Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fennel

Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

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Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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artichoke-ranch-980x360

ArtichokeBlossom The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

How To Buy Artichokes

Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.

How To Prepare Artichokes

Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke.  Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

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TrimmedArtichoke

How To Cook Artichokes

Boiling Method:
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.

Steaming Method:
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

baby-artichokes-at-market

Baby Artichokes

Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.

Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).

Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.

Cooking Artichokes

Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.

Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.

artichokes and potatoes

Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes 
  • A bunch parsley, minced
  • Pepper to taste

Directions

If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.

Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.

When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.

Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.

GrilledBabyArtichokes

Grilled Baby Artichokes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.

Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.

When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.

This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.

artichoke pizza

Artichoke Cheese Pizzas

This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.

Ingredients

  • One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.

Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.

Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.

artichoke stuffed

Stuffed Artichokes

This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.

Ingredients

For 2-double ingredients for 4

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Half small onion sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.

Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

To prepare stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.

In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.

Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.

fish

Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
  • 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.

Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.

Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.

In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.

To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.

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Veggies

Are you bored with the same old side dishes for your evening meal? Its time to give your sides an update.

The best side dish recipes are those that taste great and are not overshadowed by the main course. However, the same old vegetables cooked the same old way can get boring and go uneaten.

Make some changes -

Do you find that every salad you make finds you standing at your cutting board chopping your veggies into the same shapes and sizes and then combining them in the same way all the time? Here’s a tip to make your salads and cooked veggies more interesting: change the way you cut! If you always chop your vegetables into cubes, try sticks, grating and shaving or food process your veggies into a grain-like texture. Use spiral cuts for zucchini, carrots, beets or sweet potatoes. Toss them into a salad with your other vegetables.

Add a fresh tasting dip, sauce or dressing to a vegetable and you can transform the meal completely. Mastering a variety of dressings, sauces and dips is one of the best ways to avoid boredom. They can be poured over salads, hot cooked vegetables or enjoyed with crudités and whole grain crackers.

Instead of dressing your cooked vegetables with butter, try this sauce next time:

Lemon Sauce with Herbs

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Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lemon zest

Directions

Place mayonnaise in a small saucepan. Gradually add broth, whisking until smooth. Heat over medium-low, whisking constantly, until warmed through but not bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mustard, oil, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, chives and pepper. Drizzle the warm sauce over cooked vegetables and garnish with lemon zest.

Be Adventurous

One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before. There are so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables out there that it just depends on what you have available in your area at any given time of the year. Try going to different markets, grocery stores, gourmet stores and ethnic markets to find produce that you haven’t cooked with before. Asian markets are particularly abundant with exotic fruits and vegetables and you could try a new ingredient every week for months. You can also try new dried spices, dried herbs, oils, nuts, seeds or dried fruits. Keep your eyes open to see what is around and allow your senses and creativity to guide your purchases. Even if you are on a tight budget, you could likely afford to try one new ingredient per week.

vegetables

Not only is eating seasonally better for your health and the planet, but it also means that for the four seasons of the year, you are exposed to and using different ingredients. This really helps to keep things interesting and gives your taste buds a makeover.

Adding a different fresh herb or spice to an old recipe can completely change a meal, as does just adding fresh herbs in the first place. A basic mixed greens salad or chopped salad will taste entirely different and far more exotic with some fresh basil, mint, coriander, dill or parsley. Don’t be afraid to try a new herb. The same goes for new spices. Spice blends in particular can be an easy and great new addition to your culinary repertoire.

Try a New Recipe and a New Food.

Red Chard

Red Chard

Red Chard with Onions, Pancetta and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches red Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock, vegetable broth or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Wash the stems and chop them into ½-inch pieces; set aside. Tear the leaves into large pieces, wash them thoroughly and spin or pat dry; set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the chard stems and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the raisins and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover the skillet, and simmer until the stems have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chard leaves, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Cover the skillet and braise for 3 to 4 minutes. When the chard leaves are wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, it is done. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Purple Potatoes

Purple Potatoes

Green Bean and Purple Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces purple potatoes
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions or 3 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

Scrub potatoes with a stiff brush under running water. Cut potatoes in quarters. In a Dutch oven cook potatoes in a small amount of boiling, lightly salted water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Add beans the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking. Drain; rinse with cold water until vegetables are cooled. Drain well.

In a medium bowl stir together oil, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add potato mixture and green onions. Toss mixture gently. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fennel Bulb

Fennel Bulb

Braised Fennel in Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine the broth and vermouth in a liquid measuring cup and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and tomato paste and set aside.

Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb. Chop enough of the fennel fronds to yield 1 tablespoon; set aside. Trim the bulb and cut it in half. Remove the core. Cut each fennel half into thin wedges.

In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Arrange the fennel wedges in one layer in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the wedges are lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Turn the wedges over with tongs. Pour the broth-wine mixture over the fennel. Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly ajar, so that the steam can escape. Make sure the liquid is gently simmering and cook until the liquid is reduced to just a few tablespoons, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the tomato-cream mixture and cook, gently turning the fennel wedges with tongs until the cream thickens and coats the fennel, about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Serve the fennel garnished with the chopped fennel fronds.

