For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish: safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers
Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.
Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.
These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.
Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.
While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.
Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.
Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.
Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.
While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.
Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer
- 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
- 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
- ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot. Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.
Artichokes with Bagna Cauda
Makes 6 servings
- 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed
Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.
Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).
Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.
Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.
To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.
Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.
Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto
- 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
- 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
- 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives
Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.
Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
- 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
- 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
- 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
- ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Salmon and Potato Gratin
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.
Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.
In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.
Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.
Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.
Linguine with Clam Sauce
- 1 pound linguine
- 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.
Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.
In 1882 a group of 11 Italians came to the United States from Roseto, Italy and found work in an area of Pennsylvania that later become known as the town of Roseto. Relatives of these immigrants followed and settled in the same area. By the early 1900s the town was flourishing and a near exact replica of the Roseto, Italy they had left behind. And that was how it remained for years.
By the 1950s the town was bustling with activity. The residents kept to themselves creating an Italian village similar to one in the “Old Country”. However, they didn’t necessarily stick to the “old world” style of cooking and eating. The light flatbread pizza of their homeland was exchanged for heavy bread and cheese. Sausage, meatballs and pasta were a normal dinner, biscotti and other sweets became daily treats and there was always wine.
A physician and University Professor named Stewart Wolf discovered Roseto. Wolf became interested in the townsfolk when he noticed that despite their diets and struggles with obesity, no one really seemed to get sick. He conducted a study of the residents and looked at the incidence of heart disease and heart attack fatalities. He and his team took EKGs of everyone, did blood tests, collected death certificates from decades into the past and conducted exhaustive interviews with the residents.
What he found was astounding. Virtually no one in the town of Rosetto died under the age of 55 from heart disease or heart attack. And the incidences of death from heart disease in men older than 65 was nearly half that of the national averages. In fact, deaths of all causes were 30%-35% lower than expected. There was virtually no alcoholism, no suicide, no drug addiction, no one on welfare and crime was practically nonexistent. There were also no occurrences of peptic ulcers or other stress related problems. The only real consistent cause of death appeared to be old age.
Researchers were baffled. How did this town of sausage eating, wine drinking, overweight and happy Italians manage to escape the ill-health fate of the rest of the country? The researchers came to realize that the people of Roseto were not only very social, but very kind. They stopped in the streets and talked. They had each other over for dinner. Three generations of family lived under the same roof. They laughed a lot. Everyone knew and respected each other, especially their elders. Thus, the town of Roseto illustrated the importance of feeling good about life.
Italian American Lasagna
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 1/2 cups Italian tomatoes, crushed
- 12 whole fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded
- 4 oz Italian style dried bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 sprigs Italian parsley finely chopped
For the lasagna
- 1 lb ground beef
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- 12 whole lasagna either oven-ready or parboiled
- 10 oz mozzarella, shredded
- 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
For the sauce:
Combine the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, salt and parsley for the filling and set aside.
Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Coat a large roasting pan or lasagna pan with olive oil.
Assemble the lasagna as follows (bottom to top): mozzarella, thin layer of sauce, layer of pasta, Parmigiano, ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella, meat, thin layer of sauce and layer of pasta.
Bake for one hour, covered with foil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.
Newark, New Jersey
In its heyday, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest “Little Italies” in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also great feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.
Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher, Rick Cerone, also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue. Seventh Avenue produced stars, such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, was a native of the First Ward as well.
Seventh Avenue was devastated by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s. Eighth Avenue was obliterated by the city council, scattering the Italian American residents. Most businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. Following these events some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods, such as Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound section.
The Belmont, founded in the 1920s, moved to its current location on Bloomfield Ave. in 1965. Chef Stretch has passed away, but his Chicken Savoy recipe is still a popular menu item. Celebrity spottings are not uncommon. Clint Eastwood bought the cast of his movie, Jersey Boys there while they were filming in NJ.
