Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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3 lentils

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

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

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

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

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

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

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

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

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

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

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

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

red-lentil-jar

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

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

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

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

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.

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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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Michelango_Portrait_by_Volterra

Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra

Michelangelo was born March 6, 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany. For several generations, Michelangelo’s family were bankers in Florence but, when their bank failed, his father, Lodovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, took a government post in Caprese, where Michelangelo was born. Several months after Michelangelo’s birth, the family moved back to Florence. After his mother’s death in 1481, when he was just six years old, Michelangelo was sent to live with a stonecutter and his family in the town of Settignano. A few years later Michelangelo went to Florence to study grammar, however, he showed no interest in schooling, preferring to copy paintings and seek the company of painters. His friend, Granacci, encouraged him to take a place as an apprentice with the Ghirlandaio brothers at their workshop in Florence. Here he learned the art of drawing but his desire to be a sculptor became stronger and he was noticed by Lorenzo de Medici, who took him in to live at the palace in Via Larga, where he was treated like a son. The Medici garden became a school for Michelangelo because it was filled with statues that he could use for inspiration.

One of Michelangelo's very early drawings - John the Baptist.

One of Michelangelo’s very early drawings – John the Baptist.

The death of Lorenzo de’ Medici, however, brought a reversal of Michelangelo’s circumstances. Michelangelo left the security of the Medici court and returned to his father’s house. In the following months he carved a polychrome wooden Crucifix (1493), as a gift to the prior at the Florentine church, Santo Spirito, who had permitted him to study the corpses in the church’s hospital. Between 1493 and 1494, Michelangelo carved a larger than life statue of Hercules from a block of marble, which was sent to France. Unfortunately, this piece of art disappeared sometime in the 18th century. In January 1494 after heavy snowfalls, Lorenzo’s heir, Piero de Medici, commissioned a snow statue and Michelangelo again entered the court of the Medici. Later that same year, the Medici were expelled from Florence due to the political rise of Savonarola, so Michelangelo left the city before the upheaval was resolved, moving to Venice, then to Bologna and, later, to Rome.

In November 1497, the French ambassador to the Holy See, Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, commissioned Michelangelo to carve a Pietà, a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus. The contract was agreed upon in August of the following year. Michelangelo was 24 when the statue was completed. The Pietà was soon to be regarded as one of the world’s great masterpieces of sculpture. Contemporary opinion was summarized by Michelangelo’s biographer, Vasari: “It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.” The Pietà is now located in St Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo's_Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pietà, St Peter’s Basilica

He spent the next four years in Florence developing technical mastery in his art forms. Some of the works produced during this time were the famous, David, in marble, representing the hero in youth; The Virgin and Child (Pille Tondo) (housed at Bargello, Florence), The Bruges Madonna and The Holy Family.

In 1505, Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the newly elected Pope Julius II. He was commissioned to build the Pope’s tomb over the next five years and carve forty statues for the tomb during that time period. Michelangelo experienced constant interruptions to his work on the tomb in order to complete numerous other tasks for the Pope. Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction. It is located in the Church of S. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome and it is most famous for the central figure of Moses, completed in 1516. Of the other statues intended for the tomb, two known as the Heroic Captive and the Dying Captive, are now in the Louvre.

CAPPELLA_SISTINA_Ceiling

During the same period, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was a massive task that took approximately four years to complete (1508–1512). Working in uncomfortable conditions, cramped and often alone, it caused him to become reclusive. The situation also affected his health, body and mind. He complained about his eyesight and body aches. The work, though, was fantastic and the biblical fresco was filled with originality.

The composition stretches over 5382 square feet (500 square metres) of ceiling and contains over 300 figures. In the center are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis, divided into three groups: God’s Creation of the Earth; God’s Creation of Humans and their fall from God’s grace and, lastly, the state of Humanity as represented by Noah and his family. Among the most famous paintings on the ceiling are The Creation of Adam, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, The Deluge, The Prophet Jeremiah and The Cumaean Sibyl. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was a work of unprecedented grandeur, both for its architectural forms and for the details in the formation of human figures. Vasari wrote: “The work has proved a veritable beacon to our art, of inestimable benefit to all painters, restoring light to a world that for centuries had been plunged into darkness. Indeed, painters no longer need to seek for new inventions, novel attitudes, clothed figures, fresh ways of expression, different arrangements or sublime subjects, for this work contains every perfection possible under those heading.”

Vatican-ChapelleSixtine-Plafond

Michelangelo was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime and, ever since then, he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time. A number of his works in painting, sculpture and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in every field during his long life was prodigious. When the sheer volume of correspondence, sketches and reminiscences that survive are also taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.

Two of his best-known works, the Pietà and the David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. Despite his low opinion of his painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: The Scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered in using architectural forms to emphasize both solid and spatial relationships in art. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, however, Michelangelo died before this work was completed. On December 7, 2007, a red chalk sketch for the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, possibly the last made by Michelangelo before his death, was discovered in the Vatican archives. It is extremely rare, since he destroyed his designs later in life. The sketch is a partial plan for one of the radial columns of the cupola drum of Saint Peter’s.

The amount of work that he did surpasses many modern artists even in this age of mass production. Starting from initial sketches, moving to oils and then graduating from frescoes to sculptures, even the most prolific artist who came after him, would appear short of this genius. Among all of his artworks, there is none, which can be rated as less than “perfect.”

