Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: greens

"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.


soupcover1

Soup is a great way to make the most of seasonal produce. Vary your choices throughout the year and stock up on what’s in season. Not only will it taste delicious, it will work
out a lot cheaper than buying vegetables that are being grown out of season. Making a big batch of soup, even if you’re only cooking for yourself, is a great dish to keep on hand.
You can keep a batch in the refrigerator for light suppers, lunch or freeze portions  for the future.

It’s that time of the year again: the season when rich, hearty soups add some much needed warmth and comfort to the long winter months.

Sweet Potato and Bean Soup

soup1

Ingredients

  • 2 cartons (32 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb. (3 – 4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil or parsley, coarsely chopped

Directions

In a large pot over high heat, pour in broth and add the sweet potatoes, onion, celery, tomato paste, paprika and oregano and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in beans and chickpeas. Cover and simmer until beans are heated through, about 3-4 minutes.

Gently stir soup until well mixed and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve.

For creamy soup, purée a portion of the soup in the processor or with a hand immersion blender and stir well before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

soup2

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced
  • 1 pound bag of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 head of kale, chopped
  • 32 ounces chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat add broth, onion, celery, carrots and potatoes.

Add garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper, a generous amount of sea salt and enough water to cover the vegetables.

Cook for about 30 minutes and then stir in the tomatoes and kale. Add sea salt and pepper, as needed.

Cook another 10 minutes and remove from the heat.

Winter Soup with Sausage, Leeks, White Beans and Rapini

soup3

Ingredients

  • 2  leeks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1  dried bay leaf
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound pork or turkey sweet Italian sausage with fennel
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2  large bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) woody stem ends removed, and chopped (6-8 cups kale, collards or any hearty leafy greens would also work here)
  • 1 – 15-ounce can cannellini beans, or 2 cups beans made from scratch
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions

Wash and trim the leeks. Slice the tender white ends into thin rounds to make 1 cup.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, onion, carrots, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over medium-low heat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, brown all sides of the sausage. Remove the sausages from the heat and slice into ½-inch-thick rounds.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the chicken broth and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add the rapini and sausage rounds. Cook until both vegetables and sausage are cooked through, about 8 more minutes of simmering.

Add the beans to the pot. Turn off the heat and let all the ingredients rest. Taste for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to your liking.. Fish out and discard the bay leaf.

Scoop the stew into large shallow bowls and scatter chopped parsley over the top. Pass around bowls of grated Parmigiano and red pepper flakes.

Tuscan Herb White Bean Soup

soup4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 container (32 oz.) vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pkg. (4.5 oz.) Baby Kale or any greens to your liking
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Heat oil in large sauce pot.  Add garlic, onion, carrots and herbs.  Cook over medium-high heat until onion and carrots are just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add vegetable broth and beans; bring to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.  Add baby greens and cook until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chicken Risotto Soup

soup5

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces trinity mix (fresh diced onions, bell peppers, celery)
  • 8 ounces sliced baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 (32-ounce) box chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 10 ounces cooked chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions

Preheat olive oil in a large saucepan; swirl to coat. Add trinity mix, mushrooms and black pepper. Crush garlic into the pan using a garlic press. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables begin to brown.

Meanwhile, chop spinach coarsely. Stir in rice and spinach. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until spinach wilts.

Stir in broth, half-and-half and wine (in that order); bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; set aside.

Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl until well blended. Stir chicken into soup. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring continuously, until blended and soup begins to thicken. Cook 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally, to heat chicken and blend flavors.


LOST IN WINTER  by Leonid Afremov

LOST IN WINTER by Leonid Afremov

Tips For Eating Healthy

Choose whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, unrefined and unprocessed foods. You’ll typically find the least processed foods around the perimeter of the store.
Eliminate artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats from your diet.
Beans, nuts and legumes are great sources of plant-based protein.
Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body.
Nuts, seeds and avocados (all plant-based whole foods!) are great micronutrient-dense sources of healthy fats.
Minimize or eliminate extracted oils (like canola) and processed fats (like margarine).

Dinner # 1

healthydinner1

Citrus Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine, such as Riesling (or chicken broth)
  • 4 (6-oz) salmon fillets, skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon country Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Chop garlic and dill.

