Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.
Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce
Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.
- Two 6 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and fresh pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.
Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.
Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.
Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.
Salmon & Broccoli with Herb Sauce
- Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild salmon fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
- 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
- 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; mix well.
Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.
Prepare lemon-herb sauce:
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.
To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage & Spinach
- 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz thin spaghetti
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
- 6 oz spinach leaves (about 6 packed cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
To the same pot, add 2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, as milk has a tendency to boil over.)
Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.
Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.
Beef Kebabs with Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 8 oz lean ground sirloin
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
- 1/2 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges
Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes before using.)
Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)
Prepare tahini sauce:
In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.) Set aside while the kebabs cook.
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley
Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.
In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.
Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.
Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.
Quick Tomato Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
- One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)
Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.
Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.
On these busy nights before the holidays, I like that I have a few homemade soups and homemade rolls or bread in my freezer. They are easy to defrost and heat and can be on the table in no time at all. This may be a quick dinner, but it is both nutritious and delicious.
Italian Escarole Bean Soup
This is one of our family’s favorite soups. I can remember my grandparents making this often and it seemed to be my grandfather’s favorite lunch. If you would like to make this soup vegetarian, it is easy to do. Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili) for the dried sausage.
- ½ onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 cups no salt added chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup chopped dried spicy sausage/salami
- 1 cup short pasta
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the Italian seasoning and soaked and drained beans. Heat for a minute or two and add the broth.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the pasta, re-boil, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes more.
Add the dried sausage, salt and escarole. Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Sourdough Ciabatta Bread
I always have sourdough starter in my refrigerator that I keep in a crock, so it always available for baking. You will find that this bread will not puff up much in the oven. It will stay quite flat, like a slipper, hence its name (ciabatta means slipper in Italian). Ciabatta is one of Italy’s most delicious breads and it goes so well with soup. I like to make Ciabatta with a sourdough starter because it adds a nice tang to the bread.
- 1 cup sourdough starter removed from the refrigerator the night before baking and placed in a covered bowl
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment combine the water, olive oil, yeast, sourdough starter, 1 cup of the flour and the salt. Stir in the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is the consistency of drop-cookie batter. Transfer to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny. The dough should be on the slack side, but not oozy; it needs to be able to hold its shape.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces. Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place the loaves on a baking sheets dusted with flour and cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel.
Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately an hour. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.
The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.
Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.
The Cuisine of Como Province
Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.
Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.
South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.
As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.
Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.
Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.
The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.
For the pasta:
- 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
- About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
- Pinch salt
For the pizzoccheri:
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
- 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
- 8-10 sage leaves
- 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
- 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
- 1 clove of garlic
- Freshly ground pepper
For the pasta:
Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)
For the pizzoccheri:
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.
Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.
Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.
Serve with Grana Padano cheese.
Risotto with Perch Fillets
This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups risotto rice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Salt and black pepper for seasoning
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
- 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
- Flour for coating
- Butter or oil for frying
In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.
Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.
When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.
Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.
Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.
Parmesan Barley Soup
Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice. Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup barley
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Parmesan rinds
- 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.
Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.
Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.
Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.
Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.
- ½ lb white flour
- 6-7 oz whole milk
- Oil for frying
- 3 eggs
- Lemon rind
- Vanilla sugar
Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.
Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.
The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.
Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and often have other added ingredients. Cooking dried beans is not difficult. Here is some basic information.
Soaking the Beans
Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours
In hot weather, refrigerate beans while they soak
Quick Soak Technique
Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
Cook for 3 minutes
Remove from the heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour
Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time
Dry beans have a shelf life of one year
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place
Always store leftover beans in their cooking liquid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months
Dried Bean Guide
1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans
1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans
2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
Basic Recipe for Cooking Dried Beans
- 1 pound dried beans
- Pinch baking soda
- 1 carrot, cut in half
- 1 celery stalk, cut in half
- 1/2 onion, cut in half
- 1 sprig rosemary or 1 bay leaf
The night before serving, rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.
The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender.
Check them after 30 and 45 minutes because they may be done, depending on how fresh the beans are.
Remove the vegetables and rosemary sprig. Refrigerate until ready to use the beans. Drain and use the beans in the recipes below.
Clams and White Beans
- 2 cups cooked white beans
- 2 tablespoons cubed pancetta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 pounds clams
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly grated black pepper
In a large frying pan, add the pancetta and the olive oil and cook on medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.
Add the oregano, crumbling it with your hands to release the flavors, and then add the clams.
Continue cooking the clams, shaking and tossing them, until they all open. Discard any clams that do not open. Add the wine and beans, stir and return the pancetta to the pan. Heat until the beans are hot. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.
In each bowl, ladle a portion of beans, some of the clams and their sauce, and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with plenty of freshly grated black pepper.
Large White Beans with Vinaigrette
These giant beans and vegetables go well together. Serve with sandwiches, over greens or as part of an antipasto platter.
- 1/2 pound dried gigante beans or lima beans
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2 cups)
- 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pepperoncini
Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches cold water. Let soak overnight.
