Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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EarthDay

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Energy & Waste
The average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day. Over the course of a year, that is more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste – approximately 3,000 pounds per second. The recycling rate has increased from less than 10% in 1980 to more than 34% in 2011. From 1990 to 2010, the total amount of garbage going into landfills dropped by almost 10 million tons.

Plastic
In 2012, the U.S. produced 32 million tons of plastic. Only 9% was recovered for recycling. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes. Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. About 1,500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second.

Glass
It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Recycling one glass bottle can power a computer for 30 minutes. Producing glass from new materials requires 30% more energy than using used glass.

Paper
Every year, Americans use more than 180,000 of paper and paperboard. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. By recycling 1 ton of paper, we save enough energy to heat a home for six months.

Water
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing and personal needs. The average American uses more than 750,000 gallons of water per year. Around the world, the average is less than half of that figure.

Today is Earth Day, but you can have a meaningful discussion with your loved ones about it at any time. Taking care of our environment is important and you can empower your loved ones by sharing with them some of the easy ways to make a difference in your home and neighborhood.

Go Vegetarian Once a Week
One less meat-based dinner a week can nourish the planet and your diet. The meat industry contributes nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions accelerating climate change, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. A report published by the Environmental Working Group last year found that if every American eliminated both meat and cheese from their diet for one day a week, it would be equivalent to removing 7.6 million cars from the road. The Meatless Monday website reports that up to 2,500 gallons of water may be needed to produce one pound of beef and “40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feedlot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.”

Use Fewer Paper Napkins
This one’s real easy. During one year, the average American uses 2,200 paper napkins—approximately six per day. If everyone in the country eliminated just one paper napkin per day, more than a billion paper napkins could be saved from landfills each year. This goes for paper towels, too.

Buy local produce
According to the Institute of Food Research, the majority of produce in your grocery store loses nearly 45% of its nutritional value by the time you buy it. When you purchase produce from a nearby farm, chances are it was picked less than 24 hours earlier and had to travel less than 100 miles to get from the farm to you. This means you’re getting nearly all of the original nutrients and helping to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation, which contributes to climate change. While buying from a farm isn’t always possible, when you get the chance, doing so can make a big difference!

Reduce waste with composting
By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you cut down on the amount of food you waste and reduce your contribution to landfills. By composting regularly, you can reduce the volume of garbage you generate by as much as 25 percent!

Turn off the lights, and the faucets
Try to turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Experts recommend turning off Fluorescent bulbs which are sensitive to how many times you switch them on and off, when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. This helps save both energy and money. And when brushing your teeth, try to turn off the water for the two minutes or so it takes to brush; you can help save up to four gallons of water if you do this regularly.

Plant a tree
The simple act of planting a tree also reaps many benefits. Trees are good for the air and land and they can provide shade for your house, which can help you save on cooling costs. You can make the act meaningful for your family by starting an annual ritual of planting a tree in honor or in memory of someone. Or if you want to start smaller, just plant some herbs you can watch grow on the windowsill.

Discover more activities you can do together
There are plenty of other easy Earth-day inspired ways your family can contribute to a healthier planet beyond your backyard. Take walks or bike rides together instead of driving places. Volunteer together to help clean or preserve local parks. Learn about recycling together by calling your local recycling center and taking a tour, if they offer them. The best part about these activities is not only that they’re good for the planet, but by doing them together, they’re good for the family, too.

Source: http://www.50waystohelp.com/

Earth Day Menu

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Italian Leafy Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce – torn
  • 1 cup torn escarole
  • 1 cup torn radicchio
  • 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced in rings
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the romaine, escarole, radicchio, red-leaf, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together the olive oil, basil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

 

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Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

1 pound eggplant, peeled
3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe below
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • Breaded and baked eggplant 

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute vegetables. Add 1-6 oz. can tomato paste.
Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. Add 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi tomatoes. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme. Simmer for another hour or until the sauce has thickened. Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.

Measure out 2 ½ cups of sauce for the recipe above and freeze the remaining sauce.

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Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 7 1/4-7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water ( 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white

Directions

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
Combine the water and salt. Add to the dry mixture.
Beat at low-speed for 30 seconds, scrapping the sides constantly.
Beat at high for 3 minutes.
By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a very stiff dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and very elastic (15-25 minutes).
Shape into a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough in half.
Cover with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 15×12 inch rectangle.
Beginning at the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly, sealing as you roll.
Taper the ends of the loaf.

Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle them each with cornmeal.
Place each loaf, diagonally seam side down, on baking sheets.
Make diagonal cuts 2 ½ inches apart (1/8 to ¼ inch deep) on the tops of the loaves.
Add tablespoon of water to the beaten egg white and brush over the top and sides of the loaves.

Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 20-45 minutes).
When ready to bake, place a large shallow pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill with boiling water.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, brush with the egg white mixture again.
Bake 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.

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Yogurt Cake with Fresh Berries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries or seasonal fruit for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Oil the paper, too; set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract. Gently whisk flour mixture into yogurt mixture just until blended and smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and peel off parchment paper.

Continue cooling on a rack. Slice and serve with berries.

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If you have been picking up Spring vegetables and are wondering what to do with your new bounty, here are a few ideas on how to turn them into dinner.

Spring Vegetable Risotto

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Serve this main dish with a garden salad and bread sticks to make a complete dinner.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Cook peas in boiling water about 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

Pour broth into a medium-size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and keep broth warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and pepper and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently, or until softened. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to saucepan. Stir in rice and cook 1 minute. Add wine to saucepan and stir until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in warm broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir frequently until liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup (about 22 minutes total).

When you have about 10 minutes cook time remaining, stir in carrots. Add peas to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese, butter and lemon juice.

Chicken Soup with Vegetables

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For dinner serve this soup with a Toasted Tomato Sandwich (recipe below).

Ingredients

Stock Base

  • 4 whole bone-in chicken breasts
  • 5 medium carrots, quartered
  • 2 large parsnips, quartered
  • 2 small turnips, quartered
  • 2 medium celery roots, quartered
  • 1 large green bell pepper, halved, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 20 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 20 black or white peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice

Soup

  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch Julienne strips
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch Julienne strips
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into ⅛-inch julienne strips
  • 1 pound thin noodles, cooked and drained

Directions

Place chicken, carrots, parsnips, turnips, parsley roots, green pepper, onion and 1 tablespoon of salt in a 12-quart stockpot. Cover with 6 quarts cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim and discard foam that forms at the top when it comes to a boil. Add remaining salt, the parsley, cauliflower, garlic, peppercorns and allspice and return to a boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly. Remove meat from bones. Shred meat and refrigerate. Return bones to the pot. Continue simmering, covered, over low heat, for at least 2 hours more.

Strain entire contents of pot through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Chill broth overnight.

To serve soup: Remove surface fat and pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until warm, 10 to 15 minutes. Add zucchini, carrot, celery and reserved shredded chicken. Simmer 5 minutes to cook vegetables and heat chicken.

Be careful to keep soup over low heat; bringing soup to a boil can make it cloudy. Season to taste with salt. Place 1/4 cup noodles in each soup bowl and ladle hot soup over pasta.

Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese with onion and chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 slices whole-grain country bread
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Directions

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

Mash garlic on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or a spoon until a paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with cream cheese and lemon juice.

Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper and salt.

Place bread on a large baking sheet and broil until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the bread over and divide cheese among 4 of the pieces. Continue broiling until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble sandwiches with tomato and the garlic-herb mixture. Top with the melted cheese bread.