Caprese

Caprese Michelangelo, Italy

Caprese, Italy is located in the Province of Arezzo in eastern Tuscany, bordered by the Apennines, and encompasses the areas of Casentino, Valdarno, Valtiberina and Val di Chiana. Each of these areas comprise unique landscapes where natural beauty blends harmoniously with its historic heritage and masterpieces of art. Today, Caprese has been renamed, Caprese Michelangelo.

Its cuisine is tied to agriculture and many recipes originated from the religious and convent life. One will find bean soups, meat stews, crostini topped with woodcock and bread made with hare (pan di lepre) as typical foods of the region. Some products are cultivated only in this area and are dedicated to specific recipes. Black cabbage, present in few parts of the world, is an important ingredient in minestra di pane (bread soup). The Chianina breed of cattle, raised according to Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) standards, is the base for historical dishes, like peposo alla fornacina – a slow cooking beef stew, a dish attributed to those workers who produced the terracotta construction materials for Florence’s Brunelleschi Chapel.

The free-range “grey” pig in this area is the source for one of the world’s best prosciutti, Prosciutto del Casentino. Sheep and goat’s milk (pasture-raised, naturally) cheese products, such as, raviggiolo, ricotta and raw-milk pecorino are important locally. The finest dishes center around the highly prized Valtiberina truffle, present year-round (alternating between black and the more costly white). Another product frequently used to make sweets and snacks is the chestnut that is ground into a flour. Not to be left out are classic Tuscan products that complete the table: oil and wine. The region possesess first-class wines according to the best national and international standards, such as Chianti, Cortona and Valdichiana and no meal is finished without Vinsanto.

beef stew

Il Peposo alla Fornicina (Kiln Worker’s Stew)

This slow-cooked stew needs about 3 hours for the flavors to blend. (You may want to find your crock pot for this recipe!) The story goes that in order to get more work done, the employer of the kiln workers had the dish sent up to the workers instead of allowing them to come down for lunch. It wasn’t long before the workers realized that they were losing their lunch break and a chance to meet friends, play cards and relax. The first strike in Florence resulted!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 3 or 4 cups red wine or tomato sauce
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons ground pepper, fresh and coarsely ground
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Country bread

Directions

Cut the stew meat into small pieces. Put the meat in a stew pot that will fit in your oven. Add the garlic, onion, wine, rosemary and pepper. Cover and cook in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) until the meat falls apart. Stir occasionally.

Serve the stew in deep dishes on slices of toasted country-style bread rubbed with garlic.

For a thicker sauce, substitute tomato sauce for wine.

A great dish to cook ahead and reheat.

onion soup

Onion Soup in the Arezzo Style

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 6 Yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 oz butter
  • 20 slices Tuscan-style bread
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 8 slices Fontina cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmigiano, grated to taste
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

Saute the sliced onions in butter until soft in a large soup pot. Add the broth and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Butter 2 loaf pans or a ovenproof casserole dish. Line the bottoms of the pans with bread slices and spoon in a layer of onions and broth. Add 4 Fontina slices to each pan, then another layer of bread and broth. Sprinkle generously with Parmigiano. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley.

Sausage and mushrooms

Homemade Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

In the style of Arezzo, with its Etruscan roots, this pasta is thicker than Bolognese fettuccine and is made with fewer eggs.

Makes 4 servings

For the pasta:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups semolina, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the toppings:

  • 12 ounces chicken or pork Italian sausage links
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 ounces shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cups hot vegetable or beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Freshly grated parmesan

To make the pasta dough:

Mix the flour, salt and 1 cup of semolina together in a bowl. Make a well in the center and break in the eggs. Whisk the eggs with a fork, gradually gathering the dry mix into the egg and then, as the mixture thickens, add water and oil. Pull in all the dry mix and knead for a few minutes in the bowl. If absolutely necessary, add 1 teaspoon at a time of extra water to make the dough soft enough to work. Put the dough onto on a counter sprinkled with semolina, cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for 30 minutes. (You can also make the dough in a food processor.)

To roll out and cut the pasta:

Secure the pasta machine to a work surface. Flatten the dough and send it through the rollers on setting ‘1’. Fold in half and send it through again; turn the long edges over toward the middle; send through a third time. Repeat until your pasta is smooth and supple. Cut the pasta into 3 pieces and let them rest on semolina for a few minutes before continuing. Send each piece of dough through the rollers on setting ‘3’. Let rest. Finally, send the pasta through on setting ‘5’. Sprinkle with semolina and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut each piece of pasta into long strips 3/16” wide using a sharp knife. Place the strips of cut pasta on a wide platter or tray sprinkled with semolina until ready to boil.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

To cook the sausage and mushrooms:

Clean the mushrooms and cut in half. Peel and slice the shallots. Heat a cast iron frying pan in the oven for a few minutes and then add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the shallot and return the pan to the oven. After 2 or 3 minutes, once the shallots is beginning to brown, add the mushrooms and 1/2 cup of broth to the frying pan. Return to the oven and cook 5 minutes, turning halfway through. Once the mushrooms are lightly cooked, pour them into a serving bowl and pour any broth from the frying pan over them. Set aside and keep warm.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan, add the sausages and return the pan to the oven. Turn the sausages after 5 minutes and bake for a further 7 minutes until lightly brown on two sides. Pour in the rest of the broth and add back the mushrooms. Let simmer in the oven while you cook the pasta.

