If you plan to hold them for a day or so, refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid once they’ve cooled. If kept at room temperature for too long, beans can sour and ferment.

To soak or not to soak?

Soaking dried beans in water overnight before cooking them has two benefits: most soaked beans cook faster—up to an hour less. Also, if the soaking water is poured off, the beans will be easier to digest because you’re leaching out and pouring off the oligosaccharides that cause gas.

If you are not good at planning ahead, there’s a quick-soaking method. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil. Boil for two minutes and then let them soak for an hour off the heat, drain, and then add fresh water and continue cooking.

Many people believe dried beans last forever. In fact, very old beans and those that have been stored in hot, humid conditions might never soften even after hours of cooking. Yet it’s almost impossible to tell the age of dried beans. If you have a good market that goes through beans quickly, you’d do well to buy them there. Heirloom beans are available by mail from small growers.

To salt or not?

A major debate exists in the culinary world on whether adding salt or acids to beans slows down the cooking time or toughens the beans.  Cook’s Illustrated did a study and concluded that salt has no effect on cooking time or bean texture. Furthermore, they suggest that for maximum flavor, it’s actually essential to salt your beans at the beginning rather than the end of of cooking. Also, when soaking beans, Cook’s Illustrated says that by using salt water, the bean will cook up with softer and more pliable skins.  

Tomato sauce, wine, lemon juice and vinegar, however, do prevent the starch on the inside of the bean from swelling and becoming tender. These ingredients can be added to bean salads, but not until the beans are fully cooked and soft. And speaking of acidic ingredients, don’t dress cooked beans until the day you are serving the salad. Though the beans need some time to absorb the flavor from the dressing, too much time in contact with the acidic ingredients—and this includes yogurt—will make the beans mushy.

After cooking the beans and letting them cool in their broth, strain them and mix them with summertime ingredients, such as basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and chiles from the farmers’ market. These salads are good for a light lunch along with some bread—crusty Italian with white bean salads, warmed tortillas with the black beans or and pita with chickpea salads.

Consider experimenting with a pot of cooked beans to create your own salad. Try some of the recipes below for a different side dish to add interest at your next BBQ. These recipes also make use of the many fresh vegetables that are available this time of year.

Basic Method For Cooking Dried Beans

Use this basic method to cook any type of dried bean, including cannellini, kidney beans, chickpeas, and more. 1 cup dried beans yields about 3 cups.

Ingredients:

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 to 3 sprigs fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, or flat-leaf parsley)

1 to 1-1/2 cups dried beans, sorted through, rinsed and soaked

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Wrap the bay leaves, garlic,and herbs in cheesecloth and tie with twine. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches (about 2 quarts). Add the herb bundle and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are tender but not splitting and falling apart, 1 to 2 hours depending on the type and freshness the of beans. Cannellini and kidney beans take about 1 hour and 15 minutes; chickpeas may take up to two hours. Best way to tell is to taste one of the beans. Check occasionally to be sure the beans aren’t boiling and that they are covered with liquid; add water if needed. Discard the herb bundle.

Black Bean Salad

Serves 4 – 6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 small jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 -3 big handfuls baby salad greens, well washed and dried
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Making the dressing: I use an immersion blender – but a blender or food processor will work just as well. Combine the lime juice, vinegar, honey, jalapeño, salt, garlic and mustard. Puree and add the olive oil and puree again until everything comes together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Set aside until you are ready to serve the salad.

Just before you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss the salad greens with a small amount of the dressing. Arrange it on a platter. Now toss the beans and most of the almonds with the remaining dressing. Arrange the beans on top of the salad greens and finish by sprinkling with the remaining almonds and the crumbled feta cheese. 

Bean Salad with Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese

If you can find yellow wax beans use half green and half yellow.

6 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil

Salad:

  • 1 ½ lbs green beans, trimmed
  • 8 cups (packed) torn arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh savory leaves or fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 2 ounces semi-firm sheep’s-milk cheese (such as pecorino romano), shaved with vegetable peeler

For dressing:

Whisk shallot, vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in both oils. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk before adding to the salad.

For salad:

Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water just until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer beans to colander and cool.

