Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fennel

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Lots of mayo can easily turn a pasta salad into a 400 calorie or 500 calorie side dish. Here are some tips you can follow to make a healthy pasta salad.

A whole-wheat pasta salad is a great way to add whole grains and there are many brands on the market to choose from that actually taste good. Traditional pasta salads call for about two cups of pasta per person, without any dressing or add-ins. On its own, that’s 400 calories. And portions still matter, even when you’re using whole-grain pasta. Aim for about one-cup servings of cooked pasta.

Since pasta portions can quickly up the calories, it’s important add bulk to your dish by adding vegetables. Olives, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, scallions, cauliflower, grape tomatoes and cucumbers are great options, but there’s no limit to the amount of vegetables you can add.

Get flavor without adding calories by mixing in seasonal fresh herbs. Basil, mint and parsley all work well in a pasta salad. Herbs also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, which helps make your pasta salad even healthier.

Cheese, corn and beans are several high-calorie ingredients typically found in pasta salads. If you do add cheese, sprinkle about one tablespoon per serving to add flavor. For corn or beans, two tablespoons per serving should be enough.

Many dressings drown a pasta salad in calories. You want just enough dressing to cover the ingredients, without totally saturating them. This also allows the flavors of the vegetables and fresh herbs to come though. There are also many ways to make a healthier dressing: Combine light mayonnaise with nonfat Greek yogurt to cut overall calories or use a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. Whichever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to use two tablespoons of dressing per serving.

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Farfalle Salad with Fennel, Prosciutto and Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz farfalle pasta (bow ties)
  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), sliced as thin as possible
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound thin-sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/4-pound chunk Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 14 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, fennel, oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the prosciutto and toss again.

To serve:

Mound the salad on plates. Top with strips of Parmesan shaved from the chunk of cheese with a vegetable peeler.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over the cheese.

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Shrimp, Lemon and Gemelli Pasta Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb gemelli or cavatappi pasta
  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 peeled cucumber, sliced

Directions

Heat a large covered saucepan of salted water to boiling. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the label directs, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked. Drain well.

Grate 1 teaspoon peel from the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice into large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, dill, capers, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.

Stir in tomatoes and cucumber.

Add pasta and shrimp to the large bowl; toss until well-coated. Serve warm or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead.

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Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thin spaghetti
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pints red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling. Add spaghetti and cook as label directs for al dente.

Reserve 12 small basil leaves for garnish.

From the remaining basil, remove enough leaves to equal 2 cups firmly packed.

In a food processor, process basil leaves, garlic, 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until pureed, stopping processor and scrape bowl occasionally.

Add Parmesan; pulse to combine. Set pesto aside.

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper the with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently stir in mozzarella.

Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup spaghetti of the cooking water. Return spaghetti and reserved cooking water to the saucepan; add pesto and toss well.

Spoon spaghetti mixture into the bowl with the tomato-mozzarella salad. Garnish with reserved basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.

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Chicken and Penne Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups penne (tube-shaped) pasta
  • 2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell pepper, drained and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes. Add green beans; cook 4 minutes. Drain well.

Combine pasta, green beans, chicken, onion, basil, parsley and roasted peppers in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine.

Combine oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill.

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped yellow summer squash(1 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped green sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta

Walnut Pesto

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a roasting pan combine zucchini, summer squash, onion, fennel, sweet peppers and eggplant. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons oil; toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring twice. Transfer to a very large bowl; cool.

Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and cool slightly.

Add the pasta to the roasted vegetables. Mix gently.

For the walnut pesto:

In a blender combine garlic, the 1 cup torn basil, the cheese and walnuts; cover and pulse with several on/off turns until chopped. With blender running, gradually add the 1/2 cup oil, the lemon juice and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add the pesto to the pasta-vegetable mixture, stirring gently to coat. Stir in cherry tomatoes. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with additional basil.


Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

The arrival of spring brings out the lighter side in our dining habits, with dishes emphasizing fresh flavors, such as fruit, herbs, tender greens, seafood and more. Mild spring salads with their seasonal ingredients complement the warming weather. A spring salad can be as simple as tender greens tossed with a vinaigrette or you can dress it up by adding seasonal ingredients, like peas, asparagus, radishes and baby artichokes.

