Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olive Oil

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In Italy, there are sugo and salsa. Sugo derives from succo (juices) and refers to pan drippings that come from cooking meat or from a rich meat-based sauce, such as, sugo alla Bolognese and thick vegetable sauces (which often go over pasta). A salsa is a semi-liquid raw or cooked sauce that’s used as a condiment. It can go over pasta or used to season other dishes, for example, pesto alla genovese or salsa verde that is served over boiled meats or potatoes. If a sauce is especially delicate, it may be called “salsina.”

The passage from sugo/salsa to sauce/gravy must have occurred when immigrant families settled into new neighborhoods in the U.S. and became an Italian-American family/neighborhood tradition more than anything else. Some immigrants translated the Italian for what they put on their pasta as gravy, while others translated it as sauce and the translations have been passed down through the generations, becoming the definitive lable in the process. People get amazingly passionate over things like this.

The aroma of a garlic-laden tomato sauce spiked with sausage, meatballs and rolled-up braciole can bring tears to the eyes of many Italian-Americans. Sunday gravy, evokes memories of weekend family gatherings in which mom or grandma presided over the constantly stirred pot of sauce and meat, and various relatives were tasked with procuring the essential provisions to round out the dinner—the cannoli and sesame bread from the bakery or the wine from the cellar.

Sunday gravy was more than just a big meal. In close-knit Italian-American homes, it was a virtual religion. The best Sunday gravy simmered on the stove for hours and the meats in the sauce became a symbol of plenty. Meat had been a rarity in the old country and, if there was any of it at all in a meal, it was usually pork. But in the U.S., immigrant women bought beef because they could. The long, slow cooking time was also a time for families to spend with each other, reinforcing ties that could withstand the harsh realities of the outside world.

When I was young, my mother would make Italian gravy every Sunday. She would start at dawn and work in the kitchen pretty much until dinner time, which was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Not only did she prepare this sauce with meatballs, sausage, etc. for pasta, but she would also cook a pork roast or an eye of the round roast, vegetables and salad. In those days, my grandfather would come to dinner and bring Hershey chocolate bars, ice cream and a jug of homemade wine.

This tradition is time-consuming and quite a lot of work. Not the healthiest of meals, either, with all the meat and oil used in its preparation. I make tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage quite often but on a much smaller scale with a lot less fat and with healthier meat for the meatballs and I do the same for Sunday gravy. Just for the fun of it, I make Italian gravy once or twice a year. This time it is for the blog, so you can see just exactly what Sunday Gravy is all about.

Italian Gravy

The Meat

The Meat

The Sauce Ingredients

The Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients

Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into links
  • 11 to 12 ounces boneless pork ribs
  • Meatballs, recipe below
  • Braciole, recipe below
  • 3 (26-ounce) containers of Italian chopped tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2 (26-ounce) containers of Italian crushed tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • Water
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Meatballs

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 pound pasture-raised ground pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Braciole

  • 1 pound beef top round, flank steak or strip steak, pounded thin
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large clove garlic chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup pignolis – toasted and chopped, optional
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • String (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

Pasta

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

To make the braciole:

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Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin the meat. Cut the meat into 5-6” slices.

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, chopped parsley, shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the beef rolls. Fold in the sides over the filling of each roll. Roll up each slice and secure with kitchen string.

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To make the gravy:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coat them with olive oil cooking spray. Place the sausage links on one baking sheet. The second baking pan is for the meatballs.

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In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the boneless pork ribs. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned all over. Place on a clean plate.

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Add the braciole rolls and brown them on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the pork and cover with foil to keep warm.

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Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste cans with water and add to the pot. Stir into the onions and let cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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Pour in all the tomatoes and fill one tomato container with water and add it to the pot. Add the seasonings (crushed red pepper – parsley), the pork ribs and the sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the cooked meatballs and braciole to the gravy after it has simmered for one hour. Simmer for an additional 3 to 4 hours (if you want it thick and rich). Stir in the fresh basil just before adding the gravy to the pasta.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Once cooked, drain and add the gravy. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve the meat on a big platter, so diners can choose what they want.