Barley

Barley

Broccoli and Barley Pilaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets, large florets cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 fresh hot pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced

Directions

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring until toasty brown, about 10 minutes. Add the broth or water and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is tender and the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

In a large deep skillet, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets, cover and cook just until bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Wipe out the skillet and heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, hot pepper and scallions and stir for 1 minute. Add the broccoli florets, season with salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Off the heat, stir in the barley and serve immediately.

Edamame

Edamame

Mixed Greens with Edamame, Almonds and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups torn baby salad greens
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-pack), drained and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or use the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large salad bowl combine salad greens, sun-dried tomatoes, edamame and almonds.

For dressing, in a small glass measuring cup whisk together lemon juice, oil and black pepper.

To serve, pour dressing over salad, toss to coat. Divide salad among six individual salad plates and top each serving with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage

Italian-Style Cabbage with Tomatoes and Pecorino Romano

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound savoy cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 canned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato liquid from the tomato can
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Remove the core of the cabbage and cut the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 4 firmly packed cups of cabbage strips.

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onion rings and sauté until they start to soften and brown. Add the cabbage and garlic stirring to blend well. Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the cabbage and add them to the pan. Add the tomato liquid, vinegar and thyme. Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until cabbage is softened and flavors are blended.

When ready to serve, stir butter into the cabbage. Place on plates and pass the grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

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San Sperate has a very ancient history. Recent archaeological excavations have dated the first settlements to the Bronze Age. Following the period of Punic rule in Sardinia, the villages in the San Sperate basin came under Carthaginian rule and four cemeteries from this period have been found. Roman occupation in 238 BC can be documented and the parish church dates to the XVI century. This small village in Sardinia, not far from Cagliari, is known for the “Paese Museo” (Museum Village) and its artistic features. It is a village of murals with more than 300 large wall paintings. Painting the walls of its houses was begun by a local artist, Pinuccio Sciola. In 1968, in the wake of a youth protest movement, Sciola had the idea of turning the village into an open-air “museum village”.  The idea was taken up by other artists such as Foiso Fois, Liliana Canu, Primo Pantoli, Giorgio Princivalle, Gaetano Brundu, Nando Pintus, Giovanni Thermes and Franco Putzolu. They came to San Sperate to add their own different styles and techniques. The result ranged from trompe l’oeil windows, balconies and lines of washing hung out to dry to historic scenes and copies of famous works of art.

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Pinuccio Sciola

Sciola is also Sardinia’s best known sculptor and there are examples of his work carved from the local stone. His stone sculptures are the living testimony of the art of San Sperate. Limestones and basalts are the materials mainly used by Sciola. He makes a “kind of wound” in each stone, so that the energy of the stone is taken out. His large sculptures resonate when rubbed by human hands or small rocks. However, you can’t image how amazing it is listening to Sciola’s stones, so instead of imagining, you can hear these stones in a documentary about this fascinating artist and his work by playing the video link below:

The murals depict how life was in San Sperate one hundred years ago. They are creations of a changing farming culture with themes of rural life (work in the fields and scenes from the village) in an urban space made more significant by the display of traditional implements, such as olive oil mills, wheat grinding mills, stone tubs, basins and by rows of orange and lemon trees. A Picasso-esque house wall of colorful images and a wall painted to resemble a space for hanging agricultural tools (painted so realistically with shadows that they look ready to be unhooked and used) are just two of the vivid images depicted in the town. There are also curiosities, like a house which appears to be wrapped in paper with a corner torn off or painted groups of people chatting in front of arcades or abstract patterns. Here are a few photos of the murals:

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One artist from the Renaissance period, Piero della Francesca, must have been popular because there are several copies of his most famous paintings scattered throughout the village, including one next to a bakery that has an image of a single oven on its wall.

The murals covering the brick walls of the village houses brought this small village into the limelight, attracting Italian and foreign artists wishing to experiment with mural painting and other forms of art expression. This attraction also created a platform for local artists: in sculpture – Sergio Caddeo, Giuseppe Lasio, Gianfranco Pinna, Romano Porcu, Eva Schirru and Lucio Schirru; in painting –  Monica Corda, Erminluca Maccioni and Raffaele Muscas; in miniature art –  Ignazio Casti; in ceramics –  Giampaolo Mameli; in murals –  Angelo Pilloni and in street art –  Manu Invisible. (Source: Italy Magazine)

Sardinian Recipes

xSardinia

Sardinian food ranges from soups and stews, seafood, freshly baked breads, olives and wine to roasted lamb, sheep’s milk cheeses and pastries.

BEAN-FENNEL-AND-POTATOES-SOUPM-RECIPE

Bean, Fennel and Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2/3 pound (300 g) fresh fava beans or dried cannellini beans
  • 2 fennel bulbs, fronds (feathery tops) only
  • 1/2 pound (250 g) potatoes
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) plum tomatoes or canned italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 pound (150 g) dry short pasta (ditalini)
  • A ham bone
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Sardo (in its absence use Pecorino Toscano or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the fennel fronds, pat them dry and chop them. Save the fennel bulbs for another recipe. Peel and dice the potatoes. Blanch, peel, seed, chop and drain the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a soup pot, sauté the tomatoes for a minute and as soon as they begin to wilt add the beans, fennel, potatoes and ham. Add 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) of water, cover, and simmer for at least two hours.

