Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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3 lentils

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

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

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

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

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

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

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

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

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

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

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

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

red-lentil-jar

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

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

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

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

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Lentil and Herb Salad

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

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

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

For the Stew:

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

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

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

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

Remove from the heat, let cool.

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

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

Prepare the Stew:

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

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

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

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

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

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

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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Whole_wheat_penne,_

Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

ziti

Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

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Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

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Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

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Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

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Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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Frankie Avalon was born Francis Thomas Avallone on September 18, 1940, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents of Italian heritage. His song “Venus” became his first No. 1 single in 1959 and he released six more Top 40 records in that year alone. Avalon was on U.S. television playing his trumpet by the time he was 11. Two singles showcasing Avalon’s trumpet playing were issued on RCA Victor’s “X” sublabel in 1954 and, as a teenager, he played with Bobby Rydell in Rocco and the Saints.

His father, Nicholas Avallone, a multi-instrumentalist, nurtured Frankie’s artistic ambitions. Avalon broke into show business as a child prodigy, earning an appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show and making records for RCA Victor Records. He had an authentic music background to go with his good looks and it was that talent that allowed him to succeed. By 1962, the singer’s four-year domination of the music charts was coming to an end, but his career wasn’t. He teamed up with Annette Funicello and reinvented himself as a clean-cut surfer in the very successful Beach Party surfer film series.

Avalon also had straight dramatic parts. He acted in the John Wayne historical western film, The Alamo, as well as the science-fiction story, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, (1961) with Barbara Eden. His performance of “Beauty School Dropout” in the hit 1978 film of the musical, Grease, introduced Avalon to a new generation of viewers. Avalon appeared in nearly two dozen TV show episodes, including ABC’s The Bing Crosby Show and The Patty Duke Show.

Later, he became a national television spokesperson for Sonic Drive-In. He created a line of health and beauty care line called Frankie Avalon Products and has marketed his products on the Home Shopping Network. Avalon married Kathryn “Kay” Diebel on January 19, 1963. Still together, they have eight children and 10 grandchildren.

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Joni James (born Giovanna Carmella Babbo) on September 22, 1930. James was born into an Italian family in Chicago. As an adolescent, she studied drama and ballet and after graduating from high school went with a local dance group on a tour of Canada. She then took a job as a chorus girl in the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. However, she decided to pursue a singing career. Some executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) spotted her in a television commercial and she was signed by MGM in 1952. Her first hit, “Why Don’t You Believe Me?” sold over two million copies. She had a number of hits following that one, including “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Have You Heard?”,”Almost Always” (#9 in 1953), “My Love, My Love” (#8 in 1953,) “How Important Can It Be?” (#2 in 1955) and “You Are My Love” (#6 in 1955), as well as, sixteen other Top 40 hits from 1952 to 1961.

James married composer-conductor Tony Acquaviva at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1956. In 1964 she retired from the music industry because Acquaviva was in bad health. She cared for him until his death in 1986. In 1997, she married retired Air Force General Bernard Adolph Schriever, 20 years her senior, the leader of the program that developed U.S. ballistic missiles. For many years, she was out of the public eye, but began touring again in the mid 1990s, performing memorable concerts at New York’s Town Hall, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. In October, 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11, she appeared at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, accompanied by the Count Basie orchestra. The streets of the city were still lined with armed soldiers and she was a guest of honor at the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Tribute to Barbra Streisand. With her renewed popularity, nearly her entire body of work was released on the Capitol-EMI, DRG and Tarragon labels under her personal supervision and in 2000 she released a brand-new recording, “Latest and Greatest”. For her contributions to the entertainment industry, James has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter and actor of film and television. He performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock’n’roll, jazz, folk and country.

Darin was born in the Bronx borough of New York City and was reared by his grandparents. His maternal grandfather, Saverio Antonio Cassotto, was of Italian descent and his maternal grandmother, Vivian Fern (Walden), was of English and Danish ancestry. By the time he was a teenager, he could play several instruments, including piano, drums and guitar. He later added harmonica and xylophone. Darin graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science and he matriculated at Hunter College, but soon dropped out in order to play nightclubs around the city with a musical combo. Darin’s career took off with a songwriting partnership, formed in 1955 with fellow Bronx High School of Science student, Don Kirshner. In 1956 his agent negotiated a contract with Decca Records but the songs recorded at Decca had very little success.  Other songs he recorded such as, “I Found a Million Dollar Baby”, were sung in an Elvis style and did not suit his personality. It was during this period in his career that Darin was introduced to singer Connie Francis, for whom he helped write several songs. They developed a romantic interest of which her father did not approve and the couple soon split up. Francis has said that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.

Darin left Decca to sign with Atlantic Records, where he wrote and arranged music for himself and others. Darin’s career finally took off in 1958 when he recorded “Splish Splash.” The single sold more than a million copies In 1959. Next, Darin recorded the self-penned, “Dream Lover”, a ballad that became a multi-million seller. With it came financial success and the ability to demand more creative control of his career. His next single, “Mack the Knife”, the standard from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, was given a jazz-pop interpretation. Although Darin initially was opposed to releasing it as a single, the song went to No. 1 on the charts for nine weeks, sold two million copies and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1960. Darin was also voted the Grammy Award for Best New Artist that year and “Mack The Knife” has since been honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Darin followed “Mack” with “Beyond the Sea”.

In 1959, he was the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios. He wrote music for several films in which he appeared. His first major film, Come September (1960), was a teenage-oriented romantic comedy and Darin won the Golden Globe Award for “New Star Of The Year – Actor” for his role in the film. The following year he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Best actor) in the film, Pressure Point. In 1963, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D and at the Cannes Film Festival he won the French Film Critics Award for best actor for his performance in that film.

Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed a systemic infection (sepsis). This further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. He checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Darin died shortly after the surgery ended in the recovery room in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, at the age of 37, without regaining consciousness.