To make the meatballs and sausage:

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Add the water to the bread crumbs, mix well and let sit for a few minutes. Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cheese and parsley to the meat. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt and pepper and add to the meat mixture. Add the moistened bread crumbs. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. Using your hands, roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls.Two pounds of meat should make about 18 to 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the foil lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned, turning them over after 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

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Place the pan of sausage links in the oven at the same time and bake the sausage until browned. Turn over halfway through baking. Add the sausage to the gravy when the pork ribs are added.

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healthyfat

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

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

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

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

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

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Italian Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

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

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

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Fettuccine with Sardines

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

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Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

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

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

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

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

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

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

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

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Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

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

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

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

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Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


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Gallipoli (beautiful town) is a village of 20,969 inhabitants in the province of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy, in the heel of the boot. It is located by the Ionian Sea and is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century. It’s a picturesque town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks coming from the sea. The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522, the eastern wall was added. Extending out into the sea, the impressive and majestic Castle remains a focal point of Gallipoli, as does the Cathedral in the town center. Started in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th, the Cathedral, with its decorative facade and Baroque interior, was built in honor of Saint Agata.

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Once an important fishing center; it feels more like a working Italian town, rather than what it is – a resort region. The attractive port is still used by fishing boats and one will see fishermen mending their nets and houses decorated with fishing baskets. Restaurants serve fresh seafood and sea urchins are a specialty of Gallipoli. Gallipoli has a mild climate and can be visited year-round but the main season is May through October, when the weather is almost always hot and clear. There are celebrations and festivals for Easter Week, Carnival (40 days before Easter), Sant’ Agata in February and Santa Cristina in July.

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Gallipoli7With its labyrinth of narrow streets and churches, palazzi and structures, Gallipoli’s history and mix of different influences and cultures is apparent. Strolling through the old town, it’s impossible not to be facinated with the charming alleys and courtyards that greet one at every turn. There are many places of interest in the city, beginning with the Greek-Roman fountain (III Century BC) above photo, which one will see after crossing the bridge that divides the new city from the old.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

There was a time when oil was as valuable as gold and the subterranean cisterns of Gallipoli were full of it. We are talking about lamp oil, needed to light the chandeliers in palaces and aristocratic mansions or transformed into soap for the great ladies of Paris. Apparently from the by-products of Gallipoli’s oil mills the famous “Marseilles kitchen soap” was made.

The oil from Gallipoli was the best in the Mediterranean and the most popular. From the 17th to the 19th century ships crowded the port of Gallipoli,  loading precious liquid that reached the seaports of Northern Europe and Russia. That was because this oil, thanks to its purity, was the only one allowed to burn along with incense in front of the statues in the Moscow orthodox churches.

Even the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg was only lit with the lamp oil from Gallipoli, which made less smoke as compared to other oils and gave more sheen in the vast salons. The Czarina, Catherine, sent envoys to try and discover the secret. The secret, yes olive oil, had its origin in the ancient Gallipoli subterranean oil mills that did not depend just on the quality of the olives, but also, on the stone in the cisterns, in which the oil was often stored for long periods. The carparo (tuff) stone filtered the oil, giving it a special pureness. Many historians believe that the rough stone in these ancient subterranean oil mills blended the olive oil with the saltiness from the sea below to give it its uniqueness..

In the old town center there once were about thirty oil mills. It was not only the production of olive oil (which in the 19th century employed about 8,000 workers from October to May) that had developed, but also a number of satellite activities, such as the production and marketing of casks, whose wood was aged in salted water so as to make it more resistant and ideal for long voyages. A rich class of craftsmen and traders established themselves, which made possible investments in the restructuring and building of new churches. A donation of the “dockers” was the church of Santa Maria della Purità and the lamp oil trade gave the town of Gallipoli an international atmosphere. The ships that loaded oil brought to the town a variety of goods, which even came from America, England, France, Germany, Venice and Trieste, trays from Sheffield, Limoges porcelain, glasses from Murano, cheese from Bavaria and foreign wines.

