Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: onion

basil-varieties

Basil comes in many different varieties, each of which have a unique flavor and smell. Described below are 12 varieties, but there are even more – well over sixty.  I never realized that there were so many varieties of basil until I shopped at a nursery for my plants. If it weren’t for its distinctive smell, it would be difficult to recognize all the different kinds of basil.   Leaves range from a mint color to dark green to purple and grow in size from tiny to large – some are even ruffled!

Basil is traditional in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisine. It is superb with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. It blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon. Basil adds zip to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spinach and to the soups, stews and sauces that contain these vegetables. Basil is also one of the ingredients in the liqueur, Chartreuse.

Bring the wonderful fragrance of basil indoors by incorporating them in potpourri, sachets and dried winter bouquets. The sweet-scented Opal basil and Thai basil are particularly good for these projects. Other fragrant varieties include lemon, lime and cinnamon basil.

basil-christmas
1. Christmas Basil

With 2-inch, glossy green leaves and purple flowers, Christmas basil adds fruity flavor to salads and drinks, and the plants are gorgeous in the landscape. A beautiful border plant, it averages 16 to 20 inches tall and combines the attributes of both Sweet and Thai basil.

basil cinnamon2. Cinnamon Basil

This basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor. A beautiful, 25 to 30 inch tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves. it’s a favorite basil to use for fresh arrangements, garnishes and in fruit salads.

basil-dark-opal

3. Dark Opal Basil

Dark Opal basil adds color to fresh summer floral displays and depth to dried arrangements and wreaths. Beautiful and spicy in a salad or as a garnish, it can also be made into pesto, which adds an unexpected color and flavor to your pasta or bruschetta. The plants are attractive in the herb garden, ranging from 14 to 20 inches in height with purple stems, flower and leaves.

basil-holy

4. Holy Basil

A revered plant in the Hindu religion, Holy basil is also referred to as Sacred basil or Tulsi. Its leaves can be used to make tea for boosting your immune system. It is a beautiful plant in the garden with mottled green and purple leaves and grows to about 12 to 14 inches tall.

basil-lemon

5. Lemon Basil

This basil variety can be added to salads and fish dishes. A sprig of Lemon basil in a glass of iced tea is particularly delightful on a hot summer day. The 20 to 24 inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½ inch long leaves.

basil-lime

6. Lime Basil

With small green leaves on compact 12 to 16-inch plants with white flowers, this basil variety’s lime scent and flavor makes it great in fish and chicken dishes. A simple syrup infused with Lime basil is a delicious addition to tea and margaritas.

basil-spicy-bush

7. Spicy Bush Basil

Spicy Bush basil has tiny leaves on small, mounded plants, which are perfect for pots or lining the garden in bonsai-like fashion. It only takes a few of Spicy Bush basil’s intensely flavored leaves to add a punch to a sauce or soup. The plants are a soft green and about 8 to 10 inches in height and width, with 1/2 to 1 inch long leaves.

basil-purple-ruffles

8. Purple Ruffles Basil

A feathery variation of Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles adds another dimension to the landscape, floral arrangements or garnishes. It has the same flavor as Opal basil and can be used similarly. It is a 16 to 20 inch-tall plant with 2 to 3 inch long leaves.

basil-sweet

9. Sweet Basil

This basil cultivar is the best choice for Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto. Varieties include Genovese, Napoletano, Italian Large Leaf and Lettuce Leaf. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations. Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.

basil-sweet-thai

10. Sweet Thai Basil

An Asian variety with a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil, sweet Thai is a must for Asian cuisine and makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. It has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inched tall.

Basil-Greek

11. Greek Columnar

Greek Columnar’s attractive appearance is in the plant’s dense columnar shape. It does not flower, so the plant can be maintained throughout the year. It can be grown indoors in the winter. This basil has a pungent flavor that is best for stews and hearty dishes.

Basil-Lettuce-Leaf

12. Lettuce Leaf Basil

Lettuce Leaf Basil has the look of green, wrinkly lettuce but packs a bigger punch. The spicy flavor is typical of basils and tastes great with fresh tomatoes, in salads (your guests will be surprised by the rich flavor of what looks like a regular salad leaf!) and in any type of Mediterranean dishes. Pinch back the flowers to make a fuller plant.

Resources: Pantry Garden Herbs and Hobby Farms.

basil dip

Basil Herb Dip

A cool and refreshing dip for fresh vegetables and even chips and pretzels.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon country-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice into a blender, then add the basil leaves.
Pulse until the basil is incorporated throughout the mixture.
Chill for at least 20 minutes. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Genovese
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Italian Large Leaf

basil Tuscan-Bread-SaladTuscan Bread Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 slices of thick, whole grain or crusty bread cut in chunks
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 4-5 jarred artichoke hearts, diced
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese cut in chunks
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup torn basil leaves

Directions

Gently combine the bread, vegetables, basil, and cheese together.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with vinegar and oil. Chill.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Italian Large leaf
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Purple Ruffle

basil Tagliatelle_carbonara

Basil Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter.
After draining the cooked pasta, return the pasta to the cooking pot and place over medium heat.
Toss the pasta with the onion mixture, add chicken broth.
Beat the eggs and pour over the hot pasta stirring constantly to coat pasta and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add Parmesan, bacon and torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Use one of these varieties:
Lemon
Sweet
Italian Large Leaf

basil zucchini-soup3

 

 

Zucchini Basil Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups roughly chopped sweet onions 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped sweet bell pepper (any color) 
  • 2½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh sweet basil
  • Any number of toppings can add additional flavor: chopped fresh tomato, diced squash, croutons or Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic and salt until vegetables start to soften. Stir in pepper, zucchini and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the pepper is soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach and basil just until wilted. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add a topping and serve
Makes about 6 servings.

basil roast-beef-wrap

Roast Beef Wraps with Garlic Basil Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh basil (any variety will work in this sandwich)
  • 4 8-inch whole-grain sandwich wraps
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 6 ounces roast beef (Italian-style if available), thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced

Directions

To make the aioli, place mayonnaise, garlic and basil in a blender; purée until smooth.
Divide the mixture into four portions and spread each wrap evenly with aioli. Lay the spinach leaves evenly over the aioli.
Place beef, then Provolone in single layers over the spinach. Roll up tightly.
Chill until ready to serve.

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father's day
Brunch is special. It’s almost always more of an occasion than a simple meal. Even if it’s just a midday meal with you and your partner, by its very nature, it’s a statement that we’re taking our time during this meal! What better way to celebrate Father’s Day, than to host a special brunch at home?

