Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: corn

 

freezing3With a little pre-planning, you can stock your freezer with family friendly weeknight dinners, easy sauces and sides, quick dessert toppings and breakfast options. You can also preserve the late summer and fall fruits and vegetables by freezing.

Freezing slows down bacterial growth, but doesn’t kill it, so start with good quality produce. There’s nothing more disappointing than spending your time and money to freeze food and have to throw it away when it doesn’t taste good.

Foods That Freeze Well

  • Meat, poultry and fish all can be frozen with success. Raw meat is preferable for long storage because it doesn’t dry out or get freezer burn as fast as cooked meat.
  • Breads and baked goods can freeze and do well in the freezer. This includes cakes, pies, muffins, bagels, quick and yeast breads both as dough/batter or baked, cookies raw or baked and pizza dough raw or baked.
  • Butter and margarine freeze well.
  • Beans can save you money, if you buy dry beans then soak and cook them yourself instead of buying the canned variety.
  • Rice can also freeze and cooking it ahead can save time.

Foods That Can Freeze But Will Change In Texture

  • Fruits and vegetables all soften and those with high water content do not freeze well. Fruit that still has ice crystals can be eaten as is after thawing but most fruits and veggies should be used for cooking after being frozen.
  • Potatoes freeze well and make quick side dishes, however they must be cooked before freezing to insure they don’t turn black.
  • Pastas will become much softer after they are frozen and should only be cooked about three-quarters of the recommended time. Also pastas frozen in liquid or sauce will absorb much of the sauce.
  • Milk and dairy products can be frozen but may separate after being frozen. Cheese will become crumbly and hard to slice but is fine for cooking or melting.
  • Herbs lose their texture but retain their flavor. Frozen herbs can be used for cooked dishes but not for garnishes.
  • Raw eggs removed from their shells can be frozen but should be mixed with a bit of salt or sugar to keep them from turning rubbery.
  • Cooked eggs that are scrambled freeze well. Boiled eggs don’t do as well because the whites get rubbery.
  • Fried foods lose their crispness but do ok when reheated in the oven.
  • Salty, fatty items, such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, some lunch meats and some fish do not last long in the freezer. The USDA only recommends freezing these items for 1-2 months. The salt causes fat to go rancid in the freezer. If it looks or smells ‘off’ toss it.

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

  • Cornstarch looses it’s thickening power. Use a roux made of butter and flour (or rice flour if you’re gluten-free) instead to thicken your casseroles.
  • Gelatin weeps or loses water.
  • Vegetables such as lettuces, celery, radishes and cucumbers become  watery.
  • Melons get very soft and lose much of their juice. They can still be used for smoothies but generally are not good frozen.
  • Meringue toppings become tough and rubbery.
  • Custards and cream puddings can separate.
  • Mayonnaise tends to separate.
  • Crumb toppings for things like casseroles or desserts can become soggy.
  • Egg white based icing or frosting can become frothy or weep.
Freezer Burn - Meat

Freezer Burn – Meat

Freezer Burn - Fruit

Freezer Burn – Fruit

Tips for Frozen Foods

  • Before freezing hot food, it’s important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer and the food will not freeze uniformly; the outer edges of the hot dish will freeze hard quickly, while the inside might not cool in time to prevent spoilage.
  • Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Use only specialty freezer wrappings: they should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof.
  • Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of headroom for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Use rigid containers with an air-tight lids and keep the sealing edge free from moisture or food to ensure proper closure.
  • Write the name of the dish and the date on the package with a marker.
  • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the grocer or butcher need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat wrapped on Styrofoam trays with plastic wrap will not hold up well to freezing. If the food you want to freeze was not specially wrapped, then re-wrap them at home.
  • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (i.e., within four hours). Food that is two inches thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.
  • A temperature of 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) is best for maintaining food quality.
  • With the exception of muffins, breads and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, releasing toxins that are unsafe to eat even after cooking. To ensure that your food is safe to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

This information below lists recommended storage times for popular pre-cooked foods–casseroles, soups, lasagna–to ensure high-quality results:

Type of Food

  • Tomato/vegetable sauces 6 months
  • Meatloaf (any type of meat) 6 months
  • Soups and stews 2-3 months
  • Poultry and Meat Casseroles 6 months
  • Poultry (cooked, no gravy) 3 months
  • Poultry (with gravy/sauce) 5-6 months
  • Meatballs in sauce 6 months
  • Pizza dough (raw, homemade) 3-4 weeks
  • Muffins/quick breads (baked) 2-3 months

Recipes below give you some ideas of all the different ways frozen meals can be put together to save you time in the future.

freezing

Freezer Corn Saute

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 14 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (1 medium)
  • Four 1-quart freezer ziplock bags

Directions

In a small bowl combine butter, chives, parsley, salt and black pepper. Shape mixture into a 5-inch log. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Freeze about 1 hour or until firm.