Tender greens are best in spring. Leaves should be bright and fresh looking. Choose crisp lettuces that are free of blemishes. Lettuce should be washed and thoroughly dried in a salad spinner to remove any excess moisture. Refrigerate washed-and-dried greens wrapped in dry paper towels in an airtight plastic bag for about five days.

Here are some recipes for spring salads that can be used as a first course, for lunch or as a main dish.

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Spinach Salad with Warm Parmigiano-Reggiano Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces baby spinach (about 10 cups)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place spinach, mushrooms and onion in a large salad bowl.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add anchovies and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in vinegar and then cheese. Pour the warm dressing over the salad, toss well and serve with a pepper mill on the table, so that you can top your salad with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

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Bean Salad With Lemon And Herbs

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cooked beans (such as cannellini) or one 14-oz. can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed
  • 6 oz fresh green beans or sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, just until tender but still firm. Drain.

Mix the beans, green beans, parsley, oil, chives, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse the flavors.

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Radicchio, Fennel and 
Olive Panzanella

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 oz Italian country-style bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 small head radicchio, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted, halved
  • 3 oz aged sheep’s-milk Pecorino Romano, shaved
  • 3 oz hard salami, thinly sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread with lemon zest and ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake, tossing occasionally, until crisp on the outside but still chewy in the center, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk shallot, lemon juice, vinegar and oregano in a large salad bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil.

Add radicchio, fennel, parsley, olives, cheese, salami and toasted bread to the dressing; toss to combine.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Radishes, Cucumbers and Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves plus 2 teaspoons chopped
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, divided
  • 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped shallots
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 – 1/2 inch-thick slices country-style Italian bread
  • One 5-ounce package mixed baby greens
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes 
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers 

Directions

Place the 1/4 cup basil leaves, parsley, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and the shallots in mini processor; chop coarsely.

With machine running, gradually add 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil by teaspoonfuls to thin, if you want a thinner pesto.

Whisk the 2 teaspoons chopped basil, remaining 4 teaspoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons oil in small bowl. Season dressing with and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush chicken breasts on both sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill until grill marks form and chicken is cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface; let rest 5 minutes.

Using a clean brush, brush both sides of the bread slices with oil. Grill until dark-brown grill marks appear on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Place greens, radishes and cucumbers in large bowl. Toss with the reserved dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad among 4 plates.

Cut grilled chicken breasts crosswise into thin slices. Arrange 1 sliced chicken breast on top of each salad.

Spoon pesto over the chicken. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts over salads. Serve with grilled bread slices.

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Grilled Steak Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Steak

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups baby spinach leaves or any tender spring greens
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • Grilled baguette slices

Directions

For the dressing:

Combine mayonnaise and the next 7 ingredients in a bowl; slowly whisk in olive oil. Stir in rosemary. Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

For the steak:

Combine the wine, mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chopped rosemary and garlic in a large, heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add the steak and the seal bag, turning to coat.

Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat grill to high (450°F to 600°F). Remove steak from the marinade and discard marinade. Pat steak dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill, on a greased grill rack, 6 minutes on each side (for medium-rare) or to the desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Brush bread slices with oil and grill 2 to 3 minutes.

Toss spinach with 1/4 cup of the dressing and divide among 4 salad plates.

Place steak slices on top of the greens and sprinkle each with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

Serve the salads with grilled baguette slices and pass the remaining dressing.


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In spring the focus is on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including some of the ones listed below.

Arugula is a dark green, peppery green that is used both raw and cooked. Arugula is sold either by the bunch or as loose leaves (much like spinach). Look for dark greens leaves of a uniform color. Avoid yellowing leaves, damages leaves, wilted leaves, or excessively moist-looking leaves

Spinach – it is easy to forget that the small, tender leaves of spring spinach are a real treat. There is a sweetness to their dark green leaves that is perfect in spinach salads.

Broccolini is actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. Broccolini is tender and somewhat sweet, without the bitterness you might find in regular broccoli or broccoli rabe.

Collard Greens are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale and broccoli. Like kale, collards are one of the non-head forming members of the Brassica family. Collards unique appearance features dark blue-green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively broad.

Spring Escarole is sweeter and more tender than at other times of year. It is delicious sautéed with garlic as a side dish, in soups or in a salad.

Chard comes in Swiss (white ribs), red, golden, and mixed rainbow versions. Each has its own flavor, but an earthy edge defines them all. Chard is usually cooked, but certainly can be chopped up and added to salads raw.

