Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: greens

Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

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

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

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

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Spinach Salad with Warm Parmigiano-Reggiano Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Bean Salad With Lemon And Herbs

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Radicchio, Fennel and 
Olive Panzanella

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Radishes, Cucumbers and Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

With machine running, gradually add 3 tablespoons olive oil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Steak Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

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

Steak

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

Directions

For the dressing:

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

For the steak:

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

Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arugula Fennel Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Cheddar Broccolini Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Spring Spinach and Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Feta and Pine Nuts

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Rigatoni with Ricotta and Collard Greens

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

4-6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

greens6

Sautéed Escarole with White Beans and Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


 

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Use in-season spring ingredients to create some healthier dinners this week. After a few weeks of holiday eating and chocolate candy, you may want to eat a bit lighter.

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells or shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

For the marinade:

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and salt. Pour marinade over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to coat shrimp. Marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the risotto (15 to 25 minutes).

For the risotto:

In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in peas. Let stand about 1 minute or until heated through. (Rice should be tender but slightly firm and creamy.) Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Cook shrimp in a skillet or on the grill as described below. Serve shrimp with risotto and lemon wedges.

SKILLET: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade to the skillet. Cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring frequently.

GRILL: Drain shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between shrimp. Brush shrimp with the reserved marinade.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place kabobs on the grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover and grill for 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling.

Dinner Menu 2

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Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pound boneless pork top loin roast
  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or use thawed  frozen artichoke hearts, if you cannot find fresh
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole baby carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine rosemary, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Trim fat from meat. Place meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; spread the remaining oil mixture over the meat. Arrange potatoes around the meat. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash artichokes if using fresh; trim stems and remove loose outer leaves. Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into quarters. Place quartered artichokes in a medium bowl; toss with lemon juice.

In a covered large saucepan cook artichokes and carrots in boiling, lightly salted water for 10 minutes; drain.

Add artichokes and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to combine with potatoes. Roast for 15 to 35 minutes more or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F and vegetables are tender, stirring vegetables occasionally.

Remove from the oven. Cover meat and vegetables with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before slicing meat.

Dinner Menu 3

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Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillweed
  • Paprika and coarse salt

Directions

In a 3 to 4 quart pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, rice, stock and salt. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 35 minutes until rice and carrots are very tender. Cool slightly.

Using a handheld immersion blender, process the mixture in the pan until completely smooth. Whisk in milk and creme fraiche.

Heat and stir over low heat. For a thinner texture, stir in additional milk. To serve, sprinkle with green onion, dillweed, paprika and coarse salt, if desired.

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White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-5 ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced and toasted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beans, tuna, arugula, red onion and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Dinner Menu 4

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Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in meaty chicken pieces (breasts and thighs), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep skillet with a cover. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Scatter the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley and oregano over chicken pieces in the skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the wine and the chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and place on a serving platter.Place the the chicken on top of the spaghetti and pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Dinner Menu 5

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Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Boiling water
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large slices country-style white or whole grain bread
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp cooked

Directions

Place asparagus spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour enough boiling water over the asparagus to cover. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright colored and crisp-tender. Drain. Finely chop three of the asparagus spears; set aside.

In a small bowl use a fork to mash the avocado; stir in lime juice. Stir in the chopped asparagus; set aside.

For the omelet:

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, the water, salt and pepper until combined but not frothy.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat until the skillet is hot. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add half of the egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Immediately begin stirring eggs gently but continuously with a wooden or plastic spatula until the mixture begins to come together. Stop stirring. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the egg is set.

Remove from heat. Using a spatula, lift and fold an edge of omelet to opposite edge. Transfer to a warm plate. Cover with foil and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining egg mixture to make a second omelet.

Toast bread. Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 2 of the bread slices. Top with each with half the bacon, half the asparagus spears, omelets and the remaining 2 slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half to make 4 servings.

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Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh beets with tops
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces sliced ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the tops from beets; set tops aside. Place beets and rosemary on a piece of heavy foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold in remaining edges to completely enclose. Roast beets about 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully open the packet to release the steam. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skins from the beets and cut into wedges. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry the beet greens. Thinly slice just the beet greens and discard the stalks.

In a large bowl gently toss warm beets, shredded beet greens and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the greens are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

On a large platter or four salad plates arrange the beet mixture. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts. Top with cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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fishandcover

Tips on grilling fish:

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

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

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Grilled Swordfish With Caponata

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

Serves 4

Ingredients

Marinade

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

Caponata

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

Directions

Marinade:

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

Caponata:

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

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

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

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

Serve fish over the caponata.

Healthy sides to go with your delicious grilled fish.

fishand1

Spinach & Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

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

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

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

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

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

fishand2

Braised Spring Vegetables

Serves: 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

fishand3

Spaghettini with Lemon and Ricotta

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

fishand5

Tomato & Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

fishand6

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Anchovies

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


pugliacover

Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.

Puglia

Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.

The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.

puglia8

As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.

In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.

puglia6

puglia7

The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

puglia5

No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.

Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.

Vineyards

Vineyards

Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.

 

pugliabeans

Chickpea Soup

Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.

Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.

Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.

Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and red pepper

Orecchiette with Turnip Tops

Ingredients

  • 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
  • 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta

Directions

Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.

Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.

Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.

In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper.  Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.

When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.

pugliapizza

Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)

A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.

Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.

Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.

Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.

Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.

Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.

puglia4

Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
  • 2 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.


"Tuscany Delights" painting by Lisa Lorenz.

“Tuscany Delights” painting by Lisa Lorenz.

Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. … You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh? … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick. (Michael learning to make gravy from The Godfather.)