To cook the pasta:

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and, once back at the boil, cook for 3 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and drizzle with olive oil.

To assemble the dish:

Distribute the pasta among 4 bowls. Sprinkle on half the parsley and half the red pepper. Spoon the mushrooms and the broth over the noodles. Slice the sausages and add to the pasta. Sprinkle the rest of the parsley and red pepper over the dishes and bring to the table piping hot. It’s traditional to serve this dish with grated parmesan.

vin santo tiramisu

Tiramisu al Vin Santo

Ingredients

  • 1 pound/500 g cantuccini (biscotti) cookies, chopped
  • 1 cup/250 ml Vin Santo
  • 1 pound/500 g mascarpone cheese
  • 3.5 ounces/100 g chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml sugar

Directions

Place the cookies on the bottom of a cake pan, creating a base for the tiramisu. Drizzle 1/2 cup Vin Santo over the cookies and set aside. The exterior of the cookie should be wet while the interior should remain somewhat dry.

In a bowl, add the mascarpone, chocolate, sugar and remaining 1/2 cup Vin Santo. Whisk the ingredients together until creamy and thoroughly mixed.

Spread the cream mixture evenly over the cookies, making sure all the cookies are completely covered. You may also sprinkle the top of the tiramisu with additional chopped chocolate and cookies. Unlike traditional tiramisu, this version can be served immediately.

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Many seafood sellers are working to raise awareness about the need for sustainable, eco-friendly fishing and the importance of not purchasing seafood on the endangered list. However, it does have one downside: a glut of eco-labels that can make for confusion at the seafood counter. When you’re grocery shopping and you’ve forgotten your Monterey Bay Guide, look for these two labels: Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea. Fish and seafood with these labels came from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s standards for sustainable fishing meet the world’s toughest best practice guidelines. With their practices and diligent efforts, they are transforming the way seafood is sourced—and helping you get the best produce for you and the Earth.

Friend of the Sea is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve marine habitats. Products stamped with the Friend of the Sea logo come from sustainable seafood fisheries and aquaculture where the harvesting of seafood leaves no lasting impact or damage to the surrounding environment.

Types of Fish

1. Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna.

2. White, lean and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish.

3. Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna.

4. White, lean and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting.

5. White, firm and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon.

Whole-Foods-

Budget-conscious families can eat fish. The key is strategic shopping.

Your seafood seller can point you to budget buys or specials. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now and freeze some for later.

For top quality, look for “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS)―fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a good alternative when fresh wild salmon are out of season. Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which are often defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.

Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood. Look for meaty heads, tails and trimmings of larger fish, like salmon, cod and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat and add to chowder and casseroles. (Don’t forget the cheek meat under the gills). Heads and trimmings are essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that ready-made varieties. Use homemade fish stock in place of water or clam juice in your recipes.

If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on fillets. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish, like salmon, cod and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.

fish_market_

How To make Good Seafood Choices

Choose a fish market with knowledgeable salespeople. Fish should be displayed attractively and surrounded by plenty of clean crushed ice.

The best approach to buying and eating fish is to aim for variety. Let freshness be your guide. It’s easy to substitute one fish for another, so if the mahimahi looks and smells fresher than the pompano, buy it instead.

When shopping, ask for your fish to be packed with a separate bag of crushed ice to keep it cold. Refrigerate whole fish up to two days; fillets and steaks one to two days. Place the fish in a plastic bag, then top with a zip-top plastic bag filled with ice. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

Farmed seafood, also called aquaculture, can provide high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly and can be a way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish.

Ways to Save

When local fish are in season, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Here is a simple guide to what is generally in season but you can also check your State Fish and Game website for additional information on fish from your region.

http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/afreshapproach/whats-in-season.aspx

Try fish that you have not eaten before. If you live in the East, try Atlantic black sea bass and weakfish; in the Gulf states try amberjack and black drum; in the Great Lakes region try walleye and smelts and on the West Coast try Pacific sardines and sablefish (black cod).

Whole fish shrink less than fillets when cooking, giving you more value for your per-pound price. Whiting, croaker, porgy and Pacific rockfish can be great values. Also, consider summer flounder (sometimes called fluke), red snapper and farmed striped bass and Arctic char.

Canned fish is an excellent budget-friendly option. It can also be a nutritious one, particularly varieties like canned tuna and salmon that are low in sodium and rich in omega-3s. Keep them―along with flavorful sardines and anchovies―on hand for fish cakes and salads.

Save extra fish from the previous night’s dinner. Leftover fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches and wraps. Add leftovers to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Panko-Crusted-Fish-Sticks

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks

Panko crumbs, or Japanese bread crumbs, are flake-like, coarsely ground bread crumbs used to make crisp, light fried foods and crumb toppings for casseroles. Here is a very simple and inexpensive way to make your own. FYI, these crumbs are also gluten-free.

  • 3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional seasonings, as desired

Place the Rice Chex cereal in a plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush the cereal into coarse flakes. You can also pulse the cereal in a processor until it is the right consistency. Don’t overprocess. Season with salt and pepper and any herb blend that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until foamy. Place the panko in a second shallow bowl and add the Italian seasoning.