Remove the ham bone and stir in the pasta. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked. Serve with grated pecorino on the side.bonelessleglamb

Sardinian Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Ingredients:

  • A boneless leg of lamb, weighing about 4 1/2 pounds (2 k)
  • 3/4 pound (110 g) Italian mild sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) dry bread crumbs
  • 1 2/3 pounds (750 g) plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped — canned tomatoes will also work
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A large bunch parsley, minced
  • A medium onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butcher’s twine

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to contain the leg of lamb and sauté the minced garlic, parsley and onion until the onion is translucent. Remove the mixture from the saucepan to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind. When the onion mixture has cooled, mix it with the sausage, eggs and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the inside of the leg of lamb. Roll the leg up tightly and tie it with twine.

Reheat the pan drippings in the saucepan and brown the meat, turning it to brown all sides. Add the tomatoes, crumbling them between your fingers, add enough water to reach part-way up the sides of the pot and simmer gently for an hour or until the meat is quite tender.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Remove and discard the string, slice the meat and arrange the pieces on a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.

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Saffron Ring Cake

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (300 g) ricotta
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
  • 3 eggs
  • The grated zest of an orange
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • A big pinch of saffron

Directions

Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F (190 C).

Squeeze the orange, warm the juice slightly and dissolve the saffron in it.

Mash the ricotta with the tines of a fork, mixing until it is creamy in texture and combine it with the sugar, grated orange and lemon zest, eggs and half the orange juice mixed with saffron. Mix well, fold in the flour and baking powder and then pour the batter into a floured ring mold baking pan.

Brush the surface of the cake with the remaining orange juice, sprinkle with sugar and bake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, about 40 minutes, but check before then.

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Marjoram is a sweet tasting herb that is used interchangeably with oregano. It has tender leaves and stems, grows well just about anywhere and is a great kitchen windowsill garden choice. It is a very tender plant and in most areas, it is considered to be an annual plant. It needs full sun to develop properly. Cut back the stems and leaves as they grow and marjoram will provide you with multiple cuttings in one season. The flavor of marjoram is most pronounced when it is not cooked for a long period of time. Add it fresh to a dish during the last 5 to 10 minutes of the cooking process.

Native to the Mediterranean and Eurasia areas, marjoram has been cultivated in Egypt for over 3000 years and has been grown in England since the 13th century. The name, marjoram, is thought by most authorities to have originated from the Greek words for mountains and brightness/joy/beauty. Oregano and marjoram were commonly called “joy of the mountains” due to their beauty and abundance on the Mediterranean mountain sides, where they grew wild.

Wild Marjoram

It is important to note that in much of the history and folklore of the genus, it is difficult to distinguish between sweet marjoram and oregano, since many authors have used the name marjoram to describe both plants, and historically, both (sweet marjoram) and (wild marjoram/oregano) have been called marjoram. The physical similarity of the plants and the difficulty with proper identification have been a historical problem that persists still today.

Sweet marjoram has long been an herb of love. According to Roman legend, the goddess of love, Venus, gave the plant its scent “to remind mortals of her beauty”.  A similar legend surrounds Aphrodite, Venus’s counterpart in Greek mythology, who is said to have created sweet marjoram and grew it on Mount Olympus. Marjoram has been used in love potions and spells and as a wedding herb in nosegays and bridal bouquets. In ancient Greece and Rome, a crown of marjoram was worn by the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. There is more than one folk tradition linking marjoram to love and dreams. According to one legend, if a woman placed marjoram in her bed before going to sleep, Aphrodite would appear in a dream to “reveal her future spouse’s identity”.

Sweet marjoram was a popular culinary herb in Europe during the Middle Ages, when it was used in cakes, puddings and porridge. Records of its culinary use date back to the 1300s in Spain and Italy, when it was added to stews and shellfish. Marjoram was a common salad herb and was also used to flavor eggs, rice, meats and fish during the Renaissance. Both marjoram and oregano have been used to make teas and, prior to the introduction of hops, wild marjoram/oregano was an ingredient in beer and ale.

Sweet marjoram has a wide variety of culinary uses. It can flavor liqueurs and herbal vinegars and it is used in a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Leaves, flowers and tender stems can be added to stews, poultry stuffing, syrups, salad dressings, cheese mixtures for sauces and spreads, seafood, omelets, pizza and sausages. Sweet marjoram compliments mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, squash, peas and asparagus. It combines well with other herbs, especially garlic and parsley.

With its sweetness, marjoram is a natural addition to desserts. If you lived in the 16th century, you may have been treated to sugar flavored and scented with marjoram flowers. Many chefs use sweet marjoram for crème brulee, ice cream, custards, pies/tarts and other fruit desserts. The herb also complements apples, melons and tropical fruits like papaya and mango. Commercially, sweet marjoram is an ingredient in many processed foods, where the seeds are used in meat products, candy, beverages and condiments.