Stretch’s Chicken Savoy
Serves 3 or 4
This is a restaurant recipe and you must keep the chicken pieces well-separated in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown because too much liquid will accumulate. In a restaurant kitchen, the oven goes to 700 degrees F or more, which means the juices evaporate before they have a chance to accumulate. For years the recipe was a family secret and Stretch’s daughter Annette, pulled the old, “If I tell you, then we’d have to kill you” line when Saveur Magazine came calling for the recipe.
- 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two breasts with wings)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 teaspoons grated Locatelli or other Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (preferably 7% acidity)
In a 10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet or other heavy, oven-proof pan, arrange the chicken pieces so that they do not touch each other, skin side down.
Sprinkle the chicken with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and grated cheese, in that order.
Place chicken in a preheated 500-degree F oven for 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and pour on all the vinegar at once. It should sizzle.
Return the chicken to the oven for another minute or so.
Arrange chicken on a platter and pour the vinegar sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.
The “Little Italy” of Baltimore is located close to the Inner Harbor area and Fells Point, newly renovated and very popular for its great restaurants. This neighborhood has been occupied by Italians since the 1890’s and still retains a large Italian community. During the warm months, the neighborhood is home to bocce games and open-air film festivals. “Little Italy” is the end point for the nation’s oldest Columbus Day parade, celebrated since 1890 and hosted by the Italian American community. In June, Baltimore’s “Little Italy” celebrates the Feast of Saint Anthony and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August.
In 1953, Giovanna Aquia, along with her father Pasquale, her mother Rosa and her little brother Salvatore (Sammy) embarked on a journey that would forever change their lives. The family boarded the famous Italian luxury liner the “Andrea Doria” and made their way to America from Cefalu, Sicily. They entered the U.S. via NYC and arrived to their final destination in Baltimore on June 23, 1953. Giovanna likes to say, “At a time when no one liked to move around, our family traveled 3500 miles and we haven’t moved 200 feet since.”
Giovanna goes on to say that ” family life always revolved around the dinner table. It was there that a great appreciation of simple Sicilian cuisine became rooted in them. Their house was always open to friends and family. On Sundays and holidays, Nonna Rosa, would cook up a feast. We all just sat together, enjoyed each other and talked and laughed while we were feeding their faces. Our family is the only family with 4 generations still living in Little Italy.”
It was the desire to share their Sicilian heritage and Sicilian cuisine that prompted the family to buy an older neighborhood diner and create a warm, comfortable family ristoranté in “Little Italy”, called Café Gia Ristoranté. “We strived very hard to recreate a Sicilian bistro, a place where one feels like they are in Sicily while dining,” she said. “Our walls are embraced with hand painted colorful murals, our tables are also topped off with great hand painted murals. The exterior echoes an old Sicilian bistro and we have created a little bit of Italy with fresh, delicious Italian food and friendly, family service.”
Insalata di Mare Calda
Chef Gia Daniella
“Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house,” says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots. “We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American,” she recalls. “My mother is from Italy — Sicily,” she explains. “The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south.” The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia’s favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.
For the salad:
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 lemons
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
- 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
- 1 pound clams, cleaned
- 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped
- 4 cups arugula
- Chopped roasted red peppers for garnish
For the dressing:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- ½ cup capers
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.
Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.
Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.
Add the shrimp to the pot for two minutes, then remove with a strainer and set aside in a bowl.
Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a strainer and add to the bowl with the shrimp.
Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a strainer and combine with the shrimp and calamari.
Add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.
To make the dressing:
In a processor combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently toss the seafood with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper. Garnish with roasted red peppers.