Cut the fish pieces crosswise into finger size pieces. Dip each piece of fish in the egg mixture then coat in the panko crumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere; transfer to the baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

tilapia-piccata-l

Tilapia Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Directions

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot; stir in tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and flour in a large shallow dish. Dredge fish in the flour mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to the skillet; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is lightly browned. Remove fish from the pan; keep warm.

Add wine, juice and capers to the skillet; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with the orzo.

cod chowder

Cod Chowder

Great dinner for a cold, rainy night.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pork or turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice or 1 cup homemade fish stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound frozen cod, defrosted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender yet still firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

Return chowder to low heat and stir in the warmed half and half, gently to avoid breaking the fish into small pieces. Bring chowder to serving temperature over gentle heat, uncovered. Sprinkle reserved crisped bacon and parsley on top and serve with a side salad and cornbread.

Lemon & herb fish kebabs.

Fish Kebabs

Stretch your fish dollars with kebabs. Add several vegetables to make this dish even more economical. Zucchini and different colored peppers are good additions.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut or any fish fillet that is on sale, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Weather permitting, you can grill the kebabs on an outdoor grill.

Place fish and bell pepper in a shallow dish. Combine the pesto with the vinegar and drizzle over the fish and vegetables; toss to coat. Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Thread fish, onion and pepper alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; sprinkle evenly with salt. Place skewers on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

baked trout

Baked Trout Fillets

Trout is a fish that you’ll be able to buy at many markets without hurting your wallet. The flavor of trout is outstanding.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound trout fillets
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedges 

Directions

Place fish in a greased shallow 3-qqart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cheese, lemon juice, onion and salt; spread over fish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Why is buying a whole chicken better than buying one that is cut into serving pieces?

First, a whole chicken is cheaper per pound and is handled less along the way. It lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques and can be cut up at home exactly the way you want it: in half, quarters, eighths or tenths. Eating all of an animal not just the popular cuts, such as the breast, is the most sustainable way to eat. You get the added bonus of the back, neck, frame and gizzards, which can all be used to make broth for soup.

Second, you get several meals from one chicken. You can roast, braise or cook a chicken in the slow cooker. Once cooked, slice some of the chicken for the main meal and then use the leftovers in any number of dishes, such as risotto, chicken pie, a stir-fry, sandwiches or a salad, etc.

Simple Roast Chicken

  • One 4-5 pound whole chicken
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a roasting rack set in the baking pan will help the chicken cook more evenly, since air can circulate freely. With a roasting rack, the chicken won’t be resting in its own drippings, so you get a crisper skin. For easier cleanup, you can line the pan with aluminum foil.

Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the chicken ( save for use in a stock, if you like — but don’t include the liver, which will make the stock bitter). Pull any loose fat from around the opening. Rinse the chicken inside and out, then dry the chicken very well with paper towels, inside and out.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird (simply tie the legs together and tuck the wings underneath the body or tie kitchen string around them).

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt (around a ½ tablespoon) over the outer skin of the bird so that it has a uniform coating that will result in a crisp, flavorful skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Put the chicken, breast side up, on a V-shaped or flat rack and set the rack in a roasting pan just larger than the rack. Roast for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F and continue roasting for about 45 -60 minutes more. The chicken is done when the leg wiggles freely in its joint and when the juices run clear from the thigh area. (I roast mine until the it registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer. The chicken will continue cooking a bit after you remove it from the oven).

Baste the chicken with the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Variations:

Convection Oven

Cook at 425 degrees F in a convection oven for about 50 minutes.

Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • Several sprigs of thyme and rosemary or a mixture of herbs you like
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Season liberally with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken. Put the herbs and garlic inside the cavity, together with the squeezed-out lemon halves—this will add a fragrant lemony flavor to the finished dish. Follow directions above for Simple Roast Chicken.

Roast Chicken and Vegetables

  • 6 whole small yellow onions
  • 4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Arrange the vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning; add chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. Place chicken on top of the vegetables and cover pan tightly with foil. Follow directions for Simple Roast Chicken and remove the foil when the oven is reduced to 375 degrees F. Turn the vegetables over occasionally while they are roasting to insure even browning.

Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

crock pot chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large chicken (3-4 lbs)

Directions

Combine the dried spices in a small bowl.

Chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over. You can even put some of the spices inside the cavity and under the skin covering the breasts.

Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high. There is no need to add any liquid.

Cook for 4 – 5 hours on high (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Stovetop Chicken

stovetop-chicken

Leftovers are great for chicken casseroles.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-to 5-lb.) whole chicken
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

Directions

Remove neck and giblets from chicken and reserve for another use. Sprinkle chicken with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the whole chicken and cook, breast side down, 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn chicken, breast side up, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup wine (you can use all chicken broth, if you wish) to the Dutch oven.

Cover and cook 1 hour or until a meat thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 165 degrees F.

Cutting Up a Whole Chicken

 

1. Remove the legs

Place the chicken breast side up on a solid cutting board. Pull one leg away from the body and cut through the skin between the body and both sides of the thigh.

Bend the whole leg firmly away from the body until the ball of the thighbone pops from the hip socket. Cut between the ball and the socket to separate the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Divide The Legs

Place the chicken leg skin side down on the cutting board.