In a covered 8-quart pot cook corn in enough boiling water to cover for 3 minutes; drain. Plunge corn into two extra-large bowls of ice water. Let stand until chilled. Cut kernels from cobs. (There should be about 7 cups.)

Line two 15x10x1-inch baking pans with parchment paper or foil. Spread corn kernels, bell pepper and onion in an even layer in the prepared pans. Freeze, loosely covered, about 2 hours or until nearly firm.

Divide vegetables evenly among four 1-quart freezer bags. Cut butter log into eight slices. Add 2 slices of butter to each bag. Squeeze air from bags; seal and label. Freeze for up to 6 months.

To reheat each portion

Transfer frozen vegetable mixture to a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until butter is melted and vegetables are heated through, stirring occasionally.

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Eat Twice Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) lasagna noodles
  • 3 pounds ground turkey or beef
  • 3 jars (26 ounces each) spaghetti sauce or 10 cups homemade sauce
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 6 cups (24 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook noodles to the al dente stage. Don’t overcook. The pasta will have additional cooking time in the oven. Drain and place noodles on clean kitchen cloths.

In a Dutch oven, cook turkey or beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the spaghetti sauce.

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta cheese, 4-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Spread 1 cup meat sauce in each of two greased 13-in.x 9-in. baking dishes.

Layer each with three noodles, 1 cup ricotta mixture and 1-1/2 cups meat sauce. Repeat layers twice.

Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover and freeze one lasagna for up to 3 months. Cover and bake remaining lasagna at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

To use frozen lasagna

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 60-70 minutes or until heated through. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 2 lasagnas (12 servings each).

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Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

You can freeze these in single-serving portions (in ziploc bags) and reheat in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Maple syrup or maple flavored yogurt, for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter, vanilla and eggs. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray or brush with oil. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer.

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Frozen Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

What is great about this recipe is that the chicken can be cooked without defrosting first.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (not cutlets)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped fine
  • 12 quart sized freezer ziplock bags
  • 2 gallon sized ziplock bags

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the chopped spinach, the cream cheese and feta.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a slit in the side of the chicken breast to create a pocket.

Fill each chicken breast with the cheese mixture.

Place each stuffed breast separately in a quart sized freezer ziplock bag. Squeeze out all the air in the bag before sealing.

Place 6 bags in a gallon freezer ziplock bag and the other six in another.Squeeze out the air and freeze.

To cook

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove as many chicken breasts as you need for dinner and place them in a baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake, covered with foil, for one hour or until tender and no longer pink in the center.

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Kid Friendly Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 carrots and/or parsnips, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and/or parsnips, celery, onion, thyme, 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the chicken, chicken broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks; discard the bones.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the soup and simmer until al dente, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine.

This soup can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Freezing individual servings can be helpful for a quick lunch.

To reheat

Run the containers under warm water until the soup loosens from the container. Transfer to a pot and heat over medium, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

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July

The Declaration of Independence was the name adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Times were much different when our founding fathers lived. They cooked over open wood fires and often had farms where they grew their own produce. Food was simpler for the,. but eating was a big part of their lives. What kinds of food did our founding fathers eat?

Thomas Jefferson was known for his culinary adventurousness. He was an avid gardener and trained his kitchen staff in French cooking techniques. Almost all of our founding fathers lived on large farms. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, had a deep love for farming and he published many books about it. In his Garden Book, he mentioned planting green beans often. Everyone knows the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree, but did you know that he actually had a cherry orchard on his property? Both he and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherry trees on their land.

Seafood in general was popular amongst the founding fathers. Most of them spent a lot of their working lives near large bodies of water. Even though they enjoyed all seafood, oysters were by far their favorites. Martha Washington, the first First Lady, included many recipes for oysters in her cookbook, The Martha Washington Cookbook.

Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he suggested it should be our national symbol. The bald eagle won that fight, but turkey continued to be popular. Dolley Madison, the fourth president’s wife, introduced ice cream to the United States in 1812, when she served it at her husband’s inaugural ball.