All European languages were spoken on the quays of Gallipoli and merchants and consul authorities abounded, with the British playing a leading role. The trade of lamp oil was controlled from London and a number of families related to the industry moved to the area to oversee the oil trade. This can explain why in the region, even today, one can find the descendants of numerous families with English surnames and that the relations between the United Kingdom and this far corner of the boot have been close throughout the centuries.

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The Cuisine of Gallipoli

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Friselle Bread and Tomato Salad

Friselle are ring-shaped rolls, similar to bagels. They’re partially baked, removed from the oven and divided into two halves, which are returned to the oven and allowed to bake until done, then dried completely.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wheat friselle
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 4 basil sprigs
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the Friselle for a couple of minutes in a bowl of cold water before using. Drain and break them into chunks. Place in a serving bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, basil and oregano and mix well. Season with a generous pinch of salt and dress with the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to eat.

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Mussels au Gratin

Cozze al gratin is a classic dish from this region. It’s easy to make, especially if you buy pre-cleaned mussels.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds live mussels, washed and purged
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, add 1 clove of peeled garlic.

When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the mussels open, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When cool, remove the half-shells without mussels and discard.

Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil, the minced parsley, 1 minced garlic clove and the crushed red pepper. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spread the mixture over the mussels, put them in a low-sided oven-proof dish, drizzle the remaining oil over them and bake them until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.

Gallipoli0

Ciceri e tria (Tagliatelle with Chickpeas)

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, celery and garlic and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover the mixture with ample water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the chick peas soften.

Add the fresh pasta simmer until the pasta is cooked. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in pasta bowls.

Gallipoli6

Gallipoli-Style Swordfish

Ingredients

  • 4 swordfish fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions

Combine the herbs with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Rub some olive oil on both sides of the swordfish, then dredge in the breadcrumbs to coat them well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the fish, about ten minutes per side. Serve with the orange slices on the side.

Gallipoli11

Sesame Seed and Olive Oil Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Beat the egg with the sugar, honey, vanilla and olive oil. In another bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.

Use a rubber spatula to stir the liquid mix into the dry one, then use your hand to mix until you have a smooth ball of dough.

Roll it out roughly between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Then cover with sesame seeds.

Place the cookies onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and prick them with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool a couple of minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool further.


sausage4

My favorite brand of Italian Sausage comes from a very fine market in Rhode Island. When I moved away from the northeast, I found it difficult to buy authentic Italian sausage until I found Fortuna’s.

Patti Fortuna-Stannard writes on her website:
“Our story starts with my Nani and Poppa, my grandparents who emigrated to America from Calabria, Italy over 100 years ago. They brought with them only their hopes, dreams, and great Italian Sausage recipes with old world techniques. I am proud to be a 3rd generation Italian-American sausage maker that plans to carry on our family traditions forever! We take great pride in making our salami the same way my grandparents did, in small batches, using only the finest hand trimmed pork, spices ground moments before blending, tied with pure cotton twine, stuffed into natural casings and hung to dry- not cooked. Every salami has a unique flavor and aroma! At Fortuna’s our passion is making only the very best salami and keeping our old world values, flavors and traditions alive. Our niche is all natural salami- they didn’t use nitrates and preservatives in the early 1900s and we certainly do not need to add them now! “

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

This is true old world Italian salami and sausage that is made in the USA. Fortuna’s Sausage Company offers five types of Italian rope sausage:

  • Sweet – with pork and fennel seed
  • Calabrese – hot, hot
  • Tuscano – with sun-dried tomato, sharp Provolone cheese and Pepperoncini
  • Sandgate – a northern Italian specialty with Romano cheese, fresh parsley and garlic, wine and citrus in a sweet sausage base
  • Cheese & Parsley- a sweet base sausage in a thin casing that is great grilled.

sausage8

Grilled Italian Sausage

Other than simmering Italian sausage in sauce  for pasta, my next favorite way of cooking sausage is to grill it. My method is simple and they come out perfect every time.