Scallops with Asparagus Salad

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Serve this main dish salad with Cheddar Drop Biscuits (recipe below).

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 1 pound new potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (about 24 scallops)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 cups salad greens (about one 5-ounces)

Directions

In small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, mustard and shallot. Gradually drizzle in 3 tablespoons olive oil, whisking continuously until dressing is emulsified; set aside until ready to use.

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add potato slices to boiling water and cook 4 minutes; drain. Cut 1-inch off of bottoms of asparagus; discard. Cut stalks into 2-inch pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potato slices to skillet and cover; cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus pieces to skillet and stir to combine. Sprinkle potato mixture with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and cook an additional 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove asparagus and potatoes to a plate.

Season scallops with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add half of the butter, swirling to coat bottom. Add half of the scallops to the skillet and cook 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook 1 minute on the second side, adjusting heat as necessary so the butter doesn’t burn. Repeat process with remaining butter and scallops.

Toss salad greens with 2 tablespoons prepared dressing and divide among plates. Toss asparagus mixture with remaining dressing and divide among salad plates, then divide scallops among plates and serve immediately.

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, well shaken
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with racks in upper and lower third positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper. Work butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers until butter is incorporated and pea-size lumps remain. Stir in cheddar, then buttermilk and chives, just until dough comes together.

Using two spoons, drop 1/4 cup quantities of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake in oven until golden brown, 12-14 minutes, rotating baking sheets once.

Spinach, Onion and Cheese Quiche

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Serve this Quiche with a tomato salad and Zucchini Muffins (recipe below) for dinner.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Ingredients

Crust

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Gouda cheese or cheese of choice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs

Directions

To prepare crust, place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Combine milk, salt, and egg yolk in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add milk mixture to butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour; beat just until combined. Press mixture into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap and place chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze 15 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 2 minutes. Combine 1 cup milk and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in spinach mixture.

Pour filling into crust. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Zucchini Muffins

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Servings: 12 Ingredients

  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup almond milk or low-fat dairy milk
  • 1½ cups shredded zucchini

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt together.

In another bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, vanilla, lemon zest, zucchini and milk. Stir until well combined.

Add wet mixture into dry mixture, stirring until just barely combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake 18-25 minutes.

Spring Lasagna

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Serve a green bean salad (recipe below) to round out the menu. Add browned sliced Italian sausage to the layers for a meat option.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for the pan
  • Eight 2 1/4-inch wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup green peas, freshly shelled or frozen
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound ricotta, preferably whole milk
  • 1 packed cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic
  • About 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with a little olive oil. Lay out two kitchen towels.

Add salt and noodles to the boiling water, swishing gently so they don’t stick. Boil 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and fresh peas. (For frozen peas, just place them in a colander in the sink.) Boil 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas and boil 1 minute more. Drain into a colander (directly over the frozen peas, if using).

Using tongs, immediately lift out 4 noodles and place them in the pan in a single layer. Place the other noodles on a towel in a single layer. Transfer the vegetable to the other kitchen towel and pat dry. Reserve a few asparagus tips to garnish the top of the lasagna.

Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in a bowl. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic in a small microwave-safe bowl, cover and cook for 30 seconds; stir it into the ricotta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, spread half the pesto over the noodles in the pan. Using half the ricotta mixture, place spoonfuls over the pesto, trying to get it evenly distributed. There will be gaps. Scatter half the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with a little more than half the Parmesan. Top with remaining noodles and repeat the layers, ending with a light scattering of Parmesan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through and lightly golden.

Garnish the top of the lasagna with the reserved cooked asparagus tips before serving.

Green Bean Pepper Salad

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Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded or 1 jarred roasted pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Directions

Put 1 cup of water in a saucepan with the green bean pieces. Boil water and reduce heat to medium. Cover the pot and steam the green beans for 12-15 minutes until tender-crisp (smaller, younger beans may cook more quickly).

Meanwhile, dice the roasted bell pepper flesh into small pieces. Drain the beans in a colander and run cold water over them to cool them down to room temperature. Shake them dry.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper, salt and parsley in a small bowl. Place the steamed green beans and diced roasted bell pepper in a salad bowl and pour dressing over them. Toss all ingredients gently until the beans and peppers are fully coated with the dressing.

Let the salad marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Serve at room temperature.

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Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

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Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

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Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

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Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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3 lentils

Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling and very flavorful. From a nutritional standpoint, they are rich in fiber and in iron and are, consequently, ideal for people suffering from anemia.

Lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times and lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs dating back 8,000 years. As a plentiful source of protein, lentils were found on the tables of peasants and kings alike and the poor, who could not afford fish during the season of Lent, substituted lentils.

Thought to have originated in the Near East and/or the Mediterranean area, lentils are small disks resembling a flat baby pea. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins. They grow two to a pod and are dried after harvesting.

In Italy two major types of lentils are grown: the hiemal strain matures in late summer and produces larger seeds that are more delicate in flavor, whereas the minus strain matures in the spring and has smaller seeds.

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional Italian accompaniment for sausages. Lentils are served on New Year’s Day in Italy because their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won’t want for cash during the rest of the year.

There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as fifty or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors with red, brown and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor and some varieties have a slight peppery taste.

Select lentils that are dry, firm, clean and not shriveled. The color of lentils you choose will depend on your usage, but in general, the color should be fairly uniform. Canned lentils are also available, but it is just as easy to cook your own.

If your recipe calls for a lentil that will retain its shape when done, common brown lentils are the usual choice. Brown lentils still have their seed coat and have not been split. Most red, yellow and orange lentils tend to disintegrate with long cooking because the hulls have been removed. Slightly sweet in flavor, these are best reserved for pureed soups or stew thickeners. Other choices include French lentils which are olive-green and slate-colored. These will cook up the firmest. Persian green lentils will turn brown as they cook and become tender while still retaining their shape. Considered the most flavorful (and most expensive) are the French Puy lentils, which also retain their shape.

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

You may be able to find lentil flour in some specialty markets. It is used in India to make a fermented dough for bread.

Dried lentils have an indefinite shelf-life, yet another reason why our ancestors kept them as a staple food. With age, the color may fade a bit, but the flavor will not deteriorate. Store lentils in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry place.

red-lentil-jar

Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils may also be frozen up to six months. However, they may fall apart when reheated, if not handled gently.

These measures will help you determine how many lentils you need for your recipe.

• 1 cup dry lentils = 2-1/2 cups cooked
• 1 pound dried lentils = 2-1/4 cups dry
• 1 pound dried lentils = 4 servings
• 1 pound dried lentils = 5 cups cooked

Lentils are a natural in soups and stews and also make a great cold salad. The high protein content in lentils makes them an excellent meat substitute.
Lentils need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes. To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt once the lentils are completely cooked. Acidic ingredients such as wine or tomatoes can lengthen cooking time. You may wish to add these ingredients after the lentils have become tender. Older lentils will take longer to cook because they have lost more moisture. Do not mix newly purchased lentils with old ones. They will cook unevenly.

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

Lentils are popular across Italy, where they are grown in Umbria in the north and Puglia and Sicily in the south. Technically not a “bean,” lentils are legumes. Unlike beans, lentils require no soaking, so this salad is quick and easy to prepare. Serve as a side salad or add a cup of diced mozzarella and it makes a light main dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Place lentils in a large bowl. Stir in onion and next 4 ingredients (through pepper). Add vinegar and oil; toss well. Serve at room temperature.