Arugula Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 cups arugula leaves
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large salad bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Wash the arugula well and spin or pat it thoroughly dry. Set aside.

Trim fronds and root end of the fennel bulb. Cut the bulb in half, lay each half flat on a cutting surface and slice as thinly as you can.

Put the sliced fennel in the dressing. Use salad tongs, salad fork and spoon or clean hands gently toss the fennel and coat it evenly with the dressing. Add the arugula and cheese and toss to evenly coat the leaves. Serve.

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Cheddar Broccolini Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccolini, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, with green, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring broccolini and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for about 5 minutes or until just tender.

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat; add bell pepper, garlic and green onions and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Stir in flour and mustard until well blended. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly.

Pour broccolini and vegetable broth into the sauce mixture. Add cheese and the remaining seasonings, to taste. Serves 6.

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Spring Spinach and Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

  • One pound of your favorite pizza dough, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves,chopped and lightly packed
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a 14 inch pizza pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Let rest while you prepare the topping ingredients

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the spinach, garlic and green onions to the pan and toss for about two minutes until spinach is slightly wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Spread sliced mozzarella over the surface of the dough. Top with the spinach mixture, Sprinkle with the asiago cheese and black pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Feta and Pine Nuts

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped separately, divided
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or 1 tomato, cored and chopped
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook 5 minutes more.

Uncover, add chard leaves, salt, pepper and broth and cook, covered, until chard leaves are bright green and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and gently stir in tomatoes. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over the top and serve.

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Rigatoni with Ricotta and Collard Greens

You certainly can use any type of greens you like but this is a great recipe to give collards a try.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound collard greens, washed, drained, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, optional

Directions

Cook pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté onion 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and add greens; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the greens are tender, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour over the greens. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring well. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the cooked pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, if using, over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 20 minutes.or until the center of the casserole is hot.

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Sautéed Escarole with White Beans and Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pounds escarole, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add escarole (in batches, if needed), and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander as done and drain well.

Return skillet to heat and add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes.

Add broth to the skillet and deglaze; add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Return greens to the skillet, toss gently and season with salt and pepper to taste.


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Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.

Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.

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Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.

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Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:

  • Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
  • Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
  • Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.

In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.

Trapani Salt Fields

Trapani Salt Fields

Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.

Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.

Sfincione

Sfincione

Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .

Panella

Panella

Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.

Cassata Cake

Cassata Cake

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Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.

Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.

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Spicy Clams with Tomatoes

The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

sicilia06

Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)

This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.

In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.

A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine, white or red
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Other preferred herbs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
  • Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs

Marinade:

In a plastic or stainless steel  bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.

Steaks:

Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.

Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.

Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying  pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.

Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.

Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.

sicilia05

Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)

This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 head of lettuce 
  • Fresh peppermint leaves

Directions

Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.

Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.

Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.

sicilia9

Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.

Makes 10 cannoli

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 oz butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Lard or olive oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • Milk to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped

For the Garnish

  • Pistachio nuts, finely ground
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

To make the shells

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.

Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.

To make the ricotta filling:

With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.

Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.

sicilia3


fishandcover

Tips on grilling fish:

  • A hot fire is key. You want to cook seafood quickly to retain the natural juices and flavor.
  • A clean grill rack is equally important. Fish will stick to a dirty rack and make turning the fish difficult.
  • Oil the rack when the barbecue grill is hot, just before you’re ready to cook. Also, oil the fish whenever possible. Use a high-temperature oil, such as grape seed, peanut or plain olive oil.
  • Skin side up or down? Conventional wisdom says to cook the skin side first, but doing the opposite gives a nicer, crusted surface on the non-skin side and the skin helps the fillet hold together for turning. The result is a moist, more appealing fillet.
  • Fish will hold together better and be less likely to stick if you leave it alone during grilling. Cook it for the estimated time, then try lifting it carefully. If it pulls away easily, it is ready to turn.
  • A wide, thin spatula is essential for turning and removing fish from the grill.
  • If you’re grilling thin fillets, you can place them in a double-sided, long-handled grilling rack used for hamburgers and steaks. There are also specially shaped ones made for grilling whole fish.
  • A good rule of thumb is to grill fish for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest point.) So if you have a half-inch thick fillet, grill it for about 3 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Avoid sugary marinades or glazes, especially with thick fillets or whole fish, as the sugars can burn and turn bitter before the fish is fully cooked.
  • As with other methods, fish is fully cooked when it begins to flake and is opaque at the center. Some fish, like salmon and tuna, are often served while still somewhat ‘rare’, like steak.
  • Tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi, barramundi, trout, mackerel, yellowtail and sea bass are some of the best fish to grill.