It’s common knowledge that George Washington had dental issues. For most of his life he wore dentures, so he often couldn’t chew foods properly. Because of this, he preferred soft, easy-to-eat foods. Cornmeal cake was one of his favorites. George Washington also brewed his own beer. He included molasses in his recipe.

John Adams, the second president, had a relatively simple palate. He preferred boiled meals with nothing too elaborate added. His wife, however, liked to cook more interesting meals. Each year, Abigail Adams would make apple pandowdy, which is very similar to apple pie, from the harvest from their orchard. Apple cider was John Adams’ drink of choice. It was also made from the apples that grew in his orchard and he drank at least one pint of cider before nine in the morning.

The colonists were not fond of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they were considered unappetizing. Most of the time, a lot of sugar was added to the cooking water to make the vegetables more palatable to their taste.

Today, Independence Day, a national holiday, is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States.

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

On each of 12 wooden appetizer skewers, alternately thread two tomatoes, one cheese ball and two basil leaves; place on a serving plate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the kabobs just before serving. Yield: 12 kabobs.

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium sweet red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) pitted ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet or a combination), sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 6-8 corn on the cob, husks and silk removed, each cob cut into three portions
  • 1/4 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 4 pounds shrimp, peeled if desired
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Place potatoes and sausage in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with 6 quarts cold water. Stir in the seafood seasoning, cover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and carefully add the corn; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Drain.
Arrange on a large platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper.
Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

This fat-free, all-fruit sorbet adds lemon for refreshing tartness. For a smoother texture, strain the blueberries through a fine-mesh sieve before freezing. For a blueberries-and-cream variation, substitute milk or cream for the juice, omit the lemon and add 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup organic honey
  • 36 ounces fresh blueberries (divided)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the juice and add the honey; stir until completely dissolved.
Combine with 6 cups blueberries in a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain, if desired.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add lemon juice and salt to the blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice-cream-maker canister, stir in all but 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, place one scoop in each serving dish and garnish with remaining lemon zest and remaining blueberries. Serve immediately.


 

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When you become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly during the growing season in your area, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront and shares usually include 7-10 types of vegetables; enough for a family of 2-3 people.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and the farmers have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow. The consumer gets to eat fresh picked food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits, learn more about how the food is grown and develop a relationship with the farmer who grows the food.

Jeta farms

Jeta Farms

My CSA is Jeta Farms, a family owned and operated farm located in Elberta, Al. They offer a variety of vegetables and some specialty and heirloom varieties. They do not plant GMO vegetable crops. I pick up my share on Saturday mornings and the produce is truly fresh and delicious. As soon as I get my share home, I start planning the week’s menu.

See the photo at the top of the post for last Saturday’s share, which included: a dozen ears of corn-on-the-cob, 2 eggplant, 4 plum tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, a package of blackberries, 2 large bell peppers, 4 patty pan squash, a pound of Italian green beans, a sack (about 5 lbs) of potatoes, lots of zucchini and yellow squash.

I was able to create a whole week’s worth of meals using these vegetables. All the herbs used in the recipes come from my garden.

  • Sunday: Grilled Italian sausage, 2 grilled corn on the cob (from the corn share) and potato salad (from the potato share)
  • Monday: Eggplant-Tomato Bake (recipe below) and sautéed zucchini (from the zucchini share) over Orecchiette pasta
  • Tuesday: Stuffed peppers (recipe below) and cucumber (from the cucumber share) salad 
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish, grilled summer squash (recipe below) and potato salad
  • Thursday: Chicken Oreganata, Italian green beans (recipe below) and eggplant bake
  • Friday: Corn Chowder (recipe below) and hash-browned potatoes (from the potato share) with eggs
  • Saturday: Grilled shrimp, grilled patty pan squash (recipe below) and tomato salad
  • The blackberries became dessert; see the Blackberry Crumble recipe in my post on Using Summer Fruit
Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Hash Browns

Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette Pasta

Here are some of the recipes I used for this menu.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4” round slices (from the eggplant share)
  • 3/4 lb package fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4”slices (from the tomato share)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters (refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh or dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place the slices on the prepared pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the tomatoes and half of the cheese. Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with oregano.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Peppers

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut off 2 cobs from the corn share
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 large bell peppers: halved and seeded (from the bell pepper share)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of your favorite prepared BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until browned..
Add the chopped garlic, onion, corn and squash; stir and heat through. Season mixture with sea salt and pepper. Stir well to combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Add in the chopped parsley and cheese.

