Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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apple

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

Munching

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

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

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

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

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

Baking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sauces

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

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

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

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

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

Apple3

Easy Homemade Apple Cider

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

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

apple1

Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

apple6

Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

apple5

Italian Farro with Apples

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

apple 2

Classic Apple Pork Chops

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Ricotta Cheesecake With Apple Topping

Crust

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

Filling

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

Topping

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

To make the topping:

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

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

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

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salad night cover

A salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. To make a truly great salad, you’ve got to use ingredients that are fresh, ripe and in season.

If you think salads are limited to watery lettuce and a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, think again. There are endless amounts of wonderful combinations and you can make a salad as simple or as complex as you like. Spend a minute thinking about the contrasts of tastes and textures in the ingredients you are choosing and what sort of dressing you want to use, so you end up with something delicious and exciting every time.

THE BASE OF YOUR SALAD

The ingredient that forms the bulk of your salad is the base. And when we hear the word ‘salad’, lettuce is often the first ingredient that comes to mind because it is used as a base for so many salads. Oakleaf, cos or romaine lettuce and baby mixed lettuces, also make great salad bases, as do chicory, radicchio, arugula, watercress, baby spinach, tiny red-veined chard leaves, mustard leaves, pea shoots and sorrel. But plenty of salads don’t have any lettuce in them at all. You can make beautiful salads using cooked new potatoes, couscous, lentils, shredded cabbages or any other robust interesting vegetable. Use your imagination and you’ll never be bored.

PREPARING AND WASHING SALAD LEAVES

Wash your salad leaves before using them. Make sure your sink is clean then fill it with cold water. Gently wash the salad leaves in the water until they are clean and then transfer them to a salad spinner and spin dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, put them into a clean tea towel, gather the edges up and spin it around your head. Make sure the leaves are dry – if they aren’t, the salad dressing won’t cling to them. Keep them in the refrigerator or bowl under a damp cloth until you’re ready to use them.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU ADD TO A SALAD?

Raw crunchy veggies, like carrots or radishes, are great in salads. But they can be quite hard if they’re in big pieces, so finely slice them or shave them into ribbons with a peeler. Beets, spring onions, cucumber, squash and celery all work well. Cooked vegetables are also fantastic in salads. Peas, beans, asparagus and corn, cooked very quickly so they are not mushy, add flavor and color. Grilled slices of zucchini or pepper or even chunks of roasted squash or pumpkin also make salads much more interesting.

Adding soft herbs at the last-minute adds loads of extra flavor. Basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint or even thyme or marjoram tips are all great choices.

It’s also nice to add a bit of protein to a salad, especially if you’re having it as a main meal. Use your imagination; there are really no limits to what you can include. Try a few slices of smoked salmon, shredded roast chicken, cooked shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, cannellini beans, lentils or crumbled goat cheese.

For a bit of crunch, try adding a few nuts or seeds. Toasted or flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, crumbled walnuts and chopped cashews all work well.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRESSING

Think of your salad dressing as the link that brings all the ingredients in your salad together. There are loads of ready-made bottled dressings available in the markets, but it’s so easy to make your own, so try to get into the habit of doing that rather than buying them. Store-bought dressings are likely to contain lots of hidden ingredients and may be high in calories and sugar. Plus if you make your own, you can tweak it every time to suit the other ingredients in your salad.

The easiest way to make your salad dressing is in a clean jar. Just add all of your ingredients, pop the lid on and give it a good shake!

Most salad dressings contain an oil element – such as extra virgin olive oil, nut oil or sesame oil – and an acid element, such as balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Aim for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, then add any other ingredients you fancy. Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or some finely chopped fresh herbs or chillies can add loads of flavor. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, try stirring a spoonful of natural yogurt into the dressing.

Once dressed, salad leaves can wilt after a few minutes, so always add your dressing right before serving. If you want to ensure a really good even coating, using clean hands, quickly toss everything together. Just make sure you don’t add all of the dressing at once; add a little, mix it up, then have a taste before deciding whether you need to add more. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

salad night 1

Mediterranean Pita Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with a press
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1 large head romaine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 pita breads, toasted and broken into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, coriander and pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream until blended.

Add romaine, mint, parsley, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, cucumber and toasted pita and toss until blended. Serve immediately.

 

salad night 2Steak Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steak:

  • 1 rib-eye, strip loin or top sirloin steak (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 cups finely chopped hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta

Directions

To make dressing:

Whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Thin with up to 3 tablespoons of water so it dribbles off a spoon. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes to develop flavors. (Can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.) Makes 1 cup.

To prepare steak:

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill for high heat, pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

To prepare salad:

Make a bed of romaine on a large serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Arrange cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, avocado, olives and feta in mounds and place steak strips in the center. Pass the dressing on the side.

salad night 3

Crab Salad with Lemon Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

Crab

  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat

Salad

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives, more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/3 pound thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch endive, chopped in 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely chopped

Directions

For the crab:

Stir together shallot, hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and chives in a medium bowl. Add crabmeat and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

For the rest of the salad:

Whisk together mustard, shallot, vinegar, chives and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing slightly thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Steam Yukon gold potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are still warm, pour a tablespoon or two of dressing over them.

Steam green beans until tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly. Combine green beans with arugula, endive and radish. Toss with a tablespoon of dressing.

Toss fennel with remaining dressing in a small bowl. Check over the crab for any pieces of shell.

To serve:

Arrange greens on a platter or individual plates. Top with crab, fennel and eggs. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

salad night 4

Couscous Salad with Zucchini and Parsley

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo Beans (also called chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Directions

In a large, heatproof bowl, pour water over couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, tahini and salt in a second large bowl.

Thinly slice zucchini over dressing and then use kitchen shears to snip parsley leaves into the bowl; discard stems.

Add tomatoes, beans and couscous and toss gently to combine.

salad night 5

Grilled Chicken and Wheat-Berry Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, divided
  • 1 cup green apple, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook for 2 hours, 15 minutes or until wheat berries are almost tender.

Drain and place in a salad bowl; discard bay leaf.

For the salad dressing:

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate dressing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Preheat grill.

Coarsely chop the spinach leaves. Add spinach, apple, bell pepper and 3 tablespoons of the cucumber dressing to the wheat berries and toss well.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done. Thinly slice chicken.

Arrange chicken evenly over salad mixture; sprinkle with green onions. Pass dressing on the side.

 

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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.

Eggs-1

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.

TrimBottom

 

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

lemon-caper-sauce-lgn

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.

Pino-Sciola-in-his-open-air-museum-CU

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:

004 Living art gallery san_sperate (21) san_sperate (49) sansperate sansperate1 sansperate2 sansperate3 Sardinia_SanSperate_Murales2-736009

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.

ciambellone-ok

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.



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