Italian Marjoram Flavored Tomato Sauce

In Italy, the most popular sauce herb is marjoram.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red chili, dried
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 -26 to 28 oz containers Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 handful marjoram, roughly chopped

Directions:

Mix together all the above ingredients, except for the marjoram, in a saucepan and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add marjoram and simmer for 5 minutes.

Note: This sauce is good on pasta with meat added to it, on vegetables and in recipes where a tomato sauce is needed. It also makes a good pizza sauce.

Red Pepper and Fennel Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 fennel bulbs, about 1¼ pounds
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice them into 1/4-inch slices.

Trim and clean the fennel and cut it lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Blanch in boiling salted water for one minute. Drain, cool to room temperature and pat dry.

Arrange the peppers and fennel in a serving bowl.

Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Stir in the garlic, marjoram and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Marinate for an hour at room temperature before serving. Serves 4 as a salad or 6 as an appetizer.

Pasta and Squash with Marjoram

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Penne Pasta
  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lbs.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Using a large, heavy knife, cut off the ends of the squash and peel.

Cut squash in half, remove and discard seeds. Cut squash into 3/4-inch cubes.

Place squash in a mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat squash evenly.

Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add marjoram to butter and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. (Do not allow butter to brown.) Stir in stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Toss together cooked pasta, squash and sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Winter squash, including butternut, is hard and has a tough skin. To make it easier to cut, pierce the squash in several spots with a knife, then microwave on High (100%) power for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it stand 2 to 3 minutes before cutting.

Swiss Chard Torte

Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course served with a side salad.

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 2 big bunches Swiss chard (or spinach), thick stalks removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup yellow raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons Marsala or white wine
  • 5 or 6 marjoram sprigs, leaves chopped
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, the salt and the ground fennel. Add the Marsala, stirring it in briefly. Add the olive oil and stir until a sticky ball forms. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead quickly until it’s relatively smooth, only about a minute or so. The dough will feel a little oily. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest, unrefrigerated, for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the dough is resting, fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard for about 2 minutes. Drain it into a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. Squeeze as much water out of the chard as you can. 

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until it softens, about a minute or so. Add the chard, seasoning it with salt, black pepper and the fennel seeds; sauté about 2 minutes longer. Add the raisins with their soaking liquid and the almonds. Take the pan off the heat and add the marjoram. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then add the eggs and the Grana Padano cheese, mixing them in well.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan, leaving a little overhang all around. Pour in the filling, and smooth out the top. Trim the dough overhang neatly all around. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil. Bake until the crust is browned and the filling is firm, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Red-Wine Pot Roast with Porcini

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-salt beef broth
  • 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 26-28-ounce container Italian peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Remove from heat and add the mushrooms, cover, and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the pot. Place pot back over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and reserved porcini mushrooms; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add wine; boil 5 minutes. Add reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Boil 5 minutes.

Return beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover; transfer to the oven. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Turn beef, add chopped marjoram. Cover and continue cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 hours longer. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and keep refrigerated.)

Transfer beef to a cutting board; tent with foil. Cut beef into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a platter.

Remove any fat from the surface of the sauce in the pot and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a little sauce over the meat on the platter and garnish with additional marjoram. Serve the additional sauce on the side.


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.

 


Nothing says summer like grilling kabobs. Whether you choose to make steak, chicken, pork, lamb or vegetable skewers, successful grilling of kabobs is not difficult.

Some Helpful Tips

Tools:

  1. Tongs that are long enough to keep hands safely away from the grill but short enough for easy handling. The tongs are also useful to hold a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil to coat the grill grates.
  2. A good grill brush with a long handle to clean the grill thoroughly.
  3. Skewers: there are many choices, including round or flat wooden sticks, double-pronged skewers, metal baskets and more. The most-common and least-expensive option is the round or flat wooden skewers.

Bamboo/Wooden Skewer

Double Pronged Metal Skewer

Cicular Wire Skewer

Skewer Tips:

  1. Metal skewers are sturdy and reusable but get hot; it’s safest to remove food before serving. To serve on skewers, choose disposable wood; they can burn, though, so they need to be presoaked.
  2. When using metal skewers, leave a little space between pieces of food so the metal will heat, speeding up the cooking time. With wood, make sure the food pieces are lightly touching, to protect the wood from the flame.
  3. Before grilling with wood skewers, either soak them in water for at least 10 minutes or cover the tips in foil. Another option: Fold a piece of heavy-duty foil in thirds, place it on the edge of the grill and rest the ends of the skewers on the foil so they don’t burn.
  4. If you are using wooden skewers, especially round ones, try using two sticks per kabob. This will add stability to the kabobs, which can be heavy, and make it easier to turn them while grilling.