For an attractive presentation, serve over fresh arugula.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the eastern side of Judiciary Square became an enclave of Italian immigrants in Washington; the equivalent of a Little Italy. The Italian neighborhood rested on the eastern edge of the square, stretching eastward to about 2nd Street NW. The heart of the community was Holy Rosary Church, a chapel built at 3rd and F Streets NW. It was a government town without mills, factories or a commercial port and there were fewer opportunities for unskilled laborers without language skills to support themselves. Instead, the area drew smaller numbers of skilled immigrants, such as the construction workers, artists and tradesmen, who labored on the government buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The neighborhood grew throughout the 20th century, with an increased surge of Italian immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. However, the construction of Interstate 395 through the city in the 1970s razed about half of the neighborhood and forced its remaining residents to move away. Today, the former Italian enclave is dominated by Federal office buildings and law offices. The Holy Rosary Church remains standing, though, and continues to draw a heavily Italian congregation, along with its “Casa Italia” cultural center next door. Casa Italiana offers classes on cinema, literature, cuisine, wine tasting and majolica, the ancient Italian art of ceramic pottery, Visitors can still hear a Catholic Mass in Italian every Sunday at Holy Rosary.
Campono Meatball Subs
What sets a great meatball sub apart from all the others is the quality of its ingredients. Campono’s popular sandwich is made with ricotta cheese in the meatball mixture and made in-house mozzarella and marinara sauce for the sandwich. The meatballs are neither too firm nor so tender that they fall apart.
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your hands
- 1 small onion, cut into small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 slices white/country bread, crusts removed, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 pounds ground veal
- 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork shoulder (butt)
- 8 ounces finely chopped or ground prosciutto
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 cups “00” flour, for dusting
FOR THE SAUCE
- 28 ounces canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- A few fresh basil leaves
- 6 sub rolls, partially split
- 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
- 6 slices deli provolone cheese
For the meatballs:
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, garlic, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook just until the onion and garlic have softened but not browned; transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
Combine the bread pieces and milk in a medium bowl; let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the milk is completely absorbed.
Add to the large bowl with the onions, the ground veal, ground beef, ground pork shoulder, prosciutto, pecorino-Romano, ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and the soaked bread pieces; use clean hands to blend the mixture until well incorporated.
Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the “00” flour in a wide, shallow bowl.
Grease your hands with a little oil. Form the meatball mixture into 65 meatballs of equal size (the size of shell-on walnuts). Coat each one lightly with “00” flour, dividing them between two parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Roast on the upper and lower racks for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. Discard any remaining flour.
For the sauce:
Use a food mill to puree the tomatoes. Discard the seeds; reserve the drained juices for another use, if desired.
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes then taste, and season lightly with kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir in 6 to 8 basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Transfer 30 of the meatballs to the saucepan, turning them until coated. Cool and freeze the remaining meatballs for another time.
When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Open the sub rolls, keeping the halves partially attached and laying them on two rimmed baking sheets. Tear out some of the inside bread to create room for the meatballs. Spread a tablespoon or two of the marinara sauce over both halves of each open-faced roll; toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; keep the oven on.
Line each sub roll with the mozzarella and provolone slices, overlapping and/or tearing the slices so the inside roll surfaces are covered. Place 5 sauced meatballs at the center of each sub roll; return to the oven just until the cheese melts.
Close each sandwich and cut crosswise in half. Serve hot.
*View Recipes From America’s Italian Communities: Part 1 here .
Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.
The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:
Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad.
Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.
Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.
With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.
While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.
Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
- Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
- 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
- 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
- 4 cups arugula
- Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.
Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.
Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.
Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.
Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.
To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.
- 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
- 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
- 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.
Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.
Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.
Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.
Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado
- 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
- 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.
Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
- 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped
Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.
Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.
Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts
- 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately
In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.
In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes, by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet. The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.
The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.
The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.
By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.
The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.
The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.
I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.
The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.
The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.
Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.
The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.
When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.
The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.
The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.
Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.
Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough. Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves. A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit. Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola. This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.
Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)
- 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
- 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
- 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 cups farro
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.
In a large saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.
Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.
Drain and let cool until no more than warm.
Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.
White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )
Makes 6 servings
- 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
- 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.
Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.
Umbrian Mixed Grill
This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.
- 1 pound boneless pork loin
- 1 pound boneless beef loin
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
- 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
- Coarse salt to taste
- Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.
Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.
Apricots with Amaretto Syrup
- 10 firm-ripe large apricots
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling
Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.
Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.
Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.
Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.
Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.
Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.
Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.
Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.
Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.
The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.
I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.
Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.
- 2 ounces light rum
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 2 ounces passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- Juice of a half a lime
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon grenadine
- Orange slice and cherry for garnish
Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.
Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.
Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce
Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings
- 2 lemons, halved
- 2 limes, halved
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 cups grapefruit juice
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lime, sliced
- 1 grapefruit, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- Garnish: citrus fruit slices
- 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Make the Louis Sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Make the Shrimp
Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.
Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.
Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups cornflake crumbs
- 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- Louis Sauce, recipe above
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.
Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.
Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes
Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
- 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
- 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 8 medium white baking potatoes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
For the potatoes
Preheat the oven to 475ºF.
Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.
Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.
Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.
Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.
For the steaks
Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.
Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).
Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.
Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad
- 4 navel oranges
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
- 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin
- 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
- Black or green olives, slivered
Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.
Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.
Country Corn Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.
Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm
Makes 1 dozen
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
- 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
- Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles
Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)
Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.
Valentine’s Day Traditions
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, US store shelves are stacked with candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed animals, but not every country turns to greeting cards and heart-shaped candies to their declare love. Some exchange wooden spoons and pressed flowers, while others hold a special holiday for the loveless to mourn their single lives over black noodles.
Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love and Italians traditionally are considered to be lovers. Known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati,” Valentine’s Day is celebrated only between lovers and sweethearts. Young sweethearts in Italy profess their love for each other with a more recent tradition, attaching padlocks or “lucchetti” to bridges and railings and throwing away the key. The tradition of locking padlocks to bridges, railings and lamp posts began in Italy a little more than four years ago after the release of the best-selling book “Ho voglio di te” (I want you) by the Italian author, Federico Moccia. This was followed by the popular movie with the same name, starring Riccardo Scamarcio and Laura Chiatti. In the story, young lovers tie a chain and a padlock around a lamppost on the north side of Rome’s Ponte Milvio and inscribe their names on it, lock it and throw the key into the Tiber River below. The action suggests that the couple will be together forever.
Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark (celebrated since the early 1990s according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark), the country has embraced February 14th with a Danish twist. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.
With a reputation as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, it’s little wonder France has long celebrated Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers. It’s been said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, Valentine’s Day cards remain a popular tradition in France.
Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea and variations of the holiday are celebrated monthly from February through April. The gift-giving starts on February 14th, when it’s up to women to woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th, a holiday known as White Day, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but also with a special gift.
With Carnival held sometime in February or March each year, Brazilians skip the February 14th celebration and instead celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” on June 12th. In addition to exchanges of chocolates, flowers and cards, music festivals and performances are held throughout the country. Gift giving isn’t limited to couples, either. In Brazil, they celebrate this day of love by exchanging gifts and sharing dinner with friends and relatives, too.
Like many parts of the world, South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It’s also customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th. Women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
Dinner For Two
Risotto with Fresh Pear Sauce
- 3/4 lb (12 oz) Carnaroli rice
- 3 tablespoons chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, heated
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese
- 1/2 clove of garlic
- 1 sprig marjoram, plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 small to medium pears
To Make The Sauce:
Peel the pears and cut them into small pieces. Finely chop the garlic. Wash the marjoram and pull off the leaves.
Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the pear. Saute for a minute. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and marjoram. Cover with the broth and cook until the pears are soft.
Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pears cool, then puree the pan contents using a hand blender. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm until serving.
To Make The Risotto:
Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the onion.
Cook slowly so that the onion doesn’t brown. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes or until it becomes transparent. Add a pinch of salt.