To grill the sausage:

Heat the grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 10 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry.
Once the sausage has cooked for about 20 minutes, place the sausage over the direct heat and let the skin crisp slightly.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degree F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through.
I like to grill hot (spicy) sausage and serve it over garlic sautéed broccoli rabe. Don’t forget the crusty italian bread.

sausage1

Italian Sausage Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer the broth in a large pot over medium heat, cover and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide pan over medium heat, add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and chopped sausage and stir for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute until all the wine has evaporated. Add 1/3 of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.

Add 1 or 2 ladles of the remaining broth and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid before adding more. Continue stirring until the rice is creamy and al dente, approximately 16-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining butter, stirring well. Season the risotto with salt and pepper to taste.

sausage5

Sautéed Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Sometimes I leave out the tomatoes – just depends on how I want to serve this dish. The photo shows a double batch, since this dish doesn’t last long in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound each of hot and sweet Italian sausage, uncut
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 small (15 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the whole sausage links and brown them slowly. You want a gentle browning, not a quick sear. Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and cook, stirring often. Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the red wine and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned bits. Let the wine cook down by half.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir well to combine. Add the sausages back in. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Sausage3

Baked Vegetable Sausage Penne

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces dried regular or whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place sausage links in a large unheated skillet. Add 1/2 inch of water to the skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until juices run clear; drain off the liquid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes more or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut sausages in half lengthwise; bias-cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, the 3 tablespoons parsley, oregano and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling. Stir in eggplant, zucchini and peppers. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta for one minute less than the minimum time listed on the package. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the eggplant mixture and the sausage.

Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Covered with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until heated through. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake about 5 minutes more or until the cheese melts. If desired, sprinkle with additional parsley. Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

sausage2

Pan Pizza with Ricotta and Sausage

Pizza Dough

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coat a rimmed rectangular baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Combine water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low-speed until combined.

With mixer running, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to the greased baking sheet and turn to coat. Stretch dough to a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Stretch dough to the corners of the pan, cover loosely with plastic and let rise in a warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned finely chopped Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, cooked
  • 6 basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Directions

Combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano and salt in bowl. Spread the dough with the tomato mixture. Scatter the cooked sausage on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pizza, leaving room between tablespoons.

Bake until well browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza onto wire rack, sprinkle with basil and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.


pesto (480x640)

Making the classic Ligurian pesto of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, is really just a start. Play with the formula to create your own pesto version for tossing with pasta or spooning over just about anything from the grill.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Vary the herbs. Tender leaves, like parsley, oregano and mint also work well. Or skip the herbs and try baby kale, baby spinach or arugula.
  • Switch up the nuts. Try almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, which make a heartier pesto. Or add pistachios or Brazil nuts, which both have a natural buttery flavor that’s delicious in a sauce.
  • Add vegetables. For an especially chunky pesto, add your farmers’ market finds, from asparagus to red peppers to tomatoes.
  • Mix and match. After you get comfortable with varying the formula, you can come up with creative combos, like oregano-pistachio or olive-hazelnut.

Carrot Top Pesto

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A new cookbook, Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan, inspired me to think about how I could use the carrot tops that came with my CSA share. The spread I created is delicious over grilled chicken breasts and grilled fish fillets.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves (washed well and stems removed)
  • 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons roasted pistachio nuts (see below)
  • 1/2 of a lemon, squeezed

Directions

If you did not purchase roasted nuts then spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350-degree F oven and toast the nuts until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, nuts can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

To Make the Pesto:
In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until finely minced. Add the nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Traditional Handmade Basil Pesto

pesto 9

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (6 ounces)
  • 5 cups basil leaves, chilled and very dry
  • 6 small garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sealing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.

In a large mortar, combine the basil and garlic and pound to a coarse paste. Add the nuts and pound until a smooth paste forms. Stir in the Parmesan, then 3/4 cup of the olive oil.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal.

Cavatappi with Basil Pesto and Eggplant 

pesto 6

Modern method for making pesto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or short pasta of choice
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, diced in small cubes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light, golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Combine basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a blender, pulse for 5 seconds. With processor running add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and puree. Remove the pesto from the blender and transfer to a large pasta serving bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Cook pasta 1 minute less than packaged directions. Drain pasta and place in the bowl with the pesto.