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Sonny Bono, born Salvatore Phillip Bono, (February 16, 1935 – January 5, 1998) was an American recording artist, record producer, actor and politician whose career spanned over three decades. Bono was born in Detroit, MI to Italian immigrants, Santo Bono (born in Montelepre, Palermo, Italy) and Zena La Valle. Sonny was the youngest of three siblings and he had two older sisters, Fran and Betty. Bono began his music career working at Specialty Records where his song, “Things You Do to Me”, was recorded by Sam Cooke and went on to work for the record producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s as a promotion man, percussionist and “gofer”. One of his earliest songwriting efforts was “Needles and Pins” which he co-wrote with Jack Nitzsche, another member of Spector’s production team. Later in the same decade, he achieved commercial success, along with his wife, Cher, as part of the singing duo Sonny and Cher. Bono wrote, arranged and produced a number of hit records with singles like, “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On”. He also played a major part in Cher’s early solo career with recordings such as “Bang Bang” and “You Better Sit Down Kids”.

Bono co-wrote the song “She Said Yeah”, which was sung by The Rolling Stones on their 1965 LP, “December’s Children”. Bono also recorded as a solo artist under the name of Sonny. He had only one hit single as a solo artist, “Laugh at Me”. “Laugh at Me” was released in 1965 and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In live concerts, Bono would sing the song with an introduction of, “I’d like to sing a medley of my hit.” His only other single as a solo artist was, “The Revolution Kind”, which reached number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 later that same year. Sonny continued to work with Cher through the early and mid-1970s starring in a popular television variety show, The Sonny and Cher Show, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974. From 1976 to 1977, the couple returned to performing together on The Sonny and Cher Show despite being divorced.

Bono entered politics after experiencing great frustration with local government bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. Bono placed a successful bid to become the new mayor of Palm Springs. He served four years (1988 to 1992). He was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is held each year in Bono’s memory. Bono was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994 to represent California’s 44th congressional district. He was one of twelve co-sponsors of a House bill concerning copyright laws. Although that bill was never voted on in the Senate, a similar Senate bill was passed after his death and named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his memory. He championed the restoration of the Salton Sea, bringing the giant lake’s plight to national attention. Bono died on January 5, 1998, of injuries sustained when he hit a tree while skiing at Lake Tahoe, California.

Jon Bon Jovi was born John Francis Bongiovi, Jr. in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the son of two former Marines, John Francis Bongiovi, Sr. and Carol Sharkey. He has two brothers, Anthony and Matthew. His father is of Italian descent (from Sciacca, Sicily) and and his mother is of German and Russian descent. John spent most of his adolescence skipping school to opt for music activities and ended up playing in local bands with friends and his cousin Tony Bongiovi, who owned the New York recording studio, The Power Station. By the time he was 16, John Bongiovi was playing clubs. It was not long before he joined up with keyboardist, David Bryan, who played with him in a ten-piece rhythm and blues band called, Atlantic City Expressway. John also performed with bands called The Rest, The Lechers and John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones.

Jon Bon Jovi was working sweeping floors at his cousin Tony Bongiovi’s recording studio, when Meco was there recording “Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album”. Tony recommended Bongiovi for the song, “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and this became his first professional recording. In June 1982, Jon Bon Jovi recorded a song called “Runaway”. He went to several record companies, including Atlantic Records and Mercury (PolyGram), but they all turned him down. Jon Bon Jovi visited the major rock station, WAPP 103.5FM “The Apple,” in New York City. He spoke directly to the promotion directo,r John Lassman, who accepted the song “Runaway” for inclusion on the station’s compilation album of local homegrown talent. “Runaway” became a local hit. Shortly after, Mercury Records gave Jon Bon Jovi a recording contract and he formed his band. The band released their first album on January 21, 1984 and became an international act in the late 1980s, when they released their breakthrough album “Slippery When Wet”. Their fourth album, “New Jersey”, which was released in 1988, became as successful as its predecessor. Following the group’s success, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, his lead guitarist, were asked to assist in producing Cher’s self-titled album. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora co-wrote and sang backup vocals on Cher’s single, “We All Sleep Alone”, and also produced several other tracks on the album. They also co-produced Cher’s multi-platinum album, “Heart of Stone” in 1989 and co-wrote the song, “Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore?”.

In 1990, Jon Bon Jovi recorded a soundtrack to the movie Young Guns II more commonly known as, Blaze of Glory. Having been originally approached by his friend, Emilio Estevez, to assist on the theme song,”Wanted Dead Or Alive”, for the upcoming Billy the Kid sequel, Jon Bon Jovi ended up composing an all-new theme song for the film’s soundtrack and producing his first solo album. The album featured high profile guests such as Elton John, Little Richard and Jeff Beck. The title track, “Blaze of Glory”, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1991, “Blaze of Glory” won an award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single at the American Music Awards and won a Golden Globe, as well. The song also earned Jon Bon Jovi an Academy Award nomination and a Grammy. Jon Bon Jovi has worked on behalf of the Special Olympics, the American Red Cross, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Covenant House, Project H.O.M.E., The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation and other groups.

Madonna was born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. Her father, Silvio Anthony Ciccone, is a first-generation Italian American (with roots in Pacentro, Italy), while her mother, Madonna Louise (née Fortin), was of French Canadian descent. Her father worked as a design engineer for Chrysler and General Motors. As Madonna had the same name as her mother, family members called her “Little Nonni”. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 30, in 1963. Madonna turned to her grandmother in the hope of finding some solace. The Ciccone siblings resented housekeepers and invariably rebelled against anyone brought into their home ostensibly to take the place of their beloved mother. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Madonna commented that she saw herself in her youth as a “lonely girl who was searching for something”.

Madonna later attended Rochester Adams High School, where she became a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad. After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. She convinced her father to allow her to take ballet lessons and was persuaded by Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, to pursue a career in dance. In 1978, she dropped out of college and relocated to New York City. She had little money and worked as a waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts and with modern dance troupes.

After her success as a dance club singer, Madonna developed her debut album, Madonna, which was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas, a Warner Bros. producer. However, she was not happy with the completed tracks and disagreed with Lucas’ production techniques, so she decided to seek additional help. Madonna asked her, then, boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez, for help in finishing the album’s production. Benitez remixed most of the tracks and produced “Holiday”, which was her third single and her first global hit. The overall sound of Madonna was dissonant and in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, utilizing some of the new technology of the time, like the Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer. The album was released in July 1983 and peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200, six months later and in 1984. It yielded two more hit singles, “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”.

