Are you planning on going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day this year?
You might want to reconsider. My husband and I prefer to have our special dinner at home because years ago we would go out and we were always disappointed. The restaurant charges were higher than normal and the food was not always up to expectations. The restaurant was crowded, they had lots of reservations, the staff were exhausted and we were rushed through dinner. Got to turn those tables! Some advice. Instead, stay home, cook a great meal and enjoy a romantic evening at home. Below is a special dinner you can make at home and, even with beef tenderloin and lobster on the menu, you won’t spend anything like what a restaurant meal will cost you on Valentine’s day.
For 2 divide the finished risotto in half and serve half for dinner with the lobster. Save the other half for another dinner or some great arancini. I am not in favor of making half a recipe for risotto because I think the taste is affected.
- 1 lb frozen lobster tails (about 2 medium), thawed
- 5 cups salt-free chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the lobster meat turns white.
Drain and set aside to cool.
When cool, remove the lobster meat from the shell and chop it into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
Warm the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep it hot over low heat.
In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion and cook, about 3 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.
Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, half of the lobster meat and 2 tablespoons parsley.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Place in a serving dish and top with remaining lobster pieces; garnish with parsley.
Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Tomatoes
- ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, seeded tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (each about 4 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.
Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once.
Allow 7 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) and 9 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
Spoon the vinegar tomato sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with thyme.
Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Shallots
- 12 oz green beans, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the green beans and season with salt and ground pepper.
Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and serve.
Chocolate Crepes with Raspberry Sauce
For the sauce:
- 4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup sugar
For the crepes:
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Powdered sugar
Place water and 3 1/2 cups of the raspberries in a blender; cover and process for 3 minutes until smooth. Strain the raspberry puree and discard the seeds.
Place the puree in a small saucepan along with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.
In a blender, blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.
Heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with cooking spray to coat bottom of pan.
Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe mixture into the pan, swirling the pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottom of the crepe is light golden brown.
Turn the crepe over and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and crepe mixture.
This should make 12 crepes. You can freeze the extra crepes for another time.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce into the center of each crepe. Fold into quarters, top with some of the remaining sauce, a few of the remaining fresh raspberries and dust each with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
When you hear it is Mardi Gras time, you probably think of New Orleans and Rio with floats and parades and lots of carnival beads.
But did you know that Mardi Gras is also one of the great Italian holiday traditions? The ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a lot of food, drink and general debauchery. When the Christian religion emerged in ancient Rome, its leaders decided to use the pagan festivals to their advantage rather than try to outlaw them. Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter, starts a period of Lent fasting and abstinence in the Christian church. Knowing that a period of lean eating was coming, the idea of Carnival or Carnevale was born and it was combined with those ancient Roman feasts to create Mardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday”. Originally, Carnevale was just one day – the Tuesday immediately before Ash Wednesday. It was a day when families would cook luxurious, rich food in preparation for the forty days of the Lent.
The tradition was adopted by the French who gave it its present name and added the tradition of dressing up. By the end of the 17th Century, the Mardi Gras festival had come to America. The tradition of Mardi Gras then spread, literally, across the world.
In Italy certain foods are traditional for Carnevale. On the Amalfi Coast and throughout much of southern Italy there’s a migliaccio di polenta made with corn meal, sausages and grated cheese. Naples serves a very rich Lasagne di Carnevale. Throughout much of the Peninsula, however, Carnevale is an occasion for lots of sweet pastries – fried fritters of one kind or another that are quick to make and fun to eat. There are three broad categories made throughout Italy: Lombard’s Chiacchiere, Tuscany’s Cenci and Rome’s Frappe – all sound quite different but look and taste alike.
In America, King Cake and classic Cajun and Creole favorites like Gumbos, Jambalaya, Hurricanes, Beignets, Étouffées, Moon Pies and Fried Po Boy Sandwiches are all traditional Mardi Gras foods. The next few days we will be celebrating Mardi Gras here on the Gulf Coast with lots of parades, parties and much food. The photos above are from the parade on Friday.
Want to celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious food but without all the fat and calories, try some of the makeover recipes below.
BBQ Shrimp with Remoulade
Traditional New Orleans BBQ Shrimp are usually cooked in 1 ½ cups of butter. See original New Orleans’ recipe from Mr. B’s.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large lemon, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 3/4 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Chopped parsley
- Remoulade Sauce, recipe below
In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium high. Add celery, scallion whites and garlic and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add Creole seasoning and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
Add Worcestershire, lemon and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and coated with sauce, about 4 minutes. Garnish with scallion greens and parsley.
Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side.
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sweet relish
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Creole-Style Black-Eyed Peas
This dish gets its smoky flavor from lean Canadian bacon and ground chipotle pepper.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped fresh plum tomatoes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 6 ounces sliced Canadian bacon, chopped
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the water and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.
Drain the water and return the peas in the saucepan. Add the broth, tomatoes, onion, celery, green pepper, Canadian bacon, garlic, mustard, chipotle pepper, Cajun seasoning and bay leaf. Stir together and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add water, if necessary, to keep the peas covered with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste..
Remove the bay leaf, pour into a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve over cooked rice, if desired.
Blackened Catfish with Creole Mustard
Creole mustard is a spicy, hot mustard that you can usually find in the grocery stores.
- Olive oil for brushing on the fish
- 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 (4 to 6-ounce) catfish fillets
- 1 medium lemon, cut into 8 wedge
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the paprika, cayenne, salt, thyme, black pepper and sugar in a small bowl and stir to evenly combine; set aside.
Brush both sides of the fish lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the blackening spice mixture. Press on the spices to make them adhere to the fish.
Heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat until very hot and add the fish to the dry, hot pan. Cook the fish for 2 minutes.
Remove the fillets from the pan and place the fish, uncooked side down, onto a baking sheet pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Mix the mustard and softened butter together. Top each cooked fish with a little mustard butter and serve with lemon.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 stalks celery, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, skin removed and cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 links pre-cooked Cajun-style andouille sausage or sun-dried tomato chicken sausage (about 6 oz), halved lengthwise, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- One 14 1/2-oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups long-grain brown rice
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions for garnish
In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add celery and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes.
Add onion and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are almost tender, about 3 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook until browned,
Stir in sausage, broth, 3/4 cup of water, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, paprika and cayenne. Stir in rice, increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste and garnish with green onions.
The province of Chieti is a located in the Abruzzo region on the eastern coast of Italy. The province is hilly and mountainous with many valleys that run along the rivers and creeks. The northern part of the province is pretty desolate, while the southern part is dotted with numerous tiny villages.
The province has quite a history.
It was first settled by the Osci people around 1000 BCE. The area was also lived in by the Greeks, who named it Teate. The province and surrounding areas were conquered by the Romans in 305 BCE, but after the fall of Rome in 476 CE, it became a Lombard fortress. The area had been occupied by the Franks, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragonese rulers until it was taken over by Charles V of France. Later, it was ruled by the House of Bourbon.
The Caracciolo nobility rebuilt the area of Chieti in Medieval times. Ferrante Caracciolo began teaching his house staff his cooking techniques, a tradition that continued within the noble family’s household for centuries. Many of the well-trained cooks were sent all over Italy and to other countries to work for royalty and heads of state. This training led to the creation of Villa Santa Maria’s culinary and hotel management school. Every year in October the province is host to La Festa dei Cuochi (the Cook’s Festival) in which locals and visitors from the world over gather to celebrate the local cuisine.
During World War II, the area was the place of a battle between German and predominantly British and Canadian forces where over 2,000 civilians died and many of the towns were destroyed.
The area is well-known for growing saffron but it has a different flavor from the saffron used in Spain. The first saffron bulbs were brought to Italy in 1400 by a Dominican friar named Santucci, who brought them from his birthplace in Spain. He successfully planted the bulbs in his monastery garden and the spice was used to flavor sauces and as a curative herb.
During the autumn harvest, the first presses from the olives are often infused with chili. This is known locally as olio santo or holy oil and used on the table during meals. To experience the significance of this spicy ingredient in the region’s cuisine, visit their famous chili festival held in late August in the small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti.
Lamb is the predominate meat in cooking, vegetables are abundant and there are a large variety of herbs and the use of hot pepper called Peperoncino. Seafood dishes include fish stews, fried fish and fish sauces served over pasta, as well as fresh-water fish, mountain trout and river shrimp.
This is a cheese loving land and they produce a number of cheeses, many of them flavored with the local herbs. Among the most famous cheeses are provolone, both mild and strong, ricotta and pecorino (made with sheep’s milk).
Desserts tend to be simple and include torroncini (a hard candy), pies and cookies often flavored with amaretto, dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate and pine-nuts.