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 g) short-grained rice
  • 1 cup (200 g) lentils
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • One whole onion
  • 1 rib celery, cut in half
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the lentils and cook them for 30-45 minutes in 2 quarts of water with the onion and celery.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lentils with a slotted spoon and strain the broth, discarding the celery. Reserve the broth and onion separately.

Slice the onion and sauté it with the oil and the garlic for 3 minutes; add the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Add the lentils, the spinach and the lentil broth. When the soup comes to a boil add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is done, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • Cold water
  • 2 pounds fresh italian sausage, sweet or hot
  • 3 cups homemade or low sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in a little water

Directions

Wash lentils well by soaking them briefly in water and changing the water at least once. Put them in a 2-1/2-quart saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until not quite done, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, pierce the sausages in several places and then put them in a small saucepan. Add the chicken broth and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. From time to time, skim off and discard foam and fat that rise to the top. When sausages are done, remove the pot from the heat and let them sit in the broth while you finish the lentils.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and sage in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are done.

Drain the sausages, saving their liquid. To the lentil pot, add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and add the tomato paste. Mix gently using a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 cup of the broth in which you cooked the sausages. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

To serve, arrange the sausages on a platter next to the warm lentils.

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1- 28 to 32 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (juice reserved)
  • 1 1/4 cups dried green lentils
  • Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound shaped pasta, such as cavatappi or rigatoni
  • Pecorino cheese, grated or shaved
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Cook until the mixture dries out a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season with the oregano,crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the lentils. (If the sauce begins to dry out, add additional water as needed.) Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Serve with the lentil sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino and garnish with basil.

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 and 1/4 lbs (1 kg) white fish or white fish bones and heads, gills removed
  • Salt

For the Stew:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 and 1/2 oz (100 grams) cooked lentils
  • 9 oz (250 grams) fish and seafood cut into serving pieces, such as sea bass fillets, prepared squid, peeled prawns, peeled langoustines (small lobsters or use lobster claws) and scrubbed clams
  • 28 oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 1 fresh basil sprig, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

Pour 3 pints (2 liters) water into a large saucepan, add the herbs, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns and season with salt.

Gradually bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool.

Add the fish bones and return to the heat, bring just to the boil;  lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the fish bones cool in the stock for a stronger flavor. Strain the stock.

Prepare the Stew:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet and add 1 tablespoon each of the celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cook for a few minutes more.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a shallow saucepan and add the remaining celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add the sea bass and the squid. Increase the heat to high and cook for 1 minute, then add the prawns, langoustines, clams and lentil mixture.

Pour in the strained fish stock, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and basil. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef chuck blade steaks, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Heat a large deep skillet with a cover over medium heat until hot. Add the beef to the skillet and brown evenly. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste.

Add water, onion and bay leaves to the skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-1/4 hours.

Add lentils, carrots and Italian seasoning to the skillet; return to a boil. Continue simmering, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils and beef are fork-tender.

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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ravanelligal

Although the radish was a well-established crop in Greek and Roman times, one might assume that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time, however, there are almost no archeological records available to help determine the radish’s history and domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives, mustard greens and turnips, can be found over western Asia and Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place somewhere in that area. They are certainly revered and highly appreciated in Asia, particularly in Japan where the long, white daikon radish is a major food. The ancient Greeks prized radishes above all root crops, even making replicas of them in gold. The radish was a common food in Egypt long before the pyramids were built and was popular in ancient Rome as well. Columbus and the early settlers brought radishes to America where they are a favorite spring crop for home gardeners because they’re so easy to plant and they grow quickly.

Radish_3371103037_4ab07db0bf_o

There are two basic types of radishes- spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties are ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Champion’, ‘Burpee White’ and ‘Crimson Giant’. Winter radishes such as ‘China Rose’ and ‘Long Black Spanish’ store better and have a more distinctive flavor than the spring varieties. The Bunny Tail is an Italian radish that is slightly oblong in shape. It is mostly red and has a white tip. The Sicily Giant radish is a large heirloom variety originating from Sicily. It has a smooth, bright red skin and tastes hotter than some other radishes. It can grow up to 2 inches across the widest part. White Icicle radishes are completely white and are carrot-shaped. These radishes come from an Italian heirloom variety. Sometimes, they are simply called Icicle radishes.

Radishes are more versatile in the kitchen than many cooks realize. Besides adding crisp radishes to salads, try them sliced into stir-fries, stews and soups. Sauté them in butter for a minute and then serve with salt, pepper and herbs (especially chervil) for a different and unusual side dish. Long radishes are particularly good for sautéing. Slice them diagonally to obtain larger pieces and cook quickly to retain crispness. Grate radishes into your favorite slaws or dice them for egg and potato salads. Radishes can even be pickled!

 Appetizers

prosiutto

Prosciutto-Wrapped Radishes

Serves 2

ingredients

  • 6 long, red Italian radishes (or any radish)
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil

Directions

Wash and peel radishes, leaving stems intact.
Carefully wrap each radish in a slice of prosciutto.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

dip

Fresh Radish Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces large radishes (about 12), cut into very thin bite-size strips, chopped or grated
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Fresh dill sprigs
  • Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Belgian endive leaves and/or fresh snow pea pods for dipping

Directions

In a large bowl stir together radish strips, sour cream, feta cheese, dill, lemon peel and lemon juice. Garnish with dill sprigs. Serve with fresh vegetables for dipping.

Salads

RavanelliOlive

Radish and Olive Salad Recipe – Ravanelli con Insalata di Olive

While radishes are not the most common salad vegetable in Italy, you will find them in well stocked markets. Valeriana (Valerian) is a popular salad green belonging to the Valerianella family. It has a number of local names in Italy, including soncino and is also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad in the English speaking world. Substitute mache, arugula or wild baby lettuce for the valeriana.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound (100 g) medium red radishes
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) valeriana or other spring lettuce
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Wash the radishes, pat them dry, remove the leaves and roots and thinly slice them. Put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and let them steep for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and drain the valeriana. Drain the olives and slice them. Add the valeriana and olives to the radishes.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season to taste with salt (Italians rarely add pepper to salads) and toss. Let the salad rest for a minute or two before serving it.

bresaola-Mottram-515x438

Bresaola with Radishes, White Asparagus and Baby Greens

Bresaola is air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red color. It is made from top round and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy’s Lombardy region.
6 servings

Ingredients

  • 25 white asparagus stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated or high quality jarred horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 42 slices bresaola, sliced paper thin
  • 2 cups baby greens
  • 1/2 cup baby frisée
  • 1/2 cup shaved radishes
  • Sea salt for garnish
  • Marcona almonds for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and Champagne vinegar. Cook until very tender, about 12-15 minutes, dependign on thickness. Prepare an ice bath while the asparagus cooks. When the asparagus are cooked, transfer to the ice bath. Drain the asparagus and purée in a food processor. Add the horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a second ice bath. Add the basil, oregano and parsley to the water. Boil for 20 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Drain the herbs and squeeze out excess water. Combine the herbs and olive oil in a blender and blend on high. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, lay 7 slices of bresaola on each plate, overlapping the slices slightly. Spoon some asparagus purée on the bresaola slices. Toss the greens, frisée and radishes with the herb oil. Top each serving of bresaola with some salad and almonds. Season with sea salt and serve.