Coat a shallow baking dish that will fit the halved peppers with cooking spray. Stuff the halved peppers with the turkey mixture, pressing it in firmly. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish. Top each pepper with a spoonful of BBQ sauce.

Pour about an inch of hot boiled water into the bottom of the baking pan, around the peppers, and loosely cover the pan with a foil tent. This helps to cook the peppers. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender.

Grilled Summer Squash

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Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs green and yellow squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals (from the squash share)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire.

In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and drain for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, put the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons., 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, turning once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes.

Arrange the squash on a platter, dot with the pesto and balsamic syrup. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Italian Flat Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian flat green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 3-inch pieces (from the green bean share)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, cut into very thin slices ( a 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice ( 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 -8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade ( stacked, then rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic slices, distributing them evenly. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the slices become almost translucent and start to brown on the edges; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the tomato is heated through. Add the cooked green beans and heat through for 1 to 2 minutes; mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the basil, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn Chowder

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Ingredients

  • 8 corn on the cob from the corn share
  • Corn Stock, see below
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) 
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, diced (from the potato share)
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 2 fresh whole sprigs of thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 can) evaporated whole milk

Directions

Cut the corn kernels from the 8 cobs and reserve the corn and cobs separately. Place the corn cobs and 4 quarts water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the cobs and discard.

Add half the reserved corn and all the vegetables to the soup pot and return the broth to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the soup pot. Add the seasonings, remaining corn and milk. Heat on low for about 15 minutes or until the corn is tender.

Grilled Patty Pan Squash with Italian Salsa Verde

Pattypan Squash 004001

 

4 servings

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 large garlic clove, halved, 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (tightly packed) parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the squash:

  • 4 small to medium patty pan squash from the squash share
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the garlic, salt, anchovy fillet and capers in a food processor. With the motor running add the olive oil with the parsley and blend to a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If serving within a few hours, allow to sit at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Prepare an outdoor grill.

Slice the patty pan squash in half horizontally and coat with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill the squash for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender all the way through.

Transfer the squash to a serving platter. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of the salsa verde and serve.

Yield: 4 servings


BalancedLunch

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

Build a Balanced Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunches at Home

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

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

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

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

spanakopita-quiche-h-4

Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

chicken-salad-rs-1213081-l

Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

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

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

pesto-turkey-club-1994854-x

Pesto Turkey Sandwich

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

1 serving

Ingredients

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

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

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

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

cartoon

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basketAlmost every Italian city and town has its specialties and there are regional specialties also; the end result is a huge number of local cuisines rather than a single national cuisine. However, there are some dishes that you will find almost everywhere and that are now standards among the many Italian communities scattered across the globe.

Vegetables play a large part in Italian cuisine because the fertile soil, especially in the south, provides bountiful amounts of vegetables and herbs. A typical cold salad might include raw or cooked vegetables tossed with herbs and cheese. Other popular dishes are cianfotta, a stewed dish of eggplants, peppers, zucchini and onions with basil and olive oil that is served cold. Pepperoni imbottiti stuffs red and yellow bell peppers with breadcrumbs seasoned with black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies and, of course, the famous parmigiana di melanzane or eggplant parmigiana.

There’s an old saying that “good cooking begins in the market” and never is this more true than with Italian cuisine which relies heavily on fresh produce. The most commonly used vegetables include tomatoes, garlic, onions, bell peppers (capsicum), eggplants (aubergine), cabbage, zucchini (courgettes), artichokes, fennel, mushrooms, celery, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and lettuce. These vegetables are traditionally chopped and added to baked pasta dishes, risottos and pizza or turned into salads, soups, appetizers and side dishes.

Vegetables can easily be the highlight of a meal. For example, a grilled mushroom cap filled with arugula bean salad, roasted vegetables paired with creamy polenta or a vegetable laced risotto offer substance as a main meal. With a little crusty bread and some aged cheese on the table, you also have a healthful meal. Here are some vegetable main dishes you might find on the Italian table.

1111_1fd5wy_FarroPilaf

Warm Farro Pilaf with Dried Cranberries

Serves 6

An Italian wheat grain, farro is chewy and tender, like barley but with a milder flavor. Pearled or cracked farro cooks much faster than whole regular farro and it doesn’t require soaking before it’s made. The farro in this recipe can be made a few days ahead or even frozen.

Ingredients

For the Farro

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in half
  • 1 celery rib, cut in half
  • 1/2 small onion in one piece
  • 1 ¼ cups pearled farro
  • 4 cups vegetable broth

For the Pilaf

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 lb kale, center stem removed, chopped (4 packed cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

To make Farro:

Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables start to brown. Add farro and stir well. Pour in broth, and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 20 minutes or until just tender; drain. Discard carrot, celery and onion. Cool Farro.