I think the main reason we don’t do this more often is because, in the midst of our busy lives, the planning can seem a little daunting. But after tending to a few things, a brunch get-together can actually be quite simple and seamless. Here are a few tips and recipes to help get you hosting this special meal:

Food is obviously something you want to think about for this get together. You can prepare a number of dishes, many with advance preparation, to suit a variety of tastes or you can choose one big dish along with a few little bites and nibbles that people can snack on while chatting. I always prepare a few different dishes, so I can please those family members with special diets, such as gluten-free or vegetarian. Mostly, I try to keep it healthy without losing all the great taste that many brunch recipes are known for. Fresh baked muffins and coffee cake are always a big hit. Don’t forget plenty of fresh fruit.

Not everyone drinks coffee, so it’s nice to have a few alternatives as well. A good herbal tea, fresh juice, like orange or grapefruit, or a fruity punch with a touch of champagne.

Father’s Day Brunch Menu

Father's day 1

Glazed Fruit Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups cubed cantaloupe or honeydew melon
  • 3 medium firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • 2 cups halved fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small saucepan, mix the orange juice, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a small bowl; cool slightly. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, combine the fruit in a large, attractive serving bowl. Drizzle with orange juice sauce; toss gently to coat. Yield: 10 servings.

Father's day 2

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour and cornmeal and the next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in the center. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin-cup liners in a muffin baking pan; coat with cooking spray. Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake at 375°F for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the muffin pan. Remove muffins to a wire cooling rack.

Father's day 3

Meat and Potato Hash

Roasting the potatoes separately gives them a crisp texture without the addition of extra fat. This recipe can be doubled.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast, beef pot roast, corned beef or pork roast, cubed
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Poached eggs, for serving over the hash

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Place potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; bake until tender, browned and slightly crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until cooked, about 4 minutes. Add thyme, chili flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

Add the cooked meat or poultry of choice and the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are warmed through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve a poached egg on top of each serving, if you like.

Perfect Poached Eggs

To make perfect poached eggs, crack a chilled egg into a small bowl. Bring a deep pot of water to a simmer. Swirl the water in a circle with a wooden spoon, then tip the egg out of the bowl into the center of the swirling water. Cover, turn off the heat, and remove the egg with a large slotted spoon after 2 minutes for soft poached eggs.

father's day 6

 

Baked Vegetarian Zucchini Frittata

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini (1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced (1-1/4 cups)
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • Sliced pitted ripe olives

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 10 inch round baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Spread shredded zucchini on a large platter or shallow baking pan; sprinkle evenly with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes. Using paper towels, gently press excess moisture from the zucchini.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until the onion is tender. Remove from the heat.

In large bowl, combine eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir in shredded zucchini, cooked onion and mozzarella cheese. Pour into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.
Bake about 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the eggs are set. Arrange whole zucchini slices on top of the baked mixture and place the tomato slices on top of the zucchini.

Sprinkle with olives and additional Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes more. Cut into small wedges.

Father's day 4

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt, stirring with a whisk in a medium bowl.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla, egg and egg white; beat well.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray. Level the batter with a spatula and sprinkle the top evenly with the sliced almonds and then the coarse sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove the cake from the pan, if desired. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Father's day 5

Pear Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pear
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Core and slice the pear; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and the oil. Add milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.

In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, baking powder, lemon peel and nutmeg.

Add to the mixture in the mixer; beat until combined. Stir in oats.

Spoon into prepared pan. Arrange sliced pears over the batter. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

If made ahead, you can rewarm the cake in a 350 degree F before serving.

fathers-day-ecard


sandwich

What makes for a great sandwich?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard, dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all (and probably some additional) factors.

But, the question is – What’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?

For me – it is the quality of the bread – what is it for you?

sandwich 5

Mortadella, Cheese and Basil Panini

Mortadella is a large Italian sausage or cold cut made of finely ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates small cubes of pork fat. Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) loaf ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 8 ounces sliced mortadella 
  • 2 hot cherry peppers, sliced
  • 1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Brush the cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush the cut side of the top half with vinegar. Top the bottom half with mozzarella, basil, mortadella, peppers and tomato. Top with remaining bread half.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add the sandwich to the pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges. If the sandwich does not fit in your pan, cut it in half and cook in two batches.

sandwich 2

Family Style Hearty Steak Sandwich

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank or sirloin steak
  • 1 (1-pound) Italian round bread loaf (boule) 
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 ounces arugula

Directions

Heat an outdoor gas grill.

Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, red onion, vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.

Place steaks on the grill over medium heat. Grill to desired temperature, turning once. Place on cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain.

Slice bread horizontally. Grill, cut side down, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Top with tomato mixture, steak and arugula. Top with remaining bread. Slice into wedges.

sandwich 1

Vegan Muffuletta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 (8-inch) Italian round bread loaf, halved horizontally
  • 1/3 cup sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1/3 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 12 basil leaves

Directions

Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard the black gills from each mushroom. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until it begins to turn light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Arrange mushrooms in the skillet in a single layer, then add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning the mushrooms once, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes total. Set aside off of the heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine black and green olives, parsley, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and press the mixture with the back of a spoon until it’s roughly mashed; set aside.

Using your fingers, remove some of the bread from the inside of both halves of the bread loaf, making sure to keep a 1-inch border around the edge. (This will help to make room for the filling. Save the bread that you remove for another use, such as bread crumbs or croutons.)

Layer both halves of bread with olive mixture then arrange peppers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and basil on the bottom half. Top with the cooked mushrooms, spreading them out to cover the entire width of the bread. Assemble the top and bottom halves of the loaf to form a sandwich.

Serve muffuletta right away or wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, weighted down with a heavy object like a cast iron skillet filled with a few heavy canned goods. Cut into wedges before serving.

sandwich 3

Mediterranean Tilapia Sandwiches

Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Ingredients

Fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Tzatziki:

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Sandwich ingredients:

  • 4 Mediterranean wheat pitas or flatbread (such as Toufayan), heated
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Directions

Preheat a broiler.

To prepare fish:

Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar , 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with olive oil cooking spray. Broil 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To prepare Tzatziki:

Combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

To prepare sandwiches:

Spread 2 tablespoons Tzatziki sauce in the center of each pita. Divide fish evenly among the pitas. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tomato slices and about 6 cucumber slices; fold pita or flatbread in half.

sandwich 4
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 crusty Italian rolls, such as ciabatta
  • Salt
  • 1 3/4 pounds thin chicken cutlets

Directions

Light an outdoor grill.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with olive oil. Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Brush the chicken cutlets with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them over high heat, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.