Cooking Tips:

  1. Cut the food in pieces that are the same size and thickness so they will get done at the same time.
  2. Alternate protein pieces with fruits or vegetables, as this enhances the flavor combinations.
  3. If you are cooking foods that require different lengths of time to cook properly, try skewing all the protein on 1 skewer and the vegetables on the other. For example, if you’re cooking chicken that takes 10 minutes versus tomatoes, which take only 2 or 3 minutes, put them on different skewers. This will allow you to cook each set of ingredients properly without over or under cooking the other.
  4. Turn the kabobs frequently during cooking to allow all sides to cook evenly. As a general rule, most kabobs require approximately 10 minutes to cook, which is 2.5 minutes on each of the 4 sides.
  5. Use a fork to easily slide the food from the skewers when it is time to serve the kabobs and don’t forget to hold the hot skewer with a pot holder.
  6. For additional flavor, try marinating your ingredients in a sauce for approximately 30 minutes before grilling. Popular marinades include teriyaki, sweet and sour, honey mustard or lemon garlic. You can buy ready-made marinades from your local grocery store or you can make your own.
  7. Throw away any leftover marinades after you remove the food. If you wish to serve a dip on the side, use a batch of marinade that did not touch the raw ingredients. This can prevent illness.

Shrimp and Fennel Kebabs with Italian Salsa

Serves 4

Italian Salsa

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Kebabs:

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 28 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut into 12 wedges
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 12 wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

To prepare salsa:

Combine the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside at room temperature.

To prepare kebabs:

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Oil grill grates.

Combine 2 teaspoons oil and shrimp; toss to coat. Thread shrimp evenly onto 4 (12-inch) skewers. Thread 3 fennel wedges and 3 onion wedges alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers. Brush vegetables with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle shrimp and vegetables with salt and pepper.

Place vegetable skewers on the grill rates and grill vegetables 12 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Place shrimp on the grill and cook shrimp 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until done. (Shrimp turn a light pink when cooked)  Serve with salsa.

Summer Pork Kabobs

This recipe also works well with chicken.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4 inch thick (1 lb)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into 12 (1-inch) pieces
  • 8 medium mushrooms
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1/2 cup low sugar apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil grill grates. Sprinkle pork chops with seasoned salt; cut each chop into 4 pieces. Alternately thread pork pieces, zucchini, mushrooms and bell pepper equally onto each of 4 (12- to 14-inch) metal skewers.

In small bowl, mix preserves and vinegar.

When the grill is heated, place kabobs on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill over medium coals. Brush kabobs with preserve mixture; cover grill. Cook 5 to 7 minutes.

Turn kabobs; brush with preserve mixture. Cook covered 5 to 7 minutes longer or until pork is no longer pink in the center. Meat Thermometer should register 160°F.

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh whole mushrooms
  • 2 medium ears sweet corn
  • Olive Oil cooking spray

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions:

Cut zucchini, squash and bell peppers into 2-inch chunks. Cut red onions into wedges. Combine the cut vegetables with the tomatoes and mushrooms in a bowl.

Cut the corn into 1-inch pieces and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Add the cooked corn to the other vegetables.

Mix the vinegar, mustard, garlic and thyme in a measuring cup and pour over the vegetables. Mix well.

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil the grates.

Thread vegetables on skewers. Place the skewers on the grill over medium heat.

Baste occasionally with extra sauce.

Grill 20 minutes, turning several times or until tender. Remove to a serving platter and pour any remaining sauce over grilled vegetables.

Pizza Chicken Kabobs

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb uncooked chicken breast tenders (not breaded)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 package (8-oz size) fresh whole mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store bought)

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil the grates.

On each of two 12-inch metal skewers, thread chicken, bell pepper and mushrooms alternately, leaving 1/2-inch space between each piece. Brush kabobs with salad dressing and sprinkle with pizza seasoning.

Grill kabobs, covered, over medium heat 9 to 11 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in the center (160 degrees F. on a meat thermometer.). Remove to a serving platter and sprinkle with cheese.

Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat pizza sauce over low heat. Serve kabobs with warm sauce for dipping.

Rosemary Swordfish Skewers with Sweet Pepper Salad

Use a colorful assortment of bell peppers in this salad.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small assorted sweet peppers, 2 sliced into 1/4” rounds, 2 cut into strips
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced, soaked in ice water
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 4 ounces arugula (about 8 cups loosely packed)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound 1”-thick swordfish steaks, trimmed, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 1 hour before using) or 4 metal skewers

Directions:

Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Oil the grill grates.

Bring oil and garlic to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until garlic is toasted and light golden brown, about 6 minutes (remove from heat if garlic is cooking too quickly). Pour oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and let cool. Discard garlic.

Combine peppers, onion, jalapeño, vinegar and 1/4 cup garlic oil in a large bowl. Add arugula; toss to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Place an equal number of swordfish cubes on each of  4 skewers. Brush fish with remaining garlic oil; sprinkle with rosemary and season with salt and pepper.

Grill swordfish until opaque in the center and lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides.

Divide salad among 4 plates. Place a skewer atop each. Garnish with lemon quarters.

 


Farmer’s Market near where I live – Pensacola, Florida

The concept of farm fresh food is gaining steam these days as Americans are looking at eating healthier. One way to accomplish this is by stocking fresh fruit and vegetables in your refrigerator. Farm fresh foods are superior to food that you purchase from the grocery store because they come directly to you from the farm. The fewer steps there are between your food’s source and your table, the less chance there is of contamination. Also, when you know where your food comes from and who grows it, you know a lot more about that food.