To make Pilaf:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté diced onion 5 to 7 minutes. Add kale and cook 5 to 7 minutes or just until wilted. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic and Aleppo pepper. Cook 1 minute, then add farro, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in dried cranberries and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm.

butternut squash

Parmesan-Butternut Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (2 1/2 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Peel, halve lengthwise and seed squash; cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange with slices overlapping slightly in the bottom of baking dish.

In a 2-quart saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and butter is infused with garlic flavor. Do not let butter brown.

In a small bowl mix bread crumbs, cheese and 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture.

Brush squash slices with remaining butter-garlic mixture. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and bread crumb mixture.

Bake uncovered 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with fork. Increase oven temperature to 425°F; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until the squash is lightly browned. Before serving, sprinkle parsley over top.

vegetable casserole

Roasted Vegetable and Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds cipolline onions, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 bulb fennel, cored and cut lengthwise into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked dried cannellini beans or equivalent canned, rinsed and drained
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes, onions and fennel in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil and toss well to coat.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and roast another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes and cipolline are fork-tender and golden brown. Garnish with thyme.

spinach pizza

Deep Dish Spinach Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh spinach, thoroughly washed and stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Cornmeal
  • 1/2 recipe quick whole-wheat pizza dough (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup thick tomato sauce (recipe below)

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic; saute for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Chop spinach.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch round baking pan 1 1/2 inches deep and sprinkle the bottom of the pan lightly with cornmeal. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle and fit into pan. Dough should just cover the bottom and sides of the pan with no overhang.

Mix cheeses together and spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over the bottom of the dough in the pan. Spread the spinach over the cheese, covering the cheese completely. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese over the spinach layer. Spread the tomato sauce over the spinach.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Yield: one 9-inch deep-dish pizza, serving 6 to 8.

Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Directions

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of water, stir in olive oil and set aside until bubbly.

Combine the all-purpose flour with the whole-wheat flour and salt in a food processor bowl. Process for a few seconds to blend. With processor running, slowly pour yeast mixture through the feed tube and continue to process until a firm, smooth and elastic ball of dough forms. If the mixture is too dry, you may have to add another tablespoon or so of warm water. If it is too soft, add a little more all-purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time.

Remove dough from the processor bowl, divide in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate half the dough for this recipe for at least 10 minutes or up to one day. Freeze the other half of the dough for another use.

Yield: dough for two 9-inch deep-dish pizzas or two 12-inch flat pizzas

Thick Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 16-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add onion and garlic and cook over medium low heat, stirring, until the onion is soft but not brown. Add remaining ingredients including liquid from the tomatoes. Crush tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Adjust heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is very thick and no longer liquid, about 30 minutes. Stir sauce from time to time to prevent sticking.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

stuffed peppers

Slow Cooked Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 6 large sweet bell peppers
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 3 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup cubed Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can (4-1/4 ounces) chopped ripe olives
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the rice, tomatoes, corn, onion and beans. Stir in the Monterey Jack cheese, olives, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon into peppers.

Combine spaghetti sauce and water; pour half into an oval 5-qt. slow cooker. Add the stuffed peppers. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 3-1/2 to 4 hours or until peppers are tender and filling is heated through. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

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Basil is undoubtedly the most loved and popular herb in Italy. Although we tend to associate the herb with Italy and other Mediterranean countries, it actually originated in India and was brought to the Mediterranean via the spice routes in ancient times. Tulsi, as the herb is known in Hindi, means “Sacred Basil,” and some of the many varieties of the plant were incorporated into Indian cooking centuries ago. From India, basil traveled not only to Europe and Africa, but spread to other parts of Asia as well, most notably to Thailand. Today, there are at least a dozen varieties grown for culinary use.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum bacilicum) and, its close relative, basilico genovese are the only varieties used in Italian cooking. Its flavor has been described as spicy and peppery, with a hint of clove and mint – but of course this doesn’t come close to capturing its unique essence. Perhaps it’s more helpful to talk about what it pairs with best: olive oil, garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme – and, of course, tomatoes. Basil and tomatoes seem to have been made for each other – as in the famous, insalata caprese – tomato mozzarella salad, as well as, tomato sauces. But, this herb also enhances other vegetables – such as zucchini and eggplant, to name just a few, and is widely used in many pasta dishes.

