Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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rice

What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

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Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.

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Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

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Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

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Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

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Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


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Apples are the number one fall fruit. Fall also brings with it a renewed interest in baking. The most difficult part about encountering the appetizing display of apples in the store is deciding which apple is best for which project. All are great for munching out of hand, but texture, flavor and size, all contribute to whether a certain apple is best for apple crisp or applesauce.

Munching

If you’re simply in need of a good snack, apples fit the bill. Here are some favorite varieties for eating out of hand or using raw in salads.

Honeycrisp apples are extra crisp and tangy. They are excellent eaten raw, but will also hold their shape when baked.

With red skin and light green patches, Fuji apples are juicy and fragrant.

Crisp and mildly sweet, Gala apples are a satisfying snack.

Pink Lady apples are pinky red in color with crisp, juicy flesh and a complex flavor.

Baking

Whether stuffed or baked for a side dish or a dessert or chopped up and hidden under a layer of dough or crumble topping, these apples hold their shape during cooking.

Rome apples are very large with green-speckled red skin. This variety makes an impressive dessert when baked whole.

Extra tart with thick, “apple green” skin, Granny Smiths are the perfect opposite to the sweeter baking apples, like Golden Delicious, for balanced pies and crisps.

Braeburn apples are very crisp, sweet and tangy, making them great for baking or eating raw.

Golden Delicious are excellent all-purpose apples that are particularly good in pies and crisps.

Jonagold apples have a honeyed sweetness and crisp yellow flesh. This variety holds its shape during baking or sautéing.

Sauces

These apples break down beautifully with heat, making them perfect for purées and sauces.

Cortland apples are sweet and juicy and their flesh breaks down easily with cooking making them perfect for applesauce. These crisp apples are also great raw as their flesh resists browning.

With shiny, deep red skin and bright white flesh, Empire apples are crisp and a little spicy. Cored and stewed, this variety cooks down into a beautiful rosy pink sauce.

Stout Macoun apples are tender, juicy and sweet, making them also perfect for applesauce.

Tart-sweet McIntosh apples are juicy with a great fragrance, but they don’t stand up to long cooking times.

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Easy Homemade Apple Cider

The best cider has a balance between sweet and tart. Use half sweet and half tart apples in making the recipe below.

  • Red Delicious: Large, firm red apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Yellow Delicious: Large, firm yellow apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Jonathon: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple, with red near the top, descending to green lower down the fruit.
  • Granny Smith: Medium/small, crisp, tart apple with green color.
  • Gala: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple with yellow skin blushed with orange to red tinge.

Ingredients

  • 10 apples, half sweet and half tart from the list above, quartered
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Directions

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

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Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds and the apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 crisp apple (Fuji, Pink Lady or Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Put the sweet potatoes in a microwavable dish, loosely cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

In batches, puree the broth, cider, cooked onion and squash until smooth. Return all the ingredients to the stockpot, stir in the sage and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Right before serving, core and dice the apple. In a small skillet saute the apple, honey and lemon juice until warm. Serve the soup warm and garnish each serving with a spoonful of apple.

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Italian Farro with Apples

Farro, a wheat like grain, makes a delicious alternative to rice or a side-dish for pork, chicken and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hulled whole-grain farro
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Fuji apple (8 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sort farro, discarding bits of hulls and other debris. Pour farro into a bowl, cover completely with cool water, stir, and skim off and discard any additional hulls that float to the surface. Drain farro.

Heat oil in a 5-to 6-quart pan over high heat, add celery and onion and cook stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.. Add farro to the pan and stir until the grains are coated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover pan, and simmer (mixture foams, so check and stir occasionally to keep it from boiling over) until farro is tender to the bite and no longer tastes starchy, about 25 minutes. Stir in parsley, cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apple; cut into about 1/4-inch dice and mix with the lemon juice. Stir into the  farro mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into a serving bowl.

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Classic Apple Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Remove thyme leaves from their stems and divide in half. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and half the thyme leaves, pressing lightly so seasonings adhere.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling hot. Add the pork chops and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, turning only once, to brown. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add butter to the pan and heat until foamy. Add shallot and remaining thyme leaves and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add apples, broth and remaining salt and pepper to the skillet scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until apple is tender and sauce reduces slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Return pork chops to the skillet, along with any juices that have collected at the bottom of the plate, to the skillet and cook just until the pork registers 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.. Transfer the pork chops to a platter and spoon the apple mixture over the chops.

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Ricotta Cheesecake With Apple Topping

Crust

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, (20 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (8 ounces) light sour cream, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup apple cider

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Place pan on wire rack.