Cut half the orange into 1/4-inch-thick slices (rounds), then cut slices into quarters. Squeeze remaining 1 1/2 oranges for juice (about 1/2 cup).

Place wine, orange juice, garlic, dill and orange slices in large sauté pan and cover; bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 7 minutes.

Season salmon on both sides with the garlic seasoning and pepper. Add salmon to the wine mixture; simmer 4 minutes on each side or until salmon reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (or opaque and separates easily). Transfer salmon to serving dish.

Add marmalade and mustard to the wine mixture; cook and stir 1 minute or until marmalade dissolves and sauce thickens. Remove pan from the heat; gently stir in butter.

Pour sauce over salmon. Serve.

Asparagus-Almond Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons smoked almonds
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Cut asparagus into bite-size pieces, removing the tough root end.

Chop almonds. Shave the cheese. Halve the tomatoes.

Preheat a large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Place oil in the pan, then add asparagus; cook and stir 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, vinegar and pepper; cook and stir 2–3 more minutes or until the tomatoes and asparagus are softened.

Remove pan from the heat; sprinkle with nuts and cheese. Serve.

Dinner #2

healthydinner3

Seasoned Pork with Lemon Couscous

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped, unpeeled eggplant
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (1 medium)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 – 1/2 inch thick boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

Directions

In a large skillet heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add eggplant, garlic and red onion; cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl.

Meanwhile, trim fat from the chops. Sprinkle chops with Italian seasoning.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops; reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until just pink in the center (145 degrees F on an instant read thermometer), turning once. Remove from heat; let rest in the pan for 3 minutes. Place pork chops on a platter and cover with foil.

Return eggplant mixture to the skillet and add broth and dried tomatoes. Bring to boiling. Stir in couscous, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt; remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach. Divide couscous mixture among serving plates. Top with chops.

Dinner #3

healthydinner5

Carrot Ginger Soup

Serve a small cup of this soup with the baked egg dish below for a meatless dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • Juice from 1 orange, about ¼ cup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (32 oz carton) vegetable broth

Directions

Sauté onion in olive oil until it begins to soften.

Add carrots and cook for 3 minutes.

Add ginger and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, simmer covered for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Purée soup in a blender or with a hand immersion blender until just blended.

Add orange juice and reheat.

healthydinner4

Parmigiano-Reggiano Baked Eggs with Swiss Chard

Serves 4

Serve with thick slices of your favorite bread.

Ingredients

  • Butter for the ramekins
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 cups packed thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves (reserve chard stems for another use)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 small tomatoes, halved, seeds removed, diced 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or small gratin dishes.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chard; cover the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water if the skillet begins to dry out. Remove from the heat and pour off any excess liquid.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese and half of the tomato. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared ramekins. Break an egg into each ramekin and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pile remaining tomato around the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the egg whites are  set, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner #4

healthydinner6

Panko-Crusted Steak Over Vegetable Ragù

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 8 oz whole baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean steak (such as filet, sirloin or top round)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut zucchini, onion, tomato and bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cut mushrooms in half.

Whisk tomato paste, water and balsamic vinegar until smooth; toss with vegetables and 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. Place vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer; bake 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove to a serving platter.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and paprika until blended. Coat both sides of the steak with the bread crumb mixture. Place steak on a second baking sheet; bake 10-12 minutes or until the temperature reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (for medium-rare). Slice the steak and serve over the vegetable ragu..

Note: If you unable to find smoked paprika, regular paprika will work as well.

Dinner #5

healthydinner2

Tuna Parmesan

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 to 6 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces fresh asparagus
  • 1 – 5 ounce package mixed baby salad greens
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions

Thaw fish, if frozen. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Finely shred 2 teaspoons peel from one lemon. Squeeze juice from the lemon.

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon peel and juice, olive oil, pepper and salt; set aside. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges; set aside.

Snap off and discard woody bases from the asparagus. Place asparagus in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Bake, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the tuna dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the dressing over medium heat. Add tuna; cook for 8 to 12 minutes or until browned and the center is slightly pink.

Divide greens among serving plates; top with tuna and asparagus. Drizzle remaining dressing over all. Top with the shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.


Fireworks cluster

Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different parts of the world for a new year. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, here are the lucky foods to include:

Grapes
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal, as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.

Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.

Legumes
Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, its customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.