When most of us think of swordfish, we think…well, isn’t it endangered? The answer — at least for American swordfish — is no. It is true that swordfish stocks were hurt in the 1980s and early 1990s, but a nationwide movement to give swordfish a break worked. Now, North Atlantic stocks are on the rebound and environmental watchdog groups list them as a “good alternative.”

fishand4

Grilled Swordfish With Caponata

Swordfish is made for the grill. It is firm, like steak, and many non-fish eaters will readily eat swordfish over other types of fish. Its texture also helps prevent the steaks from falling apart on the grill, a huge plus. Note: Halibut steaks or firm white fish fillets, such as red snapper, tilapia, cod or orange roughy, can be used in place of swordfish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 swordfish steaks (see note above)

Caponata

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 each Italian frying pepper and orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled or unpeeled according to taste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Directions

Marinade:

Mix ingredients in a large ziptop bag. Add fish, seal; turn to coat. Leave at room temperature while preparing the caponata.

Caponata:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers; sauté 2 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds and add eggplant, cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in marinara sauce, cover; reduce heat and simmer, stirring twice, 12 minutes or until the eggplant is very tender.

Add vinegar and capers to the caponata. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to develop flavors.

Meanwhile, heat an outdoor grill or a stove-top ridged grill pan. Remove fish from the bag; discard bag with the marinade.

Grill fish 4 to 6 inches from the heat source on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan, turning once, 10 to 12  minutes until cooked through.

Serve fish over the caponata.

Healthy sides to go with your delicious grilled fish.

fishand1

Spinach & Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Rub the inside of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.

Using a serrated knife, cut off the top fourth of each tomato and discard the tops. Cut 1/8th off the bottom of each tomato, so that they’ll sit upright in the baking dish; discard bottoms.

Using a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works the best), scoop out the seeds and pulp from each tomato and discard. Sprinkle the insides of each tomato with a little salt. Place the tomatoes upside down on a plate layered with paper towels and let them sit for 30 minutes to extract excess tomato juice, which may make the filling soggy.

Heat the remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and yellow pepper and cook 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and Italian seasoning. Cook 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in rice, salt and lemon rind. Cook 4 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

fishand2

Braised Spring Vegetables

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 spring onion or 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
  • 8 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound of peas in the pod) or frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/2 head escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In heavy 12-inch skillet, combine spring onion, garlic, oil and broth; heat to simmering on medium heat. Cover; cook about 2 minutes, or until onion softens slightly.

Add asparagus, sugar snap peas and peas and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until beans and peas are heated through. Add escarole and basil; sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until escarole wilts and asparagus is crisp-tender.

Stir in lemon peel and juice. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with chives and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

fishand3

Spaghettini with Lemon and Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 3/4 cup good-quality fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling on high. Add spaghettini; cook 6 minutes or until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix ricotta, oil and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Finely grate the peel of 1 lemon and stir it into ricotta. Season with kosher salt.

Add cooked spaghettini to ricotta mixture; stir well, adding reserved cooking water, if needed to make a sauce that coats the pasta. Season to taste.

Divide pasta among 4 plates. Finely grate the peel of the remaining lemon over the pasta and serve.

fishand5

Tomato & Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool

Whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

Add tomatoes, fennel, parsley and pine nuts; toss to coat. Serve.

fishand6

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Anchovies

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot or Dutch oven of sated water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until the garlic is very light brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, toss to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.


porkand1

Cotoletta Alla Milanese

Cotoletta is most likely an adaptation of the southern Italian word costoletta, meaning ribs or cutlet, or it may come from the French côtelette. Though the origin and the spelling of the name are uncertain, the dish itself is not. It is a portion of meat, usually veal, fried in breadcrumbs and in its most famous form, it is called cotoletta alla milanese. Today, the technique extends to chicken, turkey and even vegetables. In dishes like these, the name describes the manner of preparation and simply means that the food has been fried with bread crumbs.