Madonna’s look and style of dressing, her performances and her music videos influenced young girls and women and her style became one of the female fashion trends of the 1980s. It was created by stylist and jewelry designer, Maripol, and the look consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets and bleached hair. Madonna achieved global recognition after the release of her second studio album, “Like a Virgin”, in November 1984. It topped the charts in several countries and became her first number one album on the Billboard 200. The title track, “Like a Virgin”, topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks. Beginning in April 1985, Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as her opening act. She progressed from playing the dance clubs to playing sporting arenas. At that time she released two more hit singles from the album, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”.

In June 1986, Madonna released her third studio album, “True Blue”, which was inspired by and dedicated to Sean Penn (to whom she was married to at the time). Rolling Stone Magazine was generally impressed with the album and It spawned three number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100: “Live to Tell”, “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Open Your Heart”, and two more top-five singles: “True Blue” and “La Isla Bonita”. The album topped the charts in over 28 countries worldwide, an unprecedented achievement at the time, and became the best-selling studio album of her career to this date with sales of 25 million. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Madonna at number two, behind only, The Beatles, on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, making her the most successful solo artist in the history of the American singles chart. Throughout her career, Madonna has repeatedly reinvented herself through a series of visual and musical personae. In 1990, with earnings of more than $125 million since 1986 and as the highest-grossing woman in entertainment, Forbes Magazine “suggested that she was one of the smartest businesswomen in the United States”.

First Course Italian Pasta Dishes

eggplant pasta

Pasta with Eggplant and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 2 thin eggplants, trimmed and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes In olive oil, reserve 3 tablespoons oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cups canned Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrot and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

For the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the marinara sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella cheese, basil and the remaining salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow pasta bowls, top with parmesan cheese and serve.

chard pasta

Orecchiette with Ricotta and Chard

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch green or red Swiss chard
  • 3/4 pound dried Orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 ounces Asiago or Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper and/or nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, divided
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated Asiago or Pecorino cheese, for serving

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Separate chard stems from leaves; cut both in bite-sized pieces. Add orecchiette to boiling water. Set timer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add chard leaves to the pasta and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta and chard to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chard stems; cook 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.

Place the pot with the pasta over lowest heat setting. Add sauteed chard stems and any residual oil to pasta, along with the butter, crushed red pepper and reserved cooking liquid.

Add grated cheese; toss. Season with pepper and nutmeg.

Divide among pasta bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon ricotta. Add sea salt, pepper and additional grated cheese to taste.

walnut pasta

Penne with Walnuts and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole wheat or multigrain penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium green and/or red and/or yellow sweet peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into bite-size strips
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add walnuts and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes or until light brown, stirring frequently.

Add sweet peppers and red onion. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes; cook and stir until heated through.

Stir in parsley, rosemary and black pepper. Put pasta in a large shallow bowl. Top with walnut-pepper mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Seasonal eating is easy in summer when produce at the local farmers’ markets and supermarkets is abundant. But in winter, across wide areas of the world, the options tend to dwindle after the fall harvest. However, with a little creativity, you can create satisfying meals with seasonal ingredients – root vegetables, winter squashes, kale and other winter greens. Cooking greens range from the very tender and quick-cooking spinach to the hearty fibrous varieties of kale. These nutritious, tasty recipes are fairly quick to prepare and are useful on these busy days while you are getting ready for the holidays. You can use any type of pasta that you have in your pantry for these recipes. You can even combine 2 half packages to use them up.

Pasta with Kale and Anchovy Sauce

Use the same pot of water to blanch the greens before boiling the pasta and then finish the dish in the same pot. This dish is quick, easy, nutritious and works with any type of greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale (collard greens, turnip greens, chard also work)
  • 1 tablespoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cups freshly shredded Parmesan, Asiago or aged Pecorino cheese

Directions

Trim and wash greens, leaving the leaves whole.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water. Add greens and blanch until wilted, from 30 seconds for chard to 2 minutes for kale. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the leaves to a colander and rinse them under cool water.

Reboil water and add pasta. Cook pasta until tender to the bite. Drain, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Chop anchovies, garlic and cooked greens separately.

Once pasta is drained, return pot to medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, pepper flakes and anchovies. Cook, stirring, until the garlic just turns golden.

Add chopped greens and stir to combine. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir to combine. Take off the heat.

Stir in half of the shredded cheese. Taste and add salt, if you like.

Divide between plates or pasta bowls, garnish with remaining shredded cheese and serve.

Broccoli Walnut Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. pasta shells, penne, or fusilli or a combination (whole wheat is better)
  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino, parmesan, or other hard grating cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water, 1/2 teaspoon salt for sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roughly chop the walnuts and spread them on a baking sheet or piece of foil and bake until toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Set a timer and check on them – walnuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly. Set the walnuts aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender to the bite. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and reserve it. Drain the pasta.

Trim the broccoli, peel the stalks and separate the crowns into large florets. Cut the florets into smaller ones, about 1/2-inch across. Chop the stems into small pieces. Set aside.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside.

In a large sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat, add the oil, the broccoli and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water to the broccoli. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli in tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more pasta-cooking water if the pan gets dry.

Add the drained pasta to the broccoli, toss to combine well. Add the walnuts and toss to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if you like. Serve hot, topped with more cheese.

 

Creamy Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 10-oz. bag of spinach leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 8 oz. fusilli, corkscrew or rotini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

If baking as a casserole, preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish, if you’re making the casserole version.

Rinse and trim spinach. Chop garlic finely.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is tender to the bite. Drain pasta and return pot to the stove over medium-high heat.

Add olive oil and garlic to the pasta pan, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until spinach wilts, cover, and cook until completely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Add nutmeg and black pepper. Add pasta and stir to combine thoroughly – the greens will want to stick together, so you will need to break them up a bit, if you want them evenly distributed in the pasta. Cover and cook so the pasta can soak up some of the liquid, about 2 minutes.

Stir in half of the cheese. Either serve as is in pasta bowls topped with the rest of the cheese or transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbling and starting to brown on top, about 15 minutes.