And not to be forgotten are the fine regional wines, such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the whites Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Local liqueurs are also very famous, particularly the Amaro Abruzzese.
Italian Seafood Salad
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons red chili pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 lbs calamari rings
- 1 1/2 lbs small fresh shrimp, peeled
- 1 1/2 lbs bay (small) scallops
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 cups dry white wine
- 3 lemons
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- Freshly ground black pepper for garnish
Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.
In a large pot combine 10 cups water, the wine, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cut the 3 lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or spider and place in a serving bowl.
Repeat the procedure with the calamari, cook 2 minutes and remove to the bowl with the shrimp.
Repeat the procedure with the scallops, cook 2 minutes and remove the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp and calamari.
Be sure to drain off any water that has collected in the bowl and return the fish to the bowl.
Add the celery and the peppers to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the mixture. Mix well, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.
Just before serving, toss the salad and add the parsley and basil. Garnish with black pepper and serve with the lemon wedges.
Crepes in Broth (Crespelle-en-brodo)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 lb chicken wings
- 1 lb beef bones
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 plum tomato, cored and halved
- 1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 5 eggs
- Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
Make the broth:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken wings and beef bones until browned, 35–40 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to pan; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Return wings and bones to pan. Add parsley, bay leaf, tomato and 20 cups water; simmer, skimming as needed, for 4 hours.
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan; keep warm.
Make the crepes:
Whisk the parsley, flour, cheese, oil, nutmeg, eggs and 1 cup water in a bowl until smooth.
Heat an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet while tilting the skillet to let the batter cover the bottom completely.
Cook until the crepe is golden on the bottom, 1–2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more; transfer to a plate. Roll each crepe into a cigar shape.
Divide the rolled crepes among soup bowls and ladle reserved broth over the top; garnish with parsley, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu
This type of sauce is usually served over spaghetti alla chitarra, a regional pasta that is shaped on a tool that resembles a guitar. Since most of us do not have such a tool, bucatini or perciatelli pasta is just fine.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
- 1 lb spaghetti alla chitarra or thick spaghetti
- Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish
Heat oil in a 6-quartt saucepan over medium-high. Cook lamb, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 6–8 minutes.
Add bay leaves and garlic; cook until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.
Stir in wine; cook until reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. Stir in peppers; cook until peppers are tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish with pecorino cheese.
- 4 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 egg white
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
- 8 ounces (200 g) fresh ricotta
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup candied fruit
- Zest of a lemon
- 2 shots rum
- 2 tablespoons anise seed
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable shortening
- 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for the topping
Combine the 4 whole eggs, half the rum, half the anise, vanilla, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder, and sufficient flour to make a homogeneous dough.
Combine the egg yolks, remaining rum and anise, raisins and candied fruit in a bowl, stirring well to mix thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick and cut out rounds with a round cutter or a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on each round and fold them over to make half-moons. Seal edges with a fork.
Lightly beat the remaining egg white, brush the half-moons with it, sprinkle with sugar and transfer them to an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute until golden brown.
Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game and the commercials is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is “only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day.”
Super Bowl day is prime time for forgetting about eating healthy. From high-fat dips to buffalo wings, it is an endless array of food, food, food and more food. Part of the fun, though, is to be able to snack during the game.
Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.
Here are some ideas for doing just that:
The standard bowls of potato chips, tortilla chips and high-fat dips don’t deserve a place in your healthy lineup of snacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chips and dip.
- Skip creamy artichoke and spinach dips in favor of hummus, which pairs well with baked pita chips.
- Mash fresh avocados with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and lime juice for a potassium-rich guacamole that pairs well with baked tortilla chips.
- Puree low-sodium canned beans with olive oil and garlic powder for a dip rich in fiber and protein.
- Make a healthy ranch dip using low-fat sour cream and a reduced-sodium packet of ranch dip powder.
- Create a visually appealing layered dip with low-sodium mashed beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, low-fat sour cream and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.
Set out fruit and vegetable platters on your snack table. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories but also supply potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. You will be surprised at how guests reach for these snacks.
- Arrange grapes, berries, melon, apples and oranges on a plate and serve them with flavored low-fat yogurt for dipping.
- Make colorful vegetable kebabs by threading pieces of bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion and zucchini onto skewers.
Hot dogs, sausages and fried hot wings are common additions to a Super Bowl snack buffet, but they contain too much saturated fat and salt to be nutritious.
