Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olives

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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.

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MarcheMarche’s location is ideal for both catching fresh seafood and harvesting food from the land. While Marche recipes make frequent use of pecorino cheese, olive oil and unsalted bread, they are also influenced by other nearby regions. Marche’s most famous appetizer is Olive Ascolana-olives are stuffed with a bread, cheese and meat filling before being deep-fried. Since it is deep-fried, I don’t serve them, but if you would like to know how to make them click on the recipe link.

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Vincisgrassi is a pasta dish layered with lasagna noodles, chicken livers and giblets, veal brains, ham and mushrooms with béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese and white truffles, if they are in season. Tender pockets of ravioli pasta are filled with a parsley and ricotta mixture and served with sole cooked with tomatoes and white wine in what is called, Ravioli ai Filetto di Sogliola.

Lumachelle, a cheese flavored egg pasta, is made into a popular soup called Minestra di Lumachelle. Other popular soups in the Marche cuisine include Minestra di Trippa, a tripe soup served with battuto, a herb-flavored pork fat. Brodetto or fish soup, is eaten further along the coast and may contain any number of types of fish that are seasoned with vinegar, garlic or saffron and thickened with flour.

Several classic seafood combinations include a Potacchio sauce seasoned with white wine, tomato, onion. rosemary and lemon juice. Alla Marinara cooks the seafood in tomato sauce and Gratinati al Forno broils the fish in the oven. Porchetta combines cured pork, such as pancetta or prosciutto, wild fennel, rosemary and garlic with seafood and spices.

Mussels are stuffed with ham, bread crumbs and parsley before roasting in tomato sauce to make Muccioli Arrosto. Dried cod, tomatoes and carrots are cooked in a garlic and rosemary flavored sauce made with olive oil, white wine and milk for a dish called Stocco All Anconetana.

Marche cuisine includes a wide range of meats, from beef and lamb, free range poultry and pork, rabbits and game birds. Ground beef and bone marrow are mixed with cheese, spinach, bread crumbs and eggs to make a pasta that is served in broth. Quail, salt pork, peas and tomatoes are braised in white wine.

Marche’s variety of salumi is quite extensive. Ciauscolo,is a sausage that is spread on bread and prosciutto form Carpegna is especially well-known.

Fresh vegetables, such as greens, zucchini and peas, are eaten in season.

Marche cuisine takes advantage of dried lentils and beans to eat all year-long in soup. In the dish, Minestra di ceci, chick peas with pork ribs and tomatoes are simmered in a herb broth. It is served over toast with grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino from Marche is eaten while relatively young and mild. It is used frequently in focaccia and pizza. Formaggio di fossa is a rare cheese from Talamello, made from sheep and cow milk. It is wrapped in cloth and buried in pits to age.

Marche cuisine also uses cheese in sweet dessert dishes. Calcio are pocket shaped pastries made with fresh pecorino. Piconi are made with ricotta and flavored with cinnamon and rum. Becute, a raisin and nut biscuit and Frustenga, a dried fruit and walnut cake, are both made with cornmeal.

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Dinner Menu

Antipasto

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Slices of fresh Italian bread,  Ciauscolo, Pecorino cheese and olives.

First Course

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce & Béchamel – Vincisgrassi

Ingredients

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound chopped chicken thighs
  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

White Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Lasagna:

  • 1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

In a large stockpot, bring several quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside to cool on kitchen towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped prosciutto and sauté until almost crisp. Add the carrots and onions and sauté, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add the ground lamb to the mixture and cook until evenly browned. Pour in the white wine and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste until well mixed and add a little salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In another pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken, mushrooms and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the simmering meat sauce, along with 1/3 cup of whole milk. Cover the meat sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, tasting towards the end for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the white sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a light roux, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of whole milk. Allow the white sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a large rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce topped with white sauce. (Be sparing on bottom layers to avoid a soggy casserole). Add a layer of Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the top noodles with the melted butter and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

Serve the vincisgrassi piping hot from the oven, cut into squares.

Second Course

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Fish in Spicy Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as snapper or cod
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces (200 g) roasted red bell peppers packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (100 g) pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted or pickled capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • Hot water
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces. Salt and pepper the fillets and flour them lightly. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the fish on both sides, then pour in the wine.Simmer for 1 minute. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet sauté the onion, carrot and celery. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the tomato paste, roasted red peppers, olives, capers and a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Return the fish to the skillet and gently heat. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Zucchini Carpaccio

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 pound piece Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh mint or parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin lengthwise slices. Overlap zucchini in 1 layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan over the leeks. Garnish with mint leaves.