Combine beans and arugula in large bowl. Toss with dressing. Transfer salad to serving platter; sprinkle with walnuts, olives, herbs and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Serves four to six

If you use canned chickpeas in place of dried, don’t cook them. Add the turmeric and salt to them (but not the onion or bay leaves) and continue with the recipe as directed. Toast the whole spices in a heavy-based skillet just until fragrant; crush them with a mortar and pestle or grind them coarsely in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, well rinsed (soaked and drained), or 3 cups canned (see note above), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut in half
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 small potatoes (about 8 oz. total)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 medium-size hot green chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Directions:

In a deep, heavy-based pot, cover the chickpeas with 6 to 8 cups cold water. Add the turmeric, bay leaves, yellow onion and 1 tsp. salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce to a gentle simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes; let cool in the broth.

In a heavy-based pot, cover the potatoes with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender, about 20 min. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut them into small cubes.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and sour cream. Add the ginger, cumin, fennel and chile. Mix well.

Drain the chickpeas, discarding the onion and bay leaves. In a serving bowl, combine the chickpeas, potatoes, cucumber and red onion. Mix in the yogurt dressing, cilantro and mint. Combine well. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Make Ahead Tips ; The beans can be cooked a day ahead (in fact, the flavor and texture will be even better). Cool the beans to room temperature, then refrigerate them in their cooking liquid; bring to room temperature  and drain before assembling the salad.

Warm Kidney Bean Salad

Try this bean salad as a side with barbecue pork or grilled chicken.

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 — (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced in half

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add oregano, vinegar and beans. Cook over low heat until beans are warm.

Remove from heat and stir in salt, parsley and olives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean and Baby Zucchini Salad

White-Bean Salad with Zucchini 

White beans add heartiness while chopped zucchini adds crunch to this vegetarian salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (about 2 small), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Note: Small zucchini are sweeter than larger ones, especially when used raw.

Green Bean Salad with Prosciutto

4 to 6 servings

The flavor of Prosciutto di Parma, the most famous of the Italian hams, makes a delicious addition to this summery salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally in half
  • 1 medium summer squash, cut in matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:

Steam beans in steamer basket over boiling water until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Empty into a colander and cool.

Drain well, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Popular Vegetables For The Grill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled Ricotta Basil Tomatoes                                                                                            

Ingredients:

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

 Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

3-4 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled Summer Fresh Peppers

Ingredients:

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

 Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

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

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

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

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

Place peppers on a platter and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

 Ingredients:

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

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

Grilled Artichokes                                                

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Preheat grill and oil the grill grates.

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

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

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

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

Serve with the Spicy Lemon Aioli, if desired.

Spicy Lemon Aioli

Ingredients:

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

Whisk together all ingredients and season to taste.

Grilled Zucchini-and-Summer Squash with Citrus Splash

4 servings

 Ingredients:

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

 Directions:

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

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

Prepare grill and oil grill grates.

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

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

Marinated Mushrooms

The mushrooms are a great side for grilled meats.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Preheat your outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring to room temperature before serving.

Parmesan Garlic Corn                                                    

4 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Preheat grill and grease grill grates with oil.

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

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

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

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

Crusty Grilled Onions                                                                                              

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

 


With classic springtime ingredients arriving at grocery stores and farmer’s markets, it’s time to lighten up that suppertime standby, pasta. Spring’s produce not only brings a variety of fresh flavors to the table; it also gives you a broad range of nutritional benefits. Freshly harvested vegetables taste great in spring pasta recipes and they’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Pasta makes an ideal partner for the lightest, most delicately flavored spring vegetables.The job of the noodles is to make a substantial, but never heavy, meal. It’s also fitting to celebrate the season’s produce bounty with pasta that’s just as varied, such as, farfalle bow ties, fluted garganelli tubes, long, hollow bucatini noodles or broad pappardelle ribbons. Dried pastas are pantry-friendly and offer a satisfying chew, when cooked al dente. Fresh pasta will also work for these lighter dishes.

