Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Soup

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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cellini

The self-portrait of master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, soldier and writer. He was born in 1500 in Florence, Italy and his parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music,but when he was fifteen his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to the goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro. However, at the age of sixteen, Benvenuto attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an altercation with his companions. He was banished for six months by the magistrates and went to live in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro. From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and a period of studying sculpture in Florence, he moved to Rome.

His first artistic works were a silver casket, silver candlesticks and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from his time in Rome is the gold medallion, “Leda and the Swan”, created for Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino that is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again and was appointed one of the pope’s court musicians.

In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini gained fame as a soldier. According to his own accounts, he shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, Prince of Orange. His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here, he devoted himself to crafting medals in gold, the most famous of which are “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” and “Atlas Supporting the Sphere”, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.

He returned to Rome and this time he was employed in the craft of making jewelery and in casting dies for medals and the papal mint. In 1529 his brother, Cecchino, killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and, in turn, was wounded. He later died. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge, but not justice, as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to escape the consequences. Through the influence of several cardinals, he later obtained a pardon. Cellini next went to Venice, where he was restored with greater honor than before.

At the age of 37, after returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope’s tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant’Angelo, escaped, was recaptured and treated severely. The intercession Cardinal d’Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini’s release, in gratitude for which he crafted d’Este a gold cup.

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini created sculptures of a grander scale. One of the main projects of his French period is probably the “Golden Gate” for the Château de Fontainebleau. Only the bronze tympanum of this unfinished work, which represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre), still exists, but the complete spectrum of his work can be known through archives,his preparatory drawings and reproduced casts. His most distinguished sculpture, the bronze group of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, was his attempt to surpass Michelangelo’s, “David” and Donatello’s, “Judith and Holofernes”. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was called a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution exposure had damaged the statue. In December 1996 it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process and the restored statue was returned to its home in June 2000.

The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started when he was 58 and ended just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563, when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions and enjoyments, that is written in an energetic, direct and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. Despite its exaggerations and its often boastful tone, it is a document of surprising frankness and incomparable authenticity and, thanks to it Cellini’s character, is more intimately known than that of any other figure of his time.

He died in Florence in 1571 at the age of 71 leaving behind a magnificent legacy of work. For all his exploits, Benvenuto Cellini remains a hero of Florence, in the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, outside the famous Uffizi Gallery, a life-size sculptor of him stands alongside the great masters of renaissance art, Da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo.

Still in the news today, Cellini’s gold and enamel masterpiece the “Saltcellar of Francis I” executed in 1540 for the King of France and valued today at $60,000,000, was recovered recently after being stolen from a museum in Vienna. Being chosen as a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno shows the respect he commanded: not just as an artist but as a patron of Florence.

florence

Some Florentine Specialties

Much of the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine was born out of necessity. Wild herbs and greens were used in simple soups. Every part of the animal was used–cibreo is a popular Florentine chicken stew that features cockscombs. Tuscan bread, a rustic sourdough baked in a wood-fired oven, traditionally was made without expensive salt. That meant it quickly went stale and so ribollita was born, a vegetable soup thickened with bread. Panzanella is a summer salad made from stale bread cubes, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscany’s famed olive oil. Wheat flour was another expensive ingredient and so Tuscans created dishes like castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, orange zest and olive oil.
Dishes here have hearty, rustic flavors, well-matched to the area’s famous wines, and Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in friendly, warm, informal settings.

Typically, Florentine people never start a meal from the main course but always have a starter first. Whether eating in a restaurant or at home with friends, you will always find liver crostini (thin sliced toasted bread with liver patè) on the table. Alongside liver crostini the usual antipasto also offers different types of sliced salamis and hams.

Pappardelle (similar to spaghetti, but a thicker pasta made with egg) with boar or hare sauce. It can be seasoned with other classic ingredients: porcini mushrooms, meat sauces, artichokes and sausages, etc. Other first course dishes are the soups: pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, carabaccia and black cabbage. These are all variations of a single base made from vegetables, bread and tomato.

The hills around Florence abound with game, including wild boar which is used in locally made salamis and air-dried hams. Duck and rabbit appear on the table grilled. Fish from the region’s lakes and seafood from the coastal areas appear on the table. Porcini, wild mushrooms, are another favorite served in the fall after foragers have combed the woods around the city.

Bistecca alla fiorentina (a T-bone steak) is served rare with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and often accompanied by white beans, roasted potatoes or a green salad. Porchetta is a suckling pig, stuffed with garlic and herbs and brushed with a rosemary branch while its roasts. Trippa alla fiorentina, tripe cooked with wine, tomatoes and herbs, is another signature dish.

Florentine desserts: cantucci (small almond biscuits) to eat at the end of a meal dipped in Vinsanto or in the colder seasons the castagnaccio, that takes its name from the nearby mountains , is a thin cake made of chestnut flour and pine nuts. During Carnival or after the Epiphany, you can find schiacciata alla fiorentina, a soft sweet, sponge cake which can be filled with cream or chocolate and covered with powdered sugar.

Sometimes Florentines like eating a sandwich in the street for lunch. In addition to steak, Florence offers other meat specialties such as tripe and lampredotto. These are foods that are eaten in kiosks on the street, even in winter.They can be seasoned with green sauce and enriched with other vegetables, such as leeks.

chicken-liver-crostini-Bourgeois

Chicken Liver Crostini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Baguette, sliced thinly and toasted
  • Sea salt, optional

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions, capers and garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, Marsala, anchovies and chicken livers. Season with salt, pepper and chili and cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor. Add the butter and purée until smooth. 

To serve, spread the chicken liver on toasted baguette slices and garnish with sea salt, if desired.

pappa

Pappa al Pomodoro

Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into small pieces
  • 4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper
  • 1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped

Directions

Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour.

Sauté the garlic and leek in oil. Add dried chili pepper, the tomatoes, half the basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.

Minestra

Ribollita

Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly, it must be cooked and recooked. Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero ( winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables according to taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups canned white cannellini beans
  • 1 quarter cavolo nero or equivalent
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard and/or spinach
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
  • 4 chopped zucchini 
  • 2 peeled and cubed potatoes 
  • 1 pound stale Italian bread 
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano, rosemary and hot chili pepper as desired

Directions

Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a Dutch Oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots, celery, chili pepper and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes or other vegetables of choice and water to cover the ingredients. Cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary,

Chill the soup overnight. The next day purée half the mixture, return to the pot. Bring to a boil and reheat.