Zucchini Pasta

Ingredient

  • 2 lbs. zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup (pignoli) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 lb. fusilli or similar pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut each zucchini into 3-inch long matchsticks 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Chop the garlic and cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring constantly, until just turning golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl or plate and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil and increase heat to high. Add half of the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is soft and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much of the fat in the pan as possible. Repeat with other half of the zucchini and another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set the pan and the zucchini aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until tender to the bite. Drain the pasta.

Return the reserved pan to medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved zucchini and pine nuts and cook, stirring, until combined. Add the zucchini mixture and the basil to the cooked pasta. Toss to combine thoroughly. Add half of the cheese and toss to combine well—the cheese will melt a bit to make a sauce. Divide the pasta among serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.

Gnocchi With Chard & Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch green Swiss chard (golden, red or rainbow chard are ok, but know that they will tint the entire dish)
  • Salt
  • 1 package (approx. 1 lb.) potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut stems out of chard leaves (make a “v” around the stem to cut out as much of the stem as possible). Chop stems and leaves separately and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add chopped chard stems. Cook until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add gnocchi and chopped chard leaves. Cook until gnocchi are cooked through and float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Put gnocchi and chard in a large bowl and toss with ricotta. Add nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Toss to combine.

Put gnocchi mixture in a generously greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Heat broiler on high.

Sprinkle gnocchi with Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese melts and the entire dish gets browned and crispy.


Fresh greens should be crisp and not wilted (no slimy leaves). Separate beet and turnip greens from their roots before storing. Loosely wrap greens in slightly damp paper towels, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Wash just before using.

Bok Choy

A member of the cabbage family, mild and fresh-tasting bok choy is a staple of Asian cuisines. Rich in vitamins A and C and calcium, it cooks up in a flash, making it perfect for stir-fries. Tender baby bok choy—an immature bok choy plant with smaller, spoon-shaped leaves—is delicious raw. Don’t stop at stir-fries, though. Fold these sweet, vitamin C–packed leaves raw into salads, slaws or even chicken noodle soup.

Look for heads with bright green leaves and crisp white stalks with no holes or discolored spots. Bunches with large leaves are good for soups; narrower heads work well in stir-fries.

Trim and discard the thick base of the stalks; discard any discolored or tough leaves. Cut or tear the leaves from the stalks, except for baby bok choy, which can be used whole, halved, or quartered. Wash well.

Use bok choy alone as a colorful side or toss into any stir-fried dish—cook the chopped stalks first, then add the leaves. Bok choy adds a boost of nutrition to soups and holds up well to quick braising; be careful not to overcook it, as the leaves can become mushy. Baby bok choy can be cooked in the same manner or served raw in a salad.

Salmon With Bok Choy and Apple Slaw                                      

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 head bok choy, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 1 red apple, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the bok choy, apple, and scallions with the yogurt, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve with the salmon.

Collard Greens

They’re excellent with ham hocks, as every southerner knows. But this fiber-rich favorite is more versatile than you might think: Try collards sliced raw with avocado and sesame seeds or baked with Gruyère in a creamy gratin.

 

Stir-Fried Shrimp, Rice, and Collard Greens                                                                                     

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup long-grain white rice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound peeled and de-veined large shrimp, tails removed
  • 6 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups stemmed and sliced collard greens (about 1 bunch) or sliced bok choy
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Chili sauce, for serving

Directions:

Cook the rice according to the package directions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of the soy sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring and tilting the pan, until just set, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold the egg in half and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 1-inch strips.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally, until opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic to the drippings in the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add the collard greens and cook, tossing often, until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice, vinegar, shrimp, egg and the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the skillet and cook, tossing, until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the chili sauce.

Tip: To make this a vegetarian dish, substitute one 14-ounce package of extra-firm tofu (drained and cut into 1-inch pieces) for the shrimp.

Spinach

Tied with kale as the most nutritious of all the greens, it delivers more than a dozen flavonoids (anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting compounds) and half the recommended dose of vision-maintaining vitamin A in one 1/2-cup serving. Eat it in the morning in an omelet, for lunch in a salad or a wrap or at dinner as a side dish. The crinkly leaves of savory spinach are more flavorful (though slightly tougher) than the flat-leaf variety. Whichever kind you choose, look for a deep, dark color and unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing.

Refrigerate spinach unwashed (moisture speeds decay) and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. Spinach sold in bunches will last up to 3 days. For washed and packaged spinach, follow the expiration date, no matter how fresh the leaves appear, since bacteria can develop. (Most packaged spinach has a 2-week shelf life.)

Chop off the root ends and any thick stems, then wash the leaves in a bowl of cold water. (They can be sandy, so change the water several times.)

Besides being used in salads and side dishes, spinach can be added to soups to beef up the nutrition. Though it’s known for having lots of iron, spinach must be eaten with tomatoes or citrus in order for that iron to be absorbed properly.

Spinach and White Bean Dip                                                                                

Serves 8 (makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Crostini, for serving

Directions:

 In a small saucepan, heat the oil with the garlic over medium heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes; let cool.

 In a food processor, combine the garlic oil, beans, spinach, dill and lemon juice. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and puree until smooth. Serve with the crostini.

Tip: Try using tender-leaf herbs, like basil or tarragon, along with (or in place of) the dill.

Mustard Greens 

These vitamin A–filled leaves add a spicy jolt (think horseradish) to braises, curries and pasta. Peppery, pungent and popular in the South, mustard greens are packed with calcium and vitamins. Some people find them overly bitter, but cooking tames their flavor. Kale, Swiss chard and spinach all make good substitutes. Refrigerate unwashed (moisture speeds decay) in a tightly sealed bag for up to 1 week.

Remove any thick ribs or stems, which can be tough, then wash the leaves in a bowl of cold water. (They can be sandy, so change the water several times.) If the taste of the greens is too strong, try blanching them in salted water before cooking.

Traditionally flavored with chunks of ham or bacon, they take on a delicious smoky flavor when sauteed. They can also be sauteed with minced garlic or simply steamed or boiled. Small, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads.