Add a couple of ladlefuls of the hot broth to the rice. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add more broth.
The rice should take about 16 to 18 minutes to cook, depending on its quality. When al dente, remove the pot from the heat and add half the Gorgonzola and butter, cut into pieces. Stir and cover. Let rest for two minutes.
Then add the remaining Gorgonzola and Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir until creamy. Pour the pear sauce into the bottom of individual serving bowls and spoon the risotto on top.
Garnish with a sprig of marjoram and a grating or fresh black pepper.
White Sea Bass with Orange-Fennel Relish
U.S. white sea bass is a sustainable choice–not to be confused with Chilean sea bass. Other good fish choices are Gulf of Mexico caught snapper or halibut or mahimahi.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- Half of a (12-ounce) fennel bulb
- 1/2 cup fresh orange sections
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1 ounce halved Castelvetrano (green) olives (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 (6-ounce) white sea bass fillets
- 2 teaspoons butter
Combine the first 4 ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Remove fronds from the fennel bulb and chop them to measure 2 tablespoons. Remove and discard fennel stalks. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise and save one half for another use. Discard the core. Thinly slice the fennel bulb half. Add sliced fennel, orange sections, onion and olives to the orange juice mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in fennel fronds.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add butter to the pan; swirl until butter melts. Add fish and cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with relish.
Make the entire dozen and freeze the extras.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup milk; (up to 2/3 cup)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Whisk together to combine thoroughly. Add chunks of butter. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until it is coarse and pea-sized (doesn’t need to be fine).
Add oil, grated cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup milk. Stir together. Keep adding milk a bit at a time, just until the dough is moistened and no longer dry and powdery. (Shouldn’t be sticky, just moist enough to hold together).
Drop approximately 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly golden.
While biscuits are baking, melt 3 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and the parsley.
When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the garlic butter. Serve warm.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 1/2 pint Strawberries; hulled, quartered
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
In the top of a double boiler (not directly over heat), sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup buttermilk; let stand to soften, about 5 minutes. Place water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring to a simmer.
In a separate small pan bring cream and 3 tablespoons sugar to a boil.
Add to the gelatin mixture in the top part of the double boiler and place the pan over the simmering water; whisk until gelatin dissolves, 5 minutes. Stir in remaining buttermilk thoroughly with a whisk.
Divide mixture into two dessert bowls. Cover; refrigerate until set, 4 hours.
Meanwhile, mix strawberries with Grand Marnier and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Let stand for about 1 hour. Top panna cotta with strawberries and juice collected in the bowl..
The traditional eating habits of the Mediterranean people are based on the agricultural products of their region, which has a long growing season and a rather mild climate. The traditional diets of the Greeks, French, Italians, Spaniards and Middle Easterners reflect distinct cuisines and culinary practices, but they also have a great deal in common.
Certain foods, such as beef and butter, were never very popular in the Mediterranean region because the region did not support the expansive grazing lands required to raise large quantities of buffalo and steer. Most cheeses are made from sheep’s milk and are lower in cholesterol than those made from cow’s milk. The region’s climate is favorable to growing olive trees, so olive oil is abundant and used in cooking instead of butter. With its monounsaturated fat, olive oil is much healthier than butter.
The Mediterranean peoples consume fish, poultry, game and lamb rather than beef. The meat of sheep, goats and chickens contains some fat, of course, but Mediterraneans usually consume far less meat than their northern European neighbors. Wine, which has certain health benefits, is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and regions like Italy and southern France have, historically, produced wine and wine is what is served with meals.
Research suggests that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Mediterranean Diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil and it features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts. Here are a few recipes that can get you started on eating like a Mediterranean.