Now, with the local growing season in full swing, getting fresh produce is easier than ever. Farmers markets, produce stands and even roadside vendors are your best source for the freshest and most nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.”When you buy locally grown, you’re getting the produce at its peak form,” says Darlene Price, senior nutrition resource educator at Orange County Cornell Cooperative Extension. “It’s ready to eat right now. When you buy your fresh produce in a supermarket, you’re never really sure how long it’s been sitting.”

Seemingly endless varieties are yet another advantage local farmers have over their giant commercial counterparts, who are restricted to crops that can survive long storage and the arduous transportation process. Local farmers plant what’s delicious, healthful and in local demand. “The large commercial farmers have to plant foods that will survive a lot of abuse,” says Louis Schultz, coordinator of the Florida market. “We’ve gotten very removed from our food. The average supermarket potato travels 1,500 miles. Local farmers don’t have to worry about factoring all that in. They can plant anything.”

The diversity available at the local markets means that a larger range of nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals — which give fruits and vegetables their bright, deep color — is there for the taking. Nutritionists advise us to “eat the rainbow,” and the color spectrum at a local farmers market is simply unrivaled.

Photo: Silver King Sweet Corn Patch--mid-April 2013

Corn growing at my CSA – Jeta Farms

Besides shopping at a farmer’s market you can join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) as a way to ensure a steady supply of fresh, local produce. Community-supported agriculture is a food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. Consumers buy “shares” in a farm’s harvest in advance.The term “CSA” is also used to refer to an individual farm’s CSA program.

Farmers earn important early-season capital and have a guaranteed market for their produce. Barring a disastrous harvest, consumers enjoy overall lower food costs, field-fresh produce and greater access to high-demand fruits and vegetables, such as long-stem strawberries and heirloom tomatoes. Most CSA’s provide weekly deliveries or pickups, farm visits and other special events for members. For example, my CSA provides a fresh Christmas tree in December for all its members.

The recipes in this post take advantage of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Cherry Tomato, Fennel and Arugula Salad 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lb. baby arugula leaves
  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fennel, stalks trimmed, outer layer removed, and cored
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or substitute 3 medium tomatoes cut into bite-size pieces, about 2 cups)

Directions:

In a food processor, blend the Parmesan cheese, buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the arugula in a large bowl. Using a mandoline set at a very thin setting or a vegetable peeler, shave the fennel and add to the arugula. Toss with a little of the dressing; just enough to coat the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the salad among 4 large salad plates and mound slightly. In another bowl toss the tomatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper; scatter on the salads. Serve immediately, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

Add color to baked ziti with yellow squash, zucchini and tomato.

4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked whole grain ziti pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Coat an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan. Add squash, zucchini and onion; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper.

Combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg in a small bowl. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon pasta into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Chicken Cutlets with Bell Pepper Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes (6 to 8), cored, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into medium dice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into cutlets
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and patted dry

Directions:

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler heating element and heat the broiler on high.

Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil. Put the tomatoes cut side up on one side of the pan and the peppers and onions on the other side of the pan. Drizzle everything with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix the seasonings into the peppers and onions.

Broil until the tomatoes are collapsed, about 7 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over, mix the peppers and onions again and broil until the tomato skins have large black spots and the peppers and onions are tender, about 5 minutes more.

Use tongs to pull the skins off the tomatoes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board.

Put the peppers and onions in a large bowl and add the garlic paste. Chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl with the other vegetables. Mix well. Keep warm.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put the flour in a shallow pan. Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; dredge in the flour.

Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and top with the ragout.

Wipe out the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry the capers over medium-high heat until they pop open and become crisp, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle them over the chicken and ragout.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Topping

Ingredients:

Serves: 6

  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons light frozen whipped topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 cups assorted fresh fruit (such as cut up mango, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple chunks, kiwifruit or strawberries)
  • Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, whipped topping, the 1/2 teaspoon lime peel, powdered sugar and lime juice.

Divide fruit among six dessert dishes. Spoon 1 tablespoon sour cream mixture over fruit in each dish. If desired, garnish with additional lime zest.

 


Meat may be the star attraction, but what barbecue is complete without complementary side dishes? They pair exceptionally well with grilled foods and sometimes they can even steal the show. Sides are also practical because it’s a way to be sure there’s something for everyone on your BBQ table.

Save yourself time in the kitchen by cooking as much as you can on the grill. Eggplant, portobello mushrooms, onions, zucchini, asparagus, sweet peppers and hot peppers all taste wonderful when grilled with just a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Invest in a grill pan and you’ll be able to grill green beans, carrots, button mushrooms, patty pan squash, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets for additional healthy veggie options. And don’t forget you can grill corn on the cob, either in the husks or wrapped in tin foil.

Need a potato fix, but don’t feel like spending the afternoon deep frying in the kitchen? Wrap a whole potato in tin foil and cook it in the hot coals or on the grill grates for a healthier and more satisfying potato dish.

Make individual foil packets to cook more delicate foods. Toss in lemon slices with the veggies and you’ll have an elegant, healthy side, without much clean up.

Salads top the list of popular barbecue sides. Most can be made in advance and many salads taste better after sitting overnight in the refrigerator. The exception is a mixed green salad – remember to wait until the last minute to add the dressing. Both can be made ahead and kept separate.