Dessert Course

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Poached Peaches in White Wine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm peaches 
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • White wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Mascarpone cheese or Frozen Yogurt

Directions

With a paring knife cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. If the stone will not come away easily, make a shallow incision around the stone and it will fall away once cooked.

Place the fruit cut side down in a pan or pot that fits the fruit snugly. Add in the herbs, lemon zest and the honey. Add enough wine to reach halfway up the fruit. Cover with baking paper (parchment) and bring the pan up to a medium simmer for 8-12 minutes total depending on the size of the fruit.

Give the peaches a turn on their backs after about 5 minutes and they are done when a knife slips easily into the thickest part of the fruit.

Once the peaches are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool. Return the pan to a low heat and reduce the wine until it becomes a syrup. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Strain the syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.

To serve: Carefully remove the skins and arrange the peach halves on a serving plate. Drizzle the peaches with the white wine syrup and add tablespoons of mascarpone or yogurt on top of each peach half.


Cinque

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The coastline, the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Over the centuries, people have built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, but cars cannot reach them from the outside. There’s not a chain store anywhere and each of the five villages has a distinct dialect and its own proud heritage. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination and the main attraction is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. Admiring this amazing natural scenery, one can imagine the intense human activity of carrying an enormous quantity of heavy stones on men’s shoulders and women’s heads to build the terraces that surround the hills. It is estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.

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The first historical documents concerning Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. The villages of Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first and the other villages grew later under the Genoa military and political era. In order to protect themselves from the attacks by the Turks, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defence towers. However, this isolated the inhabitants. In later years, thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and to the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia, the inhabitants were able to escape their isolation. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up until the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.

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There are few roads into the Cinque Terre area that are accessible by car. The one into Vernazza opened in June 2012, but it is very narrow and leads to a parking area that is a 1/2 mile from town. Local trains from LaSpezia to Genova and the rest of the region’s network connect the towns. Intercity trains also connect Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. A passenger ferry runs between the villages and enters Cinque Terre from Genova’s Old Harbor and LaSpezia ,Lerici or Portovenere.

Walking is very popular but In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly.

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The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. Most of the families in the villages made money by catching the fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food.

In 1998, the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up a natural marine area in Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economic development. In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape and safeguard the anthropological values of the location. Nevertheless, the dwindling interest in cultivation and maintenance of the terrace walls posed a long-term threat to the site. As a result the site was included in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization secured grants from American Express to support a study of the conservation of Cinque Terre and a site management plan was created.

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The Cuisine of Cinque Terre

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The cuisine of the Cinque Terre preserves tradition and respects the flavors and ingredients of its local products. Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area in the region of Liguria is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is common and locally baked. Farinata is also a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias- a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick-pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for its gelato made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines: Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include Grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

Some typical dishes include:

  • Trofie is a type of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and its usual condiment is pesto sauce.
  • Farinata, similar to focaccia but made with chickpea flour. A regional speciality.
  • Tagliatelle, a broad handmade pasta, is used with sauces that contain mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes, beans, chickpeas or sometimes pesto.
  • Vegetable pies are prepared with a stuffings that contain borage, parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes and leeks combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family’s traditions) and parmesan cheese.
  • Rice pie, or ‘torta di riso’, is a specialty of every grandma in the region. In Monterosso this rice pie is made by adding dried mushrooms to the filling. In Manarola, the tradition is to make this dish for the feast of the patron saint, Lawrence, on August 10th.
  • Egg frittata or flat omelettes are very popular and are used as an antipasto.
  • Cotoletta di acciughe are anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb filling and then fried.
  • Frittelle di bianchetti are fritters made from tiny anchovies or sardines.
  • Other dishes include stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.
  • Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia, are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed or baked.

Farinata with Sage, Olives and Onion

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick-pea flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 Ligurian black olives, pitted
  • 45 small or 30 large fresh sage leaves

Directions

At least 1 hour before making farinata, set a pizza stone on a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat the oven to 550°F.

Whisk together chick-pea flour and water until smooth, then whisk in salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Let stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Cook the onion with salt to taste in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes; then cool.

Put a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron round griddle on the pizza stone and heat 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add 1/2 tablespoon oil, tilting to coat evenly.

