Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Although sweet potatoes may be part of the Thanksgiving tradition, be sure to add these naturally sweet vegetables to your meals throughout the year; they are some of the most nutritious vegetables around. Sweet potatoes can be found in your local market year-round, however they are in season in November and December.

They also have many health benefits.

1.  They are high in vitamin B6.

2. They are a good source of vitamin C.

3.  They contain Vitamin D.

4.  Sweet potatoes contain iron.

5.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of mag­nesium.

6.  They are a source of potassium.

7. Sweet potatoes are sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream.

8. Their rich orange color indicates that they are high in beta carotene and other carotenoids.,

In the U.S., there is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams. They are completely different foods, belonging to different plant families. This confusion exists for two reasons. First, as a shopper, it is possible for you to find sweet potatoes and yams that look reasonably alike in terms of size, skin color and flesh color. Second, government agencies have allowed these terms to be used interchangeably on labeling, so that you often cannot rely on the grocery store signs to help you determine whether you are looking at a bin full of sweet potatoes or a bin full of yams. For example, in many stores you can find bins that are labeled “Red Garnet Yams” and “Jewel Yams” and the foods in these bins are actually sweet potatoes.

Here are some general practical rules that you can follow:

  • In most U.S. groceries, you should assume that you are always purchasing a sweet potato, even if the sign says “yams.” Over 1 million sweet potatoes are commercially grown in the U.S. each year, while commercial production of yams in the U.S. is rare.
  • Don’t use flesh color to decide whether you are getting a sweet potato or a yam. Both root vegetables come in a variety of colors. Once again, you should assume that you are getting a sweet potato regardless of the flesh color.
  • If you are seeking a true yam (from the plant genus Dioscorea), it might be helpful to visit a more internationally focused store that specializes in foods from tropical countries.

The sweet potato is a tropical plant that was brought to Italy and Spain by Columbus. From there it spread to Austria, Germany, Belgium and England. Within the U.S., over half of all commercially grown sweet potatoes come from the southern states (especially North Carolina).

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures negatively alter their taste.

Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place (in a brown paper bag with multiple air holes punched in it) where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should not be kept in the refrigerator.

Try them roasted, mashed, steamed, baked or grilled. You can add them to soups and stews or grill and place on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad. Puree them and add to smoothies and baked goods.

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Sweet Potato-Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced large
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 sweet potatoes (1 pound total), peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup small pasta shells
  • 4 cups roughly chopped mixed greens, such as kale, Swiss chard or spinach
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add sweet potatoes, broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook 3 minutes less than the package instructions. Reduce to a simmer, add greens and cook until the pasta is tender and greens are wilted, about 4 minutes. Serve with Parmesan.

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Sweet Potato Frittata

The peppers and sweet potatoes can be cooked ahead of time.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds (about 3) sweet potatoes
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 5 egg whites (or refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) greens, blanched and chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese (plus more to garnish)
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Char the peppers on an open fire or under the broiler. Steam them for five minutes in a bag or covered bowl and peel. Seed them, then cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Bake potatoes in the oven or in the microwave until they are tender. Allow them to cool to room temperature. When the potatoes have cooled, peel them and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Beat whole eggs, egg whites and Italian seasoning together and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, 10-inch ovenproof sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté until brown. Remove to a bowl and season onions with salt and pepper.

Return sauté pan to the stove on medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add a layer of potatoes, followed by 1/3 of the onions, peppers and greens. Pour a third of the egg mixture over the vegetables. Repeat until all of the ingredients are in the pan. You may need to push the layers of the frittata down gently so that all of the ingredients are covered by the egg mixture. Sprinkle top with feta cheese.

Place the pan in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown.

Slide onto a warm serving platter, garnish with chopped parsley and additional feta cheese. Cool for five minutes. Slice and serve.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Serves 8 as a First Course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lb russet (baking potatoes)
  • 1 (3/4-lb) sweet potato
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sage leaves 
  • 1/3 cup bottled roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with a sharp vegetable peeler
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

GNOCCHI:

Preheat oven to 450°F with the oven rack in middle.

Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a 4-sided pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through a ricer into a sheet pan, spreading in an even layer. Cool potatoes completely.

Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Scoop potatoes into a mound in the sheet pan, using a pastry scraper, if you have one, and form a well in the center.

Pour egg mixture into the well, then mix into the potatoes. Mix in cheese and 1 1/2 cups flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some flour.

Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.

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Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with the tips of tines touching work surface. Working with 1 at a time, roll gnocchi down the fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to floured baking sheets.

SAGE LEAVES AND CHESTNUTS:

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt.

Fry chestnuts in 3 batches, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. Reserve oil in the skillet.

SAUCE:

Add butter to oil in the skillet with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

COOK GNOCCHI:

Add half of the gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the skillet with the butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to the skillet as cooked.

Heat gnocchi in the skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat.

Serve sprinkled with fried sage and chestnuts and grated cheese.

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Italian Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 servings

Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges each

Pork

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 to 1 lb each)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions

Heat oven to 425°F.

In large bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic together. Add the sweet potatoes and onions; toss to coat. Spread in a 9×13-inch pan. Roast uncovered 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush pork tenderloins with the 1/2 tablespoon oil. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt and the Parmesan cheese.

Move vegetables to the center of the baking pan; place one pork tenderloin on each side. Sprinkle seasoning mixture evenly over pork.

Roast uncovered 20 to 25 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 155°F. Cover pan with foil; let stand 5 minutes or until thermometer reads 160°F. (Temperature will continue to rise about 5°F, and pork will be easier to carve.)

Cut pork into 1-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter with sweet potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with parsley.

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Sweet Potato Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee crystals
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions

Prick sweet potato several times with a fork. Wrap potato in a damp paper towel. Microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 3 minutes. Turn potato over; microwave for 2 to 3 minutes more or until tender. Cool slightly. Remove and discard peel. Mash potato with a fork; measure 1/3 cup. Save any remainder for another use.

In a blender combine the 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, almond milk, brown sugar, coffee and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (according to taste). Cover and blend on high-speed for 1 minute.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until heated through. Transfer to a heat-proof mug. If desired, sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Makes one serving.

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Dutch ovens are cylindrical, heavy gauge cooking pots with tight-fitting lids that can be used either on a range top or in the oven. The heavy metal or ceramic construction provides constant, even and multi-directional radiant heat to the food being cooked inside.

The term “Dutch oven” is something of a misnomer in that the pots are neither Dutch nor actual ovens. Rather, it refers to the casting process developed in Holland by which brass vessels were cast in dry-sand molds. In 1704, an Englishman by the name of Abraham Darby traveled to the Netherlands to observe how the thick-walled cast-iron pots were made and, eventually, patented a similar process for use in England and its American colonies.

A Dutch oven has the advantage of using one pot from start to finish — you can sear protein in the same pan you use to braise. When using a Dutch oven, you can braise on the stove top or in the oven. Almost any cooking task can be performed in a Dutch oven.

All of my recipes below are cooked on top of the stove but you could easily finish the braising process in the oven. Cover and place the Dutch Oven on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 300° Fahrenheit and follow the cooking times below.

How to Make Dutch Oven Recipes in a Slow Cooker.

Converting from a Dutch Oven to a slow cooker is easy. If a recipe has any searing, sauteing or deglazing steps, complete those steps in a pan on the stove top. After adding the liquid, transfer everything to the slow cooker. For recipes that call for either stove top simmering or an oven temperature of 300 degrees F or more, set your slow cooker to HIGH. For recipes under 300 degrees F, use the LOW setting. Slow cookers prevent liquid from evaporating, so sauces come out thinner than in a Dutch Oven.

SLOW COOKER DUTCH OVEN
12 hours/Low 3 hours/325° F
10 hours/Low 2 1/2 hours/325° F
8 hours/Low 2 hours/325° F
6 hours/Low 1 1/2 hours/325° F
5 hours/Low 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
4 hours/Low 1 hour/325° F
4 hours/High 2 hours/325° F
3 hours/Low 45 min./325° F
3 hours/High 1 1/2 hours/325° F
2 hours/Low 30 min./325° F
2 hours/High 1 hour/325° F
1 hour/Low 15 min./325° F
1 hour/High 30 min./325° F

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Quick Cooking Pork and Vegetable Stew Italiano

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil , torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Directions

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the pot. Add zucchini, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until pork is tender. Stir in basil and oregano, season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Half of a 1-lb. loaf sourdough bread, torn into 2” pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, center ribs and stems removed
  • 1 bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig marjoram or oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan (for serving

Directions

Scatter bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Let stand at room temperature to slightly dry out, about 2 hours.