Whatever vegetables you use, bump up the nutritional content of your spring pasta recipes by skipping regular white pasta and using whole grain varieties instead. Whole wheat and other whole grain pastas make healthy recipes even healthier because they’re produced using grains that haven’t had their germ and bran stripped from the grain. Leaving the grain intact allows you to gain the benefits of the whole grain, which include extra fiber, B vitamins, protein and antioxidants, as well as minerals like selenium, magnesium and potassium. Studies have shown that whole grains help protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Also, whole grains help with weight control. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to find a variety of whole grain pasta options at the grocery store these days.

Pair hearty pasta with these delicate spring veggies and you’ll create a meal that’s both nutritious and satisfying. As different vegetables turn up at your market, you can change up the recipes for added variety. For the healthiest results, prepare dishes using plenty of fiber-rich veggies, smaller portions of pasta and lean protein to make them extra-filling.

Sauces used in springtime pasta dishes are not heavy or meaty. They might feature light protein, such as tuna or chicken, but they are typically vegetarian dishes. Light lemon sauces, vinaigrette and other thin dressings are most commonly used on spring pasta dishes. Light pesto sauces are also good choices. A simple pasta dish can be dressed with some olive oil, sea salt and grated Italian cheese. Including eggs in the preparation may help the dressing adhere to the pasta, as well as provide additional flavor. Chopped herbs can be added as desired

Some favorite ingredients utilized in springtime pasta recipes are mushrooms and asparagus. Onions are popular inclusions, as are sugar snap peas. Fresh parsley is often included, too. Other fresh spring pasta herbs might include chives and dill. Escarole is frequently utilized in creating spring pastas dishes. Fresh spinach may also be tossed into the pasta. Another popular green used in spring dishes is Swiss chard. 

Pasta Primavera is a very popular spring pasta meal. Zucchini and other squashes are often used in this pasta dish, as can broccoli florets and plum or cherry tomatoes. Tasty elements of crunch or nuttiness, from pine nuts to fava beans, are often included, though many of the spring vegetables, like radishes, can also provide plenty of crisp texture and flavor. Fresh cheeses may also be grated, lightly, on top of spring pastas.

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in 1 tablespoon each of the parsley and chives and 1/2 tablespoon of the tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the broccolini to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

Boil the pasta in the same pot until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a deep skillet, heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, fennel, scallions, peas and chopped broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs.

Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving.

Pappardelle with Baby Spinach, Herbs and Ricotta

Fettuccine will also work if you can’t find pappardelle. Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before beginning to cook—the pasta needs to be hot when mixed with the other ingredients to create a creamy consistency.

4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Cook pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl and reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine 1/2 cup reserved hot cooking liquid and ricotta cheese in a food processor or use an immersion blender and process until well blended.

Heat oil in a skillet and saute pancetta and garlic for a few minutes. Add spinach and cook just until wilted.

Combine hot pasta, cheese mixture, spinach mixture and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Add additional cooking liquid to moisten, if needed.

Chicken and Artichoke Fettuccine Alfredo

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound uncooked fettuccine
  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces reduced fat Cream Cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and halved or frozen and defrosted
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions

Cook fettuccine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil and cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the milk, cream cheese and salt to the skillet; cook and stir until smooth. Stir in the artichoke hearts, red pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Drain fettuccine. Stir in sauce and chicken; heat through. Sprinkle with basil.

Pasta with Squash and Sage Leaves

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz whole-wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash or any squash of choice (about 2 lbs), peeled and seeded, if needed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

Cook penne as directed on the package. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sage leaves, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cups pasta water, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes. Add pasta to squash mixture; stir over low heat, add remaining pasta cooking water, if a thinner sauce is wanted.

Cook until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and cooked sage leaves.

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Makes: 4 servings 

This twist on classic pesto swaps arugula for basil, making a peppery sauce with toasted pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. For something extra, grate a little Pecorino or Parmesan cheese on top before serving.

Sun-dried tomatoes come packed dry or in oil and can be found in most grocery stores. In this recipe use tomatoes packed in oil (just drain well) because they give more flavor than their dry counterparts (which need to be reconstituted before using).

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, gemelli, or conchiglie
  • 10 ounces arugula, washed and tough stems removed
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced

Directions:

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, combine arugula, garlic, lemon juice and half of the pine nuts in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil and process until evenly blended, about 2 minutes. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and process again to blend in seasoning.