Ladling the soup over a thick slice of toasted dry bread and add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.

ganugi-pappardelle-gross

Pappardelle with Duck

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound duck breast, skin removed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound dried pappardelle pasta

Directions

Rub the meat with the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the duck breast from the herbs and dice the meat.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the diced duck meat. Cook until the meat has changed color, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the red wine; cook until the alcohol has reduced and evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce to serve.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.

Serves at least four

Ingredients

  • 2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
  • Sea salt (coarse)

Directions

Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.

Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.

The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks.

Season with coarse sea salt and serve.

cake

Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Powdered sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk and oil and pour into bowl with flour.

Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the batter to the greased pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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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Did you know that corned beef and cabbage is a traditional American dinner on St. Patrick’s Day and not an Irish one? Beef was not readily available in Ireland and was considered a luxury. Irish folks actually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with bacon, pork or lamb and a plate full of vegetables. The term “Corned” comes from putting meat in a large crock and covering it with large kernels of salt that were referred to as “corns of salt”. This preserved the meat.

So how did pork and potatoes become corned beef and cabbage? The tradition started in the 1900s, when the Irish emigrated with other ethnic groups to the United States. Irish immigrants in America lived alongside other European ethnic groups. Members of the Irish working class in New York City frequented delis and lunch carts and it was there that they first tasted corned beef. Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. And while potatoes were certainly available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare. The popularity of corned beef compared to bacon among the immigrant Irish may have been due to the fact that brisket was cheaper and more readily available in America. Once in America, they took to cooking beef brisket, an inexpensive cut prized by their Jewish neighbors on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After taking off among New York City’s Irish community, corned beef and cabbage found fans across the country. It was the perfect dish for everyone from harried housewives to busy cooks on trains and in cafeterias—cheap, easy to cook and hard to overcook. It was even served along with mock turtle soup at President Lincoln’s inauguration dinner in 1862.

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Looking for some different side dishes for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner? The traditional dishes often include shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. For those who keep to the Irish-American tradition, the bad news is this: the meal is not exactly healthy. Corned beef contains about 285 calories for a four-ounce portion and is packed with a whopping 1,286 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s more than half of the sodium you’re supposed to have all day. Pair the meat with potatoes, bread and an Irish beer and you have a caloric bomb on your hands.

I don’t want to ruin your feast, but if you really want corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day, there are ways to make the meal healthier. At the butcher, ask for an extra-lean cut of corned beef. Cut off all visible fat and steam-cook or bake  the meat in the oven to melt away much of the additional fat. Here is a link for a recipe on how to bake corned beef instead of braising it.

http://www.food.com/recipe/baked-corned-beef-brisket-410347

Instead of cooking the traditional vegetables along with the corned beef in the fatty highly salted water try these healthier side dishes to celebrate the holiday.

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Creamy Broccoli Potato Soup

Serve this delicious soup as a first course.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches fresh broccoli , chopped (about 8 cups)
  • 3 large potatoes, cubed (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth, black pepper, garlic, broccoli, potatoes and onion in a 6-quart soup pot over high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the soup pot from the heat.

Process soup ingredients with a hand-held immersion blender or puree in a food processor. Return all of the puréed mixture to the soup pot, if using a regular processor. Stir in the milk, salt to taste and cheese. Cook over medium heat until mixture is hot.

corn muffins

Corn Muffins

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line fifteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper baking cups. Coat the paper cups with a little cooking spray; set pans aside.

In a medium bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl combine eggs, milk, yogurt, honey and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the cornmeal mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool  muffin pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan and serve warm.

colcannonrecipe

Colcannon with Leeks and Kale

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces red potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 ounces kale, chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a soup pot, add potatoes, parsnips and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a low boil or simmer and cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes and parsnips are tender enough to be mashed.

Once the potatoes and parsnips are tender, drain the water and discard the bay leaves. Mash the potatoes and parsnips in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the soup pot used to boil the potatoes. Saute the leek over medium heat until tender, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the kale and saute for 2 – 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in the milk, salt and pepper. Cook over medium until heated. Pour over the mashed potato mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until combined. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Crispy-Green-Beans-with-Pesto3

Crispy Green Beans with Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • 3 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup homemade pesto (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large  non-stick skillet. Cook garlic on medium-high heat for about 30 seconds, remove from skillet and set aside.

Add beans to the same skillet and sauté for about 6 minutes or until beans are cooked but still crispy.

Return garlic to the skillet and cook an additional 30 seconds. Pour into a serving bowl and toss with the pesto.

Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • Large bunch of basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Process the basil, garlic, nuts, salt and pepper into a paste in a food processor. Add the olive oil slowly through the feed tube to produce a loose-textured puree. Mix in the cheese.

potato pancakes

Potato Apple Pancakes

Yield: 10-12 pancakes.

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet (baking) potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium apples, peeled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for sauteing
  • Low fat sour cream, optional

Directions

Finely shred potatoes and apples on a grater; pat dry on paper towels. Place in a bowl; add the eggs, onion, flour and salt. Mix well.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot pan. Flatten to form 3-inch pancakes.

Cook until golden brown; turn and cook the other side.

Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with the sour cream, if desired.

brussel sprouts

Sicilian Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 6 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Directions

In a large ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until browned. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon.

Add Brussels sprouts to the skillet; cook and stir until lightly browned. Remove from the heat. Stir in the capers, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add the raisins, pine nuts, lemon peel and pancetta; toss to coat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

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

Antipasto

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

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

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

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

Filling

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

Topping

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

focaccia-al-formaggio1

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

First Course

zuppa-di-riso-e-verdure-L-K_HkNj

Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

Second Course

fish and potatoes

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

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Dessert Course

Olive_Oil_Cake-2

Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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Many seafood sellers are working to raise awareness about the need for sustainable, eco-friendly fishing and the importance of not purchasing seafood on the endangered list. However, it does have one downside: a glut of eco-labels that can make for confusion at the seafood counter. When you’re grocery shopping and you’ve forgotten your Monterey Bay Guide, look for these two labels: Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea. Fish and seafood with these labels came from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s standards for sustainable fishing meet the world’s toughest best practice guidelines. With their practices and diligent efforts, they are transforming the way seafood is sourced—and helping you get the best produce for you and the Earth.