If you’re growing basil in your garden or on a window sill,  cut the basil leaves, often, from the top of each stem. The leaves grow back quickly and stronger. Basil preserves well in oil and can also be frozen. It is rich in antioxidants and, some claim , it has anticancer and antiviral properties. In Italy, basil is believed to help along the after-lunch nap that millions of Italians still enjoy on hot summer afternoons.

Basil is one herb in particular that really shines when it’s fresh. Just think of a homemade marinara sauce using fresh basil — would it be the same using dried? But beyond those familiar dishes we most associate with basil (tomato sauce, pizza, meatballs, pesto), the herb can actually work wonderfully well in many more dishes, including cocktails and desserts.

Basil is my favorite herb and I grow quite a bit of it every year – at least 4 containers worth, Naturally, I cannot let it go to waste. As a result I have become very creative in using this herb in any number of ways. I also freeze it for use in winter time tomato sauces. Not quite as good as the fresh leaves, but way better than dried.

Emerald Gimlet

1 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 3 big basil leaves
  • Ice Cubes
  • 1/2 ounce Lemon Simple Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces good Vodka

Lemon Simple Syrup:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Mix the basil leaves with ice in a cocktail shaker. Add lemon simple syrup, lime juice and vodka. Shake and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime slice or a basil leaf.

To make lemon simple syrup: 

Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it rest until it cools to room temperature.

Add the lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon or disposable stirrer.

Transfer the lemon simple syrup to a sterilized glass bottle. Store the simple syrup in the refrigerator between uses.

 

Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

Fresh basil and a bit of garlic are whirled into a simple fresh basil vinaigrette for your next salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, whirl the basil, oil, vinegar and garlic until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 cup.

Corn, Tomato & Basil Salad

Use only the freshest, sweetest corn for this recipe – corn that’s so tender and sweet you can eat it raw! This salad is wonderful as a side with any grilled meal or as part of any no-cook summer dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 ears sweet corn
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs basil

Directions:

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix oil, vinegar and salt. Add onion to the dressing. Set dressing aside.

Husk corn and cut off kernels. Core, seed and chop tomatoes. Cut basil into thin strips (chiffonade).

Toss corn and tomatoes with the dressing. Let marinate for a few hours at room temperature.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Chilled Summer Squash and Basil Soup

4 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mixed summer squash
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Lemon quarters for serving

Directions:

Roughly chop the squash, onion and garlic.

In a large saucepan heat oil; add squash and garlic. Cook vegetables gently to soften, partly covered, in the heated oil, stirring now and again.

Pour in 4 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Add 3/4 cups of the basil leaves, then blend together with an immulsion blender until smooth with tiny flecks of basil visible. Season to taste.

Allow to cool, then chill for four hours or overnight. The soup may be a little thick, but the basil ice and lemon juice addition will thin it.

Meanwhile, place the remaining basil leaves and the remaining stock in a shallow container. Push the basil into a single layer and freeze the mixture until set.

Break the ice into cubes and add pieces of the basil ice to each serving of soup. Garnish with lemon quarters.

 

Orange-Basil Grilled Mahi-Mahi

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound filleted Mahi-Mahi, skin on (or fish of choice)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed green beans, for serving

Directions:

Make the sauce by combining and mixing the ingredients together. Set aside.

Oil and lightly salt the fish. Place fish on a greased grill pan, skin side up, then slide the pan under a hot broiler until the skin is blistered.

Turn the fish over with a wide spatula and spoon on some of the sauce.

Cook for a minute or two. Lift fish onto plates (or shallow bowls) and pour over the rest of the sauce.

Serve with green beans.

Tip: Take care not to overcook the fish; – it must stay moist to be at its best.

Basil Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh summer side dish. For the nicest presentation, use long, relatively skinny zucchini.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium 2-inch-wide zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Trim both ends off the zucchini and cut each in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the underside of each zucchini, so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.

Place the zucchini halves in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on High until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, steam in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large skillet or pot.)

Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zucchini. Serve.

 

Grilled Beef Braciole with Tomato-Basil Sauce

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

For the beef:

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

3 (8-inch) pieces butcher’s twine, soaked in cold water

Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Directions:

Heat the grill to high and oil the grill grates.

For the sauce:

Cut the tomatoes in half, brush them with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the tomatoes on all sides until slightly charred and soft. Remove the tomatoes from the grill, chop and place in a serving bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, onion, vinegar, basil and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while the beef cooks.

For the beef:

Place the steak on a flat surface.