Side Dishes

roasted radishes

Roasted Radishes

If you want a more substantial side dish add 12 baby carrots to the radishes in the recipe below and increase the cooking time to 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches fresh radishes, washed, dried, stems and tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking pan in the oven until hot.
In a bowl, mix the radishes with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme.
Place the radishes on the hot pan and put the pan back in the oven.
Every 5 minutes stir the radishes. Total cooking time should be 15 minutes, depending on the size of the radishes.
When ready, they’ll be blistered and pink with just a little bite left to the texture.
Serve as a side dish with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

pan-roasted_radishes_with_italian-style_greens-458x326

Pan-Roasted Radishes with Italian-Style Greens

Cooked radishes taste a lot like turnips, their Brassicaceae cousins, but with a milder flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced dried Mission figs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups trimmed radishes, halved or quartered (10 oz.)
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 cups radish greens or arugula
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped black oil-cured olives
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste

Directions

Place figs in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Plump 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until browned on one side (do not stir). Shake pan and cook, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes more or until radishes are just tender. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Set aside.

Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add spinach and radish greens and cook 2 minutes or until barely wilted, turning with tongs. Add pine nuts, figs, olives and radishes. Cover and cook 3 minutes more or until greens are tender and radishes are heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

snap peas

Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 medium radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add snap peas; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain snap peas; run under cold water until cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, tarragon and salt until well combined. Toss snap peas and radishes in the dressing. Season with freshly cracked pepper.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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BalancedLunch

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.

But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.

For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.

Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.

Lunches at Home

Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs

Directions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.

spanakopita-quiche-h-4

Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought) 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill 

Directions
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.

Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.

Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.

chicken-salad-rs-1213081-l

Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.

Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat wraps
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions

Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

pesto-turkey-club-1994854-x

Pesto Turkey Sandwich

If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 ounces sliced turkey
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.

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Veggies

Are you bored with the same old side dishes for your evening meal? Its time to give your sides an update.

The best side dish recipes are those that taste great and are not overshadowed by the main course. However, the same old vegetables cooked the same old way can get boring and go uneaten.

Make some changes -

Do you find that every salad you make finds you standing at your cutting board chopping your veggies into the same shapes and sizes and then combining them in the same way all the time? Here’s a tip to make your salads and cooked veggies more interesting: change the way you cut! If you always chop your vegetables into cubes, try sticks, grating and shaving or food process your veggies into a grain-like texture. Use spiral cuts for zucchini, carrots, beets or sweet potatoes. Toss them into a salad with your other vegetables.

Add a fresh tasting dip, sauce or dressing to a vegetable and you can transform the meal completely. Mastering a variety of dressings, sauces and dips is one of the best ways to avoid boredom. They can be poured over salads, hot cooked vegetables or enjoyed with crudités and whole grain crackers.

Instead of dressing your cooked vegetables with butter, try this sauce next time:

Lemon Sauce with Herbs

lemon-caper-sauce-lgn

Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lemon zest

Directions

Place mayonnaise in a small saucepan. Gradually add broth, whisking until smooth. Heat over medium-low, whisking constantly, until warmed through but not bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mustard, oil, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, chives and pepper. Drizzle the warm sauce over cooked vegetables and garnish with lemon zest.

Be Adventurous

One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before. There are so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables out there that it just depends on what you have available in your area at any given time of the year. Try going to different markets, grocery stores, gourmet stores and ethnic markets to find produce that you haven’t cooked with before. Asian markets are particularly abundant with exotic fruits and vegetables and you could try a new ingredient every week for months. You can also try new dried spices, dried herbs, oils, nuts, seeds or dried fruits. Keep your eyes open to see what is around and allow your senses and creativity to guide your purchases. Even if you are on a tight budget, you could likely afford to try one new ingredient per week.

vegetables

Not only is eating seasonally better for your health and the planet, but it also means that for the four seasons of the year, you are exposed to and using different ingredients. This really helps to keep things interesting and gives your taste buds a makeover.

Adding a different fresh herb or spice to an old recipe can completely change a meal, as does just adding fresh herbs in the first place. A basic mixed greens salad or chopped salad will taste entirely different and far more exotic with some fresh basil, mint, coriander, dill or parsley. Don’t be afraid to try a new herb. The same goes for new spices. Spice blends in particular can be an easy and great new addition to your culinary repertoire.

Try a New Recipe and a New Food.

Red Chard

Red Chard

Red Chard with Onions, Pancetta and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches red Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock, vegetable broth or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Wash the stems and chop them into ½-inch pieces; set aside. Tear the leaves into large pieces, wash them thoroughly and spin or pat dry; set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the chard stems and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the raisins and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover the skillet, and simmer until the stems have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chard leaves, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Cover the skillet and braise for 3 to 4 minutes. When the chard leaves are wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, it is done. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Purple Potatoes

Purple Potatoes

Green Bean and Purple Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces purple potatoes
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions or 3 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

Scrub potatoes with a stiff brush under running water. Cut potatoes in quarters. In a Dutch oven cook potatoes in a small amount of boiling, lightly salted water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Add beans the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking. Drain; rinse with cold water until vegetables are cooled. Drain well.

In a medium bowl stir together oil, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add potato mixture and green onions. Toss mixture gently. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fennel Bulb

Fennel Bulb

Braised Fennel in Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine the broth and vermouth in a liquid measuring cup and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and tomato paste and set aside.

Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb. Chop enough of the fennel fronds to yield 1 tablespoon; set aside. Trim the bulb and cut it in half. Remove the core. Cut each fennel half into thin wedges.

In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Arrange the fennel wedges in one layer in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the wedges are lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Turn the wedges over with tongs. Pour the broth-wine mixture over the fennel. Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly ajar, so that the steam can escape. Make sure the liquid is gently simmering and cook until the liquid is reduced to just a few tablespoons, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the tomato-cream mixture and cook, gently turning the fennel wedges with tongs until the cream thickens and coats the fennel, about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Serve the fennel garnished with the chopped fennel fronds.

Barley

Barley

Broccoli and Barley Pilaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets, large florets cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 fresh hot pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced

Directions

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring until toasty brown, about 10 minutes. Add the broth or water and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is tender and the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

In a large deep skillet, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets, cover and cook just until bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Wipe out the skillet and heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, hot pepper and scallions and stir for 1 minute. Add the broccoli florets, season with salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Off the heat, stir in the barley and serve immediately.

Edamame

Edamame

Mixed Greens with Edamame, Almonds and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups torn baby salad greens
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-pack), drained and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or use the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large salad bowl combine salad greens, sun-dried tomatoes, edamame and almonds.

For dressing, in a small glass measuring cup whisk together lemon juice, oil and black pepper.

To serve, pour dressing over salad, toss to coat. Divide salad among six individual salad plates and top each serving with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage

Italian-Style Cabbage with Tomatoes and Pecorino Romano

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound savoy cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 canned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato liquid from the tomato can
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Remove the core of the cabbage and cut the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 4 firmly packed cups of cabbage strips.

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onion rings and sauté until they start to soften and brown. Add the cabbage and garlic stirring to blend well. Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the cabbage and add them to the pan. Add the tomato liquid, vinegar and thyme. Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until cabbage is softened and flavors are blended.

When ready to serve, stir butter into the cabbage. Place on plates and pass the grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

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horseradishHorseradish is native to Eastern and Central Europe and possibly Western Asia. It has been grown for its roots for over 2,000 years. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the first written mention of the root was probably in the 13th century, when a root with the description of horseradish was mentioned in a text describing medicinal cures. Its use as a condiment came later, based on the earliest known written documentation from the 15th century.

The English word “horseradish” has nothing to do with horses or radishes. The word “horse” formerly meant “coarse” or “rough.” “Radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root.” Horseradish is not a type of radish, although they are in the same family.