Sabina

Italy has many places of interest that are in the ‘off the beaten track’ category. One such place is Sabina. Sabina is the ancient region in the North-Eastern Province of Lazio.
The Sabine hills are a chain of mountains that lie between the river Tiber in the west and the town of Rieti in the east. The river Nera flows in the north and the river Aniene in the south. The highest peak in the Sabine Hills is Monte Pellecchia.

The Sabina has been inhabited since prehistoric times and remains of a human settlement and tools dating from the Palaeolithic era, (60.000-30.000 B.C.) have been discovered throughout the area. The Sabini, a tribe from the Adriatic coast, arrived in the area around the ninth or tenth century B.C. and founded the cities of Reate, Trebula Mutuesca and Cures Sabini. Thanks to its strategic position close to the river Tiber and the Salaria road, Cures (close to modern-day Talocci) became rich and controlled most of the surrounding lands. Cures was gradually absorbed into the Roman state in 290 B.C. After a destructive earthquake in 174 B.C., the territory was reorganized and new agricultural systems were introduced. The main focus was to increase production and supply the Roman market with olives and livestock.

sabina 1

The period following the decline of the Roman empire was characterized by repeated invasions, depopulation due to the plague and the lack of a centralized government. It was during this time that Farfa Abbey was established and the abbey played a fundamental role in the history of the area. The abbey belonged to the Benedictine order, a powerful organization with its own political and economic interests. The monasteries during this time period contributed to the spread of knowledge in an almost completely illiterate world. Farfa Abbey became rich under the protection of the Lombard dukes and, after 775 A.D., brought a certain amount of economic and agricultural development to the area.

sabina 2

During this same period the population abandoned old settlements in the valley bottoms in favor of the more easily defended hilltop sites. Almost all of the villages and towns in the Sabina were founded during the period between the ninth and the eleventh century A.D. and many of them were vassals of the abbey. Almost the entire population lived within the walls, going out to work in the fields during the day. During the twelfth century A.D., the Sabina saw the gradual decline in the power of the abbey and the growth of the Papacy and the Roman nobles. During the Renaissance, some of the medieval castles were transformed into baronial palaces, most notably in Roccasinibalda, Collalto and Orvinio, while other completely new palaces were built, for example, Palazzo Camuccini at Cantalupo and Palazzo Orsini at Toffia.

During the eighteenth century the population moved into the surrounding countryside, building up the farming community. This process took place in the lower Sabina (closest to the Tiber valley), where the fertility of the soil allowed the introduction of the “mezzadria” or sharecropping system, under which farmers gave half their produce to the landowner in return for the rent of the land and farmhouse.

The landscape of Sabina is dominated by the hilltop towns, watched over by their original castles and fortresses. Nowadays, the variety of castles in Sabina range from abandoned, ghostly ruins, to beautifully renovated castles that accommodate weddings.

The Sabina region has a rich culinary heritage and has been famous since ancient times for the quality of its food and drink, in particular its olive oil, one of the best in the world.
Other local products include cheese, meat, honey, mushrooms and fruit. Their high quality is thanks to a way of working the land which has resisted industrialization and older, more environmentally friendly methods continue to be used here simply because they work well.

The oldest olive tree.

The oldest olive tree.

Sabina olive oil is characterised by its low acidity and smooth yet peppery finish, which is a result of both the landscape in Sabina and the main varietal of olive grown (Carboncella). It is the steep hills and rocky limestone which gives the Sabina olive oil its distinctive taste. Sabina olive oil was the first olive oil in Italy to receive the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) appellation. In the village of Canneto, you will find the oldest (and one of the largest) olive trees in Europe. At over 1000 years old and with a trunk of 23 feet (7 meters) in circumference, this huge tree produces 1600 pounds (800 kilos) of olives every harvest!

Harvesting Olives

Harvesting Olives

Sabina, like elsewhere in Italy, has many Sagre. Some villages are especially well-known for a particular Sagra. For example, Roccantica is known for its popular ‘frittelli‘ festival in March. A sagra is simply a particular kind of festival that usually revolves around food and usually one specific seasonal ingredient or dish, which is particularly associated with that town or the local area. Sagre (plural) are run by the people who live in the town, so they are real community affairs, where everyone comes together to celebrate the food that they are so proud of. Visiting a Sagra is a great opportunity to sample some genuine, authentic dishes, cooked by people who live in the town.

Some of these specialties are:

Falloni of the Sabina

sabina 10

Falloni are a kind of wrap, similar to a calzone, that are stuffed with green vegetables before being baked in the oven.They make a great hot or cold snack or a picnic food. You can find falloni in many a forno (bakery) in the Sabina region, particularly the area around Montebuono, Poggio Mirteto, Torri in Sabina and Selci, where they are a local speciality. The falloni can differ depending on which village in Sabina they are made. Around Selci they like to use chard and raw spinach, in other places such as Stimigliano, they put spinach with other vegetables.The shape of the falloni can range from a long thin wrap to a rounder calzone shape. In some villages they cook the vegetables a little first before wrapping in the dough and finish baking them in the oven, while others do not pre-cook the vegetables. Falloni are pretty much exclusive to the Sabina region and are a great example of a regional food with a number of variations.

Stringozzi Pasta

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Also known as strangozzi , this popular Sabina pasta is flat, rectangular and made without eggs. The shape somewhat resembles shoelaces, which is where Stringozzi gets its name – stringa is a shoelace and stringhe are shoelaces. Stringozzi is also popular throughout Umbria, Marche and other parts of the Lazio region.

Frittelli

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Frittelli, deep-fried savory or sweet bites, are often eaten at some point during a big meal, especially for special occasions. Different types of Frittello may be associated with different occasions, for example a sweet Frittello with raisins is popular at Christmas and Lambs brain can be found on Easter tables.The most common type of Frittelli in Sabina, however, are fried cauliflower florets. Pieces of cauliflower are dipped in batter, fried and then seasoned with a little salt. They are so popular, in fact, that an entire festival was created to celebrate their existence.

Sabina’s Traditional Recipes

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Pollo alla Romana (Roman-style chicken)

This is a traditional, very rustic Roman dish of chicken with bell peppers, onion and tomatoes.

Serves 4

  • 1 chicken, cut into smaller pieces (or 8 chicken thighs). Leave the skin on.
  • 4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 26-28 oz can plum tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut into smaller chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and place in the pan with the garlic. Cook over a low heat, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn the chicken occasionally.