Combine the cheese, basil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the steak on the side facing up with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over the steak, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides.

Starting with the long end, tightly roll the meat up like a jelly roll and tightly tie with the butcher’s twine on the ends and in the center. Brush the entire outside of the steak with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place on the grill, seam-side up and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve several slices per person topped with some of the tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

 

Green Apple and Basil Granita

8 Servings

Guests will welcome this refreshing granita after a heavy meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1,000-mg) tablet vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

Equipment: cheesecloth

Directions:

Crush the vitamin C tablet in a large bowl with the back of a spoon. (Vitamin C will keep the basil bright and green.)

Line a sieve with a dampened triple-layer of cheesecloth and set it over the bowl with the vitamin C.

Puree apples with the water in a food processor (do not use a blender) until almost smooth, then pour into the cheesecloth lined sieve. (Do not clean processor bowl.)

Squeeze as much clear juice as possible through the cloth and discard solids remaining in the cheesecloth.

Puree basil with sugar until it is deep green, then add apple juice mixture and puree until combined.

Freeze mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish, scraping and stirring with a fork every 30 minutes, until frozen, at least 3 hours. (It will be too hard to scrape once fully frozen.)

Make ahead: Granita can be made 2 days ahead (cover once frozen). Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes and re-scrape before serving in glass dishes.


Cold soups make a fine first course, a light summertime lunch or even a dessert. They can be a simple purée of fruit or vegetables and liquid or a more complex creation involving spices, wines and liqueurs. But even at their fanciest, cold soups are easy to make, requiring only a blender and some basic ingredients.

Some recipes use stock (most savory soups are better for it), but water works, too. And there is usually no meat in any of them, except if you choose one for a garnish. Most cold soups can be made vegetarian or vegan without much trouble.

The smooth and creamy soups are best made ahead of time, so that they have a chance to chill thoroughly. In fact, you can prepare them even a couple of days in advance. (Just hold off stirring in cream or yogurt until you are ready to serve.) The gazpacho-type soups can be made at the last moment; they should feel hearty and thick. You can purée them, chill them or serve as a beverage. A sweet fruit soup is a simple way to take advantage of an abundance of summer fruit.

A variety of fruits lend themselves to soup—all kinds of berries, stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries) and melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon). While fresh fruit is always best and is mandatory when using melons for soup, frozen fruit can yield excellent results. In fact, making soup is one of the best ways to use up the surplus crop that fills your freezer. Even canned fruit works well.

The vegetables of summer — asparagus, corn, zucchini, avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes to name a few —can be turned into cold soups. The simplicity really lets the flavor of the featured ingredient shine.

Tips on bringing out the best flavor for chilled soups:

Because a fruit or vegetable soup has relatively few ingredients, the taste of each one is easy to detect, so the quality of the fruit or vegetable is critical. Under ripe, overripe, off-flavored or badly freezer-burned ingredients will produce poor results. Shop at a farmers’ market, if possible, and pick vegetables that look ripe with bright colors and feel heavy for their size.

Cold dulls flavor; you’ll almost certainly want to add more herbs, salt and pepper and maybe more acidity. Season generously to start and don’t be afraid to add more just before serving.

Vegetables, like beets and fennel, must be cooked until thoroughly tender so they purée easily. Cook the main vegetable with a little onion for sweetness and garlic for depth. Also add spices at this point. Fresh herbs added just before puréeing provide another layer of flavor.

When melons are puréed, they turn watery. Soups based on them often require no added liquid. For most other fruits, liquid is required:, such as water, milk (whole, low-fat and skim are all good), cream, wine, fruit juice (for example, apple or white grape juice) or some combination of these.

As sweet as it is, when fruit is diluted with liquid, it usually requires some added sugar, honey or agave. Soups can vary from tart, perhaps for a first course, to very sweet for desserts.

The most common additions to cold fruit soups are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. Add fat to most soups in the form of cream or olive oil. Fat not only helps carry flavors but also creates an emulsion for a smoother, more full-bodied soup.

Common sources of additional flavor are liquors, especially cognac and rum, and liqueurs-either a contrasting flavor such as Grand Marnier or Amaretto, or a brandy derived from the same fruit as the soup.

Garnishes include dollops of yogurt, sour cream, herbs and, for dessert soups, whipped cream and berries. Garnishes add texture and either reinforce the flavor (fennel fronds for fennel soup) or complement it (tangy sour cream and dill for earthy beet soup).