Cut down firmly through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh.

 

3. Remove The Wings

With the chicken on it’s back, remove a wing by cutting on the inside of the wing just over joint. Pull wing away from the body and cut down through the skin and the joint. Repeat with the other wing.

 

4. Cut Carcass in Half

Cut through the cavity of the bird from the tail end and slice through the thin area around the shoulder joint. Cut parallel to the backbone and slice the bones of the rib cage. Repeat on the opposite side of the backbone.

 

5. Remove The Breast

Pull apart the breast and the back. Cut down through the shoulder bones to detach the breast from the back. Cut the back into two pieces by cutting across the backbone where the ribs end.

6. Cut Breast In Half

You may leave the breast whole if your recipe requires. To cut in half, use a strong, steady pressure and cut downward along the length of the breastbone to separate the breast into two pieces. If the breasts are large you may want to cut each half into two pieces.

Save the parts, such as the backbone and wings, to make broth. I keep a bag in the freezer and add to it until I have enough to make soup.

chicken_in_vinegar_300

Chicken in Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup Riesling or other dry but fruity white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Rinse chicken pieces, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, skin side down, and brown, turning once, about 10 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Repeat the process with the remaining oil, butter and chicken.

Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

Deglaze the skillet with vinegar and wine, scraping brown bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Reduce vinegar mixture by about one-third, 3-5 minutes, then stir in tomato paste.

Return chicken to skillet, pour in the stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn chicken and continue cooking until juices from chicken run clear, about 15 minutes. (If the sauce becomes too thick, thin with a small amount of chicken stock or water.)

Remove chicken from skillet with tongs to a deep serving bowl. Pour sauce from the skillet over the chicken and garnish with parsley.

100_0521

Roasted Chicken with Bell Peppers and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths
  • 6 medium potatoes, quartered
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken, onions, peppers and potatoes in a large baking pan. Make sure not to crowd the pieces together in the pan. Scatter the garlic slices over the mixture and drizzle some olive oil on top of the ingredients. Sprinkle with the parsley, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper.

Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and put in a preheated oven at 275 degrees F (135 C) for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees F (190 C) and cook the casserole for 15-20 minutes more, until the chicken and potatoes brown and a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

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Penne

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

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

ziti

Ziti

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

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

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

baked penne

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

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

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

Healthy Penne Dinners

penne-walnuts-su-1575584-x

Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

steak-salad-ck-554716-x

Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat broiler.

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

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

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

shrimp-pasta-ck-554668-x

Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

sausage-penne-ck-1041902-x

Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

raisin-pasta-ck-780432-x

Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Generally, authentic Italian stews have similar ingredients to vegetable soup, but they tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables and sometimes have a thicker sauce. Some Italian stews are simply meat simmered in broth or wine. In Italy stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl or on a plate alongside bread, polenta or rice. Some stews are served over polenta.

Stews are generally easy to prepare, store well in the refrigerator and taste better reheated. A perfect make ahead dish. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian seaoning that have been converted into stews by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture. Usually, this type of stew contains small, hollow noodles like macaroni or shell pasta.

Many Italian stew recipes that are the most popular in Italy did not actually come from there. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by other nearby cultures, some common Italian stews may have originated in border areas, like Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota, which contains beans and bacon and is often cooked with garlic, potatoes and meat, originally came from Croatia.

In general, Italian stews are cooked using similar, low-heat methods, but they can contain a variety of meats and vegetables. They can be made on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker. Vegetables cooked in this type of stew can vary, but usually include carrots, celery and fennel. Potatoes, onion and garlic are also common. The typical Italian stew contains beef, but it can also contain other meats like chicken, pork or veal. Rabbit is a highly popular stew meat in Northern Italy. Sausage is also a common meat, especially in the south.

pork stew

Italian Pork Stew

My adaption of Marcella Hazan’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound Cipollini onions, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot
  • 1 cup potatoes diced

Directions

Bring broth and mushrooms to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms in a colander over a bowl, reserving broth.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.

Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of pork mixture; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add pork to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining pork mixture, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Add wine to the pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in reserved broth, pork-onion mixture and sage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until pork is almost tender.

Stir in carrot and potato. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer 10 minutes.

128-oxtail-stew400

Roman Oxtail Stew

In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the custom of raising beef for meat, as opposed to raising oxen for plowing and transportation, is relatively recent. That’s why, in English, we still refer to the tail of a steer as “oxtails” and not to “beef tails”. There are few true oxen left anywhere in the Western world and modern farming techniques have replaced their work. Most butcher shops and supermarkets in America actually sell the tail cut as “beef oxtails.” Oxtail stew tastes best, if made a day ahead and then reheated. This is a popular stewing cut in Italy and is often served over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 beef oxtail (2 1/2-3 pounds)
  • 6 celery stalks, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium-sized white onion
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Italian dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 6 to 8 cups boiling water
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Rinse the oxtail under warm running water and eliminate any fat or gristle with a paring knife. Chop it into sections along the vertebrae. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Mince 1 celery stalk and reserve the rest. Mince the garlic with the carrot and onion. Mince the pancetta; you should have 3/4 cup. Combine the minced vegetables and pancetta with 1 heaping tablespoon of the parsley.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the minced vegetable-and-pancetta mixture and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until the onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the oxtail pieces, a generous pinch of salt and several turns of the peppermill. Brown thoroughly, stirring, for about 15 minutes.

Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes, crushing and stirring. Add just enough of the water to completely submerge the oxtail meat.

Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string, leaving about one foot of the string attached. Lower the purse into the stew and secure the string to a pot handle. Drop in the bay leaf and stir.

Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours.

Slice the remaining 5 celery stalks into 2 inch sticks. Add them to the stew and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the cloves and the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 heaping tablespoon of parsley. Serve in soup bowls.

sausage-beans-and-greens-24066-ss

Sausage, Escarole & White Bean Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small head escarole, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces, washed and lightly dried
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula until lightly browned and broken into small (1-inch) pieces, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the escarole to the pot in batches; using tongs, toss with the sausage mixture to wilt the escarole and make room for more. When all the escarole is in, add the beans and chicken broth, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are heated through and the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar and salt.

Transfer to bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the Parmigiano. Serve with toasted Italian country bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

vegetable stew

Italian Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 (26-ounce) container POMI chopped tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini (8 ounces each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers or a combination, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion and potatoes and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant and potatoes begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of the pot; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and the chopped tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until the eggplant is soft and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add zucchini, bell peppers and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. Add crushed red pepper to taste, if desired.

Tuscan chicken

Tuscan Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oil in large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion, garlic and fennel seed; cook and stir on medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, red wine, basil, rosemary, salt, oregano and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet  and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.

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Expensive cuts of meat tend to be the ones that are tender and can be cooked quickly and easily. This doesn’t mean that you can’t create a great meal with a cut that costs less. Fresh brisket is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the connective muscle tissues to achieve tenderness. Because brisket is a tough cut of meat, it’s best simmered in a small amount of liquid, either in the oven, the slow cooker or on the stove top. Most recipes do not need much attention during cooking.

The secret to the tenderness is a long, moist cooking process called braising. Add a little liquid to the roasting pan – broth, wine, juice even water works fine. Season the beef and cover the pan tightly. The steamy environment created from the braising liquid will tenderize the meat. You’ll know that the brisket is done when you can easily insert and twist with fork the center of the meat without resistance. The important final step is to thinly slice the brisket across the grain.

Two different cuts of brisket are available. Unless the recipe specifies one or the other, either may be used in recipes calling for boneless beef brisket.

Beef Brisket Flat Half (also called thin cut, flat cut, first cut or center cut): With its minimal fat, this cut is generally the pricier of the two.

Beef Brisket Point Half (also called front cut, point cut, thick cut or nose cut): This cut is the less expensive of the two. It has more fat and more flavor.

How to Buy Brisket

Look for beef brisket that has a good color and appears moist but not wet. Avoid packages with tears or liquid in the bottom of the tray.

Plan on 3 to 4 ounces for each person you serve. Brisket comes in 3- to 3-1/2-pound sizes or larger. Unless you’re serving a crowd, you’ll probably have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or future meals with 3 – 3 1/2 pounds.

Do not confuse a fresh beef brisket with corned beef.  Corned beef is a brisket that has been brined in a salt and herb solution.

Cooking Beef Brisket

Most briskets you buy will have a layer of fat on the surface. Trim this away using a sharp slicing knife. If needed, slice the brisket into two pieces to fit into your Dutch oven or slow cooker. Unless otherwise specified, you do not need to brown the brisket before cooking.

How to Cook Brisket in the Oven

The meat braises in a liquid (of your choice – broth, wine, barbecue) in the oven. No special equipment is needed — all you need is a baking pan.

1. Prep the Cooking Liquid

Here is a suggestion: In a small bowl stir together 3/4 cups beef broth, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 2 minced garlic cloves.

2. Bake the Brisket

  • Place a fat-trimmed 3 to 3-1/2-pound fresh beef brisket in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Pour the cooking liquid over the meat.
  • Cover the pan with heavy duty foil.
  • Bake in a 325 degrees F oven about 3-4 hours or until tender, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Discard the cooking liquid and, if desired, serve the sliced brisket with barbecue sauce.  (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

How to Cook a Brisket on the Stove Top

1. Prep the Brisket and Cooking Liquid

  • Slice 2 medium onions; set aside.
  • Coarsely crush 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns. Sprinkle a fat-trimmed 3- to 4-pound brisket with salt and crushed peppercorns.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a large heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Brown the brisket on both sides in hot oil. Remove brisket from the pan.
  • Add onions to the skillet. Cook and stir onions until they are tender but not brown.
  • Return brisket to the skillet. Add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup lower-sodium beef broth, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning.
  • You can also add other liquids, vegetables or seasonings of your choosing to the pan.

2. Cook Brisket on the Stove Top

  • Bring mixture in the pan to boiling. Reduce the heat. Spoon some of the onion mixture over brisket.
  • Simmer brisket, tightly covered, for 3-4 hours or until brisket is tender.

3. Finish the Sauce

  • Remove brisket from the pan to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Meanwhile, use a soup spoon to skim the fat from the top of the sauce. The liquid may be thickened with flour to make a gravy.
  • Serve the sliced brisket with the cooking liquid. (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

How to Cook Brisket in a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is ideal for braising brisket unattended for hours. In this preparation, the cooking liquid becomes a smoky barbecue sauce to serve alongside the tender, meaty slices of brisket.