In another skillet, heat the remaining oil and add the peppers and onions. Cook and stir for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and mix together, cover the pan and cook over a low heat until the peppers are soft.

Pour the white wine over the chicken and cook, uncovered, until all the wine evaporates.

Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in the pan with the onions and peppers. Stir well to mix everything together. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes.

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Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

This pasta sauce is so famous that it is recognised as a traditional dish of Lazio by the Italian ministry of agriculture, food and forestry.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 oz cubed guanciale or pancetta
  • 28 oz can Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and brown the guanciale until crispy and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Saute the onion, garlic and chilli in the remaining oil until the onions are soft, (but don’t let them brown). Add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper.

Simmer until the sauce has thickened and lost its ‘watery’ appearance. Add the guanciale back into the pan with the sauce.

Boil the pasta until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and then return the pasta to the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta, mix well, top with the grated cheese and serve.

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Ciambelle all’ Anice

Ring-Shaped Anise Flavored Breads

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ½ cup dry white wine, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup anise seeds
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the water into a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow it to proof about 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine, olive oil, salt, and anise seeds. Mix well. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be soft. If the dough is still sticky after 5 cups of flour have been added, gradually add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes away from the bowl easily.

Transfer the dough to a board or the counter and knead the dough for 2 – 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces, depending on how big you want the rings.

Roll each piece into a long rope, bring the two ends together and place the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean towel and let them rise covered for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the Ciambelle to the water one at a time. When each ring floats to the surface, use a slotted spoon transfer the boiled ring onto a damp towel.

When one ring is taken out, place the one before back onto the lined baking sheet. When all have been boiled and put back on the lined baking sheets, bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Steak Night

How do you tell a good steak from a regular steak?

There are a few things to look for when buying a steak:

First, there is the grade. The grade speaks about the quality of the meat based on marbling and age.

The second factor is the cut. Different cuts have different qualities. Finding the right cut for what you want to cook is probably the most important part of an excellent steak.

The third factor is the diet of the steer and how it was raised.

Grade: The age of the animal and the marbling of the meat determine the grade of the meat. In the United States grades are prime, choice and select, with prime being at the top and select being the bottom. Prime grade beef makes up about 2% of all the beef produced in the United States and typically ends up exported or sold to fine restaurants. What you will normally find on the shelves at the store is choice and select. Since prime is difficult to find, your best option is to purchase a choice cut.

Marbling is an important factor in steak selection. To visually determine the marbling of a steak take a good look at the texture of the meat. If the meat is free of all fat then the cut has little or no marbling. Though, this is leaner and often more tender, it is not as flavorful. Small streaks of fat through the meat will produce a more flavorful steak. Marbling should be thin streaks of fat. Thick lines of fat means the steak contains a lot of connective tissue that will make it tough. The meat should be bright red and the fat, a creamy white, evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Cuts of steak can be broken down into three sections. Starting on the upper back and moving down to the mid-back you have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin.

The rib contains cuts, such as the Rib Roast, the Rib-eye Steak and the back ribs. This is the least tender section of the three.

The short loin produces the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin and the Porterhouse steaks.

The sirloin produces the Sirloin Steak and the Top Sirloin.

Strips steaks, like the New York Steak, is cut from the T-bone portion. The most tender cut of beef is the tenderloin. From this area you will also get cuts like Chateaubriand, filet mignon and tournedos. Though these cuts are tender they are less flavorful. Rib-eye or rib steaks are less tender but far more flavorful. The same holds true for the sirloin cuts.

Grass-Fed: There are lots of good reasons to choose grass-fed beef over conventionally raised beef – environmental, nutritional and concerns about the animals being treated well and eating what is natural to them. On all of these fronts, grass-fed beef beats feedlot beef hands down. However, over 95% of the beef sold in the U.S. is from feedlots. This means that beef from cattle which are entirely raised on pasture is more expensive and it also tastes a little different from the beef people in the U.S. are accustomed to. Additionally, the optimal cooking times, particularly for steaks, is a little different as well.

How to Prepare Steak for Cooking:

ALWAYS let your meat come to room temperature before doing anything to it.

Then, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and let it stand 60 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per side for a steak up to one inch thick. After sitting for an hour, wash the salt off the steak, dry it well with paper towels and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper. Cook immediately. TRUST ME. This method really works. I have tried any number of ways to prepare steak and always come back to this method. Any type of steak, including grass-fed steak and sirloin, prepared this way is flavorful and tender. Forget marinades and rubs – you can add the seasoning after the meat is grilled.

How to Grill Steak:

If you’re using charcoal you’ll want very hot coals. Use the 2 second rule to test them; you should be able to hold your hand a few inches over the grill for only about 2 seconds before it’s too hot. Once they are hot, move them to one side of the grill so you can have both direct and indirect heat. If you’re using a gas grill, turn all the burners to high and let it heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil.

Use tongs, extra long ones, to move your meat around, not a big fork. Puncturing your steak will only let the juices run out and cause them to be dry and tough.
Place the steaks on the hot grill to sear. Don’t move them for 2-3 minutes. If you want diagonal hatch marks, you can rotate your steak 45 degrees after a couple of minutes and then finish searing. Use the tongs again to turn the steaks and sear the other side.

If you cook the steaks at the super high heat level the entire time, the outside will be burnt by the time the center cooks. So after searing, turn the gas off on one of the burners. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of your charcoal/gas grill to finish cooking.

When it comes to steak, you can’t follow exact times because it will vary with every cut and every grill. Temperature is the most reliable guide. Remove the steaks when they are a few degrees from your desired degree of doneness and let the steaks rest for five minutes before slicing.

Medium rare steak should be warm through the middle and most of the center of the steak should be reddish pink. The sides should be well browned, the top and bottom charred to a dark brown color. This steak should have a firm surface but soft in the middle.
Internal Temperature 125 to 135 degrees F. This is the recommended level of doneness for a good steak.

Medium Rare

Medium Rare

Medium steak should have a thick band of light pink through the middle but more brown than pink. The sides should be a rich brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly (but not black). This steak should have some play through the middle but feel firm to the touch.
Internal Temperature 140 to 150 degrees F. If you are grilling for a large group of people, this is the best level of doneness that pleases the most people.

Medium

Medium

Medium well steak should have a hint of pink in the very middle of the steak. The surface should be a dark brown with good charring on the top and bottom. This steak will be very stiff but still have a little squish in the center. Internal Temperature 155 to 165 degrees F.