For a crowd-pleasing reunion meal, serve this family style menu with plenty of garlic bread and red wine for a comforting Italian-American feast. All the dishes in this menu can be prepared several days ahead, except for the pasta, and heated before serving.

I have many memories of the Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses while I was growing up. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its distinction were the meats that were cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs and my favorite, braciole. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared and simmered for hours in tomato sauce.

Sitting down together for a family meal has been in decline in America for decades. According to surveys, however, that’s beginning to change. This is good. Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to do well in school and more likely to have a healthier diet. In addition the treasured memories children develop are irreplaceable.

“Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!)” — as my grandmother would say.

Menu for 12-16

  • Braised Artichokes and Stuffed Cherry Peppers
  • Braciole and Pasta
  • Sautéed Greens and Garlic Bread
  • Dessert: Italian Cookies

italianfeast8

Italian American Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and mix with the garlic powder and parsley.

Using a basting brush, coat the bread generously with the butter mixture. Place the Italian bread on a medium baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

italianfeast1Braised Artichokes

This dish can be made ahead. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 large artichokes, outer leaves trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 lemons, halved and juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the bottom.

Heat oil in an 8 to 10-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine, artichokes, lemon juice and squeezed lemon halves, salt and 10 cups water; boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer artichokes to a serving platter, cut each half, in half, and keep warm.

Discard all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid; return the pan with the liquid to medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; spoon sauce over artichokes to serve.

italianfeast2

Tuna Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Make this appetizer a day or two before the party, so they can marinate.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (32-oz.) jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, seeded and stemmed

Directions

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Stuff each pepper with a little of the tuna mixture. Transfer to a covered dish and pour the remaining oil over the peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

italianfeast3

Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

This entire dish, with the exception of the pasta, can be prepared well in advance and reheated.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and finely diced
  • 24 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef steak (top sirloin or round), pounded to 1/16″ thickness (about 3 lbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 lbs penne or rigatoni or pappardelle pasta

Directions

To make the filling:

Mix together raisins, 3/4 cup parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, prosciutto and garlic in a bowl; set aside.

Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper and place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks or kitchen string and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves and return beef rolls to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, gently stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the meat rolls from the sauce, remove toothpicks, transfer to serving platters and cover plates with foil. Keep warm.

Continue cooking sauce until thickened, while you cook the pasta.

Pour some of the sauce over the meat rolls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Mix some of the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the braciole and pasta.

italianfeast5

Sautéed Greens and Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium heads escarole (or greens of choice), cored, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F

Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. You may have to wait until some of the leaves wilt before adding more.

Stir in peppers; season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top; transfer skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 12 minutes.

italianfeast6

Pine-nut (Pignoli) Italian Cookies  

Makes about 48 cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, from 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer bowl, beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and lemon peel until smooth.

Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks. They freeze very well.)

italianfeast7

Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups finely ground almonds, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.


wintersalad

This is not the season for cold potato salad or any other cold salad when you are trying to warm up. Then again, forget any memory of overcooked, withered spinach salads adorned with hard-boiled eggs and greasy bacon dressing. Good warm salads are filled with delicious flavors and appealing textures. The first key to a great warm salad lies in learning to barely wilt the greens, so that the warm vinaigrette brings all the flavors together but doesn’t make the salad soggy. The second key lies in the complementary combination of ingredients.

When a dressing is warm, it has a more pronounced flavor than when it’s cold, plus the heat really brings out all the flavors of the salad. You have to be careful when you dress the greens, though, because you want them to be just slightly wilted.

You can accomplish this in several ways.

Heat the dressing in a pan. Then pour the warm vinaigrette over the bowl of greens, add the garnishes and toss. This method work well with hardier greens like spinach, escarole and kale. You can wilt mesclun this way, too; just dress the greens a little more lightly and serve them immediately.

Or you can arrange the raw greens on serving plates, top with just cooked shrimp or chicken and then drizzle the hot dressing over all. This method is better when the greens are particularly tender, like mizuna or mesclun. Whichever wilting method you choose, just remember you don’t want to fully cook the greens, so don’t put them directly into a hot sauté pan. Don’t wilt the greens until you’re ready to serve them; this type of salad looks and tastes best when freshly dressed.

wintersalads3

Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound baby spinach (7 cups)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Spread the spinach on a large platter. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook it in the pan with the bacon fat over moderately high heat until barely pink, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Pour the shrimp and beans onto the bed of spinach.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mustard to the skillet and whisk in the red wine vinegar, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the salad and garnish with the bacon. Serve immediately.

wintersalads4

Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small beet, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss. Top the salad with the feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

wintersalads1

Warm Chicken Salad with Green Beans, Almonds and Dried Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 6)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and shredded
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high; season chicken with salt and pepper. In two batches, cook chicken until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, slice chicken crosswise.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cover and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.

Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, jam, mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula and radicchio with half the dressing. Divide salad among four plates; arrange chicken, green beans, cherries and almonds on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve immediately.

wintersalads2

Spinach Salad with Salmon

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the Vinaigrette

In a blender combine vinegar, mustard, garlic, rosemary, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. With machine running, add oil in a thin stream; blend until creamy.

For the Salmon

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from the heat. Place salmon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil, without turning, until opaque throughout, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool briefly, then flake.

Divide spinach and tomatoes among serving plates. Top with salmon, blue cheese and pecans. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Pass the remaining dressing with the salad.

wintersalad3

Steak and Potato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan (1 ounce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high. Pat steak dry; season steak with salt and pepper and cook until browned and medium-rare, 3 to 5 minutes per side (reduce heat if skillet begins to scorch). Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain.

In a large bowl, combine romaine and arugula. Add potatoes, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine.

Top salad with steak and Parmesan and serve with lemon wedges.



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