- Replace the fried wings with baked versions instead. Brush fresh chicken wings with a low-sodium sauce and bake them until they’re cooked through. Serve them with a low-fat ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
- Replace the wings with chicken tenders as an even healthier alternative.
- Roast a turkey breast ahead of time, cut it into thick slices and serve it with whole-wheat bread and sandwich fixings.
- If you can’t pass up the hot dogs and sausages, look for reduced-fat and low-sodium varieties to keep the snack as healthy as possible.
Cut a small slit in several large jalapenos and stuff the cavities with low-fat cream cheese. Close the slit in the jalapenos using toothpicks. Dip the peppers in beaten egg and then roll them in finely crushed bread crumbs. Bake the peppers until they are golden brown for a healthier take on traditional jalapeno poppers.
Air-popped popcorn seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon or Parmesan cheese is a snack high in fiber.
Make sweet potato fries. Cut raw sweet potatoes into wedges or strips, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until they are golden brown and soft. Season the fries with garlic powder and black pepper or sprinkle them with cinnamon for a sweet version.
Make a batch of chili and serve it in baked tortilla cups and low-fat cheddar cheese for a snack high in fiber and protein.
Here are some of my favorites:
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Makes 1½ Cups
- 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Toasted sesame seed
Preheat the oven to 475°F.
Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.
Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Top with sesame seeds and serve with pita bread or baked pita chips.
Easy Red Pepper Hummus
Serve with pita chips.
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
With the processor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and mince. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and lemon juice; process until mixture is smooth.
Add roasted peppers and process until peppers are finely chopped. Transfer hummus to serving bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
For homemade pita chips:
Cut 8 whole-wheat pita breads into triangles. Place pita triangles on large baking sheets and spray the surface with olive oil cooking spray. Season each with garlic salt. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a 400 degree F oven, until golden brown and crisp.
Serve with baked tortilla chips
- 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Put all ingredients into a serving bowl, toss well. Chill in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving..
Baked Tortilla Chips
- 12 corn tortillas
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.
Arrange the wedges in a single layer on non-stick baking sheets. Lightly spray the chips with oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper.
Bake the chips until lightly browned and crisp, 15 minutes. Make sure not to let them burn. Cool and store in an airtight container.
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless New York Strip Steak (or steak of choice)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 large plum tomatoes (1/2 cup), seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
- 2 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
- 18 baguette slices (3/4 of a large French baguette)
Season steaks with salt and pepper.
Grill steaks, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350°F to 400°F) about 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
Place steak on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil 3 to 5 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
Let cool and thinly slice.
Combine basil, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Scrap into a medium bowl. Stir in fresh tomatoes, onion and blue cheese.
Arrange baguette slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with steak; spoon tomato mixture evenly over the bread slices.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted.
Fennel and Prosciutto Flatbread
- 1 pound pizza dough
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Italian fontina cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let stand covered, at room temperature, 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Trim and discard the root ends of the fennel bulbs. Trim the stalks from the bulbs and chop fronds to equal 2 teaspoons.
Thinly slice fennel bulbs lengthwise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and oregano.
Bake at for 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
Cook prosciutto in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until browned and crisp. Break prosciutto into large pieces.
Turn the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 17 x 13 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick).
Place the dough rectangle on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) baking sheet. Brush the dough with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven. Turn on the broiler.
Top the baked crust with fontina cheese, fennel slices and prosciutto. Broil 1 minute. Sprinkle with dried crushed red pepper, reserved chopped fennel fronds and the coarse sea salt.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into small squares and serve.
Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs
- Small (6 inch) flat metal or bamboo skewers
- 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 x 1 x 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the chicken in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons each of the mint, cilantro and parsley, salt, cumin, turmeric and pepper. Stir to mix. Stir in the oil.
Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.
Thread the chicken onto skewers so that the flat side of the chicken will be exposed to the fire.
Set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Or preheat the broiler.
When ready to cook, oil the grill grate or oil the broiler pan.
Arrange the chicken kabobs on the grill or under the broiler. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Place the kabobs on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of mint, cilantro and parsley.
Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices for lunch and, for some, even dinner. They are quick, delicious, and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. But if you aren’t careful, a few ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories and make up more than half your daily limit of artery-clogging saturated fat. So make sure you know what hidden calories are hiding between those bread slices. If you make smart choices you’ll create a delicious and healthy sandwich for yourself.