Medium Well

Medium Well

Well Done steak is the most difficult to cook. This steak should NOT be burnt on the outside. While there is not the faintest hint of pink in the middle, it should be browned through, not burnt through. This steak should feel solid to the touch.
Internal Temperature 170 or higher degrees F. The secret is to do it low and slow. It’s the only way to prevent burning while fully cooking it through the middle.

Well Done

Well Done

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef Steaks:

I usually use a gas grill and heat the grill to the hottest setting. Sear the steaks for about two minutes per side. Reduce one or two burners (depending on whether you have a 2 or 3 burner grill) to medium and turn off the second or third burner. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of the grill and close the cover. Finish the cooking over indirect heat and use a thermometer to determine how long to leave the steak on the grill. For charcoal, move the steaks to the side of the grill without the coals underneath. For a pan on the stove, just lower the heat.

Grass-fed steaks are best cooked rare or medium rare. Even if you usually like your steaks cooked longer, do give less cooking a try – or cook them in a sauce at a lower temperature. Cooking at a high temperature for a long time will definitely produce a tough steak. I find the best way to tell when a steak is done is to use a good instant-read thermometer (inserted from the side) and the best setting for grass-fed beef steaks is 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F.

Recipes for the Grill

Steak Night 3

Ribeye Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter and Mushrooms

Makes 4-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 beef Ribeye Steaks, boneless, cut 1 inch thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 medium Portobello mushrooms, stems removed (about 1-3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Blue Cheese Butter:

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Combine garlic, thyme and pepper. Set aside.

Place steaks on the grill and cook according to the directions above. When you move the steaks to the indirect heat, sprinkle with the garlic mixture.

Brush mushrooms with oil and after you move the steaks to indirect heat, place the mushrooms on the grill over the direct heat side. Grill about 10 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine Blue Cheese Butter ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Slice the grilled mushrooms. Arrange the steaks on a serving platter. Top each steak with a tablespoon of Blue Cheese Butter and slices of mushroom.

Steak Night 4

Strip Steak with Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce boneless beef top loin (strip) steak, cut about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 thin asparagus spears, trimmed (6 oz.)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ cup low salt beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Directions

Prepare steak as described above.

Place the asparagus in a shallow dish and drizzle with the oil.

For the sauce:

In a medium skillet stir together the broth, wine, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in mustard; keep warm.

Preheat the grill. Place steak on the grill rack and cook according to directions above. Grill until steak iscooked to your desired temperature.

Place the asparagus on the grill (gas – close the cover) for the last 2 to 3 minutes or for an uncovered grill (charcoal) the last 4 to 5 minutes of grilling. Cook asparagus until crisp-tender.

Spoon sauce on a serving plate. Cut steak in half crosswise. Serve steak halves atop sauce with asparagus on top. Makes 2 servings.

steak night 5

Grilled Grass-Fed T-Bone Steaks Florentine

2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (3/4 to 1 inch) thick T-bone grass-fed beef steaks

Directions

Blend the first 6 ingredients in a large mixing cup and set aside. Prepare steaks according to directions above and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Heat barbecue and cook steaks according to directions above.

When the steaks reach the desired temperature, remove them to a large plate with a rim.

Pour the reserved sauce over the steaks and let them rest for five minutes before slicing.

Recipes for the Stovetop

Steak Night 1

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

You may use mixed bell peppers as a substitute for the mushrooms to change theflavor ot the recipe the next time you make it.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound beef sirloin steak
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 scallions
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry using paper towels. When oil is shimmering in the pan, add steak. Cook to desired degree of doneness (4 minutes per side for medium, more or less, depending on the thickness of steak is recommended). Remove steak from the skillet and keep warm on a serving platter.

Return skillet to heat. Add tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes (if skillet begins to look too dry, add a few tablespoons of water). Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in basil and pour mixture over the steaks.

Steak Night 2

Round Steak with Lemon, Capers and Green Onions

Cuts of beef from the round or hind leg section are less tender than the loin, sirloin or rib. They can, however, offer the best combination of texture and flavor for many steak lovers. The top round comes from the inside thigh portion of the round. Because these muscles are used less than the outer ones, they are more tender than other cuts from the round.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound top round steak cut into 4 slices
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Chopped parsley and lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Mix flour, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Pound steaks thin between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Dredge each steak in the  flour mixture, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Brown steaks on each side 2 to 3 minutes, depending on desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from the pan, place on a serving platter and keep warm.

Without cleaning the pan, add green onions to the pan and cook briefly. Deglaze the  pan with the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and allow stock to reduce, about 5 minutes. Stir in capers and lemon juice and remove from heat.

Pour sauce over steaks and garnish with parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

 

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EarthDay

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Energy & Waste
The average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day. Over the course of a year, that is more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste – approximately 3,000 pounds per second. The recycling rate has increased from less than 10% in 1980 to more than 34% in 2011. From 1990 to 2010, the total amount of garbage going into landfills dropped by almost 10 million tons.

Plastic
In 2012, the U.S. produced 32 million tons of plastic. Only 9% was recovered for recycling. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes. Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. About 1,500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second.

Glass
It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Recycling one glass bottle can power a computer for 30 minutes. Producing glass from new materials requires 30% more energy than using used glass.

Paper
Every year, Americans use more than 180,000 of paper and paperboard. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. By recycling 1 ton of paper, we save enough energy to heat a home for six months.

Water
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing and personal needs. The average American uses more than 750,000 gallons of water per year. Around the world, the average is less than half of that figure.

Today is Earth Day, but you can have a meaningful discussion with your loved ones about it at any time. Taking care of our environment is important and you can empower your loved ones by sharing with them some of the easy ways to make a difference in your home and neighborhood.

Go Vegetarian Once a Week
One less meat-based dinner a week can nourish the planet and your diet. The meat industry contributes nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions accelerating climate change, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. A report published by the Environmental Working Group last year found that if every American eliminated both meat and cheese from their diet for one day a week, it would be equivalent to removing 7.6 million cars from the road. The Meatless Monday website reports that up to 2,500 gallons of water may be needed to produce one pound of beef and “40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feedlot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.”

Use Fewer Paper Napkins
This one’s real easy. During one year, the average American uses 2,200 paper napkins—approximately six per day. If everyone in the country eliminated just one paper napkin per day, more than a billion paper napkins could be saved from landfills each year. This goes for paper towels, too.

Buy local produce
According to the Institute of Food Research, the majority of produce in your grocery store loses nearly 45% of its nutritional value by the time you buy it. When you purchase produce from a nearby farm, chances are it was picked less than 24 hours earlier and had to travel less than 100 miles to get from the farm to you. This means you’re getting nearly all of the original nutrients and helping to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation, which contributes to climate change. While buying from a farm isn’t always possible, when you get the chance, doing so can make a big difference!