1. Prep the Veggies and Sauce

  • Cut 2 stalks celery into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Combine the celery slices with one 16-ounce package of peeled fresh baby carrots in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  • Season the brisket with salt, pepper and herbs of choice or use a rub.
  • For the sauce, crush 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca using a mortar and pestle (or place the tapioca in a resealable plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin). In a small bowl combine the crushed tapioca, 1-1/2-cups smoke-flavor barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.

Slow-Cook the Brisket

  • Place the fat-trimmed brisket on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker. Note that you may need to cut the brisket in half to fit into the slow cooker.
  • Pour sauce over the brisket.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low-heat setting for 12 to 14 hours. Or cook on the high-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours.
  • Serve the sliced brisket with the vegetables and any liquid that forms in the pan. (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

slice-beef-against-the-grain-diagram

How to Slice and Serve Brisket

  • Transfer cooked brisket to a cutting board. Let rest 10-15 minutes.
  • Using a slicing knife, thinly slice the brisket across the grain. (See photo above.)
  • If serving the cooking juices alongside your brisket, use a tablespoon to skim fat from the cooking liquid. Pass the cooking with the brisket.

How to Store Leftover Brisket

Divide leftover cooked brisket into small portions and place in shallow airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze (in freezer containers) for up to 2 months.

Here are some of my favorite brisket recipes.

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The Number One Family Favorite Is Not Italian!

Oven Barbecued Brisket

After several years of trying different spices and ingredients, I found the combination that everyone loves.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of fat
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 26 oz container Pomi strained Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

Directions

Combine shallots, garlic, chili powder, paprika,, oregano and salt in a small bowl. Rub onto both sides of the meat. Set the meat in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Mix tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar together in a large measuring cup.

Pour sauce over the meat. Cover the pan with heavy duty foil and set aside at room temperature while the oven heats to 350°F.

Bake the brisket, covered, for 2 hours. Turn meat over.

From this point on baste the brisket with pan juices every 30 minutes, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, until the meat is very tender.

Remove the meat from the sauce. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice against the grain. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve.

Note: I like to make this dish the day before I plan to serve it, because the flavor improves so much sitting overnight. I slice the meat and place it in a baking dish, cover the dish and refrigerate overnight. I put the sauce in a separate container and place it in the refrigerator. The next day, I remove the chilled fat from the sauce and pour the sauce over the meat in the baking dish. Reheat the meat and sauce in a moderate oven for about 45-60 minutes.

Italian Braised Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or water
  • 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 6 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered

Directions

Set the meat on the counter and let it come to room temperature. Salt and pepper the meat generously. Heat the oil over medium high in a heavy Dutch oven that will accommodate the roast and potatoes snugly in one layer. Add the meat and brown thoroughly on all sides, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer to a platter.

Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and herbs to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent and the celery and carrot are softened; do not brown. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pot and return the meat to the pan. Add the stock or water and tomatoes with all juices. Bring the sauce to a low boil, reduce to low heat and cover tightly. The liquid should be just bubbling throughout the cooling time, not a hard boil.

Turn the meat every 20 to 30 minutes and replenish the liquid if necessary. After 45 minutes, add the potatoes, nestling them in the liquid.

Check the roast after 2 hours and 30 minutes of cooking time; the dish is done when the meat is very tender. Serves 10 to 12.

Onion-Braised Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 4-5-lb beef brisket
  • 2 bay Leaves
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3 cups beef stock; (homemade or low sodium canned)
  • 3 large yellow onions; (about 3 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Coarse salt; to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper; to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika; sweet or hot

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Pat brisket dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Sear brisket well on both sides, about 8 minutes, set aside.

Add remaining oil to in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and cook stirring, until softened and beginning to turn golden; add garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add bay leaves and beef stock and bring to a boil. Return brisket to the Dutch oven, leaving lid 1/2-inch ajar, transfer to the heated oven and bake, 3-1/2 hours or until tender. (Add more water or stock as needed throughout the roasting time).

Remove brisket from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Remove and discard bay leaves. Using a handheld blender, puree broth and onions to smooth sauce, if desired, or leave onions in the sauce without pureeing. Adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice brisket against the grain and serve with the onion sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

Some tips on this recipe:

This recipe is so much better the next day because the flavors blend together. Another benefit to this method is that it permits you to skim the fat from the pan juices. Also, once cooked and cooled, the brisket is easier to slice thinly across the grain. Prepare the roast the day before serving and simply reheat the sliced meat in the de-fatted pan juices in a moderate oven.

Italian Jewish Style Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 1 beef brisket, about 5 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 sticks celery, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Garnish: parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim the brisket of most of its fat and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven and sear the brisket on both sides. Remove the brisket from the pan. Add the diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat or until onion is translucent. Add the rosemary, tomatoes and bay leaves and return brisket to the pan. Completely cover the meat with the wine, adding chicken stock if necessary so that the meat is covered.

Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. If the liquid reduces by more than half during cooking, add a small amount of chicken stock.