Friend of the Sea is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve marine habitats. Products stamped with the Friend of the Sea logo come from sustainable seafood fisheries and aquaculture where the harvesting of seafood leaves no lasting impact or damage to the surrounding environment.

Types of Fish

1. Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna.

2. White, lean and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish.

3. Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna.

4. White, lean and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting.

5. White, firm and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon.

Whole-Foods-

Budget-conscious families can eat fish. The key is strategic shopping.

Your seafood seller can point you to budget buys or specials. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now and freeze some for later.

For top quality, look for “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS)―fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a good alternative when fresh wild salmon are out of season. Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which are often defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.

Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood. Look for meaty heads, tails and trimmings of larger fish, like salmon, cod and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat and add to chowder and casseroles. (Don’t forget the cheek meat under the gills). Heads and trimmings are essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that ready-made varieties. Use homemade fish stock in place of water or clam juice in your recipes.

If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on fillets. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish, like salmon, cod and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.

fish_market_

How To make Good Seafood Choices

Choose a fish market with knowledgeable salespeople. Fish should be displayed attractively and surrounded by plenty of clean crushed ice.

The best approach to buying and eating fish is to aim for variety. Let freshness be your guide. It’s easy to substitute one fish for another, so if the mahimahi looks and smells fresher than the pompano, buy it instead.

When shopping, ask for your fish to be packed with a separate bag of crushed ice to keep it cold. Refrigerate whole fish up to two days; fillets and steaks one to two days. Place the fish in a plastic bag, then top with a zip-top plastic bag filled with ice. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

Farmed seafood, also called aquaculture, can provide high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly and can be a way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish.

Ways to Save

When local fish are in season, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Here is a simple guide to what is generally in season but you can also check your State Fish and Game website for additional information on fish from your region.

http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/afreshapproach/whats-in-season.aspx

Try fish that you have not eaten before. If you live in the East, try Atlantic black sea bass and weakfish; in the Gulf states try amberjack and black drum; in the Great Lakes region try walleye and smelts and on the West Coast try Pacific sardines and sablefish (black cod).

Whole fish shrink less than fillets when cooking, giving you more value for your per-pound price. Whiting, croaker, porgy and Pacific rockfish can be great values. Also, consider summer flounder (sometimes called fluke), red snapper and farmed striped bass and Arctic char.

Canned fish is an excellent budget-friendly option. It can also be a nutritious one, particularly varieties like canned tuna and salmon that are low in sodium and rich in omega-3s. Keep them―along with flavorful sardines and anchovies―on hand for fish cakes and salads.

Save extra fish from the previous night’s dinner. Leftover fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches and wraps. Add leftovers to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Panko-Crusted-Fish-Sticks

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks

Panko crumbs, or Japanese bread crumbs, are flake-like, coarsely ground bread crumbs used to make crisp, light fried foods and crumb toppings for casseroles. Here is a very simple and inexpensive way to make your own. FYI, these crumbs are also gluten-free.

  • 3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional seasonings, as desired

Place the Rice Chex cereal in a plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush the cereal into coarse flakes. You can also pulse the cereal in a processor until it is the right consistency. Don’t overprocess. Season with salt and pepper and any herb blend that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until foamy. Place the panko in a second shallow bowl and add the Italian seasoning.

Cut the fish pieces crosswise into finger size pieces. Dip each piece of fish in the egg mixture then coat in the panko crumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere; transfer to the baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

tilapia-piccata-l

Tilapia Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Directions

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot; stir in tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and flour in a large shallow dish. Dredge fish in the flour mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to the skillet; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is lightly browned. Remove fish from the pan; keep warm.

Add wine, juice and capers to the skillet; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with the orzo.

cod chowder

Cod Chowder

Great dinner for a cold, rainy night.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pork or turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice or 1 cup homemade fish stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound frozen cod, defrosted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender yet still firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

Return chowder to low heat and stir in the warmed half and half, gently to avoid breaking the fish into small pieces. Bring chowder to serving temperature over gentle heat, uncovered. Sprinkle reserved crisped bacon and parsley on top and serve with a side salad and cornbread.

Lemon & herb fish kebabs.

Fish Kebabs

Stretch your fish dollars with kebabs. Add several vegetables to make this dish even more economical. Zucchini and different colored peppers are good additions.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut or any fish fillet that is on sale, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Weather permitting, you can grill the kebabs on an outdoor grill.

Place fish and bell pepper in a shallow dish. Combine the pesto with the vinegar and drizzle over the fish and vegetables; toss to coat. Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Thread fish, onion and pepper alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; sprinkle evenly with salt. Place skewers on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

baked trout

Baked Trout Fillets

Trout is a fish that you’ll be able to buy at many markets without hurting your wallet. The flavor of trout is outstanding.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound trout fillets
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedges 

Directions

Place fish in a greased shallow 3-qqart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cheese, lemon juice, onion and salt; spread over fish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Dinner For Two by Patrick J. Murphy

When you’re cooking just for two, learning what portion sizes to cook will make shopping easier and help you manage the food you buy. You’ll minimize waste and end up with only the leftovers you want.

Most recipes are written for four to six servings. So, how do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

This is where knowing your portion sizes can be extremely helpful. If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta and you know that a healthful portion is two ounces, then cook four ounces for two servings . Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce, or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements. A food scale is also helpful to have in your kitchen.

Keep in mind, though, that reducing some ingredients depends not on portion size, but on pan size. If a recipe calls for one tablespoons of oil to coat a pan, and you’re dividing the recipe by six, that doesn’t mean you should use half a tablespoon of oil. You need enough to coat the pan that you use. If you’re deglazing with wine or another liquid, you need enough to coat the pan and dissolve the drippings. Likewise, if you’re topping a gratin with breadcrumbs or cheese, the amount you need will depend on the size of your gratin dish.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts, especially if you’re not familiar with the techniques and ingredients. Sometimes, it is better to just cut the sauce for a dish in half. It may be more than you need, but it’s an easier reduction and the extra can be frozen or used later in the week for another dish.

Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend dinner or planning a special romantic Valentine’s Day meal, these healthy recipes for two will help you get dinner on the table without figuring portion sizes.

Dinner Menu 1

Golden Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of canola oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed, or 2 cups cooked winter squash, mashed 
  • 1/2 cup of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of snipped fresh thyme
  • Plain fat-free Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Whole Grain Crackers

Directions

In a medium saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Stir in squash, broth and turmeric. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and thyme; heat through – do not boil.