Reduce waste with composting
By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you cut down on the amount of food you waste and reduce your contribution to landfills. By composting regularly, you can reduce the volume of garbage you generate by as much as 25 percent!

Turn off the lights, and the faucets
Try to turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Experts recommend turning off Fluorescent bulbs which are sensitive to how many times you switch them on and off, when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. This helps save both energy and money. And when brushing your teeth, try to turn off the water for the two minutes or so it takes to brush; you can help save up to four gallons of water if you do this regularly.

Plant a tree
The simple act of planting a tree also reaps many benefits. Trees are good for the air and land and they can provide shade for your house, which can help you save on cooling costs. You can make the act meaningful for your family by starting an annual ritual of planting a tree in honor or in memory of someone. Or if you want to start smaller, just plant some herbs you can watch grow on the windowsill.

Discover more activities you can do together
There are plenty of other easy Earth-day inspired ways your family can contribute to a healthier planet beyond your backyard. Take walks or bike rides together instead of driving places. Volunteer together to help clean or preserve local parks. Learn about recycling together by calling your local recycling center and taking a tour, if they offer them. The best part about these activities is not only that they’re good for the planet, but by doing them together, they’re good for the family, too.

Source: http://www.50waystohelp.com/

Earth Day Menu

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Italian Leafy Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce – torn
  • 1 cup torn escarole
  • 1 cup torn radicchio
  • 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced in rings
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the romaine, escarole, radicchio, red-leaf, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together the olive oil, basil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

 

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Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

1 pound eggplant, peeled
3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe below
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • Breaded and baked eggplant 

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute vegetables. Add 1-6 oz. can tomato paste.
Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. Add 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi tomatoes. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme. Simmer for another hour or until the sauce has thickened. Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.

Measure out 2 ½ cups of sauce for the recipe above and freeze the remaining sauce.

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Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 7 1/4-7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water ( 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white

Directions

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
Combine the water and salt. Add to the dry mixture.
Beat at low-speed for 30 seconds, scrapping the sides constantly.
Beat at high for 3 minutes.
By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a very stiff dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and very elastic (15-25 minutes).
Shape into a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough in half.
Cover with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 15×12 inch rectangle.
Beginning at the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly, sealing as you roll.
Taper the ends of the loaf.

Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle them each with cornmeal.
Place each loaf, diagonally seam side down, on baking sheets.
Make diagonal cuts 2 ½ inches apart (1/8 to ¼ inch deep) on the tops of the loaves.
Add tablespoon of water to the beaten egg white and brush over the top and sides of the loaves.

Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 20-45 minutes).
When ready to bake, place a large shallow pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill with boiling water.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, brush with the egg white mixture again.
Bake 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.

2981

Yogurt Cake with Fresh Berries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries or seasonal fruit for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Oil the paper, too; set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract. Gently whisk flour mixture into yogurt mixture just until blended and smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and peel off parchment paper.

Continue cooling on a rack. Slice and serve with berries.

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If you have been picking up Spring vegetables and are wondering what to do with your new bounty, here are a few ideas on how to turn them into dinner.

Spring Vegetable Risotto

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Serve this main dish with a garden salad and bread sticks to make a complete dinner.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Cook peas in boiling water about 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

Pour broth into a medium-size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and keep broth warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and pepper and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently, or until softened. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to saucepan. Stir in rice and cook 1 minute. Add wine to saucepan and stir until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in warm broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir frequently until liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup (about 22 minutes total).

When you have about 10 minutes cook time remaining, stir in carrots. Add peas to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese, butter and lemon juice.

Chicken Soup with Vegetables

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For dinner serve this soup with a Toasted Tomato Sandwich (recipe below).

Ingredients

Stock Base

  • 4 whole bone-in chicken breasts
  • 5 medium carrots, quartered
  • 2 large parsnips, quartered
  • 2 small turnips, quartered
  • 2 medium celery roots, quartered
  • 1 large green bell pepper, halved, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 20 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 20 black or white peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice

Soup

  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch Julienne strips
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch Julienne strips
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into ⅛-inch julienne strips
  • 1 pound thin noodles, cooked and drained

Directions

Place chicken, carrots, parsnips, turnips, parsley roots, green pepper, onion and 1 tablespoon of salt in a 12-quart stockpot. Cover with 6 quarts cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim and discard foam that forms at the top when it comes to a boil. Add remaining salt, the parsley, cauliflower, garlic, peppercorns and allspice and return to a boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly. Remove meat from bones. Shred meat and refrigerate. Return bones to the pot. Continue simmering, covered, over low heat, for at least 2 hours more.

Strain entire contents of pot through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Chill broth overnight.

To serve soup: Remove surface fat and pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until warm, 10 to 15 minutes. Add zucchini, carrot, celery and reserved shredded chicken. Simmer 5 minutes to cook vegetables and heat chicken.

Be careful to keep soup over low heat; bringing soup to a boil can make it cloudy. Season to taste with salt. Place 1/4 cup noodles in each soup bowl and ladle hot soup over pasta.

Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

06_tomato_cucumber_cheese_mayo_sandwich

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese with onion and chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 slices whole-grain country bread
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Directions

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

Mash garlic on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or a spoon until a paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with cream cheese and lemon juice.

Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper and salt.

Place bread on a large baking sheet and broil until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the bread over and divide cheese among 4 of the pieces. Continue broiling until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble sandwiches with tomato and the garlic-herb mixture. Top with the melted cheese bread.

Scallops with Asparagus Salad

scallops-with-asparagus-salad-ss

Serve this main dish salad with Cheddar Drop Biscuits (recipe below).

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 1 pound new potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (about 24 scallops)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 cups salad greens (about one 5-ounces)

Directions

In small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, mustard and shallot. Gradually drizzle in 3 tablespoons olive oil, whisking continuously until dressing is emulsified; set aside until ready to use.

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add potato slices to boiling water and cook 4 minutes; drain. Cut 1-inch off of bottoms of asparagus; discard. Cut stalks into 2-inch pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potato slices to skillet and cover; cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus pieces to skillet and stir to combine. Sprinkle potato mixture with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and cook an additional 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove asparagus and potatoes to a plate.

Season scallops with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add half of the butter, swirling to coat bottom. Add half of the scallops to the skillet and cook 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook 1 minute on the second side, adjusting heat as necessary so the butter doesn’t burn. Repeat process with remaining butter and scallops.