Cook greens separately in a large pot (Dutch Oven) of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.

In the empty pot heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and reserved greens; season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.

Just before serving, gently stir bread into the soup. Divide among bowls, top with Parmesan and drizzle with oil.

DO AHEAD: Stew can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. Store bread airtight at room temperature.

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Spicy Cioppino

For 2

Ingredients

  • 6 fingerling potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika (or half cayenne and half smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 fresh plum tomatoes seeded and finely diced
  • 1 white fish fillet (cod, halibut, grouper) diced (about 8 ounces)
  • 6 sea scallops and 6 peeled shrimp, patted dry 
  • 6 mussels and 6 small clams
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley and/or basil
  • Sourdough bread

Directions

Place potatoes in a Dutch Oven, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil onion, garlic and jalapeno to the pan and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 4- 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, add seasonings, salt and pepper, wine, clam juice and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels and cook until the shellfish open.

Season fish, shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper. Add the fish, shrimp and scallops, cooked potatoes, cream and capers to the pot, return to a simmer and cook until heated through and white fish is cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve with sourdough bread.

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Italian Beef Stew

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8-ounce package whole cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 3/4 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven.

Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

Add half the beef to the pan; sauté 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from the pan to a bowl. Repeat procedure with oil and beef.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add onion and chopped carrot; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté for 45 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Return meat to the pan. Add tomatoes and the next 6 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and stir in sliced carrot. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.

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Chickpea and Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, sliced into ½ inch thick lengths
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced, drained roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups 1′ cubes country-style bread
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to the pot and cook, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to low and add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add oregano, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Add reserved, browned chicken with any accumulated juices, along with bay leaves and 4 cups water. Scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add chickpeas to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add diced red peppers. Stir in lemon juice; simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Divide bread cubes among bowls. Ladle stew over. Garnish with parsley.

 


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What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

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Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.


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If the chill in the air has you wanting to make some heartier pizzas, look no further for inspiration than the fall farmers’ market. Apples, butternut squash, sage, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, figs…these ingredients are perfect. The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more fruit or vegetable servings each day. This fall’s harvest offers the opportunity to revisit the classics while searching for new flavors. What better way to enjoy these ingredients than on a pizza. You can prepare it so many different ways, so experiment and have fun with it. Who knows? Maybe you will create a new family favorite that you can look forward to year after year.

Master Pizza Dough Recipe:

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Make this dough at least one day ahead.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Semolina flour for dusting

Directions

Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil, honey and water and stir on low-speed until the flour is all absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to floured work surface and gently round into a ball. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).

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Sage Pesto and Butternut Squash Pizza

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pancetta.

Ingredients

  • One prepared pizza dough, see above, or your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sage pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup caramelized butternut squash (recipe follows)
  • 2 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Sage pesto:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Caramelized butternut squash:

  • 1/2 small butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the sage pesto:

Combine the walnuts, sage, parsley, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times to break up the walnuts and herbs somewhat. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

For the caramelized butternut squash:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the diced squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, mixing once after 15 minutes. Let cool.

To make the pizza:

Remove dough from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

In a small skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the pancetta and leek until  the pancetta begins to brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Spread the sage pesto on the dough and then evenly distribute the caramelized squash, the Fontina cheese, the pancetta and the leek. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and add fresh cracked pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano, and additional nutmeg. Slice and serve immediately.

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Fennel, Onion and Italian Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe pizza dough, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Directions:

Remove dough from refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Saute crumbled Italian sausage in a skillet until no longer brown. Set aside. In the same skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, thyme, salt and fennel and cook over medium heat until onions are soft and golden and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Brush the crust with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread with grated mozzarella and top with sausage, the onion and fennel mixture. Season with pepper.

Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and a few fennel fronds. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Mushroom, Kale Pizza with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large head roasted garlic, see recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups torn kale leaves (not tightly packed!)
  • 1 prepared pizza crust, at room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack in the oven.