In Slovenia and in the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, horseradish (often grated and mixed with sour cream, vinegar, hard-boiled eggs or apples) is also a traditional Easter dish. Further west in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, it is called “barbaforte (strong beard)” and is a traditional accompaniment to Bollito Misto; while in the Italian northeastern regions of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it is still called “kren” or “cren”.

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Horseradish is in the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale. It is a perennial in most locations in the US and will spread rapidly in the garden from season to season, if not contained properly. Horseradish plants have large, deep green, spoon-shaped leaves (which are edible), large, deep-growing roots and very fragrant white flowers. The bulk of US horseradish cultivation is in southwestern Illinois, near the banks of the Mississippi River (near St. Louis), where the root has been grown commercially for over 150 years. Cool weather helps give horseradish its pungency, so it is generally harvested from mid-fall right through to early spring.

Horseradish growers employ a wide range of herbicides, including glyphosate (aka RoundUp) to control both weeds and spreading horseradish plants (because horseradish spreads so easily. Other pesticides are used to control insect infestations and disease. If you are concerned about pesticide use in horseradish cultivation, look for organic horseradish at your local farmers’ market.

Horseradish roots are large, tapering to a point, with a dark brown peel and a creamy white interior. Horseradish’s bite comes from the release of compounds when the root is grated (without grating and exposure to air, horseradish roots really don’t smell like much of anything). Vinegar stops this chemical process, which is why most commercial horseradish preparations contain vinegar. For really hot horseradish, leave the grated root exposed to the air for a few minutes (longer than that, it starts to discolor and dry out). For milder horseradish, add vinegar right away.

What to look for:

Look for firm roots with no mushy or black spots. Avoid roots that are floppy or dried out. You can find horseradish root in the produce section of some grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.

horseradish_fresh_harvest

What to Do with It:

Grated horseradish root makes delicious sauces and condiments. It is perfect paired with beef, seafood and roasted vegetables. You can stir freshly grated root (or prepared horseradish) in to mustard for a spicy sauce or mix it with ketchup to make a cocktail sauce for seafood.

Horseradish root is generally not cooked, but grated and mixed with vinegar or other condiments to make sauces. Cooking grated horseradish greatly diminishes the flavor and pungency of the root, so add horseradish at the end of cooking, off the heat. Horseradish root can be used in a number of creative ways in the kitchen. The grated root is commonly mixed with dairy products (like cream, sour cream and crème fraiche) to tame its peppery bite. Also try stirring some horseradish into your next batch of vinaigrette, make a horseradish dip or fold some grated horseradish into mashed potatoes. Creamy horseradish sauce is commonly served with roast beef, but is equally good with salmon, scallops, roasted vegetables (especially potatoes and beets) and, of course, stirred into Bloody Mary mixes.

Some recipes call for fresh horseradish to be grated in a food processor (convenient if you have a large batch to grind), but a Microplane zester makes the best grated horseradish, if all you need is a tablespoon or two. Many recipes for grating your own horseradish recommend that you do so outdoors or in a very well ventilated place and wear gloves and eye protection. The volatile oils that are released from horseradish that is grated are very pungent.

Equivalents:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Horseradish root = 680 g = 2 3/4 cups grated
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh grated Horseradish = 2 tablespoons bottled
  • 1/2 cup grated horseradish = 3 oz / 7 g

A Few Facts:

  • An enzyme found in horseradish, called horseradish peroxidase, is widely used in biochemical research.
  • Horseradish is toxic to horses.
  • Don’t put your horseradish sauce in a silver serving dish: the grated root can tarnish the metal.
  • Horseradish is commonly used as one of the “bitter herbs” required at Passover Seder.

Storage

Uncut horseradish roots will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Cut horseradish should be used right away. Grated fresh horseradish, preserved in vinegar, will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Peeled and grated horseradish can be stored in sealed bags or containers in the freezer for a few months.

horseradish-sauce

How to make prepared horseradish for your recipes:

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh horseradish root
  • 8 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Peel and coarsely grate the fresh horseradish root. Combine grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and salt in a food processor; pulse 4 or 5 times or until the horseradish begins to break down. Add the remaining vinegar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer mixture to a jar and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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Apple Horseradish Sauce

In Trentino, Italy, cooked apples and fresh horseradish are served with roasted beef, chicken or pork dishes. Cream is added to the sauce to temper the sharpness of the horseradish.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 ounce piece of fresh horseradish root
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a heavy 3 or 4-quart saucepan with a cover, place the apple chunks and toss with the lemon juice and salt. Cover the pan, and set it over medium-low heat. Cook the apples slowly for 15 minutes, stirring several times, as they soften. Remove the cover, raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the juices are syrupy and the apples are very soft. Turn off the heat.

Peel the horseradish and grate it into fine shreds, until you have at least 1/2 cup, for a milder taste, or 1 cup, for a stronger taste.

With a potato masher, crush the apples into a chunky sauce. Stir in the grated horseradish and cream and pour into a serving bowl. Serve warm or cold.

beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Horseradish-Dill Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium beets, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane grater (or chopped very fine)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Lettuce for serving

Directions

To roast the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets, two at a time, in aluminum foil. Place the beets on a baking pan and roast until tender. The amount of time will vary by the size and even variety of the beet; but start checking around 45 minutes, as it could take as long as 40-45 minutes more. Use the tip of a sharp knife to test; if the knife goes into the beets with little resistance, they are done.

For the horseradish-dill sauce:

Whisk together the sour cream, Greek yogurt, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne and salt (to taste). Gently fold in the chopped dill. Cover and refrigerate while the beets are roasting to let the flavors blend.

When the beets are done, let cool slightly, then peel or rub the skins off with a paper towel. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, gently toss with the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrange on a platter over lettuce. Drizzle with some of the horseradish-dill sauce. (Serve extra on the side.)

bakedclams_xl

Italian Baked Clams with Horseradish

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 littleneck or cherrystone clams, opened; top shell discarded
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place clams in their half shells on a baking pan; drizzle with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine horseradish and panko crumbs; sprinkle over clams and lightly pat down. Squeeze the juice from 1 of the lemon halves over the clams and drizzle with olive oil.

Place clams under the broiler and cook until crumbs are light golden and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes. Drizzle clams with the white wine halfway through cooking.

Transfer clams to a serving plate..

Cut remaining lemon half into 4 wedges and serve with the clams.

horseradish beef

Italian Beef Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches

Ingredients

Beef

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lb boneless chuck roast
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, if cooking in the oven

Horseradish Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Sandwich

  • 10 whole wheat rolls
  • 1 white onion, sliced thin
  • 10 slices provolone cheese or cheese of choice

Directions

For the beef cooked in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Liberally sprinkle the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden brown. Add the remaining beef ingredients and place the pot in the oven. Cook the roast, turning every 30 minutes, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil. Once cooled a bit, shred the meat into smaller pieces for the sandwiches.

For the beef cooked in a slow cooker:

Place roast in slow cooker and add the remaining beef ingredients, except the oil, over the top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Slice or shred the meat.

For the horseradish sauce:

Mix everything together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Preheat the broiler. Toast the rolls.

Spread a little horseradish sauce on both sides of the toasted rolls.

Add a layer of beef, top with sliced onion and then a piece of provolone cheese.

Place under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted.

salmon

Horseradish Asiago Crusted Salmon

Serves 6

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 4 – 6 oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 3/4 cup fresh shredded horseradish root
  • 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lime

Dijon Sauce

  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions

For the Dijon sauce:

Mix the ingredients together and refrigerate until serving time.

For the salmon:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine grated horseradish, Asiago, melted butter and rosemary.