Toss salad greens with 2 tablespoons prepared dressing and divide among plates. Toss asparagus mixture with remaining dressing and divide among salad plates, then divide scallops among plates and serve immediately.

Cheddar Drop Biscuits

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, well shaken
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with racks in upper and lower third positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper. Work butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers until butter is incorporated and pea-size lumps remain. Stir in cheddar, then buttermilk and chives, just until dough comes together.

Using two spoons, drop 1/4 cup quantities of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake in oven until golden brown, 12-14 minutes, rotating baking sheets once.

Spinach, Onion and Cheese Quiche

spinach-gouda-quiche-ck-x

Serve this Quiche with a tomato salad and Zucchini Muffins (recipe below) for dinner.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Ingredients

Crust

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Gouda cheese or cheese of choice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs

Directions

To prepare crust, place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Combine milk, salt, and egg yolk in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add milk mixture to butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour; beat just until combined. Press mixture into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap and place chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze 15 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 2 minutes. Combine 1 cup milk and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in spinach mixture.

Pour filling into crust. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Zucchini Muffins

1114049 (1)

Servings: 12 Ingredients

  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup almond milk or low-fat dairy milk
  • 1½ cups shredded zucchini

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt together.

In another bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, vanilla, lemon zest, zucchini and milk. Stir until well combined.

Add wet mixture into dry mixture, stirring until just barely combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake 18-25 minutes.

Spring Lasagna

28-255-jamie-oliver-s-30-minute-meals-summer-veg-lasagne.full

Serve a green bean salad (recipe below) to round out the menu. Add browned sliced Italian sausage to the layers for a meat option.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for the pan
  • Eight 2 1/4-inch wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup green peas, freshly shelled or frozen
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound ricotta, preferably whole milk
  • 1 packed cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic
  • About 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with a little olive oil. Lay out two kitchen towels.

Add salt and noodles to the boiling water, swishing gently so they don’t stick. Boil 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and fresh peas. (For frozen peas, just place them in a colander in the sink.) Boil 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas and boil 1 minute more. Drain into a colander (directly over the frozen peas, if using).

Using tongs, immediately lift out 4 noodles and place them in the pan in a single layer. Place the other noodles on a towel in a single layer. Transfer the vegetable to the other kitchen towel and pat dry. Reserve a few asparagus tips to garnish the top of the lasagna.

Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in a bowl. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic in a small microwave-safe bowl, cover and cook for 30 seconds; stir it into the ricotta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, spread half the pesto over the noodles in the pan. Using half the ricotta mixture, place spoonfuls over the pesto, trying to get it evenly distributed. There will be gaps. Scatter half the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with a little more than half the Parmesan. Top with remaining noodles and repeat the layers, ending with a light scattering of Parmesan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through and lightly golden.

Garnish the top of the lasagna with the reserved cooked asparagus tips before serving.

Green Bean Pepper Salad

Green-Bean-Pepper-Salad--640x480

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded or 1 jarred roasted pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Directions

Put 1 cup of water in a saucepan with the green bean pieces. Boil water and reduce heat to medium. Cover the pot and steam the green beans for 12-15 minutes until tender-crisp (smaller, younger beans may cook more quickly).

Meanwhile, dice the roasted bell pepper flesh into small pieces. Drain the beans in a colander and run cold water over them to cool them down to room temperature. Shake them dry.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper, salt and parsley in a small bowl. Place the steamed green beans and diced roasted bell pepper in a salad bowl and pour dressing over them. Toss all ingredients gently until the beans and peppers are fully coated with the dressing.

Let the salad marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Serve at room temperature.

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3 lentils

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

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

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

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

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

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

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

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

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

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

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

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

red-lentil-jar

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

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

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

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

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

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

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

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

For the Stew:

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

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

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

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

Remove from the heat, let cool.

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

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

Prepare the Stew:

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

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

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

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

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

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

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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artichoke-ranch-980x360

ArtichokeBlossom The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

How To Buy Artichokes

Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.

How To Prepare Artichokes

Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke.  Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

TrimBottom

 

TrimmedArtichoke

How To Cook Artichokes

Boiling Method:
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.

Steaming Method:
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

baby-artichokes-at-market

Baby Artichokes

Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.

Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).

Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.

Cooking Artichokes

Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.

Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.

artichokes and potatoes

Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes 
  • A bunch parsley, minced
  • Pepper to taste

Directions

If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.

Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.

When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.

Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.

GrilledBabyArtichokes

Grilled Baby Artichokes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.

Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.

When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.

This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.

artichoke pizza

Artichoke Cheese Pizzas

This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.

Ingredients

  • One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.

Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.

Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.

artichoke stuffed

Stuffed Artichokes

This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.

Ingredients

For 2-double ingredients for 4

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Half small onion sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.

Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

To prepare stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.

In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.

Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.

fish

Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
  • 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.

Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.

Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.

In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.

To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.

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676142901_1388825053Whether it’s a partner or a family member with different eating styles and preferences, conflict can arise on various fronts when some people in the house are vegetarians and others are not. The good news: with a little patience and compromise, not to mention good humor, it is possible for everyone to enjoy meals together. Setting ground rules in advance can ward off many disagreements in the kitchen. In particular, deciding who is responsible for what can help prevent resentment and ensure things run more smoothly when it comes time for food preparation.

  • Will a group meal be prepared that everyone will share?
  • How does the vegetarian feel about preparing and cooking meat even if he or she doesn’t eat it?
  • Will the non-vegetarian prepare vegetarian meals?
  • Is it simplest for each person to be responsible for their own cooking?

There is no one correct answer and it may take some time to work out the best system. As far as meals are concerned, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options can be blended without making the division obvious. Here are a few suggestions for minimizing the differences and increasing the joy of eating together:

  • The non-vegetarian partner should agree to expand his/her food horizons and try new vegetables, grains and protein sources.
  • Find as many dishes as possible that also work for your partner.
  • The vegetarian partner should tolerate having the non-vegetarian cook meat, chicken or fish in the family kitchen. Have pots and dishes just for that, if it’s an issue.
  • At the same time, the vegetarian shouldn’t be expected to cook meat, unless he/she doesn’t mind.
  • Freeze individual portions of each partner’s favorite dishes to eat when time is short or you can’t agree.
  • Never make negative remarks about what the other wants to eat. Don’t try to convert the other to your point of view or even think that this would be a good thing. It never is.

c3beee859a008720a2caeb7d4119c803

Types of Vegetarians

  • A vegetarian eats no meat, poultry or fish.
  • An ovo-lacto vegetarian eats eggs and milk.
  • A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products, but not eggs.
  • A vegan eats no animal products at all, often including honey. There are strict ethical vegans who don’t wear or use any animal product.
  • Raw food devotees are vegan.
  • A pesco-vegetarian (eats fish) isn’t vegetarian, because fish is considered an animal product.
  • Flexitarian is a made up term for one who flips back and forth from vegetarian to non-vegetarian.