Lentil Stew With Mustard Greens and Sausage                                         

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 cups stemmed and torn mustard greens (about 1 bunch) or kale
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onions and cook, tossing occasionally, until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Add the broth, mustard greens, sweet potatoes, lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Tip: Cooking mustard greens for long periods of time helps tame some of their bitterness. If you like greens with a little bite, reserve half the greens and add them during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Dandelion Greens

These peppery, vitamin K–loaded leaves are best served simply: sauteed with olive oil and garlic or added to a salad in place of arugula.

Dandelion Greens with Currants and Pine Nuts                                                 

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. dandelion greens, ends trimmed, roughly chopped (about 2½ qts.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons each dried currants and toasted pine nuts
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions:

 Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds.

Add dandelion greens in batches, turning frequently with tongs. Increase heat to medium-high, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and continue to cook, turning with tongs, until greens are wilted and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add currants and pine nuts and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Kale

Bursting with vitamin C, kale makes an unusual Caesar salad, brightens soups and will even work as a pesto. You can use the two most common varieties—Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dinosaur) and curly kale—interchangeably. A nutritional powerhouse, kale is also a great source of vitamins A, calcium and cancer-fighting phytonutrients. It has a mild cabbage taste but none of the bitterness of other winter greens. Look for dark green, frilly leaves that have a little spring to them. Avoid those that are yellowing, dry or wilted, a sign of age.

Keep kale unwashed (moisture speeds decay) in a plastic bag in the coldest section of the refrigerator, usually at the back. Because kale contains a lot of water, it doesn’t last long. Use it within 3 days of purchase for the tastiest results. Kale that has been sitting around can develop a strong bitter flavor.

If the center stalks are thicker than a pencil, remove and discard them before cooking. Kale is delicious sauteed with garlic, in soups or prepared any way you’d cook spinach.

Mediterranean Chicken With Kale and Roasted Squash                                            

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large acorn squash (about 2 pounds)—halved, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 – 6ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn (about 6 cups)
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

Directions:

Heat oven to 450° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast, turning once, until tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with the coriander, ginger, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. add the chicken to the skillet and cook until cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the kale, prunes and garlic; cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until the kale is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the squash and toss to combine. Serve with the chicken.

Tip: You can substitute collard greens or Swiss chard for the kale and dried cherries or apricots for the prunes.

Turnip Greens 

If you haven’t had this spicy, calcium-packed green, you’re missing out. Delicious sauteed with bacon or braised and sprinkled with toasted nuts. Although the turnip has been grown for more than 4,000 years and was one of the first foods to be cultivated in Europe, it is currently under appreciated: It keeps well, takes to almost any cooking metho, and has a subtle flavor. Look for firm, unblemished specimens with white flesh and a purple-tinged top. Pick the smallest bulbs, ranging in size from that of a golf ball to a tennis ball; any larger and they become coarse in texture and lack flavor. If the greens are attached and you’d like to cook them, make sure they are bright green and crisp.

When stored at the ideal temperature of 55 degrees in a cool, dry place (such as a basement or root cellar), turnips can last for 1 month; they can also be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. If the greens are attached, remove them, leaving an inch or two of stem at the top, and refrigerate them separately, unwashed, in a plastic bag for up to 3 days.

Southern Turnip Greens and Ham Hocks                                                             

 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 pounds ham hocks, rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bunches fresh turnip greens with roots (about 10 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Bring ham hocks and 2 quarts water to a boil in an 8-quart Dutch oven. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove and discard stems and discolored spots from greens. Chop greens, and wash thoroughly; drain. Peel turnip roots and cut in half.

Add greens, roots and sugar to Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes or until greens and roots are tender.

 

Beet Greens 

Thinly slice these strong, potassium-rich leaves and mix them with shredded raw beets for a salad or combine the torn leaves with warm roasted beets. Beets’ jewel-like colors are also packed with vitamin C and folate. Select beets that are firm and not more than a couple of inches in diameter, with smooth, blemish-free dark red or golden yellow skin. (Give the white-fleshed or dramatic striped varieties a try if you find them.) If you want to cook the attached greens (like spinach), make sure they’re bright green.

Before refrigerating, separate the beets from the leaves (which leach moisture from the roots), leaving an inch or two of stem at the top. Store the beets and the leaves, unwashed, in separate bags in the refrigerator’s vegetable compartment. The greens will last for only a few days, but the roots stay fresh for up to 3 weeks.

Beet Greens and Carrots With Sesame Dressing                                                                         

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups stemmed beet greens (about 1 bunch) or spinach
  • 1/2 pound carrots (about 4 medium), thinly sliced on the bias
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket; bring the water to a boil. Place the beet greens and carrots in the basket, cover, and steam until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. Drizzle the vegetables with the dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Tip: If you cannot find toasted sesame seeds, you can toast them in a large, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Swiss Chard

Need a break from spinach or kale? Substitute chard, a nutritional powerhouse in its own right. Use its slightly sweet stems and leaves in a pasta dish or add depth to a winter soup. The stems need extra cooking time, so chop them up and add them to the pan a few minutes before the leaves. A member of the beet family. chard (a.k.a. Swiss chard) is a Mediterranean favorite with deep red or green leaves and an earthy, slightly bitter taste. Chard is typically classified by the color of its celery-like stalks; red (ruby chard), white, green or multi-color (rainbow chard). Look for crisp stalks and firm, crinkly green leaves without spots or holes. The smaller the leaves, the sweeter their taste. (Large leaves and stems are often chewy.) Refrigerate chard unwashed in the vegetable compartment for up to 3 days.

Small leaves can be cooked with the stalks attached. Remove the stalks from larger leaves; because they can be tough, they need a few minutes’ head start in the cooking pot.

Stir chard into stews and soups, or blanch or saute it like spinach. The stalks can be prepared as you would asparagus. Smaller rainbow chard leaves and their (finely sliced) stalks of brilliant fuchsia, sunny yellow, pink and white are colorful additions to a salad.

Swiss Chard and Chickpea Fritters With Yogurt                                                  

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups stemmed and torn Swiss chard (about 1 bunch) or spinach
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • hot sauce, for serving

Directions

In a food processor, combine the Swiss chard, chickpeas, garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer to a large bowl, add the Feta and flour, and mix until combined. Form the mixture into eight 2½-inch patties.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the patties until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet for the second batch. Serve with the yogurt and hot sauce.