Drain beans and place in a large sauce pot. Cover with 4 inches water and add the onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Drain well.
Steam cauliflower and carrots until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and chili flakes. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in oil until blended. Add beans, pepperoncini and vegetables, mix well and let marinate at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.
Sautéed Spinach with Cannellini Beans
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped, (or escarole, curly endive, mustard greens, kale or broccoli rabe)
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cans no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained or 4 cups dried beans as cooked above
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits. Add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add greens (in batches, if needed) and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with the cheese as a garnish.
Tomato Soup with Beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or canned Italian chopped tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cups pinto, cannellini, kidney or black beans, canned and drained, or cooked, as directed above
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.
Add the tomatoes and broth. Cook about 20 minutes
Stir in the brown sugar. Add half of the beans to the mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend the beans into the soup. Add the rest of the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until hot.
Beef and Bean Burger
My favorite steak seasoning is Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning that contains salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, lemon zest, citric acid and natural hickory smoke flavor. You will need to add salt to the recipe below if your favorite steak seasoning does not have it.
- 1/2 cup home cooked or canned (black or pinto) beans, rinsed and drained well
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
- Olive oil for brushing on the burgers
- 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
- 4 thin slices Cheddar cheese
- 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
- Thinly sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion and lettuce leaves
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium. Oil the grill grates.
Place the beans on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork or large spoon until smooth, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the beef, bread crumbs and steak seasoning; mix until well combined.
Divide the beef mixture evenly and shape into 4 patties, each a bit larger in diameter than the hamburger buns. Create a small dimple in the center of the burger patty by pressing down with your fingers.
Brush both sides of the burgers lightly with olive oil.
Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers about 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place cheese slices on top of the patties one minutes before they are done. Transfer the burgers to the toasted buns. Serve with tomatoes, sliced onion and lettuce leaves.
Most Italian Americans, I know, grew up on spaghetti and meatballs. However, meatballs can sometimes be difficult to make because it is tough to get the texture and the seasonings just right. Often, they come out spongy or dry or dense.
Here are some of my tips for making good meatballs.
Some recipes call for beef and others call for pork. Some call for a mixture of beef and pork. Others call for beef, pork and veal. Then, there are the decisions about how much cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs to add or whether the meatballs should be cooked in the sauce or separately.
Meatballs need seasoning. As a rule, about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound will make for perfectly seasoned meat. Herbs are also important. Without them, your meatballs will end up tasting like a burger. Change the flavor a bit with herbs like mint, oregano and marjoram.
When using all beef to make meatballs, the meat should not be too lean. You need some fat for flavor, so buy ground beef that is labeled 75% lean. Another way to add flavor is to use part ground beef and part ground pork in the meatball mixture.
Eggs are not used for moisture. They are in the meatball mix to bind the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs together. For one to two pounds of meat, you won’t need more than one egg.
Be sure not to add too many bread crumbs–about a half cup per pound of meat will be enough.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl at once and use your hands to mix them. The light touch of your hands incorporates all of the ingredients without crushing the meat.
Depending on how you’ll serve the meatballs, you should roll them to the size appropriate for the dish. In soup, for instance, you’ll want small, bite-sized meatballs. If they’re on top of spaghetti, make them medium. If they are the main course, make them 2 inches in diameter.
If you roll meatballs with dry hands, the meat mixture will stick to your skin. To remedy this, wet your hands with water.
I never fry meatballs to keep them healthy. Baking or broiling work just fine.
Here is my basic formula for meatballs:
- 1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
- 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 finely minced garlic clove
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
Preheat the broiler or heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)
Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and broil 5 minutes each side or until completely brown. Or bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.
If I am making the meatballs to go with spaghetti, then I simmer them in the sauce for the last hour of cooking.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups pearl barley
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the soup:
In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and garlic and saute until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and wine, stir to combine and cook for 4 minutes. Add the barley and the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.
To make the meatballs:
In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, the 2 tablespoons parsley and tomato paste. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands. The mixture will be very sticky.
To form the meatballs:
Use two small spoons or a small ice cream/melon scoop to form small (1 inch) meatballs. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes.
Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in gently. Serve the soup garnished with the 1/2 cup parsley.
Italian Meatball Stew
My mother made this often when I was growing up and I made it for my children when they were young. This dish is popular with kids if you find the right combination of vegetables that appeal to them.
- Basic Meatball recipe above, cooked
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Large baking potato, peeled and diced
- 4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces or the equivalent frozen
- 26-28 oz. container crushed Italian tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic until softened. Add the potato, green beans, tomatoes and seasonings.
Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and cook mixture until the potatoes and beans are tender.
Gently stir in meatballs and heat until the meatballs are hot and the mixture has thickened slightly.
Meatballs Stuffed With Mozzarella Cheese
This makes a great entrée with a salad and Italian bread. If you make them smaller, they are very good as an appetizer.
- Double batch of the Basic Meatball recipe, above
- 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes or mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls called pearls
- 3 cups store-bought marinara sauce or homemade spaghetti sauce
Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Form meatball mixture into 2″ balls.