In a food processor, process ricotta cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla bean until ricotta is smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream; process just until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining cheese mixture in two additions. Pour over the baked  crust.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the edges rise, and the center is just set, but still jiggly. Place on wire rack to cool completely (cheesecake may crack). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the topping:

In a large skillet, combine the sugar and water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the apples and butter. Stir to coat the apples. Return the pan to the heat and cook, turning apples occasionally, until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the apples are tender, add the cider and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the topping into a bowl, cover and let cool.

To serve the cheesecake, remove the pan sides and, with a large spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Spoon the topping over the cake and serve.


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Stracotto  translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in the northern Italy.The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and, sometimes, finely diced pancetta or the fat from prosciutto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. In much of Tuscany, the meat to be roasted in the pot is seasoned with a minced mixture of celery, carrot, onion and parsley, but never garlic, whereas the cooks of Arezzo use garlic and juniper berries to season the meat.

In Lombardy, the meat is marinated overnight  in the red wine. In northern Italy, especially the Parma area, leftover stracotto becomes a filling for ravioli.

In Florence, before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion. Chianti is the wine of choice in preparing this dish in Florence and porcini mushrooms are often an important ingredient.

In Bologna, a veal roast is used for this dish. In Sicily, the meat is cut into chunks, stew like, before braising.

Italian Jews also make stracotto with wine and tomatoes that is eaten both as a shabbos lunch and as a Friday night dinner. Rome resident, Celeste Pavoncello Pipenro, recalls eating stracotto throughout her life, “I remember Grandmother Celeste cooking stracotto in a special crock pot that she used just for this dish. It was very important to her to cook the stracotto in the crockpot. Also, my father, Marco, cooks the stracotto quite often and he puts some chocolate in with the meat just to add a different flavor.”

The dish originated in the Piedmont area of italy and here is an early recipe translated from Italian to English.

Piedmontese Pot Roast of Beef with Barolo Wine

Ingredients for 6 persons
1 Kg of lean beef, Italian parsley, sage, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, a
little flour, one bottle of Barolo wine, olive oil, butter, nutmeg, salt
and pepper.

You place in a casserole dish some spoonfuls of butter, olive oil
and sliced onions. Saute these ingredients, then brown the meat
after dredging it in the flour. Cover with the parsley, garlic, the
herbs and the rest of the chopped vegetables. Brown the meat on
all sides to seal it, then add the Barolo wine. Simmer a while to
reduce the liquid & evaporate the wine, then add salt and pepper.
Cover and place in a preheated oven(150C/300F/Gas 2). Continue
cooking for approximately three hours in the covered casserole.
Slice the meat and serve the dish with its gravy, straining the gravy if
you prefer smooth gravy.

Barolo wine is traditionally used for this dish in Italy and in Italy it is possible to find inexpensive Barolo wines that are perfect to cook with. Unfortunately, that is not the case in America. Because you don’t want to pour a fifteen or twenty-dollar bottle of wine over a four-dollar piece of meat, I recommend cooking with a flavorful inexpensive red wine and reserving the Barolo to serve with dinner. For tender, flavorful meat, it is best to prepare this dish several hours or, even better, a full day ahead of time. Reheat it in the oven before serving.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

I also include slow cooker directions for those who prefer that method for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lb chuck roast
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz Cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Polenta, recipe below, or Spaghetti

Directions

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Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides.

If using a slow cooker, put the roast in the cooker. If you’re using a Dutch oven, put the roast on a plate.

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Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

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Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

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Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock.

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For the Dutch oven put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours.

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If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

If you’re using a slow cooker, add the vegetables, wine, stock, herbs, tomato paste and tomatoes to the cooker and turn on low for 6-8 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, especially if made in the slow cooker, boil for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Serve the sliced beef with creamy polenta or spaghetti and a green salad. An Italian red wine, like Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

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Quick Creamy Polenta

3 cups water or beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the water/broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.


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

Spring Vegetable Risotto

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Chicken Soup with Vegetables

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

Ingredients

Stock Base

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

Soup

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

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

Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper and salt.

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

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

Scallops with Asparagus Salad

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

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

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

Salad

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Spinach, Onion and Cheese Quiche

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

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Ingredients

Crust

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

Filling

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Zucchini Muffins

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Servings: 12 Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Lasagna

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

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Bean Pepper Salad

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Servings: 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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3 lentils

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

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

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

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

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

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

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

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

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

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

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

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

red-lentil-jar

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

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

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

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

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

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

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

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

For the Stew:

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

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

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

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

Remove from the heat, let cool.

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

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

Prepare the Stew:

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

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

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

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

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

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

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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