Pork
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish
Cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages because it could be preserved and transported, allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes, such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize the rice fields).

Cakes
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped sweets. Italy has chiacchiere, which are crispy fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands also eat donuts and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.

In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the finder will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.

Make your New Year’s Day dinner lucky with these recipes.

Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Sauce

newyear2

Ingredients

  • 1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (bacala), rinsed well and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Soak and poach cod:

Cover the cod pieces with 2 inches of cold water in a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator and soak, changing the water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below).

Drain the cod, transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and add 6 cups water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat. (Cod will just begin to flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with a dampened paper towel and chill while making the sauce.

Cook whole garlic cloves in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning occasionally until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down into a very thick sauce, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mash thebgarlic cloves into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the sauce into a 3-quart gratin dish or other flameproof shallow baking dish and arrange fish over the sauce.

Preheat the broiler.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and water and spread over each piece of fish. Place the dish under the broiler and broil the fish 5 to 6 inches from the heat just until the mayonnaise mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Note: Brands of salt cod differ in their degree of saltiness: A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelming.

Sausage and Lentils with Fennel

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserve fronds
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage links
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Bring lentils, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes.

While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice and chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onion, carrot, fennel bulb, fennel seeds and remaining teaspoon salt. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly prick sausages in a couple of places with tip of a sharp knife, then cook sausages in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve the cooking water. Stir lentils into vegetables with enough cooking water to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through. Stir in parsley, pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with additional vinegar and salt, if needed.

Cut sausages diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve lentils topped with sausage slices and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Creamy Winter Greens

newyear3

Ingredients

  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens and kale
  • 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste

Directions

Make béchamel sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add béchamel sauce, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Almond Good Luck Cake

newyear4

The person who finds the whole almond inside the cake will have good luck during the upcoming year.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 whole almond

APRICOT GLAZE:

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the chopped almonds and 1 tablespoon flour; sprinkle into a well-greased 10-inch fluted tube pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extracts.

Combine the baking powder, salt, baking soda and remaining flour; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour into prepared pan. Insert whole almond into batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to a wire rack.

For the glaze:

Melt preserves in the microwave or saucepan and stir in orange juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 12 servings.

 


sides7

The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a huge meal, generally featuring a large roasted turkey. The majority of the dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World. However, many of the classic traditions attributed to the first Thanksgiving are actually myths.

According to what is known about “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. William Bradford (Plymouth Colony Governor) noted that, “besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” There were definitely wild turkeys in the Plymouth area, however, the best existing account of the Pilgrims’ harvest feast comes from colonist, Edward Winslow, author of Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Winslow’s first-hand account included no explicit mention of turkey. He does, however, mention the Pilgrims gathering “wild fowl” for the meal, although that could just as likely have meant ducks or geese. Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except for the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner.

The White House Cookbook, 1887, by Mrs. F.L. Gillette, et al., had the following menu: oysters on the half shell, cream of chicken soup, fried smelts, sauce tartare, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, parsnip fritters, olives, chicken salad, venison pastry, pumpkin pie, mince-pie, Charlotte russe, almond ice cream, lemon jelly, hickory nut cake, cheese, fruit and coffee.

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1943 Thanksgiving Dinner Aboard the Navy Ship U.S.S. Wake Island

 

Many other foods are typically served alongside the main dish—so many that, because of the amount of food, the Thanksgiving meal is sometimes served midday or early afternoon to make time for all the courses. Copious leftovers are also common. Many diners would say the meal is “incomplete” without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dumplings, noodles, corn on the cob or hominy grits, deviled eggs, green beans or green bean casserole, sauerkraut (among those in the Mid-Atlantic; especially Baltimore), peas and carrots, bread or rolls, cornbread (in the south and parts of New England) or biscuits, rutabagas, turnips and salad.

There are also regional differences, as to the type of stuffing or dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make their dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing from white, wheat or rye bread as the base. One or several of the following may be added to the dressing/stuffing: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausages or the turkey’s giblets. The traditional Canadian version has bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. Rice is also sometimes used instead of bread in some parts of Canada.

Other dishes reflect the regional or cultural background of those who have come together for the meal. For example, many African-Americans and Southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens, along with chitterlings and sweet potato pie; while Italian-Americans often have lasagna on the table alongside the turkey and Ashkenazi Jews may serve noodle kugel, a sweet dessert pudding. Other Jewish families may consume foods commonly associated with Hanukkah, such as latkes or a sufganiyot (a type of jelly doughnut). It is not unheard of for Mexican Americans to serve their turkey with mole and roasted corn.