Ladle soup into warm bowls. If desired, top with additional yogurt. Sprinkle with pepper and serve with crackers.

Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped, seeded plum tomato
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 4-5 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.

Trim fat from steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steaks; reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired doneness, turning once. Allow 7 to 9 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F).

To serve, spoon tomato vinegar mixture over steaks. Sprinkle with thyme.

Romaine Hearts with Blue Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a heart of romaine lettuce (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Ground black pepper

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 oz fat free yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

Directions

Dressing

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, vinegar and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt. Makes 1 cup.

Salad

Halve heart of romaine lengthwise. Trim core at ends. Place 1 half on each salad plate. Top with red onion and walnuts. Drizzle with blue cheese salad dressing and crushed black pepper.

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Tiramisu Cookies

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon sugar (such as, Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso coffee powder or 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/4 cup of light tub-style cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 6 chocolate wafer cookies
  • White chocolate curls and/or fresh raspberries (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the water, sugar and espresso powder; stir until sugar and espresso powder are dissolved. Add cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

Spoon cream cheese mixture equally on top of each cookies. Chill for up to 4 hours.

To serve: top with white chocolate curls and/or raspberries, if desired.

Dinner Menu 2

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium grapefruit, peeled
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Divide lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Section the grapefruit over a bowl to reserve juice. Arrange grapefruit sections and avocado slices on lettuce.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and 1-½ teaspoons reserved grapefruit juice. Drizzle over salads.

Baked Almond Fish with Crispy Potatoes

Put the potatoes in the oven about 15 minutes before you put the fish in the oven.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) skinless cod fish fillets or any white fish fillets of choice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large baking potato or two small
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter or margarine

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating; set aside.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into two serving-sized pieces. Measure thickness of fish.

Place flour in one shallow dish. In a second shallow dish whisk together egg white and milk together. In a third shallow dish combine bread crumbs, almonds and thyme. Coat both sides of fillets with flour. Dip fillets in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumb mixture to coat.

Place fish in prepared pan. Drizzle with oil. Bake until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork (allow 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish).

For the potatoes:

Thinly slice 1 large russet potato about 1/8 inch thick. If you have one, use a mandoline or vegetable slicer to slice the potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Melt margarine or butter; drizzle over potatoes. Bake about 25 minutes or until browned.

Creamed Spinach

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot (or onion); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Heat butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir the spinach into the sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Mocha Cream Shake

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups of low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar-free chocolate-flavor syrup
  • 1/2 cup of ice cubes
  • Grated dark chocolate

Directions

In a blender combine frozen yogurt, coffee and chocolate syrup. Add ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Divide mixture between 2 parfait glasses. Top each serving with grated chocolate, if desired.

Vegetarian Dinner Menu 3

Pesto Pita Crackers

Here is my post for homemade pesto: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/

This sauce freezes wel,l so divide it into portion sizes and freeze for future use.

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole pita bread (6 inches)
  • 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Split pita bread into two rounds. Spread with pesto and sprinkle with cheese. Cut each into six wedges.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Serve warm.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Dash pepper
  • Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

Place potatoes and carrot in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain potato mixture; cool slightly.

Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add 1/2 cup milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the salt, thyme, nutmeg and pepper.

In a blender, combine the potato mixture, broccoli and remaining milk; cover and process until smooth. Add to the thickened milk mixture in the saucwpan. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with thyme.

Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce

Makes: 2 Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces dried whole wheat linguine, fettuccine or rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato (1 small)
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs 

Directions

For sauce:

In a large saucepan or skillet, cook onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper in hot oil about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in the 2 cups chopped tomatoes, half of the garbanzo beans, the salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture is boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return to saucepan. You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot if you have one. Stir in the remaining garbanzo beans. Cook and stir over low heat until the sauce is heated through.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.

To serve, toss cooked pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Divide mixture between two serving plates. Top with the 1/3 cup fresh chopped tomato and the feta cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Sorbet and Melon Parfaits

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of seeded watermelon balls
  • 2/3 cup of cantaloupe balls
  • 2/3 cup of honeydew melon balls
  • 1/2 cup of mango or lemon sorbet
  • 1/4 cup of champagne or sparkling grape juice, chilled
  • Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Arrange the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew balls in 2 wine glasses or goblets. Place scoops of sorbet on top of the melon. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the champagne over the sorbet and melon in each glass. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

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Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you suddenly start counting calories, checking your cholesterol or monitoring your sodium intake. It means making better food choices. More whole grains, less white flour; more leafy, hardy greens; more heritage-breed pork instead of plastic-wrapped supermarket meat; more sustainable fish and organic chicken. When we build our meals around these ingredients, we don’t think “health,” we think “delicious.” Celebrate what good food has always been about: the best possible ingredients, prepared well and consumed with portion restraint. For many of us, learning to develop healthy eating habits takes a little more discipline than it does for others. By making small changes with every meal, you can start developing healthier eating habits in no time.

Here are a few small steps that can lead to giant leaps for you and your family’s health.

Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruit and healthier choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. For instance, have three types of fruit (apples, oranges, grapes) to replace some of the small bags of chips or candy bars. Start replacing unhealthy snacks with alternative choices, such as oatmeal bars, granola bars or peanuts and yogurt.

Easy snacks:

  • Toss sliced apples, berries, bananas and a tablespoon or two of whole-grain cereal on top of fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Put a slice of low-fat cheese on top of whole-grain crackers.
  • Make a whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
  • Pop some low-fat popcorn.
  • Microwave or toast a soft whole grain tortilla with low-fat cheese and sliced peppers and mushrooms to make a mini-burrito or quesadilla.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk (blend it with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a smoothie).

When shopping at the grocery store, spend more of your time in the outer aisles. That’s where you’ll find the healthier foods, such as fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, which are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol and do not have added sugar, salt and other preservatives that add on the pounds.

A better choice because these chips contain just corn, oil and salt and less than 150 calories per serving.

Begin reading the labels of the foods that you eat. Foods that are labeled “low in fat,” or “light,” are not always the healthiest choice. Many times, if a product is lower in fat, it may be higher in sodium, or, if it’s lower in sugar, it may be high in fat. Read the “Nutrition Facts” chart on the back of the box, can or bag, so you know what you are eating. Reading the label of every food item while you’re shopping is not easy. A better way to start is with your favorite packaged foods and snacks at home. Notice the differences in the amounts of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and calories per serving between the different foods that you have in your pantry. The next step is to slowly begin making adjustments in your shopping choices by looking for alternatives with fewer calories, sodium and fats.