The origin of the dish is as obscure as that of the name and its spelling, with both Austrians and the Italians claiming to have invented it. Proof that cotoletta alla milanese is a Milanese invention is in fact provided by two historical documents. The first is a “menu” from 1134, for a meal given by an abbot to the choristers of Sant’ Ambrogio. The list of dishes includes “lumbulos con panito”, sliced loin in breadcrumbs.

This evidence of a Lombard specialty is quoted in Pietro Verri’s, Storia di Milano. A second item of proof is a letter written by the Austrian general, Field Marshal Radetzky, to the Imperial Staff Officer, Baron Attems. After various comments and pieces of information, the general writes of the cotoletta and describes the method of preparation, speaking of it as a new discovery. Perhaps it was the Austrians who learned the dish from south of the Alps – the Milanese certainly believe so. You probably do not want to get into the middle of that argument.

In any case this is a delicious dish to make and the only decision you need to make is what to serve with the pork. I have given you a number of choices that I think go well with a milanese recipe. Choose one.

Pork Chops Milanese

(Adapted from chef, Jonathan Waxman)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 10-ounce bone-in pork rib chops
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling over the pork
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf fresh Italian country bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place each pork chop in a separate large resealable plastic bag and, using a rolling-pin, gently pound each chop until it is about 8 inches in diameter and about 3/4-inch thick.

Remove each chop from the bag and coat with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

In a food processor, pulse the bread cubes into fine crumbs (you should end up with about 3 cups of crumbs). Place the crumbs into a large paper bag.

Place the flour in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Place the pork chops in the flour, coat them well and then dip each one into the egg mixture. Transfer the chops to a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining egg mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Transfer the chops, one at a time, to the bag with the bread crumbs. Close the bag and shake well to coat each chop thoroughly.

Preheat a skillet large enough to hold 2 chops in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter and heat over medium heat until the butter is golden brown. Place two chops in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on one side. Using a spatula, gently turn each chop. Cook for 3-4 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and transfer the chops to a platter. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pan, stir to deglaze and pour the juices over the cooked chops.

Wipe out the pan and repeat this process with the remaining chops, oil, butter and lemon juice. Sprinkle the chops with the Parmesan cheese. serve with one of the side dishes below

Contorno (Side Dishes)

porkand2

Mascarpone Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

(Adapted from the Cuoco Pazzo Restaurant, Scottsdale, AZ)

Polenta comes in three types of grinds: fine (which has a consistency similar to wheat flour), semi coarse and coarse.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups polenta or ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups thinly sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus additional for garnish
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • White truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil. Slowly add the polenta and whisk constantly until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the butter, corn and mascarpone cheese. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Cook until they soften slightly, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with salt to taste.

Stir the herbs and Parmesan cheese into the polenta and spread the polenta onto a serving platter. Spoon the mushrooms onto the center of the polenta and drizzle lightly with truffle oil. Sprinkle with chives and serve as a side to the grilled pork chops.

porkand3

Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems. Small-leaved plants are young and therefore mild-tasting.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 bunch (1 1/4 pounds) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

porkand4

Spinach Salad with Roasted Fennel and Grapefruit

(Adapted from A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great.)

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, then sliced lengthwise ½ inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • One 5-ounce container or bag of baby spinach
  • ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Place the fennel on the prepared baking sheet and toss the wedges with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender and the edges are browned and crispy, 30 to 35 minutes.

Grate the zest of the grapefruit into a bowl. Using a sharp knife, trim ¼ inch to ½ inch off the top and bottom of the grapefruit so it stand flat on a cutting board. Following the curve of the fruit, remove the white pith and the membrane covering the fruit. Cut in between the membranes to remove the fruit and place them in the bowl with the zest. Squeeze what remains of the grapefruit over a small bowl or measuring cup to release any juice still left in the grapefruit.

In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, olives and grapefruit segments. Add the roasted fennel along with 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve as a side to the pork.

porkand5

Greens and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts water
  • Salt for the water
  • 3 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered crosswise
  • 2 pounds Swiss chard or spinach or kale, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large stock pot over high heat, add the water and salt; bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard. Boil until the potatoes and chard stems are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, divided. Add the garlic and cook until brown. Add the chard and potatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring and mashing the potatoes, until the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes are coarsely mashed. If the potatoes begin to brown, reduce the heat.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve as a side with the pork.


springsoupcover

Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

springsoup4

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

springsoup1

Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

springsoup3

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

springsoup2

Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

springsoup5

Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.



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