Working quickly, stir batter and ladle about 7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) evenly into the pan (batter will sizzle and start to set almost immediately).

Quickly scatter a third of the onion, olives and sage leaves over the batter and carefully return pan to the oven on the pizza stone.

If using an oven with a built-in broiler, bake 12 minutes, then turn oven setting to broil and broil the farinata for 3 to 5 minutes.

If using an oven with a broiler underneath, bake 15 minutes, then transfer pan to the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the top flecked with golden spots.

Slide farinata onto a cutting board. Make 2 more in same manner, reheating pan 5 minutes for each successive farinata. Halve farinata and cut into strips.

Fish Stew

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Buridda is a traditional fish stew, made around the Cinque Terre area. To serve six you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of mixed fresh fish (red mullet, angler fish, dogfish, drumfish, etc – things that are inexpensive and fresh)
  • 1 1/4 pounds cuttlefish, shellfish and/or and baby squid
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • A pinch of dried oregano (no more)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Slices of toasted Italian bread, for serving

Directions

Clean the mollusks and slice all the fish, removing any bones you may find. Thinly slice the onions and blanch, peel, and chop the tomatoes.

In a Dutch oven lightly oil the bottom, then add half the tomatoes and half the onions. Salt and pepper lightly, then arrange half the fish over the vegetables. Add another tomato-onion layer, then another fish layer, then season again and sprinkle the top with the parsley, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over a very low flame for about an hour, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Occasionally shake the pot lightly but do not stir it, or you will break up the fish.

Serve the Buridda over slices of toasted Italian bread that have been rubbed with garlic.

Pizzoccheri (Pasta with Potatoes, Cabbage & Cheese)

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Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 8 oz Savoy cabbage, halved, cored and cut into strips about 1/2″ wide
  • 1 lb pizzoccheri (buckwheat fettuccine) or regular fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 12 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 10 oz Italian Fontina or Taleggio cheese, diced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the coarse salt and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes or until potatoes are softened (but not cooked through). Stir in the cabbage and pasta. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is not quite tender and firm. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in the pasta pot and add the garlic and sage, adding the pinch of salt and pepper. The garlic should get soft, but not brown. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot. Add all but 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss it all together gently until incorporated.

Place half the mixture in the prepared casserole dish, scatter half the diced Fontina over the top and a grinding of pepper. Repeat and then top with the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid over top to moisten slightly.

Bake in the top half of the oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before serving.


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Being outside, we need to be aware of dehydration, skin sensitivities and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may happen to our bodies during the peak of summer. Nature has a bounty of different fruits and vegetables that are just right for the summer. These vegetables and fruits are high in water content and are light on the stomach and easy to digest.

Easy to digest food items are best for the summer, as they do not stay in the stomach for long and do not make you feel heavy or lethargic. Junk food, fries, fried foods and other foods that are high in fat content will make you feel excessively hot after a short period of time. This is because fat in the body acts like an insulator for body heat. On top of drinking water, fresh juices and smoothies, eating fresh fruit can also help your body stay energized and hydrated.

Foods that are especially good for you in the summer are:

Beverages – Potassium rich water with lemon and coconut water
Fruits – Mango, watermelon, melons, cherries, berries and banana
Vegetables – Squash, cucumber, corn and tomatoes

For summer dinners forget about processed foods. Instead, use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a balanced meal that includes vegetables, salad, proteins and healthy snacks like hummus.

  • Use legumes — beans, peas or lentils — to make salads or side dishes. They are high in fiber and vitamins and are much healthier than sugar-loaded baked beans or calorie-laden mayo-based potato or macaroni salads.
  • Use healthy oils and vinegars to add flavor to salads. For example, blend olive with different types of vinegar or citrus juices.
  • For snacks, try raw unsalted nuts, marinated olives, guacamole and sliced vegetables.
  • For grilling, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat. Don’t forget fish – it is wonderful on the grill. Be sure to add vegetables and fruit to the grill. Good choices include red, yellow and green peppers, green or yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions and peaches.

Try these dinner menus to get you started.

Dinner One: 6 servings

  • Tuna Zucchini Cakes
  • Remoulade Sauce 
  • Grilled Corn Salad

Tuna Zucchini Cakes

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Yield: 6 servings: 2 patties each.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 12 ounces fresh cooked tuna or canned tuna in water, chopped
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten or 1 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (Old Bay)

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Remove from heat.