Don’t get caught up in the calories. Instead look at the portions and calories per serving. Most consumers read the number of calories and assume that’s the number of calories for the entire package, rather than the number of calories per serving – buyer beware.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
Spaghetti
w/meatballs
1 cup sauce
3 small
meatballs
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
meatballs
1,020
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
Blueberry
muffin
1.5 ounces 210 5 ounces 500

Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, then, in most cases, the amount of food you’ve chosen is too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. Some people use the size of their fist as a measurement. The size of your fist, or a cupped hand, is about the same size of one measuring cup. You can also use the Healthy Eating Plate pictured at the top of this post as a guide to portion control.

Retrain your taste buds and attitude toward better food choices. The natural sweetness of an orange or apple can’t compete with the sugary taste of a candy bar. You can retrain your palate to like foods that are good for you. Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks or as replacements for some of the fats that you would tend to add onto your lunch tray or dinner plate and your taste buds will get used to it.

The more color on your plate, the better. Not only does this keep things interesting and exciting for you and your taste buds, but it’s healthier. The nutrients that create the different colors in our fruit and vegetables, represent different nutrients for your body. Feed your body as many varieties as possible. The fight against the common cold, cancers and other illnesses can be prevented by having variety in your diet. Don’t skip meals (especially breakfast). Skipping meals, or starving your body will cause it to go into a starvation mode – it will start to hold on to fat rather than burn it. In fact, allow yourself to snack a little more, just make them healthy snacks. Your metabolism will actually pick up steam and start to burn more of what you’re giving it – especially with an accompanying daily exercise program.

Basic alternatives to fattening foods.

  • Choose mustard instead of mayo (mustard naturally has less calories/fat).
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat, rye or oat bread over white bread (brown foods don’t have extra fats added to them to change their color).
  • Choose the white meat of turkey or chicken over dark meat, red meat or pork (most of our fat intake comes from animal fat; white meat contains less fat).
  • Choose baked or broiled instead of fried, battered or breaded.
  • Choose water over juice and soda. Some juices contain just as many carbs and calories as a small bag of potato chips. Try slowly weaning yourself off caffeinated soda with tea or water – have two glasses of water or cups of tea for every can of soda you drink. (Also, don’t drink your calories – those 100 calories of juice could be two pieces of fruit or a cereal bar, a more filling feeling for you and your stomach.)
  • Choose low-calorie sauces and ask to have sauces and dressings served on the side when dining at a restaurant. (Usually more sauce is poured on than is needed. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. This will give you the flavor with every bite, but without the extra, unnecessary fat.)
  • Choose fat-free milk and skim milk cheese, as opposed to whole milk (again, most of our fat intake comes from animal fat).
  • Choose vegetables as side orders over fries and chips. Oven roasted or stir fried veggies are preferable over creamed veggies (vegetables naturally carry less fat).
  • Choose to pack fruit and nuts to hold you over to the next meal, rather than opting for fast food or snacks from a vending machine. Fruit snacks will help you get to the next meal without the extra fat intake). Fruits like bananas and oranges are convenient and have their own protective packaging.

Italian Sausage Soup

This soup stores well in the refrigerator for easy reheating. If you use a slow cooker, combine everything together except the cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes; add those during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. Serve with rustic bread.

10 servings

Ingredient

  • 1 (20-ounce) package pre-cooked, all-natural Italian chicken or turkey sausage, sliced diagonally
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups low-sodium stock or broth (chicken, beef, or a mixture)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped carrots
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 3 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, tough center stems removed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Brown sausage in a Dutch oven or large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes more. Drain off any fat in the pot.

Add stock or broth, potatoes, carrots, fennel, fennel seed, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.

Stir in cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and crusty bread.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash

This vegetarian dish can be prepared up to three hours ahead and reheated just before serving time.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tablespoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice, divided
  • 1 red onion, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place halves, cut side down, in a lightly greased, large baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, until just tender.

Turn cut side up, brush each half with olive oil and place 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth into each of the eight cavities. Season tops with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon allspice. Return squash to the oven and bake until browned on the edges, another 5–10 minutes. Remove from oven and drain any broth from the squash into a bowl with the unused broth. Set baking dish and bowl with broth aside.

Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add onions. Stir until they begin to soften and then reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, cranberries, remaining salt, pepper and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for another 5–10 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add cooked quinoa and reserved broth; mix well.

Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in nuts, mint, parsley and salt to taste. Divide mixture among squash halves. Return to the oven and warm through.

Chicken and Gnocchi with Squash Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 small acorn (or butternut) squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Tiny whole sage leaves
  • Grated nutmeg

Directions

Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Cover and keep warm.

While the gnocchi are cooking, place squash, cut sides down in a microwave-safe baking dish with 2 tablespoons water. Cook in the microwave, covered, on high (100 percent power) 7 to 10 minutes; rearrange once. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In large skillet cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat 4 minutes on each side, until no longer pink. Remove; cover, keep warm.

Scrape flesh from the squash; mash. Transfer to the hot skillet where the chicken was cooked; stir in broth and chopped sage. Bring to boiling; simmer 1 minute. Stir in milk. Add gnocchi and stir carefully.

Spoon gnocchi with sauce into 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken and sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese, sage leaves and nutmeg.

Creamy Spinach Lasagna

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (26-ounce) jar or 3 ½ cups homemade marinara sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.

Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Add 2 cups of the milk mixture to the spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture and set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce; top with half of the spinach mixture.

Top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1 cup marinara sauce and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Layer 3 more lasagna noodles, remaining spinach mixture and remaining 3 lasagna noodles.

Top with remaining marinara sauce. Pour reserved milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley.

Raspberry Tiramisu Parfaits

2 Servings (recipe is easily doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 ounce ladyfingers, cubed (6 halves)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
  • Fresh mint sprigs and additional raspberries for garnish

Directions

Divide half of the ladyfinger cubes between two 5- to 6-ounce dessert dishes. Drizzle ladyfinger cubes with half of the espresso. Set aside.

In a medium bowl stir cream cheese to soften. Stir in sour cream, sugar and vanilla. (Beat smooth with a wire whisk, if necessary.) Stir in the defrosted raspberries with a spoon, mashing slightly.

Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfinger cubes. Add remaining ladyfingers and drizzle with remaining espresso.

Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and a few raspberries before serving.

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A.P Giannini 

The Bank of America, the largest bank in the country, was established in 1904 by Amadeo Pietro (A.P.) Giannini (1870-1949) in San Francisco. Originally called the Bank of Italy, it changed names in 1928 and in 1998 merged with NationsBank Corp. Giannini financed the Golden Gate Bridge and the film industry, including Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” and Disney’s “Snow White,” as well as, California’s aerospace and agricultural industries.

A.P Giannini was the first son of Luigi and Virginia Giannini. Luigi Giannini immigrated to the United States from Favale di Malvaro near Genoa, Liguria (at that time the Kingdom of Sardinia, later part of Italy) to prospect in the California Gold Rush of 1848–1855. Luigi continued in gold prospecting during the 1860s and returned to Italy in 1869 to get married. He brought his wife, Virginia, back to the US and settled in San Jose. Luigi Giannini purchased a 40 acre farm at Alviso in 1872 and grew fruits and vegetables. Four years later Luigi Giannini was fatally shot by an employee over a pay dispute. Virginia (a widow at the age of 21 with two children and pregnant with a third child) took over the operation of the produce business, bringing the adolescent Amadeo into the business. Virginia later married Lorenzo Scatena, who established L. Scatena & Co. (which A.P. Giannini would eventually take over). Amadeo realized at the age of 13, he could do better in business than at school. He dropped out and took a full-time position as a produce broker for L. Scatena & Co.

He moved up to commission merchant and later to a produce dealer in the Santa Clara Valley. He was very successful in that business and married Clorinda Cuneo, daughter of a North Beach real estate magnate in 1892. Eventually he sold his interests in the produce business and at the age of 31 turned to administering his father-in-law’s estate. He later became a director of the Columbus Savings & Loan in which his father-in-law owned an interest. At the time banks were run for the benefit of the wealthy and Giannini observed an opportunity to service the increasing immigrant population that were without a bank. At odds with the other directors who did not share his sentiment, he quit the board in frustration and started his own bank.

He founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco on October 17, 1904. The bank was housed in a converted saloon as an institution for the “little fellow”. It was a new bank for the hardworking immigrants other banks would not serve. He offered those ignored customers savings accounts and loans, judging them not by their wealth but by their character. Deposits on that first day totaled $8,780. Within a year, deposits soared above $700,000 ($13.5 million in current dollars).

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires leveled much of the city. In the face of widespread devastation, Giannini set up a temporary bank, collecting deposits, making loans and proclaiming that San Francisco would rise from the ashes. Immediately after the earthquake, he moved the vault’s money to his home outside the fire zone in then-rural San Mateo, 18-miles by horse and wagon. The money was moved in a garbage wagon, owned by Giobatta Cepollina, also a native of Italy (Loano). The cargo was disguised beneath garbage to protect against theft. The fires severely heated the vaults of the city’s other big banks. Opening them immediately would ruin the money, so they were kept closed for weeks. Because of this, Giannini was one of the few who was able to provide loans. Giannini ran his bank from a plank across two barrels in the street where he made loans on a handshake to those interested in rebuilding. Years later, he would recount that every loan was repaid.

By 1916, Giannini had expanded and opened several other branches. Giannini believed branch banking was a way to stabilize banks during difficult times, as well as expand the capital base. He bought banks throughout California and eventually had more than five hundred branches throughout the state. In 1928, Giannini approached Orra E. Monnette, president and chairman of the Bank of America-Los Angeles, about a merger of the two financial institutions. Upon finalizing the merger, Giannini and Monnette concurred that the Bank of America name idealized the broader mission of the new bank. The new institution continued under Giannini’s chairmanship until his retirement in 1945.

Ligurian Chickpea and Vegetable Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 14 ½ oz. can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves shredded
  • ¾ oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

Directions

Sauté the chopped onion, celery and drained mushrooms in the olive oil.

Add tomatoes, garlic and the shredded Swiss chard leaves.

Add the drained chickpeas to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for five minutes. Then add the chicken broth, season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about ten minutes.

 Generoso Pope

The first Italian American millionaire was Generoso Pope, who came to America from Benevento, Italy in 1904. He began as a railroad laborer, later worked for a small construction firm called the Colonial Sand and Stone Company, which he bought out in 1925 and made into the largest supplier of building materials in the country. In 1929, he bought Il Progresso Italo Americano, the first Italian-language daily newspaper in the U.S., founded in 1880. Pope’s son, Fortunato, became its publisher. His other son, Generoso, Jr., was the publisher of The National Enquirer and was one of Forbes’ 400 wealthiest Americans.

Generoso was born with the name Generoso Antonio Pompilio Carlo Papa. He was the son of farmers, Fortunato and Fortunata Papa. After coming to America, he fathered three sons with his wife Catherine. His eldest son, Fortunato (“Fortune”), (1918–1996) graduated from Columbia University and became an executive in the family construction business. Anthony (1919–2005) who was the middle son, took over the family business and quadrupled the size of Colonial Sand and Stone Company in less than four years. Generoso Pope, Jr. (1927–1988) graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 19.

Generoso Pope arrived in America at age 15 in 1906 with $10 in his pocket and got his first job carrying drinking water to construction workers for $3 per week. He rose to construction supervisor and, eventually, owner of Colonial Sand & Stone, which was one of the largest sand and gravel companies in the world. Colonial built much of New York City’s skyline, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and the original Yankee Stadium.

In 1912, Generoso established Pope Foods to bring to America the unique Italian flavors which he had enjoyed as a young child in Italy. He bought the Italian-language daily newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2,050,000. He doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language daily in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York, including Il Bollettino della Sera, Il Corriere d’America and the Philadelphia daily L’Opinione. Generoso also acquired a small newspaper company and transformed it into The National Enquirer. He also owned the radio station, WHOM. He became the chief source of political, social and cultural information for the community.

Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens and vote. His goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat, Pope was closely associated with Tammany Hall politics in New York and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democratic ticket. With his presidential friendships, Generoso was able to make Columbus Day into a national holiday. He established the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, which is still the world’s largest Columbus Day Parade.

Almond Cookies from Benevento

Makes about 5 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 dgrees F. Butter and flour 2 large cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the zest, eggs, vanilla and butter and mix until you have a dough that comes together in a ball.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.

Roll each piece under the palms of your hand until a 12-inch rope is formed. Carefully place the ropes on the cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes. The rolls should be firm to the touch, but not so hard that slicing them will be difficult.