Add lemon juice and eggplant and toss to combine. Top with shredded Parmigiano cheese before serving.

Spinach Pesto

pesto 3

This pesto does incredible things for grilled chicken.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Olive-Mint Pesto

Olive-Mint Pesto

Stir this pesto into mixed ground meats to make meatloaf, serve it on bruschetta with shaved Parmesan cheese, stir it into soups or whisk it into vinaigrettes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the capers, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the olives and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season the pesto with pepper.

Olive-Mint Pesto Meatballs

pesto 2

Ingredients

  • 3 slices good quality packaged white bread, crusts removed, bread torn
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Olive-Mint Pesto, recipe above
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (or use all turkey)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk for 1 minute, mashing it. Using your hand, press out the milk and drain it off.

Add 1/3 cup of the olive-mint pesto, the scallion and the egg to the soaked bread and mash to a paste. Add the ground turkey and beef and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until well blended.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the meat mixture into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch balls and transfer to the baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta, if desired.

Mixed-Herb Pesto

pesto 7

Whisk the pesto with a little vinegar to create a delicious herb dressing for a salad, sliced tomatoes or grilled fish.

Makes 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large garlic cloves
  • 4 lightly packed cups basil leaves
  • 2 lightly packed cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Salt

Directions

In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the basil, parsley and mint and pulse until chopped. Add the nuts and oil and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add the cheese and pulse until incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

Spoon the pesto into 1/2-pint freezer containers. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

Mix this pesto with cooked tortellini or roasted vegetables, spread it on thickly sliced tomatoes and broil, or stuff it under the skin of a chicken  before roasting.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a processor, combine the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt. Process until a paste forms.

Add the walnuts, parsley and slowly add the olive oil until blended. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with additional salt, if needed.

Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

Pesto 8

Use this pesto on top of grilled chicken, lamb or vegetables; as a sandwich spread; or mixed with cream cheese on a bagel. It is quite delicious on whole wheat spaghetti, also.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or
  • 15 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; remove from the pan. Or toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, put the pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, water, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

6. Fusilli with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

To Make a Pasta Salad:

Cook 1 lb fusilli pasta according to directions. Drain.
Toss the pasta with a 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the sun-dried tomato pesto, 1/2 cup of roughly chopped pitted black olives, 2 cups baby spinach leaves, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Serve at room temperature.


 marinade

Marinade Rub Mop Sauce BBQ Sauce
What Is It? Liquid mix of fat (such as oil) and acid (such as vinegar) Powder or paste of herbs, spices, and other ingredients Thin liquid with ingredients like tomato juice or beer Usually thicker, often sweet sauce
What Does It Do? Flavors and slightly tenderizes Forms crust that flavors each bite Adds moistureduring low-heat slow cooking Adds flavor and caramelized coating
How Is It Used? Soak foods 30 minutes to 2 hours before cooking Pat on foods 15 to 20 minutes before cooking Baste foods during cooking Brush on during last 5 to 15 minutes of cooking
Best with: Leaner or blander foods, such as chicken breast, pork chops, vegetables Fattier meats, such as pork ribs, pork loin, lamb chops, salmon, skin-on chicken Tougher, long-cooking cuts, such as ribs, pork butt, and brisket Almost anything, especially chicken, ribs, and shrimp
Example: Grilled marinated chicken breasts Barbecued ribs (also has barbecue sauce) Carolina pulled pork Barbecued ribs (also has a rub)

Source: Elizabeth Karmel’s Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill

More flavoring ideas:

  • An herb butter is great on top of steak or fish.
  • Pork and chicken are delicious with a fresh salsa or relish.
  • Pestos, chimichurris and tapanades are a fantastic garnish for almost any grilled ingredient.
  • Dipping sauces are served at the table for diners to customize their own flavors.