Add tuna, 1 cup bread crumbs, zucchini, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to onion mixture; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick patties; coat with remaining bread crumbs.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add 6 patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve with Remoulade Sauce.

Healthy Remoulade Sauce

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions
Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, anchovy paste and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in capers and parsley.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Grilled-Corn Salad

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Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 6 fresh ears corn (with husks)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 medium sweet bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • Romaine leaves

Directions

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the hot pepper sauce. Cover and shake well; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Peel back the corn husks but do not remove them. Gently rinse corn and scrub with a stiff brush to remove silks. Spread butter over corn. Sprinkle with rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Fold husks back around corn and tie with kitchen string or strips of husk.

For a charcoal grill, grill corn on the grate of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 20 to 25 minutes or until corn kernels are tender, turning and rearranging ears occasionally. Add sweet peppers to the grill the last 8 to 10 minutes of grilling, turning often to brown evenly.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place corn and sweet peppers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed.). Cool corn for 30 minutes.

Remove string; peel back husks. Cut kernels from the cobs. Remove stems from sweet peppers and cut peppers into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl combine corn, peppers, cheese and dressing; toss lightly to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature over a bed of romaine leaves.

Dinner Two: 4 servings

  • Grilled Garlic Shrimp
  • Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil
  • Sliced Tomatoes Drizzled with Italian Dressing

Grilled Garlic Shrimp

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
Combine the oil, shrimp and garlic in a plastic ziplock bag. Let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Turn it from time to time to let the marinade cover all of the shrimp.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium and remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Place the shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers and brush with the marinade from the bag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Make sure the heat isn’t too high. Turn the shrimp over, brush with the marinade and cook for another minute.

Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil

summerdinner 2

4 servings

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from the juiced lemons
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Whisk the oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large pasta serving bowl to blend. Set the lemon sauce aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well to moisten the pasta.

Transfer to individual bowls and serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Dinner Three: 2 servings

  • Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
  • Baby Lettuces with Tomato Dressing 
  • Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

 

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

summerdinner 10

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet red bell peppers
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
  • 3/4 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place peppers in an ungreased shallow microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until tender. (You may also boil the peppers.)

Combine the tomatoes, rice, beans, corn, onions, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes in a mixing bowl; spoon into the pepper halves. Place in a baking pan just large enough to hold the peppers. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the peppers uncovered for 30 minutes.

Baby Lettuces and Green Beans with Tomato Dressing

summerdinner 4

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, cut into eighths

Salad

  • 2 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups mixed baby lettuces
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula

Directions

In a blender or processor combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and shallot just until combined. Add chopped tomato and process or blend just until the tomato is chopped into small pieces. Set aside. This dressing recipe makes more than you need for this salad.

Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain; run under cold water.

In a serving bowl, combine green beans, lettuce and arugula. Toss with some of the dressing and serve immediately.

Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

summerdinner8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain coconut water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 small mango (about 10 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the coconut water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree the diced mango with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup.

Transfer 1/4 cup of the puree to a bowl and whisk in the Greek yogurt, coconut milk, lemon juice and the remaining sugar syrup.

Pour the mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for 1 hour, until frozen around the edges. Whisk the mixture to break up the clumps and return to the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours longer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is nearly frozen. Spread the remaining mango puree on top and, using a butter knife, swirl it into the yogurt. Freeze until nearly solid.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the shredded coconut over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it’s golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the coconut to a plate and let it cool.

To serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and top with the toasted coconut. Alternatively, in a tall glass, layer the coconut between small scoops of the frozen yogurt, like a parfait.

Dinner Four: 8 servings

  • Orange Marinated Flank Steak
  • Chopped Salad
  • Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

Orange Marinated Flank Steak

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
  • 2 lb flank steak, fat trimmed
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs mint, for garnish

Directions

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and mint. Add steak to the marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in marinade.

Remove steak from the marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl.

Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.

Lightly grease the grill rack and preheat a charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ash color or preheat a gas grill to high heat.

Place steak on the grill directly over the heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil), for approximately 4 minutes, turning once and brushing frequently with marinade.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing. Arrange orange slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.

Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.

Chopped Salad

summerdinner 6

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salad

  • 4 small new potatoes or fingerling potatoes (6 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (1 medium)

Directions

For vinaigrette: in a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano , honey, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside.