In Puerto Rico, the Thanksgiving meal is completed with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or arroz con maiz (rice with corn), pasteles (root tamales) stuffed with turkey, pumpkin-coconut crème caramel, corn bread with longaniza, potato salad, roasted white sweet potatoes and Spanish sparkling hard cider. Turkey in Puerto Rico is stuffed with mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish). Cuban-Americans traditionally serve the turkey alongside a small roasted pork and include white rice and black beans or kidney beans. Vegetarians or vegans have been known to serve alternative entrées, such as a large vegetable pie or a stuffed and baked pumpkin or tofu substitutes. Many Midwesterners (such as Minnesotans) of Norwegian or Scandinavian descent serve lefse (a soft, Norwegian flatbread) at their holiday meal.

So, if you are not a traditionalist, you may want to change things around a little and try some new sides for your holiday meal. Much of the preparation in the recipes below can be done ahead of time.

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Creamy Farro Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 ounces wild mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Red-pepper chili flakes
  • 1 bunch spinach (10 ounces), stemmed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add farro, stirring until toasted, about 1 minute. Add wine and reduce by half. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and creamy, 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Roast, stirring once, until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes.

Re-warm the farro over medium heat and add the spinach, stirring until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

sides6

Creamy White Bean and Vegetable Mash

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups cooked white beans, drained (equivalent to one 16-ounce can)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery and carrot until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes and white beans and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

Mash vegetables (or put through a ricer), adding reserved cooking water to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil before serving.

sides3

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Pinch red-pepper chili flakes

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cut side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar. Season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Fill the squash cavities and serve.

sides4

Sweet Potato-Ginger Spoon Bread

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Butter forthe  baking dish
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 small sweet potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
  • 2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and dust with cornmeal.

Cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash until very smooth; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Whisk in cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, 1 to 3 minutes; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mixture, egg yolks, sugar, molasses, ginger and salt.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Very gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish, place on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and set, about 35 to 40 minutes.

SONY DSC

Lemon-Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Directions

Cut an “X” in the core of each brussels sprout. Place in a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle oil and lemon juice over the brussels sprouts; sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon.


 A Forest of Greens by  Carl Warner

A Forest of Greens by Carl Warner

For decades, Italian country cooks have simmered greens and buttery white beans together.

When we eat greens—such as escarole, Tuscan cabbage, spinach and chard—we are eating the leaves of a plant. Leafy greens are miracle vegetables—not only are they are low in calories, rich in amino acids, vitamins A and C, minerals and fiber, they also help with digestion and boost the metabolism. In addition, they are believed to provide a host of health benefits—from building up the immune system to balancing hormones.

Some of the most common types of leafy greens and lettuces (called lattughe in Italian) are found in most good Italian fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stores) and in a vast portion of the United States as well. The leafy green vegetables described below make wonderful contorni (side dishes) when cooked for just a few minutes:

Spinaci (Spinach)

Spinach

For salads, baby spinach is preferable because the leaves are more tender, but mature spinach is used in Italian cuisine in a myriad of ways—from the classic sautéed spinach to the fillings for a variety of pasta ripiena (filled pastas). Also, many pasta dishes, rolled meat preparations and crespelle (filled crêpes) use spinach as a main ingredient.

The best way to prepare spinach is by following this simple procedure:

Trim off the reddish roots from each bundle and eliminate any yellowish leaves Then wash the leaves three times in a clean sink filled with water. Fresh spinach often comes with a good deal of sand and dirt—so you want to be sure to thoroughly wash the spinach before cooking. Let the leaves dry out a bit in a big colander. In a large sauce pan, heat extra virgin olive oil on a low-medium flame; add one clove of peeled garlic (flattened with a knife) and then add the spinach, a little salt (very important because this will help release the spinach juices) and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, until the leaves cook (they will shrink substantially). Then, remove the lid and allow the excess liquid to evaporate. Grate some nutmeg over the cooked spinach and serve.

Note: This basic method can be used with any greens and other vegetables with a high water content. None of the leafy greens’ nutritious juices are wasted when you cook and steam them in this way—it’s one of the quickest and healthiest ways to prepare them.