Remove roasted garlic cloves from their skins and place in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mash with fork until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom slices and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Place pizza dough in a 14-15 inch pizza pan and push dough to the edges.

Spread roasted garlic sauce onto the crust, leaving a 1-inch edge on all sides. Top with half of cheese, mushrooms and kale, then remaining cheese.

Transfer pizza pan to the pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and kale is just beginning to crisp.

Roasted Garlic:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the head on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until the cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

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Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza

Any combination of roasted vegetables, you like, can work in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small, thin eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, halved, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut into eighths
  • 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 prepared pizza dough, recipe from above
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Garnish with fresh basil

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Let stand, covered, for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss together the first 8 ingredients with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a single layer in 2 aluminum foil-lined 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown.

Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Press dough out in a 15-inch pizza pan and coat crust with remaining olive oil.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over the crust and top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and crushed red pepper over the vegetable mixture. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake 10 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and dollop the ricotta cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until the crust is crisp and cheese is melted. Garnish with basil, if desired.


Food52

There are plenty of fall weather produce that you can make into delicious salads.

What’s Fresh Now

Apples

Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.

Pears

It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful, recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities:  Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice and place them in a water bath–or serve them immediately after slicing.

Grapes

Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and toss them in your favorite salad.

Fennel

Fennel is available from fall through spring and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic vegetable is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The green tops can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and softer than in its raw state.

Cabbage

Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild tasting cabbages. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking. I have had great success with wrapping the cauliflower in white paper towels before putting it into a ziplock plastic bag.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.

Spinach and Kale

When buying greens, make sure they are very fresh. Look for vibrant dark green leaves that are crisp and full, not wilted or yellowish. Go organic when possible. Non-organic spinach, kale and collards are high in pesticides. Certain vegetables are worth buying organic and greens are one of them.

Spaghetti Squash

Look for spaghetti squash with a firm, dry rind, free of soft spots and cracks. Squash should be heavy for its size  with a firm, dry, rounded stem, which helps keep out bacteria. Store squash in a cool, dry place (preferably 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 3 months. Refrigeration will make the squash spoil quickly, but squash can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks.

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Spaghetti-Squash Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-pound) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, 3 ounces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti squash and cook until it is al dente, about 12 minutes; drain. Place the spaghetti squash halves cut side down on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the sliced almonds on a pie plate and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly golden. In a food processor, combine the chopped olives with the sliced scallions, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Working over a medium bowl and using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash into the bowl, separating the strands. Add the dressing along with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds and season with salt and white pepper. Toss the spaghetti squash salad and serve warm.

Spinach Salad with Smoked Chicken:: Apple:: Walnuts:: and Bacon

Spinach, Chicken, Apple, Walnut and Bacon Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound cooked and sliced boneless chicken breast
  • 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed (about 9 cups)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 350F°. Toast the walnuts until golden brown on a cookie sheet, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and then crumble it.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the dressing with the chicken. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the chicken absorbs the dressing. Add the walnuts, bacon, spinach, onion, apple and about half of the remaining dressing and toss. Pass the remaining dressing to add to the salad, if needed.

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Seafood Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 head fresh broccoli
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 pound crabmeat or shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Cut the florets off the head of broccoli and reserve the stalks for another recipe, such as soup. Cut the florets into small pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt. black pepper and cayenne.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, and crab. Toss mixture with dressing. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Apple and Zucchini Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Leaf lettuce

Directions

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

Combine apples, bell pepper, zucchini and cucumber in a salad bowl; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad with Soy Cheese

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • Small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine the walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and agave syrup in a small bowl and mix well. Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well. Taste and season according to your preference for salt and pepper

Slice the core off the bottom of the fennel. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and slice very thinly or shave using a mandolin.

If your pears are organic, you can leave the skin on, if desired, otherwise, peel the pears then slice thinly.

Mix the pears and fennel slices together and mix in half of the dressing to coat the ingredients evenly and retard discoloration.

Divide the salad onto four individual plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and shaved cheese on top of the salad.

Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.


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Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

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Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

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Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

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Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

frasassi6

Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

frasassi8

Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

frasassi7

Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.



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