Start with whole grain bread slices, a pita, an English muffin or a tortilla. Look for the words “whole grain” near the top of the ingredients list, not just “whole wheat.” Good choices have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some breads are fortified with extra fiber and contain as many as 12 grams of fiber per serving, helping you achieve the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber a day.
Good sandwich fillings include chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hummus and reduced fat cheese. Check the sodium levels in prepackaged and deli meats, since most of those products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium at the deli.
Vegetables add both nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, fresh greens (the darker, the better), red onion and peppers are all good choices. Roasted red peppers are especially good and it you like things spicy, sliced banana peppers can do that for you.
Condiments don’t need to be high in fat to have a lot of flavor. There are low-fat, healthful choices that will give your sandwich extra flavor, such as:
— Italian vinaigrette
— Light salad dressings
— Greek Yogurt flavored with herbs and lemon
Crispy Chicken Sub
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 4 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
- Four 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 thin whole-grain sandwich buns, toasted
- 2 cups arugula or shredded lettuce
- 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Season with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg whites, Dijon mustard and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.
Place panko crumbs in a shallow pan. Place flour in a second shallow pan.
Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg white mixture. Press cutlets gently into the panko crumbs and transfer to a baking tray or plate.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high and saute chicken until golden brown and fully cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
To assemble the sandwiches:
Split buns and spread yogurt-lemon mixture evenly onto cut sides of the bread, dividing evenly between the four sandwiches. Layer the bottom half of each bun with 1 chicken cutlet and even amounts of lettuce, cucumber slices and roasted peppers. Cover each with the top half of a the bun.
Smoked Salmon Flatbreads
- 4 ounces reduced fat tub cream cheese spread with added chives and onions
- 4 multigrain flatbreads or pitas
- 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded lettuce
- 6 ounces smoked salmon, sliced into strips
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
- Ground black pepper
Spread one ounce of cream cheese evenly on one side of each flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce. Add salmon strips, radish slices and capers to each sandwich; sprinkle with pepper. Fold in half and serve.
- 4 whole grain pita breads
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 (6-ounce) cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- 1 small garlic clove , minced
- 1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray.
Slice the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into small pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use.
Add the milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Combine the beef, onion, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.
With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from the pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard the milk.
Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined and form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning the meatballs over halfway through baking, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Combine the yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top and serve.
Mozzarella and Tomato Panini
- 8 slices whole grain country bread
- Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
- 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
Coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil cooking spray.
Place bread slices on a work surface, coated sides down.
Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on four of the bread slices. Cover with the remaining four bread slices, coated sides up; press together gently.
Preheat a panini grill or heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add sandwiches to the hot panini grill or skillet; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt, turning once if using a skillet.
Serve with balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.
Mediterranean Sloppy Joes
- 12 oz lean ground lamb or beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
- 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
- 2 tablespoons dry red wine
- 1 small bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- ½ teaspoon dried mint, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
- 3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
- Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, cucumber slices and chopped Kalamata olives
In a large skillet cook ground lamb or beef over medium heat until the meat is brown using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.
Drain off the fat and place the meat on a paper towel lined plate.
Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the browned meat, beans, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, oregano, mint, salt, thyme and marjoram.
Cover and cook on low-heat for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
To serve: spoon the sloppy joe mixture into the pita bread halves and add the toppings.
Cuneo (Italian) or Coni (French) is a province in the southwest section of the Piedmont region of Italy. The province has an interesting history. Nicknamed the town of seven sieges, it still retains the organization plan of a military town. It was once surrounded by massive walls, had large squares and contained magnificent palaces for wealthy aristocrats.
Originating in the 12th century, it was first built as a fortified town. Its location, in a naturally strategic position protecting the roads to France through the Tenda and Maddalena passes, made it a natural choice to be used as a military location. The French eventually demolished the walls and you can tell where the old walls were, as they are now the main streets in the province. During World War II, Cuneo was one of the main sites in the country of partisan resistance against the German occupation of Italy.
Sections of this province were part of France until 1947. Cuneo borders the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur on the west, the province of Turin on the north, the province of Asti to the east and Liguria to the south. It is also known as the Provincia Granda (the big province) because it is the third largest province in Italy and the largest one in the Piedmont region. It is also the capital of the province. This has created problems in the past for inhabitants in the eastern sections of the province, who are frustrated by the long trip to Cuneo every time they have business with the provincial government. The issue of dividing the province into two has been brought up several times.