As soon as the ropes come out of the oven, use a sharp or serrated knife to cut diagonal cookies about 3/4 of an inch wide. Spread the individual cookies on the cookie sheets and bake them for 5 additional minutes.

Cool the cookies on wire racks and store in layers separated by wax paper or plastic wrap in a tightly sealed tin.

Edward J. DeBartolo

Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. began as a construction worker and became one of the largest real estate developers in the nation. During the 1960s, the DeBartolo Corporation developed shopping malls and suburban office parks.

The second of six children, DeBartolo was born in Youngstown, Ohio, a center of steel production that was also a major destination for immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. DeBartolo’s parents, Anthony Paonessa and Rose Villani, had immigrated to the United States from Italy. DeBartolo would never know his biological father, who died suddenly before his birth.

After Anthony Paonessa died, Rose Villani Paonessa married Michael DeBartolo and Edward took his stepfather’s family name. Michael DeBartolo emigrated from Bari, Italy with his family at age 17 and became a paving contractor and a builder of warehouses. While a teenager, Edward DeBartolo began transcribing paving contracts for his stepfather, who did not read or write English.

DeBartolo went on to earn a degree in civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Next came a decade of construction jobs with his stepfather. In view of his engineering skills, DeBartolo found himself serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and it was during the war while stationed in Italy that he married Marie Patricia Montani. After the war ended, DeBartolo served as president of Michael DeBartolo Construction and he was able to take advantage of dramatic changes occurring across the United States after World War II. As more Americans moved into suburbs, there was a corresponding increase in demand for convenient access to stores. His first retail development was the construction of Gray’s Drug Store and a Sears Roebuck department store in the “uptown” area of Youngstown.

DeBartolo’s company was one of the first companies in the United States to build shopping centers in suburban communities. These shopping centers were initially plazas built as long strips, but soon DeBartolo began developing enclosed shopping malls with his brother Frank DeBartolo acting as architect and he formed the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation. It became the undisputed leader in the shopping mall industry, comprising almost one-tenth of all mall space in the United States. DeBartolo also branched out into other types of urban development and construction, such as hotels, office parks and condominiums. He established a work ethic of fifteen-hour days and seven-day weeks. He once told his senior executives, “My wife has never seen me lie down while the sun was up.” By 1990, DeBartolo was estimated to have more than $1.4 billion in personal wealth.

DeBartolo purchased the San Francisco 49ers football team in 1977 and gave the team to his son, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., who devoted significant resources to the team, became an expert in team management and player relations and made it one of the most successful NFL franchise during the 1980s. The family also owned the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League from February 1977 until November 1991. The team would win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and DeBartolo said at a rally after the first win that the occasion was “possibly the happiest moment of my life”. While DeBartolo was unsuccessful in his attempt to purchase the Chicago White Sox in 1980, he owned and developed three thoroughbred racetracks – Thistledown in Cleveland, Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, Louisiana.

DeBartolo’s contributions to the campus at the University of Notre Dame include DeBartolo Hall (the main classroom building) and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC), both located on a quad that students refer to as the “DeBartolo Quad”. There is also a DeBartolo Hall on the campus of Youngstown State University, where he has given many endowments to the University. The DeBartolo Corporation continues to be based in nearby Boardman, Ohio.

Bari Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed through a sieve or food mill
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut in 2-by-1/4-inch strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered or sliced if large

Directions

In a heavy 10-to 12-inch skillet with a cover heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the chops for 2 or 3 minutes on each side and transfer them to a plate. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and boil briskly to reduce it to about ¼ cup, scrapping in any bits of meat or herbs in the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and return the chops to the skillet. Baste with the sauce, cover, and simmer over low heat, basting once or twice, for 40 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in another skillet with a cover. Cook the green peppers for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer.

To serve, arrange the chops on a heated platter and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them.

 Steve Geppi

The owner of the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books is Baltimore’s, Steve Geppi, who dropped out of high school to support his family. Today, Geppi’s Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. has a 52 percent market share of this $500 million comic book industry. Geppi is also a minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles and the publisher of Baltimore Magazine.

Steve Geppi was born January 24, 1950 in Baltimore’s Little Italy and completed the 8th grade before leaving school. Geppi’s first job was handling the comics for a local store, where the nine-year-old avidly read comics including his favorite Archie comics. Ever the entrepreneur, Geppi asked to be paid in comics because he could sell them to other kids and make a better “buck”. He left school in 1964 to support his mother and undertook a number of manual-labor jobs while dodging truant officers. He later enrolled in vocational school, but did not feel challenged.

Geppi passed the Postal Service’s carrier exam and achieved the “mailman’s dream” route in suburban Maryland. Geppi’s pay tripled in five years, allowing him to move his growing family out to the suburbs. In the summer of 1972, his nephew, George Kues, was reading an old Batman comic book and Geppi found himself back in his childhood memories of comics. He still loved comics and figured there “were a lot of guys who would feel the same way.” Buying a batch of old comics from a woman on his mail route, he was soon spending weekends at comic shows, buying and trading with other fans. After setting up as a part-time dealer at comic book conventions, he ultimately realised that he could make more money that way than at his job with the postal service.

He opened his first Geppi’s Comic World store under a TV repair shop in Baltimore and, while specialising in older collectible comics, began carrying new comics, chiefly as a means of attracting regular customers to the store each week. Geppi stocked his store with collections he found through the classifieds. One of the first specialty comic retailers in Maryland, Geppi built his business, as the comics industry grew. By 1981/82 he had four stores. In June 1994, Success Magazine featured Geppi on its cover, celebrating his “$250 Million Empire,” and highlighting his co-ownership of the Baltimore Orioles.

Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • Three 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 18 lasagna noodles, parboiled
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)

Directions

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Purée plum tomatoes and add to the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

In a bowl mix ricotta, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

Generously oil the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Take 3/4 cups of tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom of the pan. Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a 1/2 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Spread 3/4 cups tomato sauce on top of this. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella.

Repeat this process 4 times. Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with any remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

 Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca

Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca, born October 15, 1924, is an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars and his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s. He served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and as Chairman from 1979 until his retirement at the end of 1992.

Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants who came from San Marco dei Cavoti, Benevento, Italy and settled in Pennsylvania’s steel-making belt where they operated the restaurant, Yocco’s Hot Dogs. Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School in 1942 and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to Princeton University for additional studies. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths entering the company’s sales force. He was very successful in sales and he moved up through the ranks at Ford, eventually into product development. Iacocca participated in the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s, including the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with owner, Henry Ford II. He was fired on July 13, 1978 although the company posted a $2 billion profit for that year.

Iacocca was strongly courted by the Chrysler Corporation, which was on the verge of going out of business. At the time the company was losing millions, largely due to recalls of its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off workers, selling the Chrysler European division to Peugeot and bringing in many former associates from his former company. Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money for a turnaround, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and asked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, the government only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was an unprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government’s bailouts of the airline and railroad industries. He argued that there were more jobs at stake, if Chrysler failed. Iacocca received the loan guarantee from the government, whose decision caused controversy, but the company made a successful turn around. Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company’s vehicles, using the ad campaign, “The pride is back” and he also used what was to become his trademark phrase: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”

Campana’s Pizza Margherita

Makes 4 individual pizzas or 1 large pizza

ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for coating
  • Cornmeal for sprinkling (optional)

Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 4 plum (Roma) tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 1/4 oz part-skim mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Combine the water, yeast and honey in a large bowl. Stir in just enough of the bread flour to make a batter about the consistency of buttermilk (about 1/3-1/2 cup). Cover and let proof in a warm place until the surface is puffy, about 1 hour.

Add the remaining bread flour, the semolina flour and the salt. Knead in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook on medium speed, or by hand, until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic, 4 minutes with the mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Rub the dough lightly with oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal pieces for individual pizzas or leave it whole for a large pizza. Form the dough into smooth ball(s), cover and let rise again until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a 16-inch pizza pan or two large baking sheets with oil and scatter with cornmeal.

On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch out the ball(s) of dough to an even 1/4-inch thickness on a floured work surface and place on the baking sheets or press the dough onto the pizza pan. If the dough has not relaxed properly, it may spring back as you stretch it.

For the topping, mix together the olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture evenly over the pizza dough. Spread evenly with the tomato purée and top with the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Scatter the Parmesan over the top.

Bake until the dough is golden brown and the toppings are very hot, 20-30 minutes for 1 large pizza or 10-12 minutes for individual rounds. Cut into wedges and serve.


Homemade vegetable broth is easy to make and great to have in your freezer to create nutritious meals in a pinch. A cornerstone of many vegetarian dishes, a good vegetable broth can be the base for risottos, soups and stews. Freeze homemade vegetable broth, so you have it on hand in various proportions to use in your everyday cooking. You can even make vegetable broth easily using leftover scrap pieces of vegetables, including onions, celery, carrots, herbs and a variety of greens. While homemade vegetable broth will stay safe to eat indefinitely, freezer storage of the broth beyond two to three months can impart some off flavors in the finished dish.

Vegetable broth should be slightly cooled before packing into bags, containers or jars for storage. Allow broth to cool no longer than an hour before using a ladle to pour it into your storage containers. If you are using an upright storage container, be sure to leave an inch of headspace to accommodate for expansion. Seal the containers, jars or bags and label them with the date and name of the item. Cool completely in the refrigerator before arranging the vegetable broth containers in the freezer.

Freeze broth in containers of many sizes. Go for a mix of quart, pint and half- pint jars, containers or bags and be sure that whatever you are using is freezer-safe. Some wide-mouth canning jars are labeled as freezer safe and are a good choice for storing vegetable broth. For smaller portions, fill an ice cube tray full of vegetable broth, freeze it, remove the cubes and store them together in a freezer-safe bag. Using freezer-safe bags is also a good way to save space; fill them up, seal them and lay them flat in your freezer.

Make a batch regularly to replenish your supply and ensure that you always have some on hand. Thaw vegetable broth in the refrigerator overnight. Or run cool water over the bottom of the container, remove the frozen broth and heat it in a saucepan. Once thawed, use vegetable broth within three to four days for best quality and safety.

This vegetable broth recipe has a delicate flavor and is ideal for making light soups. Something you may want to make this week before all the rich food appears.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Use this broth to make the soups below. Don’t add salt. Salt can be added when you use the broth to make a soup recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced in chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced in chunks
  • 1 leek, sliced in chunks
  • 1 bulb garlic, halved
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs parsley

Directions

Place all ingredients and 1 gallon water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook 2 hours, then strain and discard solids. Strain once more through a fine mesh sieve. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Stir before using if broth separates. Freeze in smaller containers for use with a soup recipe.

Vegetable Broth From Scraps

It’s a shame to waste food and you really don’t have to ? Just get yourself some large freezer bags and start saving virtually everything to make great vegetable broth. Basically you don’t have to throw away the top of a bell pepper, just toss it in a freezer bag, stem and all, to eventually add them to your broth pot. Use the end of carrots or celery that may be going bad soon, just cut them all into 2 inch pieces and add them to your freezer bag collection. Spinach, red cabbage, potato peels, parsley stems or whatever, don’t throw anything away.

1. Place a large freezer bag of vegetable scraps and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaves, herbs, etc.) in a large pot and cover completely with water.

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour, two is better.

4. Then, strain out the vegetable pieces and your broth is ready for use or freezing.

Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups collard greens (or greens of choice), chopped
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 – 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 can Borlotti beans (or beans of choice) drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb small pasta shells
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Sauté garlic and onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot until onions are translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add parsley and collard greens, cover and cook until completely cooked down, about 10 minutes.

Add beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring 6 quarts water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain and pour pasta into soup mixture. Stir to mix well. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve hot drizzled with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over the top of the soup.

Chick Pea Soup with Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. spaghetti, broken into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Sauté onions and rosemary with oil in a large pot over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 additional minutes. Stir in chick peas and broth.

Bring mixture to a boil, season with salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cut spaghetti and cook until spaghetti is al dente. Garnish with parsley.

Winter Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages (or 4 cups from a larger bag) frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium zucchini, (about 1/2 pound) diced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Directions

Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over  medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and zucchini and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and the diced tomatoes and cook until warmed through, but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.

Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Garnishes: yogurt or shredded cheese or croutons and sliced chives

Directions

Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, roast the acorn squash, cut side down, until soft, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh and set aside.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute carrot, apple and onion until soft. Season with ginger and allspice. Add the squash and the broth. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held immersion blender. (Alternatively, in batches, puree in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.)

Remove from the heat, ladle the soup into serving bowsl and top with garnishes of choice. Serve with warm bread, if desired.



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