Press a cheese cube or ball in the middle and seal the meat around it.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown all over. Place in a large serving bowl.
Heat marinara sauce and pour over the meatballs in the serving bowl.
Italian-American Meatball Lasagna
This is another favorite from my childhood days that my children and husband are also crazy about.
- One recipe of basic meatballs from above
- 12 traditional lasagna noodles
- 4 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- Two 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, combine the meatball mixture. With wet hands, shape into mini meatballs, using 2 teaspoons of mixture for each. Place the meatballs on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until brown all over, about 15 minutes.
To make the lasagna:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles to the boiling water one at a time and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels.
Stir the chopped basil into the marinara sauce. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.
In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, egg, parsley and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.
To assemble the lasagna:
Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles, followed by half the ricotta cheese. Spread the ricotta with a spatula. Scatter half the meatballs over the noodles. Pour half 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the meatballs.
Top with 4 more noodles and layer with the remaining mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Scatter remaining meatballs over the cheese. Pour 1 cup marinara sauce over meatballs.
Top with the final 4 lasagna noodles. Spread with the reserved 1 cup of sauce. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Yesterday we roasted chicken and today we have leftovers. So what can you do with the leftovers?
It makes sense for us to get smarter about fully using the food that we purchase. And that means getting smarter about leftovers.
Even a small amount of leftover roast chicken can easily become another meal and there are numerous ways to do this without being boring. With leftover chicken in the refrigerator you can make convenient and versatile weeknight dinners,
Leftover chicken can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for three to four days, and in the freezer for about four months. Just remember to plan your leftover meals ahead so that when you’re at the market, you can pick up the ingredients you’ll need.
How much meat from a 6-lb. roasting chicken?
|1 whole chicken||7 cups|
|1/2 chicken||3-1/2 cups|
|1 breast||1 cup|
|1 leg (thigh and drumstick)||1 cup|
Make A Salad
Roasted Chicken and Romaine Salad
For 4 servings
- 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Leftover roast chicken (about 6 ounces per serving), sliced thin
- 3 hearts of romaine, trimmed and torn into pieces
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 slices country-style white bread, each about ¾ inch thick
- Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper for garnish
Whisk the dressing ingredients until smooth.
Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast on both sides in the broiler until lightly brown. Cut the bread into small cubes to make croutons.
Cut the chicken into thin slices and cut the bread into croutons. Place the romaine on serving plates and top with chicken and croutons. Serve right away with the dressing on the side.
Mix the romaine, chicken and croutons in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and gently toss.
Divide the salad onto 4 serving plates and garnish with black pepper and cheese.
Make Chicken Soup
To make the broth:
After you cut all the meat off the chicken, use the bones to make broth. Place the bones in a large soup pot and add 4 quarts of water.Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour.
Place a colander or strainer over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into it. Let the mixture cool. Pick through the bones and remove any meat; discard skin and bones. Add the meat to the broth; cover and set aside.
To make the soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Additional cooked chicken and noodles, optional
Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.
Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot. Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked noodles and extra cooked chicken, if desired.
Make A Pasta Dish
Chicken Lasagna Rolls
- 6 dried lasagna noodles
- One 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
- 1 ½ cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained (1 cup)
- 1/2 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup marinara pasta sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and cut each noodle in half crosswise; set aside.
For the cheese sauce:
In a medium mixing bowl beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add milk, beating until smooth. Stir in Romano cheese and chives.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl stir together 1/2 cup of the white sauce, the chicken, broccoli, roasted red peppers and black pepper. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling at an end of each cooked noodle and roll. Arrange rolls, seam sides down, in the prepared baking dish.
Spoon the remaining white sauce over the rolls. Top each roll with some marinara sauce. Cover with foil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through.
Make A Sandwich
This sandwich can also be grilled in a panini press. You can also add a slice of your favorite cheese to each sandwich.
Chicken Focaccia Sandwich
- One round 8 inch tomato flavored focaccia bread or sourdough bread
- 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups sliced roasted chicken
- ½ cup roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into strips
Using a long serrated knife, cut bread in half horizontally. Spread cut sides of the bread halves with mayonnaise..
Layer basil leaves, chicken and roasted sweet peppers between bread halves. Cut into wedges.
Roasted Chicken Stuffed Zucchini
Yield: 2 halves
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
- 1 small minced garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or parsley
- ½ cup leftover roast chicken, chopped
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut both ends off the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out most of the inner flesh, taking care to leave the shells (zucchini skin) intact. Chop the zucchini flesh.
Season the shells with sea salt and cracked black pepper and place on a foil lined baking sheet or in a glass baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.
Add the oil to a skillet and heat on medium. Add the onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped zucchini flesh, tomatoes and basil. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the tomato starts to soften. Mix in the cooked chicken pieces to reheat and season everything to taste with sea salt, cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper and lemon juice.
Scoop the filling equally into each zucchini shell and sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the zucchini is fork tender.