The province’s beautiful landscapes offer great variety that include valleys, hills and wildlife reserves. Some 75% of the area is mountainous. The Maritime Alps Natural Park with its high-altitude lakes and the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall are distinctive sites in the province. Italy’s first forestry commission was established by the local government of Cuneo.
The economy is primarily based on the agricultural produce of the area, especially the wine industry. Engineering, paper products, metallurgy, rubber and cattle also play an integral role in its local financial system.
The Tour de France travels through here, as well. The Italian leg of the Tour often goes from Digne-les-Bains in France to Prato Nevoso in Piedmont, followed by a rest day in Cuneo. From there, bikers head on to Jausiers in France.
The majority of the region’s winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of the Piedmont region in Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The best-known wines from the area include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Piedmont region is located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. In addition to the vast mountainous terrain, the Po Valley consumes a large area of the region. The valley and the mountains contribute to the area’s noted fog cover which aides in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape (which gets it name from the word nebbia meaning “fog”).
Although the winemaking regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux (France) are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar: the Piedmont wine region has a colder, continental winter climate and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Vineyards are typically planted on hillsides with warmer south-facing slopes.
One of the most commonly used meat in the local cuisine is veal. It is the main feature of festivals, such as the Fiera del Bue Grasso, which attracts thousands of visitors in December each year. The province of Cuneo also produces Italy’s only pork-free sausage. Pig farming, however, provides the ingredient for the famous Cuneo raw ham, which also has a well-known cooked variety.
Il Grande Fritto Misto” (the Great Mixed Fry), one of the most characteristic dishes of the Cuneo region, is made with veal and pork, to which vegetables, semolina and fruit are added. Provincial meat products also include: Morozzo capon, Sambuco lamb and Langa lamb; Piedmontese blond chicken and Saluzzo white chicken. Famous products include the Alba White Truffle, Castelmagno, Raschera, Bra and Murazzano, Toma Piemontese, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Are cheeses, which are all produced in the province.
The cultivation and processing of chestnuts, both brown and white varieties, is a heritage of the area’s mountain tradition. They are used in pastry making and as an ingredient in other dishes. Hazelnuts are grown in the hills and form the main ingredient of Torrone di Alba and the region’s very famous glacè chestnuts and hazelnut cakes. “Alba torrone” (nougat); “paste di meliga” (cornflour cookies), which are also known as “Batiaje” because they are often made for baptisms and “baci di Cherasco” (hazelnut chocolates) are well-known desserts.
If you have a sweet tooth, Cuneo can help satisfy your cravings. The town’s specialty is Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates with a rum-based filling. The most widely known brand is Arione, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.
Risotto with Hazelnuts and Castelmagno Cheese
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 14 oz (400g) risotto rice (carnaroli)
- 3 ½ oz (100g) hazelnuts
- 3 ⅛ oz (90g) Castelmagno cheese, diced
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) butter
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) hot broth (vegetable or meat)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. Cool and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a deep saucepan and cook the onion until tender.
Add the rice and rosemary. Toast the rice for a minute then add the white wine.
When the wine has evaporated completely add a ladle of hot broth and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed.
Continue adding the broth until it is all absorbed. Halfway through cooking add half of Castelmagno cheese and half of the hazelnuts.
When the rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining the remaining cheese.
Garnish the dish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.
Meatballs Cuneo Style
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 apple, peeled and grated
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
In a bowl combine the veal, grated apple, egg and salt. With wet hands form small meatballs. Coat each one in flour and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs evenly, then add the wine. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
- 6 bell peppers (3 red and 3 yellow) seeded and cut into ½ inch size strips
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so the peppers do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the herbs and taste for salt and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm as a side dish.
Bunet di Cuneo (Baked Chocolate Pudding)
- 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup (250 g) sugar
- 2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (100 g) Amaretti cookie crumbs
- 3 cups (750 ml) milk
Put the 1/3 cup sugar and water in a heavy skillet over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture is a syrup and the color of honey.
Remove from the heat and pour the syrup into a 9 inch loaf pan. Swirl the liquid in the pan around to coat all the edges.
Beat together the eggs and 1 cup sugar.
Add the cocoa and Amaretti cookie crumbs. Stir well.
Add the milk, stirring gently but thoroughly.
Pour into the loaf pan and set in a larger baking pan with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water.
Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 1 hour.
Cool to room temperature before chilling overnight.
To serve, slide a knife around the outer edges and invert onto a platter. Cut into thick slices to serve.