Brush each salmon fillet with olive oil and coat with the Asiago cheese mixture.

Place each fillet on a well-oiled baking pan and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes)

Remove from the oven to a serving platter and drizzle with the Dijon sauce. Serve with fresh lime.

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farmers-market-local-produce-520

For centuries all food was farm to table. People grew most of their own food or bought it from nearby farmers. The food that they put on the table was fresh, local and literally farm to table. During the early part of the twentieth century more people moved into urban areas and, along with improved transportation and refrigeration, made it possible for foods to be transported from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. Food was no longer picked on the farm and served within just a day or so. The longer the time between harvest and your dining room table, the more quality is lost. Nutrients and flavor dissipate quickly.

As we become more concerned with where food comes from and how it is prepared, the term “farm-to-table” has become more prominent. Farm-to-table is more of a movement than a particular cuisine. The focus is on eliminating as many steps as possible between where the food is grown and where it’s eaten. Getting food straight from the farmer cuts out the middleman – like packaging and processing plants and commercial vendors – and assures consumers that their food is fresh, nutritious and locally produced. When you buy locally produced foods, you are being more environmentally friendly, keeping business in the community and supporting the local economy.

Farm-to-table food offerings encompass any type of whole food imaginable, as long as it’s in season. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, nuts and even baked goods; just not anything processed – like a bag of potato chips or packaged chicken nuggets. A common fallacy is that the farm to table label means that the ingredients are organic. Sometimes the farmer uses organic techniques but can’t afford to meet the procedures that the government requires for the certified label. Other times the farm may use non-organic fertilizers or pesticides.

Wondering where the nearest farmers markets are to you?

The USDA launched a searchable Farmers Market Directory that includes over 6,000 locations in the United States: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/default.aspx

In Canada: http://www.farmersmarketscanada.ca/ and in England: http://www.localfoods.org.uk/local-food-directory

After the long winter months of scanty crops, root vegetables and tubers, the farmers markets are reawakening and brimming with bright-colored vegetables, enticing baked goods and delicious jams that make for a full sensory experience. Strolling by the colorful stands of produce, you’ll find fresh field strawberries, crisp green beans, plump artichokes and bright green asparagus. Following are some facts about the spring produce that is emerging and some recipes on how to make use of them.

Asparagus

asparagus

Perhaps because it’s only harvested during a brief six to seven-week period between April and June, asparagus is the one vegetable we most associate with the arrival of spring.

When picking asparagus at the farmers market or at your local store, look for bundles with firm spears whose tips are closed, plump and green. Avoid dry, brownish looking spears. Once you’ve made your pick, it’s very important to store your asparagus properly to keep them fresh, as it is a rather fragile vegetable. Wash asparagus repeatedly in water until clean, pat dry, and cut off the hard stem ends. Then wrap a moist paper towel around the stems and place them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Or, even better, stand them upright in a couple of inches of cold water. If stored properly, asparagus will keep for 2 or 3 days.

Blanching

To blanch asparagus, drop whole or cut, into a large pot of simmering water and cook for 3 minutes. Then, drain and shock the asparagus by running it under cold water or putting it in an ice bath. When blanched, the texture of asparagus becomes a little softer, but it is still crisp and the color brightens.

Steaming

Steaming is the perfect cooking method for a health-conscious diet because it utilizes very little or no fat. In a large deep pot bring 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Fasten the asparagus stalks in a bundle with a string and place the bundle upright in the water. Cover and steam for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Alternatively, use a wide pan or Dutch oven, add a thin layer of water and place a single layer of asparagus at the bottom. Cover and steam.

Stir-frying

Stir-frying is a very quick cooking technique that uses relatively low amounts of fat and very high heat. The secret is to keep the food in constant motion in a wok or sauté pan. Once you’ve cut the asparagus spears in the desired shape (cutting them on a slant is typical for stir-fry dishes), blanch them, then heat a small amount of oil in the pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the asparagus and stir constantly until tender but still crisp on the surface, about 2- 3 minutes.

Sautéing

Sautéing asparagus is fairly similar to stir-frying. While stir-frying is more often used in Asian-inspired recipes, sautéing is typical of Western cuisines. It’s the cooking method most often used to prepare asparagus as a side dish to meat or fish entrees or in sauces for pasta. With sautéing, as well as with stir-frying, it’s preferable to use blanched asparagus. In a skillet, heat oil or butter, add the asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally until tender but still firm and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

healthy-for-life2

Roasted Asparagus

This is my favorite way to serve asparagus.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Snap off the bottoms of the stalks. On a large baking sheet, toss asparagus in the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the stalks). Squeeze the lemon juice over the asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not yams and vice-versa. They are two totally unrelated botanical species, although the roots can be similar in shape. What’s the difference? The true sweet potato is related to the morning-glory vine and is native to South America; the yam is native to Africa and Asia. All of this is especially confusing because orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have been traditionally referred to as “yams” in parts of the US. In general, true yams have a drier texture, are starchier in taste and are much lower in beta-carotene (but higher in protein) than sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are number 38 out of 53 on the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The roots are susceptible to a number of different pests and diseases that are controlled with insecticides and fungicides, so check with your local sweet potato farmer, if you’re concerned about this.

Sweet potatoes are in season in most parts of the US from fall through spring and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most are large and football shaped, with a fat middle and tapering ends, although some heirloom varieties are quite small and slender. Their skin can be russet, tan, cream, light purple or red. Sweet potato flesh is just as colorful: it may be orange (like the common Jewel sweet potato), yellow, creamy white (like the Japanese sweet potato) or even purple-magenta (as seen in the Okinawan sweet potato). Sweet potato varieties can also be divided into “dry” varieties (better for frying or boiling, because they hold their shape better) and “moist” or “baking” types. Look for sweet potatoes that are firm, with no bruises, shrivel-y spots (especially common on their tapered ends) or brown bits. Avoid sweet potatoes that have begun to sprout.

Sweet potatoes can be stored for several weeks under the right conditions: cool, dry and away from light. Don’t store them in the refrigerator, as this accelerates their decline — they don’t like to be too cold or too moist. Sweet potatoes that get too warm tend to sprout and become shriveled and mushy.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, boiled, fried, grilled, mashed or pureed. They are commonly paired with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and other warming spices, along with brown sugar or maple syrup. They also are delicious paired with oranges (juice or zest) and apples. They can be mashed and added to any number of baked goods, like muffins, biscuits and cakes. Cook sweet potatoes in their skin to retain the most nutrients. You can peel them after cooking. An enzyme in sweet potatoes that converts starch to sugar is most active between 135 – 170 degrees (Fahrenheit), so cook sweet potatoes for a longer period of time at a lower temperature to get the sweetest sweet potatoes. Baking sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees or lower will achieve this.

sweet-potato-soup-sl-l

Sweet Potato Soup with Apples 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small, tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 8 small sage leaves or Italian parsley
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 ½ cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

In a medium Dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter on medium-high heat until the butter is just melted. Add the onion and cook until translucent (but not browned), about 5 minutes. Add the diced apple, carrot, celery and sage and cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn the heat to low. Simmer until the carrots and celery are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked sweet potatoes, cayenne, nutmeg and salt to taste. Stir to combine.  Puree the soup in batches with an immersion blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice to taste and swirl a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt on top of the soup. Garnish with parsley.

Kohlrabi

kohlrabi (1)

Kohlrabi is a member of a group of vegetables that include kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, horseradish, mustard, arugula and rapeseed. The kohlrabi “root” is actually the swollen stem of the plant that grows above ground, topped by leaves resembling kale or collards. Fast growing and easy to cultivate, kohlrabi is becoming more popular in the US, but its strongest foothold is in Germany, Eastern Europe and India.