Tip: The patties can be formed up to 8 hours in advance; refrigerate, covered.

 

Escarole

It may look like romaine, but this bold and bitter green is 10 times as flavorful. Add it to a hearty stew to cut the richness of the dish. Plus, in just 1/2 cup, you’ll find about 65 percent of your daily recommended bone-healthy vitamin K. Escarole has a slightly bitter bite. Its broad, sturdy leaves are good in salads when young and tender; but tougher, more mature specimens are best tossed into soups and stews. Escarole is a good source of vitamins A and C.

Refrigerate in a loosely closed plastic bag; do not seal tightly, as this can cause the leaves to absorb excess moisture and become soggy. If roots are attached, wrap them in a damp paper towel before placing the lettuce in the bag, discard any leaves that are wilted or slimy. Do not separate the leaves from the head or wash until just before using.

Braised Chicken With Escarole, Tomatoes, and Olives                                           

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 – 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 12 cups torn escarole (about 1 head) or stemmed and torn collard greens
  • 1 – 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved

Directions:

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken until browned, 5 to 6 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

Add the onions to the drippings in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the escarole, tomatoes and their juices and 1/2 cup water and mix to combine. Place the chicken on top of the escarole, cover the pot, and transfer to oven.

 Bake, covered, until the escarole is wilted and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes more; fold in the olives.

Tip: For a tangy version of this hearty dish, add 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar along with the olives and raisins.

 


Winter salads can’t rely on ripe tomatoes and delicate butter lettuce to make them shine. Instead hearty greens, salty cheese, dried fruit, and crunchy nuts are the flavorful ingredients that make winter salads delicious. Use the ideas below as a springboard to create your own winter salads.

Avoid the wilted lettuce mixes flown in from faraway places. Instead, select hearty greens, crunchy chicories, or crisp cabbage that flourish in winter. Many greens you may be used to cooking, chard and  kale in particular, are perfectly good for salads.

Hearty greens and chicories can handle a lot of flavor, Feta, goat, and blue cheeses are all great matches for winter salads—just crumble them on top. Olives—either whole pitted, or pitted and chopped—are also good additions.

 

Hearty greens and chicories have a lot of body and texture of their own, so feel free to add crunch to the dish. Nuts, croutons, slices of radish, pieces of fennel, slim coins of carrots—anything that will work your teeth and jaws just a little bit.

 

The slightly bitter taste of winter greens and chicories can be altered with a little bit of sweetness. Roasted beets are good to use, as are winter fruits like pears, oranges, kumquats or dates. Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or blueberries add texture and sweetness.

Like a Caprese Salad or Marinated Green Beans, summer salads don’t always involve leaves. Good winter salads don’t have to involve greens. Roasted beet salads, celery and red onion salads or lemony lentil salads are all examples of leafless salads.

Lunch or First Courses

Winter Citrus Salad with Honey Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 navel orange
  • Salt
  • 1/2 small red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Lime or lemon juice to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried.
  • Arugula

Directions:

Peel citrus, removing as much pith as possible, and cut into segments. Remove any pits, layer fruit on a serving dish, sprinkle with salt and garnish with chopped onion.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasoning as needed and drizzle over salad.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

Apple-And-Zucchini Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (if not available substitute another vegetable)
  • Lettuce (whatever is in season)

Directions:

Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously.

Combine apple and next 3 ingredients; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Roasted Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds beets (gold beets are attractive if you can find them), stems removed and washed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and thinly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the beets with salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil, leaving a little hole in the top facing up, and set in a roasting pan. Cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes or until very tender.

Meanwhile, mix together the rest of the olive oil, red onion, Serrano, ginger, sugar, and red wine vinegar.

When beets are done and cool enough to handle, peel and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley.

Dinner Salads or Second Courses

Potato Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small uncooked red potatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 pound green beans
  • 2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz seedless grapes, halved (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add salt and potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from water with a slotted spoon or strainer; set potatoes aside but maintain water’s boil.  Add green beans to boiling water and blanch until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, coat broiler rack with cooking spray; preheat broiler. Broil chicken five inches from heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 10 minutes; set aside. ( You can also use a stove top grill pan.

When chicken has cooled, slice into bite-size chunks; place in a large serving bowl. Slice potatoes into 1-inch chunks and cut green beans into 1-inch pieces; gently toss with chicken. Add celery and grapes.

To make dressing:

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice, broth and mustard; then, whisk in tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Drizzle in oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while, until dressing turns creamy, about 1 minute. Toss salad with dressing, taking care not to break up potatoes. If desired, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

 

Tuscan-Styled Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and oil reserved
  • 15-oz can small white beans, (cannellini or great northern, rinsed)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons reserved tuna oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:

Combine tuna, beans, tomatoes, scallions, tuna oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir gently. Refrigerate before serving. Garnish with parsley.

What’s in the Refrigerator Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Rotini or Penne pasta
  • 4 cups mix-ins (see below)
  • Dressing: Herbed Vinaigrette (recipe follows) or
  • Homemade Buttermilk Dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Add desired mix-ins and half of dressing. Toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours; toss again before serving. Add additional dressing, as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Suggested Mix-Ins:

Crisp-tender cooked vegetables: green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, edamame, zucchini, yellow squash

Raw vegetables: shredded or sliced carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, avocado, spinach, radish, onions

Other: olives, cheese – shredded, crumbled or cubed, herbs

Meats: Salami strips, cooked chicken, cooked tuna and shrimp, crab, cooked salmon, grilled ham, leftover beef steak slices, prosciutto

Dressings:

Herbed Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley

Directions:

In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil. Whisk in mustard and garlic. Add herbs.

Makes 3/4 cup.

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt garlic and herb seasoning blend (Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Coarse-ground black pepper

Directions:

In small bowl, stir together buttermilk and mayonnaise. Add remaining ingredients; stir to mix well. Add additional buttermilk if needed for consistency. Let stand about 10 minutes to thicken or chill until needed.

Makes 1 cup.