Marinades

marinade 0

Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids best suited for tougher cuts of meat. In addition to herbs, condiments, spices and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar and even dairy.
Adding sweet ingredients to the marinade can help form appealing caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.
Yogurt and buttermilk, common ingredients in marinades, contain both the fat and the acid as one ingredient. Marinades generally only penetrate the outer quarter-inch of the foods you’ll be grilling, but since you get some of the surface with each bite, this is enough.

How to Use It

Thirty minutes to two hours before cooking (any earlier and food could get mushy), soak food in a nonreactive (i.e. glass, plastic or stainless-steel, not aluminum) container in the refrigerator. Resealable plastic bags also work well. Drain before cooking.

How Long Does It Keep?

The fresher the better and flavors will be brighter if you use a marinade immediately. However, in a pinch most marinades can be refrigerated up to two days.
Don’t put used marinade on cooked food—it could be contaminated with microbes from the raw meat. If you want to reuse a marinade, you must boil it for three minutes.
A variation on a marinade is a brine. Rather than combining fat and acid, this is simply a salty liquid. Food soaked in a brine absorbs the liquid and the salt, adding moisture and flavor.

marinade 2

Simple Olive Oil Garlic Marinade

Makes about 1 cup / Use with chicken, shrimp or vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • Juice and finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard 
  • 2/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Stir all the ingredients together.

marinade 3

Steak Marinade

Great for flank steak or London broil.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

Directions

Place the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, basil, parsley, pepper hot sauce and garlic in a blender. Blend on high-speed for 30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.

Pour marinade over steak. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Cook meat as desired.

Marinade 1

Italian Herb Marinade

Use for chicken, vegetables and fish

Ingredients

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, basil and garlic and place in a small bowl. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Use immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before using. You can store this marinade in the refrigerator for up to a week.

marinade 5

Marinade for Grilled Vegetables

Good for eggplant, squash and peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and the pepper. While whisking, add oil in a thin stream. Stir garlic into marinade. Pour into a ziplock bag and add cut up vegetables. Grill according to taste.

Rubs

marinade 9

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to add spicy or smoky flavors.The ingredients slightly penetrate the meat and also form a crust that flavors each bite. Rubs are great on fattier meats that can benefit from a crisp, toasty crust, such as pork ribs, pork loin, lamb chops, salmon and skin-on chicken. They’re popular in classic American barbecuing, where they’re used on slow-cooked items like ribs, often in conjunction with a mop or sauce.

The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When oil or another wet substance is included, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.

How to Use It

The word “rub” is actually a misnomer: About 15 to 20 minutes before cooking, sprinkle then gently pat the rub onto the surface of the food. If you want the flavor to sink in deeper, you can season foods the night before. If you put your rub on the night before, don’t include salt: The salt would draw out the juices and leave the meat dry. Instead, sprinkle the meat with salt just before cooking.

How Long Does It Keep?

Rubs are a great make-ahead option: Most rub mixtures keep for several months in an airtight container at room temperature.

marinade 8

Coffee Rub for Steak

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons espresso ground coffee
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl, combine espresso, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, the sugar, paprika and pepper. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the rub over one side of a 1 ½ lb steak and press in with your hands.Turn steak over and repeat with another 1 tablespoon of the rub. Let steak rest at room temperature for one hour and grill according to taste.

Don’t throw away leftover rub. It can be mixed into meatloaf, rubbed onto chicken thighs or sprinkled over salmon before cooking.

marinade 4

Wet Rub for Chicken

Makes enough for 5-6 boneless chicken breast halves

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Whisk lemon juice and olive oil into remaining rub and brush on both sides of the chicken breasts

In a small bowl, combine lemon peel, garlic, coriander, salt, cumin, black pepper and cayenne. Sprinkle on both sides of the chicken. Grill chicken about 12 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.

marinade 7

All-Purpose Meat Rub

Especially good on pork.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, pepper, oregano and thyme.

To use: coat meat entirely in mixture and then grill as desired.

marinade 6

BBQ Dry Rub

Good on ribs, pork chops and salmon

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients until well combined. Rub on ribs 10 minutes prior to grilling. Store any leftover rub in a sealed container.

 



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