Kohlrabi are susceptible to the same diseases and pests as other members of the cabbage family, so pesticides to control fungi and insects may be applied. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is ask your local kohlrabi farmer about his or her growing practices.

Kohlrabi are available in most US markets from late spring through late autumn. In many areas, the vegetable can only be found at farmers’ markets, CSAs and smaller grocery stores (like food co-ops). Kohlrabi prefers cooler weather, so summer-harvested kohlrabi may be woodier than those grown in the spring and fall. In warmer climates, kohlrabi may be available in the winter and may even have two growing seasons. The kohlrabi bulb should be firm with no spongy bits and no visible brown spots. If leaves are still attached, they should be firm, green and free of wilt or mold. Younger kohlrabi are more tender and you can differentiate between young and old primarily by size — younger kohlrabi are smaller, usually between 2-3 inches in diameter. Kohlrabi should be spherical in shape; stay away from kohlrabi that are tapered, as they also tend to be woodier.

Kohlrabi will keep in your refrigerator’s veggie drawer for several weeks. Note that the bulbs tend to become woodier the longer you store them. Remove the leaves before storing. The biggest barrier to frequent kohlrabi consumption is peeling the bulb. The little knobbly bits make using a vegetable peeler virtually impossible, so you’ll have to use a paring knife to get the skin off. The bulb can be quartered and roasted like potatoes, pureed, steamed, grilled or simply thinly sliced raw and tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Kohlrabi also makes a delicious slaw, grated or cut into thin matchsticks.

slaw

Apple and Kohlrabi Slaw 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tart apples, cored and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 4 small kohlrabi, peeled and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 2 shallots, diced (or 1/2 an onion)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above together and chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Rhubarb

DSCI0013.JPG

A relative of buckwheat, rhubarb is native to Siberia, and it grows best outdoors in similar climes such as northern Michigan, Washington state, Ontario and Yorkshire in the north of England. Rhubarb can only be harvested several years after planting, as it needs time to develop an appropriate root system. While not as popular as it was in the first half of the 20th century, rhubarb is receiving renewed interest in the U.S. as a local, seasonal plant.

Rhubarb is typically harvested in early spring while the plant is at its maximum flavor. Choose medium-sized ruby colored stalks that are firm and crisp. Greener stalks are usually a sign of sourness, while a thick stalk will be stringy. Rhubarb keeps for about a week wrapped in the refrigerator. Rhubarb freezes very well, so stock up during the spring season. I cut the stalks into one inch pieces and freeze 2 cups per ziplock freezer bag. Frozen rhubarb is great for making a fruit pie.

Just like celery, rhubarb has strings. To remove, use a paring knife. The strings will likely break down during cooking, but cooked rhubarb has a smoother texture without them. An easy way to cook rhubarb is to slice the stalk into inch-long chunks, remove all leaves, add sugar and boil until tender, adding a little bit of lemon zest to the mix. As rhubarb is quite sour, it pairs well with foods and ingredients that balance out the acidity. This sauce is good served over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup oats, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts; with your fingers squeeze into large crumbles and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Mix 2 pounds chopped rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

Scatter the crumbles on top and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberries

strawberries

Locally grown strawberries are available only from Spring to the middle of Summer. Look for glossy fruit without visibly bruising, softness or moldy spots. Strawberries range in size from tiny wild-like, or alpine, varieties, to the fairly enormous Tri-Star type. The berries start out white on the plant, so look for strawberries that are deeply red colored without traces of white at the stem. Strawberries are labor-intensive to cultivate and are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. The seedlings must be planted by hand and the berries are still harvested by hand, even in large industrial operations.

Strawberries rank a super high number 3 out of 53  on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide. The EWG recommends buying organic due to the high pesticide use in conventionally grown strawberries. Unfortunately, the pesticides used in conventional strawberry production are some of the very worst – including methyl bromide, which sterilizes the soil and acts as an insecticide. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methyl bromide is categorized as a “powerful ozone depleting substance.” It was “phased out” in 2005 in the US’s attempt to comply with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, but the US lobbied for — and won — “exemptions” that include strawberry production, both for seedlings and fruit. In addition to its effects on the ozone layer, methyl bromide is a highly toxic pesticide that can cause neurological, lung and kidney damage and an increased risk of prostate cancer. And it’s not just methyl bromide — a variety of other pesticides are also used in conventional strawberry production. The environmental and health-related impacts of conventional strawberry growing are high, so if you are concerned with these issues, look for locally grown strawberries and ask your local farmer about his or her production methods.

Fresh strawberries deteriorate fairly quickly after purchase. You can keep strawberries fresh by waiting to wash them until just before eating and by storing them in the refrigerator in a paper-towel lined basket or bowl without a cover.

Strawberries are a versatile fruit and perform well under a multitude of cooking methods — they can be roasted (try tossing with a tiny bit of sugar, roast just until caramelized and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar), stewed, baked into a pie, made into jam, churned into ice cream or frozen into an icy sorbet. But strawberries really shine when eaten raw, either completely unadorned or sliced and tossed with a little sugar, orange juice, red wine or balsamic vinegar.

jam

Quick Refrigerator Strawberry Jam

Unlike other jam recipes, refrigerator jams don’t require canning equipment or techniques. The sugar and acid in the jam preserves the fruit, although refrigerator jam keeps for far less time than classic strawberry preserves — only about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. This jam will also be a bit looser than regular strawberry jam, as there is no pectin (a thickening agent commonly used in canning) involved. Adjusting the amount of sugar will also affect the looseness of the jam (more sugar equals less liquid).

Makes about 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 1 quart ripe, organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Place a small plate in the freezer.

Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the strawberry mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and mashing the strawberries slightly. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Put about a teaspoon of jam mixture on the cold plate from the freezer and swirl it around on the plate. If the jam runs, cook for 2-5 minutes longer and repeat the process. (The jam should firm up when it hits the cold plate and should no longer run.)

Transfer to clean glass jars and cool. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

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                           La Lingua Della Cucina

The passion that Italians bring to the kitchen is reflected in the language that they use to describe techniques and individual ingredients or recipes. Since Americans first started cooking spaghetti and tomato sauce in their homes in the early part of the twentieth century, they have expanded their preparation of Italian foods within the home. Lasagna, risotto, chicken cacciatore, minestrone, tiramisu –  just to name a few; all came to be commonly prepared in the homes of Americans over the last century.

At the time when Julia Child caused a sensation by convincing American cooks that they could create the wonders of classic French cuisine in their own kitchens, Italian food was already a loved and accepted mainstay of the American diet. Today, it seems more popular than ever. America’s steady love of Italian food, in recent years fueled by a host of cookbooks and television shows, has thrust Italian home cooking once again into the spotlight. Attracted to “authentic” Italian food’s simplicity and affordability, Americans have taken to cooking Italian food at home.

Here are some of the culinary terms, you will most often come in contact with in your Italian cooking.

Aioli – A garlic mayonnaise is a delicious accompaniment to cold or hot grilled vegetables, steamed or boiled artichokes, boiled potatoes and grilled or baked fish and shellfish.

Al dente – “To the teeth.” The expression is used to describe pasta that is still firm and chewy when bitten into. When pasta is al dente, it is considered fully cooked and ready to eat.

Al forno - an expression used for baked or roasted in the forno (oven). Pasta al forno is a layered pasta, much like lasagna, but made with a shorter shaped pasta, such as penne or ziti.