Bieta or bietola (chard)

coloredchard

This vegetable is used a great deal in Italian cuisine in all its forms—as verdure cotto (cooked vegetables) or biete saltate in padella (sautéed in a pan).

Because the stems take longer to cook than the leaves, it’s best to cut out the stems and cut them in half-inch pieces. Boil these pieces first in a small amount of salted water and then two minutes later add the leaves, cut in slices. After cooking another two minutes or less, drain and sauté the chard right away on a high flame in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. After just a couple of stirs, they’re ready to serve as a delicious contorno (side dish). Just drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil on top before serving.

For other more complex preparations, the following method for cooking chard can be used: Drain the chard from the boiling water with a strainer and immerse them right away in ice and water. Then press the leaves firmly to remove the water or spin in a salad spinner to remove the water. Next, sauté the chard in a pan as described above. Cooked chard can be used in pasta dishes or as a filling for a focaccia, in frittatas or as part of the filling for involtini (stuffed, rolled meat). Chard can be prepared with other vegetables, such as endive, and baked in the oven with a béchamel sauce, for example.

Escarole

greens escarole 1

Escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. It is high in folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and K. Sometimes referred to as chicory and characterized by broad, dark outer leaves, this member of the chicory family does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The inner leaves are good in a salad and the darker, outer leaves can be sautéed.

Try serving some escarole quickly wilted with lemon juice or stir chopped escarole into soup. A medium head of escarole usually yields about seven cups of torn leaves.

Italian/Tuscan Cabbage

greens cabbage

Cabbage grows very well in the winter months and is therefore one of the most popular Italian winter vegetables. Common Italian cabbage varieties include:

Cavolo Verza: Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage. A head cabbage with bright green, characteristically crinkly leaves. Very popular in northern Italy.

Cavolo Cappuccio: Red or green smooth-leaved head cabbage. Common in Northern Italy, especially the Northeast.

Cavolo Nero: Black leaf kale, a leafy cabbage with dark blackish-green leaves. It’s popular in central Italy, especially Tuscany.

Cime di Rapa or Rapini: Broccoli raab, one of the more rustic flowering cabbages; both the tiny florets and the leaves are edible. Popular in central and to a greater degree in Southern Italy.

greens escarole

Sauteed Escarole Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of escarole (or 2 small heads)
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 long italian hot peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Clean and rinse escarole twice; chop into large pieces.

Boil in salted water for 5 minutes until wilted. Drain

Add olive oil to the pan and heat.

Add the chopped garlic and prosciutto and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic.

Add peppers and cook another minute or so.

Add the drained escarole and broth.

Gradually add the grated cheese, tossing gently until blended.

Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste.

Place in a casserole dish; sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve hot.

greensSwisschard

Swiss Chard with Pancetta & Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 large bunches of fresh Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest bottom third of the stalk. Roughly chop the leaves and remaining stalks into inch-wide strips.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard by boiling it just long enough to soften the leaves and stalks, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the olive oil, garlic and the crushed red pepper to the pan. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add the diced pancetta, lower the heat and allow the pancetta to cook until lightly browned.

Add the cooked diced potatoes and sauté with the pancetta briefly. Then add the blanched Swiss chard; toss together and cover and cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Add salt to taste and a small drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with rustic bread. Serves 4 to 6

greenszuppa-di-cavolo-

Zuppa di Cavolo Nero

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Tuscan cabbage, about 2 1/2 pounds (1 k)
  • A medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A stalk of celery, minced
  • A sprig of fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 canned plum tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) simmering vegetable or meat broth
  • Slices of Italian bread
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Wash the cabbage, stripping the ribs from the leaves and slicing the leaves into strips. Next, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a soup  pot; add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and begins to color. Add the thyme and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and broth, mix well, check seasoning, and simmer the soup for an hour.

In the meantime, slice and toast the bread and use it to line the soup bowls.

Ladle the soup over the bread and serve it with freshly grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black or red pepper for those who want it.

baked greens

Baked Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 8 ounces medium shell or penne pasta
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, about 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the wooden spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than the package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in sausage mixture.

Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

*A note to my readers who do not use US measurements – there is a recipe measurement/temperature converter tool in the side bar under Blogroll. Just click on the title and a new page will open with the converter tool.



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