Drain pasta and return to the pot (but do not return to the heat). Add arugula pesto, remaining pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and  pasta water, if needed. Mix until evenly combined.

Serve immediately.

Linguine with Spring Vegetables

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pounds linguine
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise (quartered if large) and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, stem ends trimmed, halved
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

Directions:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes just short of al dente; add asparagus, zucchini and snap peas. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and vegetable mixture and set aside.

In the same pot, bring half & half and butter to a simmer. Add in pasta-vegetable mixture , cheese and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce (it will thicken as it stands).

Season with salt and pepper and top with tarragon.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchasing Squash

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

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

Cutting Up Spaghetti Squash Before Cooking

Advantages: It cooks faster.

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

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

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

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

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

Cooking Spaghetti Squash Whole

Advantages: It’s easier.

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

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

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

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

Boil for half an hour.

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash Storage Tip

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

How To Serve Spaghetti Squash

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

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

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Herbs

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Spaghetti Squash Salad with Pine Nuts and Tarragon

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Roasted Salmon with Spaghetti-Squash Salad

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash With Garlic, Parsley and Breadcrumbs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Onion

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients:

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

Directions::

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

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

 


A few little facts: The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome. Note: The banana plant is not a tree. It is actually the world’s largest herb! The time between planting a banana plant and the harvest of the banana bunch is from 9 to 12 months. The flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Bananas are available throughout the year – they do not have a growing season. Bananas are grown in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. They require moist soil with good drainage.

In fact, most exported bananas are grown within 30 degrees of either side of the equator. Plantations are predominant in Latin America and they require a huge investment in infrastructure and technology for transport, irrigation, drainage and packing facilities. Banana growing is, in general, labor intensive, involving clearing away jungle growth, propping up the plants to counter bending from the weight of the growing fruit, and installing irrigation in some regions. As well as implementing an intensive use of pesticides, the conventional production process involves covering banana bunches with polyethylene bags to protect them from wind, attacks of insects or birds and to maintain optimum temperatures.

After nine months, the bananas are harvested while still green. At the packhouse they are inspected and sorted for export. Buyers of the fruit want unbruised bananas and so very high standards are set. If the bananas do not meet these standards they are usually sold locally at a much lower price.They are then transported to ports to be packed in refrigerated ships called reefers. They are transported at a temperature of 55.94 degrees F. (13.3°C ) in order to increase their shelf life and require careful handling in order to prevent damage. Humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions are carefully monitored in order to maintain quality. When the bananas arrive at their destination port, they are first sent to ripening rooms (a process involving ethylene gas) and then sent to the stores and markets.

The true origin of bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. Bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great had his first taste of the banana, an unusual fruit he saw growing on tall trees, and he is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian, Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese people until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory and bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. Arabian slave traders are also credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia, were not the eight-to-twelve-inch fruits that have become familiar in U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger, therefore, the name banan, Arabic for finger.

By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered this tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary Islands with the first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk, who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean, as well as Central America.

It was almost three hundred and fifty years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”

Hafer & Bro. in Reading, Pennsylania, July 6, 1914

How did bananas get to Italy?

Italian Somaliland, also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various treaties. In 1936, the region was incorporated into Africa Orientale Italiana, as part of the Italian Empire. This arrangement would last until 1941, when Italian Somaliland came under British administration. The two major economic developments of the Italian colonial era were the establishment of plantations and the creation of a salaried workers. In the south, the Italians laid the basis for profitable export-oriented agriculture, primarily in bananas, through the creation of plantations and irrigation systems. Banana exports to Italy began in 1927 and gained primary importance in the colony after 1929, when the world cotton market collapsed.

Italian Style Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup amaretto-flavored non dairy liquid creamer
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant banana pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 ounces of bite-sized amaretti cookies
  • 3 – 4 bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces ( depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl place the coffee creamer, milk, pudding mix and vanilla extract. Whisk for 2 minutes until thickened; place the bowl in the refrigerator.

In a large mixer bowl place the 1/2 cup of heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Whip at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1-1/2 minutes. Fold mixture gently into pudding mixture until well combined.