Eggplant Souvlaki with Yogurt Sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
- 4 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for the grill
- Pinch each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into 20 1/2-inch-wide half-moon pieces
- 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 1 large yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 2 6-inch whole-grain pitas
- 2 cups lightly packed trimmed baby spinach leaves
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
4 metal or wooden 12 inch skewers (soaked if using wooden) or 8 smaller skewers (6-8 inches)
In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Transfer half of the dressing to a second large bowl. Add tomatoes and eggplant to the first large bowl, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes.
To prepare salad:
To the second large bowl, add cucumber, bell pepper, olives and onion; toss well with dressing and set aside.
Prepare the yogurt sauce:
In a small bowl, combine all yogurt sauce ingredients. Set aside in the refrigerator until serving.
Heat grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grate with cooking oil. If it is too cold to grill where you live, a stovetop grill or grill pan can be used.
On each skewer, thread tomatoes and eggplant, dividing ingredients evenly among the skewers. Mist skewers with cooking spray.
Place skewers on the grill; close lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until tender. On an indoor grill turn skewers often to cook evenly.
Mist pitas with cooking spray and grill, turning once, until lightly toasted and warm, about 1 minute. Cut into quarters and divide among 4 serving plates.
Add spinach to the salad and toss. Serve with souvlaki, yogurt sauce and pita bread.
Farro, Shrimp & Tomato Risotto
- 28 oz canned or boxed Italian diced tomatoes with juices
- 2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
- 1 large bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 cups farro, rinsed
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
In a large Dutch oven, add tomatoes, leeks, fennel, farro, broth, tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups water; stir to break up tomato paste. Cover, bring to boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the farro is tender.
Remove lid, add shrimp and stir to combine. Replace lid and continue cooking until shrimp are pink and opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Divide among soup bowls and garnish with parsley.
Swiss Chard with Olives
- 2 bunches (about 1 1/4 pounds) Swiss chard, trimmed and washed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup pitted and roughly chopped Kalamata olives (about 16)
- 1/2 cup water
Separate leaves from the stems of the Swiss chard. Roughly chop leaves and set aside. Cut stems into 1-inch pieces.
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper, and saute until onion is translucent about 6 minutes.
Add Swiss chard stems, olives and the water; cover and cook 3 minutes.
Stir in Swiss chard leaves; cover and continue cooking until stems and leaves are tender, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.
Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Artichokes
- 6 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 6 – 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
- 12 oz package frozen artichokes, thawed
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus additional for garnish
Season chicken with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet with a cover over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add chicken and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side to quickly brown. Remove chicken pieces to a plate.
Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and add the remaining oil and garlic; cook for 1 minute, until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the potatoes and peppers and cook for about 4 minutes, until the potatoes begin to brown.
In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, yogurt and arrowroot and whisk until smooth. Stir yogurt mixture into the skillet. Stir in artichokes and dill. Return chicken pieces to the skillet, nestling them on top of the vegetable mixture.
Cover the skillet and cook for 30 minutes, until the artichokesand potatoes are tender and the sauce is thickened.
Serve chicken and vegetables with the sauce and garnish with additional dill.
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and, subsequently, gained popularity throughout the Middle East region. The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella and has a salty flavor.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound homemade or store bought whole-wheat pizza dough at room temperature, recipe below
- 1 cup (4 ounces) haloumi or feta or ricotta salata cheese
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan.
Place tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor; season with salt and pepper. Pulse 3 to 4 times until ingredients are incorporated but chunky.
Place the dough in the pizza pan. Using your hands stretch the dough until it covers the surface of the pan.
Spread tomato sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with cheese and pine nuts; season with salt and pepper.
Bake until the crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
Toss arugula with vinegar and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle arugula and olives over baked pizza. Cut into serving pieces.
Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
Makes 2 one pound loaves.
- 1/2 cup warm (115 degrees) water
- 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.
In the bowl with the yeast, whisk in the sugar, oil and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to the oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.
Use one ball of dough for the pizza above and freeze the second dough for another time.