 

 

 


When my children were young they loved pasta, as long as it was smothered in tomato sauce. It was a not a good dinner, in their estimation, if I added a vegetable or two. For this reason, I developed a marinara sauce with the addition of finely chopped vegetables, which has been a success in our family for many, many years. In fact, now that my children are grown, they make the sauce the same way. They are also more sophisticated as adults and enjoy the vast possibilities pasta can offer, even when they include vegetables.

Even though summer has past with its bounty of fruits and vegetables, there are still plenty of options for cooler days. Adding vegetables to pasta doesn’t have to be complicated or follow a rigid guideline. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite pasta dish, even if the recipe doesn’t call specifically for vegetables. Try adding a vegetable you like to the dish, and see if they work well together.

What can you find at the fall Farmers’ Market?

Winter Squash One fall’s favorite vegetable, acorn squash, can be seen on seasonal menus across the country. Whether simply roasted with butter and sage or tossed with ricotta as a ravioli filling, acorn squash is versatile and simple to prepare, but has a limited season from October to December. Two other popular winter squashes include: spaghetti squash, a small, watermelon-shaped variety with a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nut-like flavor and butternut squash with a soft inner flesh that tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts, a diminutive member of the cabbage family, is available from late September through mid-February. Brussels sprouts hold up to almost any preparation, from oven roasting to braising and blanching.

Eggplant is a transitional berry (that’s right — it’s not actually a vegetable or even a fruit), and like most berries, peaks toward the end of summer and begins to decline in the fall. Look for firm eggplants with a shiny skin.

Carrots have long been considered a “cool weather” vegetable and are generally best in the late fall and early spring. Once thought of as a humble side dish, carrots have come into their own in recent years and are now widely available in their various natural hues, including red, purple, yellow and white.

Sweet potatoes are actually available year round, but are best in November and December. Sweet potatoes work well in both sweet and savory preparations, from mashed sweet potato to sweet potato pie. Not to be confused with yams, most sweet potatoes in the United States are characteristically orange, but can still be found in white and yellow varieties throughout the deep South.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Cabbage is more than just the base for your backyard-barbecue coleslaw. It adds texture to a tossed salad, makes a great topping for your taco and, when sautéed with apples and bacon, is the perfect accompaniment to roast pork.

Broccoli like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates, so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates. Broccoli rabe (rapine) is a more bitter, leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Fennel‘s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Winter Greens:  swiss chard has more substance than spinach and kale, like all hearty cooking greens, are less bitter in the cooler weather.

Mushrooms, while most mushrooms are available year-round, many are at their peak in fall and winter. The produce aisle routinely offers white button, portobello and, their younger sibling, cremini (also sold as “baby bellas”), oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

Try these vegetable based pasta dishes for a change of pace.

Bucatini with Mushroom and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and then thinly sliced
  • 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 8 ounces uncooked bucatini

 Directions:

Preheat oven 425 degrees F.

Place a large skillet on the stove top with the extra-virgin olive oil and the sliced garlic, spread out the garlic so it is in an even layer in the oil. Slowly brown the garlic stirring until golden all over, 4 to 5 minutes.

Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet and pour garlic and olive oil from the skillet over the tomatoes. Season with some salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes start to burst.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt and cook bucatini according to package directions. Drain pasta.

In the same skillet that was used to brown the garlic, add the mushrooms and shallots. Let them cook for about 4 minutes, then add the thyme sprigs and season with some freshly ground black pepper, continue to cook for another 5 minutes stirring a few times. Add the white wine and cook until it has almost completely evaporated. Salt to taste and stir to combine.

Remove the stems of thyme and add the roasted tomatoes with their cooking juices from the baking sheet and the parsley and stir to combine. Add cooked pasta,mix well and garnish with cheese.

Pappardelle With Greens and Ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound greens, such as swiss chard, kale or broccoli rabe, stemmed and washed well
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, to taste, minced
  • 3/4 cup skim ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 pound pappardelle or fettuccine

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the greens (you may have to do this in two batches). After the water returns to a boil, boil two to four minutes until the greens are tender. Using a deep-fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the wilted greens to a bowl. Do not drain the hot water in the pot, as you’ll use it to cook the pasta. Cut the greens while in the bowl into bite size pieces. ( I like to use kitchen scissors for this.)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic, cook for about a minute just until fragrant, and stir in the greens. Toss in the hot pan for about a minute, just until the greens are lightly coated with oil and fragrant with garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

Place the ricotta in a large pasta bowl. Bring the greens cooking water in the large pot back to a boil, and add the pappardelle. Cook al dente. Ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the pasta into the ricotta and stir together. Drain the pasta, and toss with the ricotta, greens and cheese.

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 8 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra dissolves instantly)
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425°F for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450° F.

Cook the pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onions and sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in roasted squash. Remove to a bowl and cover while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

In empty skillet used to cook pancetta and squash combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Turn on heat and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add fontina cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.


Soup and sandwich pairings are a great go-to choice when you’re looking for warm, comforting meals in a hurry. You can make delicious soups and substantial sandwiches that are tastier, healthier, and cheaper than eating out or picking up fast food meals.

While you might think of sandwiches or soup as just for lunch, they are a good dinner choice when you get home after a hectic day. Sandwiches are endlessly versatile—you can pile lots of delicious, healthy toppings on whole-grain bread and many hearty soups can come together in 30 minutes or less with just a little advance planning.


How To Keep Sandwiches Healthy:

Better Choices:

Bread

Pick a bread with has three to five grams of fiber per serving

  • High-fiber whole wheat bread
  • High protein bread
  • Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories)
  • Reduced calorie bread
  • Multi-grain bread

Proteins

  • Lean deli meats preferably without nitrates : Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef or homemade meatloaf
  • Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini or vegetarian patties
  • Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad made with low-fat dressing

Cheese

  • Harder cheeses (such as Swiss and Cheddar) usually have less fat.
  • Softer cheeses (like light cream cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese

Condiments

  • Mustard, nonfat salad dressings, salsa, and nonfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
  • Avoid high-fat salad dressings, regular mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.

Vegetables.

A sandwich is a great way to slip vegetables into a meal. 