In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans in enough boiling water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking; drain again.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuce, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes and shallot. Add about half the vinaigrette; toss gently to coat

Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

summerdinner 7

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pizza dough
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic,crushed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into an 8 × 4-inch rectangle.

Cook olive oil and crushed garlic cloves in a small skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Discard garlic.

Brush half the oil over the rolled out dough; sprinkle with ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cut dough into 4 (4 × 2-inch) rectangles and roll into thin sticks.

Repeat with the second half of the dough and remaining ingredients. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8- 10 minutes.


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.


July

The Declaration of Independence was the name adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Times were much different when our founding fathers lived. They cooked over open wood fires and often had farms where they grew their own produce. Food was simpler for the,. but eating was a big part of their lives. What kinds of food did our founding fathers eat?

Thomas Jefferson was known for his culinary adventurousness. He was an avid gardener and trained his kitchen staff in French cooking techniques. Almost all of our founding fathers lived on large farms. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, had a deep love for farming and he published many books about it. In his Garden Book, he mentioned planting green beans often. Everyone knows the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree, but did you know that he actually had a cherry orchard on his property? Both he and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherry trees on their land.

Seafood in general was popular amongst the founding fathers. Most of them spent a lot of their working lives near large bodies of water. Even though they enjoyed all seafood, oysters were by far their favorites. Martha Washington, the first First Lady, included many recipes for oysters in her cookbook, The Martha Washington Cookbook.

Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he suggested it should be our national symbol. The bald eagle won that fight, but turkey continued to be popular. Dolley Madison, the fourth president’s wife, introduced ice cream to the United States in 1812, when she served it at her husband’s inaugural ball.

It’s common knowledge that George Washington had dental issues. For most of his life he wore dentures, so he often couldn’t chew foods properly. Because of this, he preferred soft, easy-to-eat foods. Cornmeal cake was one of his favorites. George Washington also brewed his own beer. He included molasses in his recipe.

John Adams, the second president, had a relatively simple palate. He preferred boiled meals with nothing too elaborate added. His wife, however, liked to cook more interesting meals. Each year, Abigail Adams would make apple pandowdy, which is very similar to apple pie, from the harvest from their orchard. Apple cider was John Adams’ drink of choice. It was also made from the apples that grew in his orchard and he drank at least one pint of cider before nine in the morning.

The colonists were not fond of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they were considered unappetizing. Most of the time, a lot of sugar was added to the cooking water to make the vegetables more palatable to their taste.

Today, Independence Day, a national holiday, is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States.

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

On each of 12 wooden appetizer skewers, alternately thread two tomatoes, one cheese ball and two basil leaves; place on a serving plate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the kabobs just before serving. Yield: 12 kabobs.

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium sweet red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) pitted ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet or a combination), sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 6-8 corn on the cob, husks and silk removed, each cob cut into three portions
  • 1/4 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 4 pounds shrimp, peeled if desired
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Place potatoes and sausage in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with 6 quarts cold water. Stir in the seafood seasoning, cover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and carefully add the corn; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Drain.
Arrange on a large platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper.
Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

This fat-free, all-fruit sorbet adds lemon for refreshing tartness. For a smoother texture, strain the blueberries through a fine-mesh sieve before freezing. For a blueberries-and-cream variation, substitute milk or cream for the juice, omit the lemon and add 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup organic honey
  • 36 ounces fresh blueberries (divided)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the juice and add the honey; stir until completely dissolved.
Combine with 6 cups blueberries in a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain, if desired.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add lemon juice and salt to the blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice-cream-maker canister, stir in all but 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, place one scoop in each serving dish and garnish with remaining lemon zest and remaining blueberries. Serve immediately.


puglia-italy

Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.

The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.

Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.

Puglia 6

Dinner Party Menu For Six

Antipasto

Puglia 1

Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.

Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.

When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.

puglia 5

Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)

Ingredients

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm water

Directions

Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.

Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.

Heat the oven to 400° F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.

Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.

First Course

Puglia 2

Tubettini con le Cozze

(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)

Directions

Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.

Second Course

Puglia 3

Roasted Striped Bass

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled 
  • 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved

Directions

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

Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.

Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.

Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.

Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Dessert

puglia 4

Baked Zeppole

Ingredients for the pastry dough

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large eggs

Ingredients for the custard filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Jam

To make the pastry:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.

Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.

To make the custard:

In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.

To serve:

Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.



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