When entertaining think about the likely food preferences of those you’re feeding. Ask about likes and dislikes, as you would with any other guest. Stick with familiar foods, when feeding both vegetarians and non-vegetarians at the same meal.

Here are some suggestions:

Serve egg or cheese based dishes, such as a Spinach Quiche. Good accompanied with baked potato and a salad. Chickpeas and kidney beans are familiar enough to be used in small amounts. Add them to dishes that are well-known – such as three-bean salad, pasta salad, minestrone soup or vegetarian chili. Use familiar comfort foods, such as potatoes, breads or pasta. Familiar ethnic foods work well: Mexican, Indian or Italian. Whenever possible, tell your guests in advance what you’re planning to make and ask them for suggestions, if you feel comfortable with that idea.

Breakfast may be one of the easier meals to accommodate vegetarians and non-vegetarians, so inviting friends for brunch may be an ideal way to entertain. There are many breakfast options that do not contain meat, such as oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruit, coffee cake, pancakes or waffles that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. For a larger breakfast, eggs or omelets can be eaten by everyone, except vegans. For the non-vegetarians, bacon or sausage can easily be added to the meal as a side.

For vegetarians, sandwiches made with vegetables and cheese can provide an alternative to deli meats, while non-vegetarians can add sliced turkey, beef or chicken to their sandwiches. Soups can be made with vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. Cooked chicken, fish or beef can be added to the non-vegetarian soup just before serving. Salads are also lunch options that are easy to make vegetarian by replacing meat or fish with beans or hard-boiled eggs. Dinner pasta or rice recipes made with vegetables are easily prepared dishes where meat or fish can be added for family members that are not vegetarians.

The situation in my family is easy. The vegetarians are not vegan. They just do not eat animal protein and they don’t get upset if it is on the table. My typical approach is that I make the same foods the non-vegetarians are eating minus the animal protein part for the vegetarians. It is a two-in-one system. Two versions of the same dish, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Here are some of the recipes that work in our family.

split pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Corn chowder is another great option. Serve crumbled bacon on the side as a garnish.

4-6 servings

Ingredient

  • 2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion (2 cups), diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 pound cooked ham steak, diced and heated

Directions
Sauté the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, until the onions translucent. Add the potato, garlic and rosemary and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add the split peas, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, partially covered, for another 40 minutes or so until the peas are very soft and falling apart.
Serve the warmed ham in a separate bowl for non-vegetarians to add to their soup bowls.

cabbageroll

Stuffed Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

Cabbage & Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
  • 6-8 ounces (2 links) sweet turkey or pork Italian sausage, casing removed
  • Olive oil for drizzling over the cabbage rolls
  • Chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

To prepare the rice:

Combine water, rice and 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain the barest simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and place near the stove.
Using a small, sharp knife, remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. Add the whole cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. As the leaves soften, use tongs to gently remove 8 large outer leaves. Transfer the leaves to the toel lined baking sheet and pat with more towels to thoroughly dry. Set aside.
Drain the remaining cabbage in a colander for a few minutes. Finely chop enough to make 1 1/2 cups. (Save any remaining cabbage for another use. I place the remaining cabbage in the freezer to save for a soup recipe.)

To prepare the filling:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the pan is fairly dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add the mushroom mixture to the cooked rice along with currants and pine nuts.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high. Add the chopped cabbage, the remaining salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Add the sausage to the empty skillet and brown. Set aside in a separate bowl.

To prepare the sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Coat two 8-inch baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Place a ½ cup of tomato sauce in each baking dish.

To stuff the cabbage:

Divide the rice mixture in half. To one half add the sautéed cabbage and to the other half add the browned sausage.

For the vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the cabbage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in one baking dish.

For the non-vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the sausage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in the other baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the rolls in both pans. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the cabbage rolls in each pan. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the tops of the vegetarian rolls, so you will know they are the vegetarian rolls when serving. Bake, uncovered, basting twice with the sauce, until hot, about 45 minutes.

pasta-primavera-ay-1875565-l

Pasta Primavera with Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Small bunch of each – parsley, thyme and rosemary – tied together with kitchen twine

For the Primavera:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle, washed and dried
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose of instant flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Water
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 10 oz box frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • A handful of parsley, thyme leaves and rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

To poach the chicken:

Place chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay and herb bundle in a medium saucepan, cover chicken with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid. Save remaining broth for another use. Cool chicken and remove the skin and bones. Slice the chicken into serving pieces, place in a serving bowl, cover and keep warm

For the pasta sauce:

Heat oil with the butter over medium heat in the same pan. Add carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until tender, 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir a minute more. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then stir in 2 cups of the vegetable broth. Cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the peas and reduce the heat to low.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add salt and cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain. Add the Primavera sauce to the pasta along with the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth.

Gremolata-zest the lemon and combine it with the finely chopped herbs.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls topped with some of the gremolata and some grated cheese.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken poaching broth and pour it over the sliced chicken. Serve the chicken to non-vegetarians to add to their pasta bowl.

beef skewers

vegetable skewers

shrimp skewers

Grilled Beef Sirloin & Shrimp & Farmer’s Market Skewers

I like to serve this dish with a brown and wild rice mix and a tomato salad. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like and that your vegetarian friends or family like.

Ingredients

Mustard-Thyme Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Skewers

  • 1 lb top sirloin steak, grass-fed if possible, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 thin eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch thick wedges
  • 12 medium mushrooms

Directions

Combine glaze ingredients in a large glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 45-60 seconds, stirring once until bubbly.

Place the vegetables on one platter, the shrimp on another platter and the beef on another platter.

Lightly brush some of the glaze on all sides of the vegetables. Wash or change to another pastry brush and lightly brush the steak and shrimp with the remaining glaze.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Thread vegetables, beef and shrimp, separately, onto 12-inch metal skewers.

Place beef skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill steak, 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium, turning occasionally.

Grill vegetables skewers for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are until tender. Grill the shrimp just until they turn pink, turn and grill until the second side is pink.

Serve the grilled vegetables on one platter and the shrimp and beef on another platter.

veggie-cartoon

 

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