Place six 1-cup dessert dishes or ramekins on work surface. Spoon a few tablespoons of pudding mixture into each dish. Place 4 cookies on pudding; top with banana slices. Layer in the same way ending with pudding and making sure cookies and bananas are covered on the top layer. Cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle each with chopped hazelnuts.

 

Banana Nutella Crepes

Serves: 8 to 10 crepes

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons hazelnuts, peeled, toasted, chopped

For the filling:

  • 4 bananas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 small jar hazelnut spread (such as, Nutella)

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Directions:

For the crepes:

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt. Place a small sauce pan or saute pan over low heat and melt the butter; cook it until it is light brown.

Add the egg and milk to the flour and salt and mix well so that there are no large clumps. Add the browned butter and mix to incorporate, being careful not to overwork batter. The batter should just coat the back of a spoon. If seems too thick, thin it out with a little more milk or water. Let the batter rest for 1 hour prior to cooking crepes.

For the filling:

Peel bananas, cut in half lengthwise and then cut 1/2-inch slices widthwise. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the bay leaves to the hot butter and cook until it crackles slightly, add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Add the bananas and orange juice and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes so the flavors incorporate and the bananas are hot but not mushy. Add the raspberries. Stir gently to combine. Set this mixture aside and let cool slightly.

For the Crepes:

After the crepe batter has rested for 1 hour, heat 1 (10-inch) nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 ounces of the crepe batter to the pan, remove pan from heat and tilt slightly to spread the batter over the entire pan. Return to heat and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom side is lightly browned. With your fingertips and a spatula, carefully flip crepe and cook the second side for about 15 seconds. Set the cooked crepe on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used all of the batter. You should be able to produce 8 to 10 crepes.

Lay the crepes out on a flat surface. Spread each crepe with about 1 tablespoon of hazelnut spread. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the banana mixture on one section of the crepe and fold the crepe over in half and in half again so that it forms a triangular shape. Repeat this with all of the crepes.

For the sauce:

In a small saute pan over medium heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the lemon juice and brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Serve the crepes on a plate with the sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with the remaining chopped hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar.

Note: See how to make crepes in post:  http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/27/new-years-eve-party-time/

Grilled Bananas

Grilling bananas is a unique way to cook them. Prepare this dish when you can take advantage of a still very hot grill from a barbecue dinner, but remember to scrape the grilling grate with a grill spatula and let some of the bits burn off from any previous food that was cooked before placing the bananas on the grill.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 unpeeled bananas
  • 4 tablespoons Italian liqueur of choice, such as Frangelico
  • Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Put the unpeeled bananas on the grill 1 to 2 inches from the source of the heat until they blacken on both sides.

3. Remove from the grill, slice the bananas open lengthwise, leaving them in their peels, and sprinkle a tablespoon of liqueur, a shake of powdered sugar and cinnamon on each and serve.

Olive oil Banana Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (has salt and baking powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons instant expresso powder
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

Spray a tube pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine bananas, eggs and oil in a small bowl.

Sift flour, expresso powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Make a well in the center and add the bananas mixture.

Stir until mixture is smooth. Pour into mixture into pan, spread eveningly and bake for 1 hour.

Allow the cake to sit on the wire cooling rack for ten minutes. Remove from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Gelato di Banana al Rum

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 slightly overripe bananas
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Directions::

Peel bananas; cut into thirds. In heavy-bottom saucepan, bring bananas and milk to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until bananas are very soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In food processor, whirl banana mixture until smooth.

In electric mixer large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow and frothy. Slowly whisk in banana mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until banana mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the banana mixture surface; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Stir in rum. Chill another 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Freeze banana mixture in ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Banana Chocolate Chip Nut Biscotti

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana ( about 1 large banana)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chip

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine bananas, oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into dry mixture along with nuts and chocolate chips, stir together.

Flour a working area and turn dough out onto it. Flour hands as dough is sticky. Form two 7 inch loaves about 2 inches wide.

Put loaves on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn temperature down to 250 degrees F.

Remove loaves from cookie sheet and let cool 10 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4 inch slices, return slices to cookie sheet.

Bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.



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