Transfer the meat to a dish and keep warm. Remove the herbs and puree the liquid in a blender or with a hand held immersion blender until smooth. If the sauce is a little thin, return it to the heat and reduce over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Slice the brisket and arrange it on a deep platter with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Easy Smoked Brisket

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Don’t have access to a Smoker? Then try this oven roasted barbecue brisket that tastes pretty much like the real thing. This recipe makes great sandwich meat.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 pound beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Directions

Combine everything but the brisket in a bowl. Mix well. Rub over the surface of the brisket and wrap tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place foil wrapped brisket in a roasting pan on a roasting rack and poke a couple of holes in the foil on the top. Cook for 4 hours.

Remove meat from foil and let sit for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.

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Since the history of Italian food is so rooted in the regional cultures, it is interesting to take a look at the main regions of the country and what kinds of food products and dishes each one is known for. The most well known regions in Italy that are noted for their culinary distinctions are the following: Abruzzo-Molise, Apulia, Calabria-Lucania, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Naples-Campagna, Piedmont, Rome-Lazio, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria-Marche and Veneto. These areas can be split up roughly into three categories: northern, central and southern Italy.

Northern Italian cuisine is characterized by less use of olive oil, pasta and tomato sauce and more use of butter (or lard ), rice, corn (for polenta), meat and chesses for cream sauces.

Much of what the rest of the world considers Italian food comes from the central regions of Italy. Velvety smooth olive oils, world-famous cheeses, savory cured meats and rich tomato sauces grace the tables of this region. Beef dishes can be found more often here and the hills of Tuscan and Umbria are known for their wild boar. Both coasts share their love of locally caught seafood and the mountainous countryside is known for its hearty fare.

From the pizza of Naples to the countless types of dried and fresh pasta, the food of the south is the heart of Italy. This is the cuisine found in most Italian-American cuisine. Here you will find rich and spicy tomato sauces and the almost exclusive use of olive oil in cooking. In fact some of the best olive oil comes from this region, but very little of it is exported. The south is home to citrus fruits, fields of durum wheat for pasta, olive groves and vineyards. The sea is used to its fullest extent with all manner of seafood included in dishes from tuna to anchovies and clams to sea urchins.

Pigs are grown throughout Italy, and though many become sausage, salami or prosciutto, just as many do not. It is the one meat that is found in all the regions of the country. Historically, while a good portion of the hog was used for cured meats, many other recipes and uses for pork became popular in Italian cuisine. Each region has its own unique way of cooking pork. Here are five pork chop recipes to illustrate the regional variations of this cuisine.

Bolognese Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 thick (3/4 -1 inch) rib pork chops with bone
  • 6 large slices of prosciutto
  • 6 slices Italian fontina cheese
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions

Trim all the gristle and fat from the cutlets, then cut them in half, leaving the halves attached only along the bone, so that the cutlets will open like a book.

Open the meat and fill each with a slice of prosciutto and one of cheese, trimming their edges so nothing sticks out.

In a skillet with a cover large enough for the meat to lie flat, heat the oil with the bay leaves. Place the pork chops in the pan and brown them on both sides, turning them carefully.

Season the meat with the minced herbs, salt and pepper, cover, and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning the meat occasionally; should the meat look as if it’s drying out or over browning, reduce the heat.

Tuscan Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta (about 3 ounces)
  • 6 – 6 ounce thick-cut bone-in pork chops
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts (fresh or unsweetened canned or jarred), roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped pitted dried plums (prunes)
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

In an extra-large skillet cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered and the pancetta is brown but not too crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle all sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to the hot drippings in the skillet; cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden brown, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Using tongs, transfer chops to a plate.

For the sauce: add butter to the skillet; heat over medium heat until no longer foamy. Add onions and chestnuts to the hot butter; cook about 5 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the skillet occasionally. Stir in garlic and thinly sliced or dried sage; cook about 30 seconds more or until fragrant. Add broth, Marsala, vinegar and honey. Bring to boiling.

Cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until liquid begins to turn syrupy, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in dried plums and cooked pancetta; season to taste with pepper.

Return pork chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet; spoon sauce in skillet over chops. Cover skillet; reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through. Serve sauce over pork. If desired, garnish with small sage leaves.

Pork Chops Roman Style

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons. honey
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the honey, vinegar and thyme and cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer.

Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning the chops occasionally and basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes more for medium doneness. Transfer the chops to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops. Serves 4.

Neapolitan Pork Chops

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 pork rib or loin chops, cut about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 green or red bell peppers, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet with a cover. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Season chops with salt and pepper.

Place chops in the skillet and brown on both sides. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over low heat about 1 hour or until tender.

Sicilian Style Pork Chops

Spicy Sicilian Stuffed Pork Chops

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli), toasted and chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 pork loin chops, each 1 1/2 inches thick (about 10 ounces each)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Finely slice Swiss chard. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat Swiss chard and 1 inch water to boiling over high heat, cover and cook 5 minutes. Drain, pressing hard to squeeze out excess liquid.

In the same saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in Swiss chard, raisins, pine nuts and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cut a pocket from the side of each chop, inserting knife almost to the bone. Slice parallel to surface, widening pocket as you go. Do not cut through to edge.

Fill pockets with chard stuffing, gently press closed. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.

Add chops to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides. Add broth and wine to the skillet, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour, or until chops are tender.

Transfer chops to platter, keep warm. Increase heat to high and boil pan juices until reduced to 3/4 cup. Pour over chops and serve.



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