A blender’s tapered shape draws the ingredients to the blade, where they’re puréed evenly and finely. Keep the blender running for two minutes even after the soup looks puréed to be sure all the spices and herbs are pulverized.

A safety tip: When blending hot liquids, never fill the blender jar more than half full. Leave the fill hole cap ajar, cover the lid with a cloth, hold the lid on firmly and start the blender on low before increasing it to high.

Two-Color Melon Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut up
  • 1 small honeydew, peeled, seeded and cut up
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • Prosciutto or another cured ham, for garnish

Directions:

Place the cantaloupe, orange juice, half the white wine and half the sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl.

Place the honeydew, lime juice, remaining wine and remaining sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate both purées separately.

To serve, place the purées into separate pitchers or measuring cups. With one in each hand, simultaneously pour the two purées down opposite sides of each serving bowl, the purees will remain separate while being served and eaten. Garnish with sliced proscuitto.

Carrot Soup with Herbs

6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (or 1-32-ounce box) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) ready-to-use baby carrots
  • 1 medium thin-skinned white or Red Bliss potato, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 large handful whole fresh dillweed sprigs (including stems), plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill weed leaves (fine leaves only) for garnish
  • 1 small handful whole fresh chives, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped for garnish
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Herbed yogurt garnish, recipe below

Directions:

Combine the chicken broth, carrots and potato in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Lay the whole herbs over the vegetables and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat so the broth boils gently and cook, uncovered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until the carrots and potato are tender when pierced with a fork. Don’t undercook or the soup will not be as smooth as it should.

Set aside until cooled slightly. Using a fork, lift off and discard all the herbs. Using a slotted spoon, remove the carrots to a food processor or blender and remove the potato to a bowl to cool. Strain the broth and reserve. When the potato is cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Add the potato, butter and enough broth from the saucepan to the vegetables to facilitate processing or blending. Process or blend until completely smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed; a processor will take longer and the soup will not be quite as smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Cool slightlyand add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours before serving. If desired, thin the soup with a little water and adjust seasoning before serving.

To serve, add several teaspoons of the herbed yogurt to the center top of each bowl of soup. Partially swirl in the mixture. If desired, garnish servings with small sprigs of dill weed.

Herbed Yogurt Garnish

Stir together 2/3 cup regular or low-fat plain (unflavored) yogurt, 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill weed and 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives in a small bowl. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (so the herbs can infuse the yogurt) and up to 48 hours.

Fennel-Grapefruit Soup with Lemon Olive Oil

The fennel-grapefruit soup can be refrigerated overnight. Olive oil pressed or infused with lemon is available at most supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon flavored olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • One 1-pound fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, plus chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice, strained
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of lemon flavored olive oil. Add the sliced fennel and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until the fennel is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the fennel is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the fennel soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer the soup to a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Just before serving stir the grapefruit juice into the fennel soup. Add the sugar to the soup and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a little lemon olive oil and chopped fennel fronds and serve.

 

Cool Tomato Soup

6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat free half & half
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the plum tomatoes with the water, tomato paste, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and granulated sugar. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the tomatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Add the half & half and simmer for 1 minute.

Puree the soup in a blender and pass it through a coarse strainer into a medium bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate the soup until cold, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, confectioners’ sugar and a large pinch of salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and toss with the dill. Let rest at room temperature until ready to serve the soup.

Ladle the cold soup into bowls, garnish with the roasted cherry tomatoes and serve.

 

Chilled Corn Soup with Roasted Chilies

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 10 ears sweet corn
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 medium potato
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • Roasted jalapeno (or any spicy chili), diced

Directions:

Using a large hole grater over a very large bowl, grate off the corn kernels. Use the blunt side of a knife blade to scrape remaining liquid and corn bits into the bowl after you grate each cob. Set aside the raw corn puree.

Chop onions. In a large pot heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion wilts, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the potato. Add potato and water or broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cook until onions and potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add corn. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Roast chilies in the broiler or on a grill. Set aside until cool and remove the skin. Be sure to use gloves when handling hot chilies.

Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor (do this in small batches to avoid splashes and burns).

Chill the soup thoroughly.

Add salt to taste. (Do this at the temperature at which you plan to serve the soup; chilled soup will need more salt than hot soup because cold dulls flavor.)

You will need to add a fair amount of salt, if you used water as your base liquid. Keep adding salt, about 1/4 teaspoon at a time, and tasting until you notice  the corn flavor coming through.

Garnish with roasted sliced jalapeno chilies before serving.

 



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