All the recipes on this post are not your traditional barbecue sides. They appeal to adults and kids alike, keep well as leftovers and most can easily withstand being left out in the sun for a while.

Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Serve with grilled pork, fish or chicken.

4-6 Servings

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 first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.

Add celery, celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel, chopped fennel fronds and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grilled Green Beans and Peaches

4 Servings

Mix 2 peaches (cut into 1/2-inch wedges) and 1 pound trimmed green beans with 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

On a preheated grill cook peaches and green beans in a skillet that can go on the grill or on heavy duty foil with a few holes poked in it, until beans are crisp-tender and peaches are lightly charred, 8–10 minutes. Place in a serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds and 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar.

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

6–8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds small Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap each potato individually in foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender, 45–60 minutes. Let cool slightly. (Can be prepared ahead up to this point.)

Unwrap potatoes and arrange on the same baking sheet. Set another rimmed baking sheet over potatoes, rimmed side up and press gently to smash potatoes without breaking them apart.

Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with half of the oil. Carefully turn potatoes to coat.

Preheat oven to 500°F.  Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining oil, turn to coat and continue roasting until crispy and golden brown, 25–30 minutes.

Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled in alternating strips and cut into chunks
  • 1 Red or Vidalia onion, cut into chunks
  • 10 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Gently combine all ingredients, except basil, in a bowl and let sit a for a few hours. Toss again. Add basil, toss and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sweet Corn and Zucchini

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Directions:

Saute zucchini and onion in oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add garlic, corn kernels, chives and Italian seasoning mix; saute 5 minutes or until tender.

Chickpea and Walnut Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw mix
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette, homemade or store bought

Directions:

Mix garbanzo beans, shredded carrot, broccoli slaw mix, chopped walnuts and dried cranberries with the vinaigrette. Place baby greens in the bottom of a serving bowl and place bean mixture on top. Shred Parmesan cheese over the salad.

Everything’s Better With Barbecue!


While the young people prepare to embark on a new path towards adulthood, parents are thinking: There’s a party to be planned! Where to begin? Who to invite? What about decorations? What food to serve? How will all those people fit in the house? Take a deep breath, make a pot of coffee and grab pen and paper.

Write down dates with goals in mind. You’ll want to keep track of expenses and check off each task as it’s completed. Sit down with your soon to be graduate and have an honest discussion about the expectations of the party. Only you, the parents, know what you can afford and how much space you have to create the perfect party for your young adult.

If you don’t think there will be enough room in your home for all your guests, order a tent from a reputable company near you. Make sure you have a clear idea of how many people will be attending and what the tent looks like. The company usually comes out early on the day of the event to put the tent up for you. You’ll need tables and chairs for food and for guests to sit and eat. They can be rented from the same company that rents tents or you can borrow them from friends.

More and more young people are planning the event around a theme. It’s usually something that brings to light a personal like or personality trait. The school colors are not always used these days. Ask your graduate if he/she has a preference. If not… go with the school colors. 

Graduation and congratulatory decorations abound through the spring. Keep a lookout for unique items. If helium balloons are on your list, be sure to order early and don’t forget the weights to keep them on the tables.

A “Memory Corner” recreates the past 18 years of your new adult. Make a collage of photographs, childhood memorabilia with bits and pieces of all their favorite things. Display any awards, merits and scholarships acquired through their years in elementary and high school. Let your imagination run wild to create a unique display that will be the hit of the day.

Pick up paper products. Specialty stores abound when it comes to party items like paper plates, cups, napkins, fruit cups and plastic spoons, forks and knives. Customized napkins need to be ordered early, but most kids are happy with just the year on it.

Music always adds a festive touch to any party. Choose music that your child loves or even better, leave the task of selecting the music to your graduate.

Since this is a day to honor your child’s achievement, let him/her be your guide. Perhaps all or some of their favorite foods could be served. You might wish to have a chicken barbeque or grill hamburgers and hotdogs. Sandwiches, chips and baked beans are probably the most used menu, but I would go a different route to create a buffet unique to your child. Mexican food, Italian, Greek, Chinese… the possibilities are endless.

A sample menu: Grilled chicken, your best potato salad or Caesar salad with creamy dressing, crusty rolls, a vegetable plate that includes celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, a mixed fruit salad in a watermelon bowl an, of course, the cake.

If you’re expecting a large crowd, place bowls of M&M’s mixed with peanuts on the tables, mints or another finger food. FYI: You can purchase just the color of M&M’s you need at specialty stores. This makes for a colorful addition to the table decorations, especially in school colors.

Find a great cake decorator who creates unique, one of a kind cakes. Have the cake decorated to coordinate with the theme. Order early to assure you get just what you want. You can keep costs down by making your own cake. (See below)

It’s best to not include liquor or beer unless all the attendees are over 21. The temptation for young people to drink may be too great. Keep the drinks to sodas, iced tea, lemonade, punch or coffee.