Antipasto – Translates as before the meal, i.e. pasto, and not before the pasta, as some mistakenly believe. A selection of antipasti can be modest or extravagant, but in all aspects of Italian food, quality is always more important than quantity.

Arancine – ‘little oranges” are rice croquettes, perhaps stuffed with veal or a soft cheese such as caciocavallo or a cow’s milk mozzarella. Their orange hue originates from the addition of saffron to the rice and the subsequent frying in vegetable oil.

Arrabbiata – “Angry.” A tomato-based pasta sauce spiced with chilis and Amatriciano is a similar spicy sauce with the addition of pancetta.

Bagna Cauda - a warm anchovy–olive oil sauce served as a dip for vegetables.

Battuto – The action of the knife striking ingredients against the cutting board, in short, the first stage of the preparation of any dish, which requires basic and efficient skills with a sharp blade.

Besciamella - More commonly referred to in the French form, béchamel, this cooked sauce of butter, flour, milk and some nutmeg is often used in baked pasta dishes and as a sauce for vegetable side dishes, such as cauliflower.

Bolognese – A pasta sauce native to the Bologna area of Italy. It traditionally features finely chopped meats and a soffrito of onions, celery and carrots with a small amount of tomato paste.

Bufala – The water buffalo of the southern region of Campania produce the milk for the softest, creamiest form of mozzarella cheese. So very delicate in flavor that it is better used in a salad (Caprese Salad) instead of on a cooked dish, such as pizza.

Burro – Butter is traditionally viewed as the favored fat in northern italy where it is used for sautéing.

Capelli d’agelo – “Angel hair.” Long, thin strands of pasta that are thinner than capellini.

Carbonara – a spaghetti sauce based on eggs, cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta) and black pepper.

Contorni - Accompaniment to the meat or fish course of the meal, usually consisting of prepared vegetables such, as green beans, spinach or braised fennel.

Crostini – toasted bread, but usually topped with chopped tomatoes or porcini mushrooms or roasted peppers or chicken livers – called crostini in Tuscany and bruschetta in Rome.

Dolce -or the plural form, i dolci, on restaurant menus, refers to the sweet or dessert course of the meal, such as zabaglione, tiramisu and gelato (ice cream).

Fiorentina -a substantial slab of meat roughly equating to an American T bone steak. Not to be tackled without a hearty appetite.

Formaggio - cheese.

Insalata – The salad course, usually positioned between the main (meat or fish) course and the dessert, can consist of a simple bowl of greens or something more elaborate. Olive oil combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little seasoning, or perhaps balsamic vinegar used sparingly, is all that is required to make the perfect dressing.

Polpette – meatballs.

Pomodoro – a meatless tomato sauce. The name means “golden apple” and refers to tomatoes that are yellow in color. Yes, I know – tomatoes are red. Here is the story:

David Gentilcore, professor of early modern history at the University of Leicester, writes, “ When explorers first brought tomatoes to Europe from the New World, they also brought over tomatillos. Tomatoes and tomatillos were considered interchangeable (they are botanical and culinary cousins) and many tomatillos are yellow. Italy and most of the rest of Europe soon took a pass on the tomatillo, but the name stuck. “Pomodoro” it was.”

Primavera – “Spring.” A pasta sauce traditionally made in the spring that features fresh vegetables as the main ingredient.

Primo - The first course (after the antipasto), hence the name, it usually involves a risotto or pasta dish.

Puttanesca - (literally “a la whore” in Italian) is a tangy, somewhat salty pasta sauce containing tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic.

Saltimbocca -( literally “jump into the mouth”). In Rome this dish is prepared with veal and prosciutto crudo, or cured meat, and sage, all held together by a skewer in a sauce of  white wine or marsala. Chicken and pork cutlets work just as well.

Secondo – the main dish of the menu that usually consists of meat or fish.

Semolina – A coarse flour made from durum wheat: a hard wheat with a high protein/low moisture content and a long shelf life.

Soffritto – the foundation of many Italian recipes, especially a pasta sauce or a braise of beef or lamb. It consists of finely diced carrots, onion, garlic and celery, or any combination of them depending on the recipe.

Below are a few sample courses to get you started.

Antipasto

Flatbreads w/Onion Raita, Grilled Pumpernickel w/Avocado, Charred Corn & Tomato Salad & Bruschetta w/Straccitatella, favas, mint & Lemon. A110526 Food & Wine Fast Sept 2011

Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Favas Beans

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups canned fava beans (Progresso is a good brand), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 16 grilled baguette slices
  • 1/4 pound buffalo mozzarella, torn into thin strips
  • Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves

Directions

Transfer the favas to a food processor and add the oil, lemon juice and zest and pulse to a coarse puree. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the fava-bean puree on the toasts and top with the mozzarella strips. Drizzle the toasts with the balsamic vinegar and scatter the basil on top.

Primo

primavera

Pasta Primavera

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 red or orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti or linguine
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and green beans; cook 4 minutes. Add peppers and cook 1 more minute. Scoop out vegetables with a large slotted spoon and place in a colander.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to the al dente stage, about 7-8 minutes. Drain; return to the pot.

In a mixing bowl, combine half-and-half, chicken broth, cornstarch, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the half-and-half mixture and simmer for a few minutes, stirring until slightly thickened.

Add cooked vegetables and tomatoes. Cook, stirring a few times, for about 2 minutes.

Pour into the pot with the pasta and stir gently. Add grated Parmesan and parsley. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve in pasta bowls with shaved Parmesan on top.

Secondo

chicken-scarpariello

Chicken Scarpariello

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (2 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly smashed
  • 4 large rosemary sprigs, broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup spicy Italian pickled peppers, sliced

Directions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and crusty on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Transfer the chicken to a platter, leaving the rosemary and garlic in the skillet.

Add the stock to the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and butter and swirl until emulsified.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Add the peppers and cook, turning the chicken until coated in the sauce, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and sauce to a platter and serve.

Food & Wine, American Express Publishing

Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (see tip below)
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat until foaming. Add the anchovies and cook until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Add the thyme sprigs and let steep for 20 minutes. Discard the thyme and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet, toast the bread crumbs over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 4 minutes. Let the bread crumbs cool.

In a large bowl, toss the spinach with half of the dressing and half of the bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the salad to plates or a platter and top with the remaining bread crumbs and the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pass the remaining dressing at the table and serve with lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD

The bagna cauda dressing can be refrigerated overnight. Warm gently before using.

To make bread crumbs, tear 2 slices of day-old white bread into pieces, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 300°F oven until dried but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times until coarse crumbs form.

Dolce

cake

Almond Crusted Limoncello Pound Cake

16 servings

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Grated zest & juice of 2 large lemons, divided
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Limoncello
  • Oil for coating the pan

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a pastry brush to thoroughly oil a 12 cup bundt pan, then sprinkle almonds evenly in the pan and set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest, reserving the lemon juice for later use, with the mixer on low speed until creamy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 cup of cake flour, blending well, then add the salt and remaining eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add the remaining flour with 3 tablespoons Limoncello, beating just until mixture is well blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, gently tapping the filled pan on the counter a few times.

Bake in the preheated oven until a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Just before the cake is done, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, blend Limoncello, reserved lemon juice, sugar and butter. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes.

Remove cake from oven after it tests done, then pour the glaze mixture over the top of the hot cake while still in the pan.

Let cake cool in the pan, placed on a wire rack. The glaze will be absorbed into the cake as it cools.

When the cake is cooled, invert it onto a serving plate and serve.

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