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cucumbers or pickles
  • Onions: Sweet, hot, or red
  • Peppers: sweet or hot
  • Lettuce
  • Apples or pears (especially good with ham and turkey)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Herbs (Basil with toasted cheese and tomato)

How To Keep Soups Healthy:

Fat

Most soups begin with a fat, such as oil, to saute vegetables and bring out their flavor. Fat isn’t always unhealthy; monounsaturated fats can help improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and can help improve your blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature: Peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil and olive oil are healthy choices. Always use the least amount of oil as possible in your cooking. I believe that you never need more than 1 tablespoon of oil in a recipe to saute ingredients.

Soup Base

In high-sodium soups, the base is often a salty stock. Keep the sodium low by using a salt-free stock. Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stock often are available in salt-free varieties. Canned low sodium tomatoes are readily available and make a fine base for soup on its own or mixed with stock, depending on how thick you want the broth. Milk or fat free half works for creamy soups. Do not add salt or use full-sodium broth. There are 860 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of full-sodium chicken stock and only 72 milligrams in low-sodium chicken stock. If you add 1 teaspoon of salt to the base, you increase the soup’s sodium content by 2,325 milligrams.

Protein and Fiber

Most soups include a source of protein, either meat or legumes. Legumes are also an excellent source of fiber. Lean beef, chicken, pork, turkey or fish are good choices. For legumes, don’t choose a sodium canned variety — they can have as much as 818 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. There are many no salt added canned beans in the markets today. Almost any legume works in soup. For additional fiber, add whole grains, such as barley, quinoa or brown rice, all of which are low-sodium. If your soup recipe has noodles, choose a whole grain variety. In addition, use only fresh — not canned — veggies to avoid excess sodium. Onions, carrots, garlic, celery, corn, spinach, kale and potatoes are good choices for soup.

Seasoning

The seasonings make lower sodium soup tasty. They complement the flavor of the other ingredients and finish your soup. Add seasonings to taste — stir, taste and then add more if necessary. Most spices and herbs do not contain sodium. Provided it does not have added salt, any seasoning works. Rosemary, thyme and marjoram make a tasty combination, so do chili powder and cumin. Parsley and basil complement almost any type of soup.

Quick Soups and Healthy Sandwiches  

Vegetable Beef Barley

Saute 1 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; drain fat.

Add 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Warm Prosciutto-Stuffed Focaccia

 

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-ounce) round loaf focaccia bread, whole grain if possible
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette

 Directions:

Cut bread in half horizontally, using a serrated knife. Top bottom bread half with prosciutto and next 3 ingredients.

Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette; cover with top bread half. Wrap in aluminum foil; place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until warm. Cut focaccia into six wedges. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Many markets sell butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes in the produce section of the market, usually next to the cut up fruit.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 and 1/2 pounds after trimming)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat free half half

Directions:

Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in awhile. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée the soup with a hand blender and add the half and half. Warm gently, and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
  • 2 cups arugula

Directions:

Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.

Crab Chowder                                                                                              

6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup cored fennel bulb, finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups diced red potatoes, unpeeled
  • 28 oz container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 pound pasteurized crabmeat

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crabmeat and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt

 Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 small)
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli turkey breast
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread one side of each of 4 bread slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.

Place one cheese slice on dressed side of bread slices; top each with 5 apple slices and 2 ounces turkey. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices.

Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan.

Cook 2 minutes on each side or until bread is browned and cheese melts.

Black Bean Soup 

Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add one 32 oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, 1- 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, two 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, and one 1.4-ounce can diced green chili peppers. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon light sour cream. Garnish with baked tortilla chips.

Avocado Tomato Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches), room temperature
  •  Lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced Avocado Tomato Wraps
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mash a fourth of the avocado with a fork; spread over tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato and remaining avocado.

Sprinkle with cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper; roll up. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.


fagioli misti (mixed beans)

Popular Italian Beans

The region of Tuscany is famous for its bean production.  Cannellini, white kidney beans, are, perhaps, its most popular bean.  Borlotti is a bean of northern Italy. Borlotti is also considered to be the healthiest due to its high iron concentration. This bean in particular is a popular meat substitute. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn a dark brown on the outside and a yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.  Fresh or dried fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available. Purchasing beans that are already skinned and split is the preferred method for ease of preparation. Buying whole beans in their protective skins calls for hours of soaking as well as a tinge of bitterness when they are cooked.  Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.

With the exception of a few types of beans, like lentils, most should be soaked at least eight hours or longer.  Some cooks add a bit of baking soda during the soaking which seems to help the beans remain intact during cooking. Be sure to discard the water the beans soak in before cooking with them.

Also, when cooking beans, be generous with water – a good rule of thumb is six cups for every cup of beans. One cup of dry beans will yield two cups of cooked beans. Try adding a bit of olive oil to the water the beans cook in because it will add flavor and keep them from sticking to each other. Cooking times will vary, of course, but generally Borlotti takes about an hour, chickpeas require about an hour and a half of cook time and lentils may be ready after a half hour.

Some of the most popular Italian dishes that call for beans include minestrone,  bean soup, lentil soup, pasta with red bean sauce,  fava beans and pasta, lentil stew with sausage and penne with chickpeas. Beans are used in spreads, soups, sauces and main courses.  Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and also have added sodium and, with a little bit of planning, you can work with dried beans. You will taste the difference in fresh cooked dried beans.

Soaking the Beans

The night before serving, rinse the beans picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl. Cover with about 2 inches of water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak overnight. The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy soup pot with the 1 carrot, cut in half, 1 celery stick, cut in half,  1/2 Onion, peeled and quartered, 1 sprig rosemary and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are tender. Drain and discard vegetables. Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time, so add it to taste toward the end of the cooking time.  Most types of beans cook in about an hour but taste for tenderness.  You can eat the beans as is for a side dish or refrigerate the beans to use in recipes on another day.

Here are some recipes I recommend using your cooked beans.

Beans and Greens

Serves 4 to 6.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard, cut into one inch pieces or any greens of choice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add Swiss Chard, and stir slowly, allowing it to wilt slightly.  Add chicken broth, herbs, and salt; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the beans, and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the greens are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuscan Country Bean Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped fennel
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
1 tbsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
3 cups cooked dried cannellini beans
1 carton ( 32 oz,)  low sodium chicken broth
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1  tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the drained beans and tomato to the veggies along with the chicken stock, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve with the grated cheese.



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