Organizational Tips:

  • Create a timeline.
  • Ask a friend or two to help you out with kitchen duties and to run last minute errands, such as picking up the cake, getting the balloons, flowers, etc.
  • Create a list just for the menu and food preparation. Put the list on your refrigerator to remind you what needs to be done and when.
  • Do as much cooking beforehand. Meats can be cooked and stored in the freezer.
  • Clean and cut vegetables the day before, place in large bags or plastic containers.
  • Confirm all orders a week before the party. Don’t allow a glitch to occur that day.
  • Set up as much as possible the day before the party.
  • Don’t forget to: Have Fun!

Suggested Party Menu

Minted Citrus Tea

This recipe serves 10. It is easily doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 12 fresh mint sprigs
  • 4 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar, or sugar alternative such as Truvia (Stevia)
  • 1 cup fresh Florida orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 1 Florida orange, sliced for garnish
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish

Directions:

Place the tea bags and mint sprigs into a large pitcher. Pour the boiling water over them and steep for about 7 minutes.

Remove and discard the tea bags and mint leaves, squeezing out excess liquid. Stir in sugar until dissolved and then stir in the orange juice and lemon juice.

Pour in the cold water. Serve over ice cubes, garnished with orange or lemon slices.

Arugula, Frisee and Red-Leaf Salad with Strawberries

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 12 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
  • 12 cups red-leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 12 cups frisee, trimmed, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 8 Belgian endives, leaves separated, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 pints strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and quartered
  • 2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions:

In a large salad bowl add the arugula, red-leaf lettuce, frisee, endive, strawberries and walnuts.

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper.

Pour half of the dressing over the salad and season with additional salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Taste and add more dressing, as desired

Grilled-Steak Sandwiches

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 sirloin, skirt, or flank steaks (about 2 pounds each)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 large loaves Italian bread, halved lengthwise
  • Garnish: fresh basil and romaine lettuce leaves

Directions:

Let steaks stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat grill to high. Brush grates with oil. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across the grain.

Meanwhile, drizzle tomatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Brush bread with oil. Grill tomatoes until lightly charred and soft, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Grill cut sides of bread until lightly charred, 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Layer sliced steak and grilled tomatoes over bottom halves of bread. Garnish with basil and romaine leaves, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Sandwich with top halves of bread. Cut each loaf crosswise into 6 sandwiches.

Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches

Servings: 8

Ingrdients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 2 white country loaves of bread—ends discarded, each with at least eight slices
  • 1 pound sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, mix the halved tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes cut side up for 1 1/2 hours, until soft and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the tomatoes are very tender and slightly shriveled but still juicy. Let cool. (This can be done a day or two ahead)

Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Brush 16 bread slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; arrange 8 of the slices oiled side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top with the provolone, cover with the tomatoes, 4 cups of the Fontina and the remaining 8 bread slices, oiled side up. Press gently on the sandwiches and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

Preheat the broiler. Toss the remaining Fontina with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle on the sandwiches. Broil 3 inches from the heat for about 1 minute, until the cheese is melted. Transfer the sandwiches to a serving platter. Cut into smaller pieces, if desired.

Potato Salad with Cipollini Onions, Olives and Fennel

Yukon Golds are the best potato for this salad.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 1 pound cipollini onions, peeled and left whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup picholine olives, pitted (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved (2 cups)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, onions and red-pepper flakes. Cook until onions are golden, about 7 minutes.

Add stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine reserved liquid, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour over warm potatoes and onions. Stir in olives and let cool to room temperature.

Add fennel and parsley and combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

Mix well. Best served at room temperature.

Note To ensure maximum flavor, toss potatoes with dressing while they’re still warm.

Charred Corn Salad

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 large ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing on the corn
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons torn mint leaves
  • 6 tablespoons torn parsley leaves

Directions:

Heat grill to medium high. Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning, until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the onion and lime juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the syrup, jalapeño and the 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.

Working in a large bowl, with a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs. Add the onion dressing and toss. Add the mint, parsley and toss again. Serve warm.

Graduation Cake

Servings: 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar plus 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Creamy Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly spray a large (18-by-12-inch) sheet cake pan (or you can use a slightly smaller jelly roll pan) with nonstick baking spray. Be sure to get in all the corners of the pan.

Measure sifted flour, add baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt and sift together three times. In a separate large bowl beat egg whites until foamy, add the 1 cup white sugar, gradually, and continue beating until mixture  stands in soft peaks.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream shortening, add 2 1/2 cups white sugar, gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture, alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and the beaten egg whites and beat thoroughly into batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared sheet cake pan. Use a large offset spatula or knife to even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

Place a large cutting board covered with parchment paper on top of the cake pan, then invert the cake, allowing it to turn out onto the cutting board. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.

When thoroughly cooled, at least 2 hours, brush cake to remove any loose crumbs. You can also cut the cake in half to make two layers, if desired.

Prepare Creamy Butter Frosting and spread the cake with frosting. You can tint the frosting, write on top of cake and add graduation decorations.

To Make Creamy Butter Frosting:

Cream 1 cup butter or margarine; add part of the confectioners’ sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Mix in 4 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then add remaining sugar alternately with milk, until the right consistency for spreading. Beat after each addition until smooth. Makes about 5 cups.

(While frosting cake, keep bowl of frosting covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.)

 



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