Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peppers

 

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

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

For the marinade:

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

For the risotto:

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 2

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Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 3

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Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

For the dressing:

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

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

Dinner Menu 4

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Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 5

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Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

For the omelet:

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

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

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

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

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Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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If you are trying to eat less meat, substituting pasta dishes made with vegetables are not only healthy but quite satisfying. Vegetables that are especially good in pasta are frozen or canned artichoke hearts, mushrooms, broccoli/broccoli rabe, cauliflower, zucchini, peas and fresh tomatoes.

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Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs made from Italian bread with crusts removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Snipped fresh thyme or fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently (reduce heat and stir constantly if bread crumbs are becoming too dark). Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel; set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Meanwhile, in the large pot cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package.

Drain spaghetti. Return to the pot and add the cauliflower mixture to spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente.

Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. If desired, garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme or thyme sprigs.

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Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) ricotta
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fontina, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the rigatoni until almost done, about 12 minutes. Drain. Put the pasta in the prepared baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, squeeze as much of the water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor and puree with the ricotta, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in half of the fontina cheese.

Stir the spinach mixture into the pasta. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top. Bake the pasta until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Creamy Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 4 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (you can leave these out if you are not a fan)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and return to the saucepan. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus, Brussels sprouts, if using, broccoli and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from the skillet; set aside.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Gently stir in pasta and vegetables. Stir in additional milk, if the sauce needs thinning. Sprinkle with lemon peel and additional shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve.

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Baked Ziti with Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-by-8-inch square or oval baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It will be partially cooked. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, about half the Parmesan, the pesto and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Linguine with Sweet Bell Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound red, green, yellow, orange bell peppers, sliced thin
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Add the cooked linguine, pasta water, tomatoes and basil to the skillet and toss over moderate heat for 1 minute; then serve.

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Number 2 made of food

Buying grocery items in bulk may seem like a way to save money, but mushy salad greens in the refrigerator vegetable drawer mean wasted dollars.

Here are some tips for saving time and money at the supermarket when planning fast and healthy meals for two.

  • Avoid waste,;use the salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need or like at the salad bar.
  • Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula or mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving two.
  • The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are the right size.
  • If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp in 2-pound bags. Since the shrimp do not stick together in the bag, you can take out what you need when you need it, without having to defrost the whole amount..
  • If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats and you have a small freezer, ask the meat department to give you just the amount you need.
  • One 14-ounce can of chicken or beef broth works well when making soup for two. When you only need a small amount of broth for a recipe, use a low-sodium bouillon mix. Cooking rice in leftover broth gives it great flavor.
  • 8-ounce cans of  regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size to have on hand for dinner.
  • Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over..
  • Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6 and 8 ounce containers of yogurt, 4 ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3 ounce blocks of cream cheese to avoid spoilage after these packages are opened.

So, you find a recipe that sounds good, but the yield is “four to six servings.” How do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half or make the full amount and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

Instead think about what the portions are per serving for a particular ingredient.

If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta, and you know that your preference is for two ounces each, look at how much pasta the recipe calls for. Twelve ounces? Then your starting point is to divide by three for two servings. Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts without ruining the overall flavor.  I often cut the sauce for a dish that serves 6-8 in half rather than try to reduce it further. I know that I’ll probably have more than we need, but it’s usually an easier reduction without ruining the flavor of the sauce. I can often freeze the extra or use it later in the week for another dish.

It is also helpful, if you develop a file of recipes that serve just two. I will help you out by sharing the following recipes.

fortwo1

Stuffed Turkey or Pork Tenderloin

This dish goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable. Serve the leftover pear on the side.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup thin sweet onion wedges
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cored red skinned pear, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 10 ounce turkey breast tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, cook onion, covered, in 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped pear and thyme. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pear is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, cut a large pocket in the side of the turkey or pork tenderloin by cutting horizontally into the tenderloin, but not all the way through to the opposite side. Spoon cooled onion mixture into the pocket. Secure opening with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle top of tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Carefully wipe out the skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add stuffed tenderloin, top side down, to hot skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn tenderloin.

Roast, uncovered, in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice to serve.

fortwo2

Cioppino For Two

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 small red potatoes, (1 to 2-inch diameter), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small firm white fish fillet, diced (about 6-8 ounces) such as grouper, cod, halibut or snapper
  • 2 large sea scallops, cut in half and patted dry
  • 4 peeled medium shrimp
  • 6  mussels or small clams
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock or water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fish filet and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add wine, stock or water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the fish, scallops, shrimp and mussels or clams, potatoes and capers, return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

fortwo3

Fusilli with Sausage, Arugula and Tomatoes

To make this dish vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add one 8-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Heat with the arugula and tomatoes.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fusilli  pasta
  • 4 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry  tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir in garlic, arugula or spinach and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a serving bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and the olive oil.

Drain the pasta and add it to the serving bowl. Toss to combine. Pour the sausage-arugula mixture over the pasta and divide into two serving bowls.

fortwo4

Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 very thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage sprigs

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken with the sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side. Add wine; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°.

Place the cornmeal and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1-quart casserole. Gradually add water or broth, stirring until blended. Cover dish and microwave at high 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from the skillet. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and prosciutto.

Spoon polenta onto two plates, top with chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired.

fortwo5

Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers

Serve with egg noodles tossed with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 bell peppers (one yellow; one red), cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Rub steak with fennel seed and 1/4 teaspoon salt, turning to coat on all sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, about 2-3  minutes.

Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add bell peppers, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pepper mixture, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Return the steak to the pan. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, turning the meat once, about 2 minutes to heat. Serve over cooked noodles, if desired.


umbriacover

In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

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The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

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Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough.  Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

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Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

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This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 


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Pasta, as an Italian staple, likely developed in the 12th century. Soon after, locals in the Naples region developed a way to mass-produce dried pasta, which allowed for long-term storage that helped to enable extended sea voyages. Pasta has changed little over the last 800 years. In Italy, it was traditionally the food of peasants, which meant just about everyone. Before the introduction of tomatoes from the New World, pasta was served with olive oil, garlic and local vegetables. It is a regular component of the Mediterranean diet.

What makes pasta healthy is the fact that it has a low glycemic index (GI) — a modern concept of how fast glucose, a sugar from carbohydrates, is absorbed into the bloodstream. The GI runs from zero to 100 and foods with a higher index number tend to spike the blood with sugar. Pasta’s low glycemic index is around 25 to 45, depending on the type. That’s in the range of many fruits and (non-potato) vegetables.

There are several reasons for pasta’s low GI rank. Semolina flour comprises large, crystal-like yellow particles. Its naturally strong gluten content prevents starch from leaching out quickly and, this in turn, leads to slower digestion, slower release of sugar into the blood and a greater feeling of satiation. Also, the extrusion process — the process in which the unleavened semolina dough is pushed through a die to give pasta its shape — creates “a very compact structure, which makes the carb release its energy slowly.

Whole-grain semolina pasta, a recent trend, does not necessarily have a lower GI. Rather, the whole grain adds micronutrients lost in the milling process, which can be important to good health. Pasta should be cooked al dente or slightly firm. Anything longer, can raise the GI index and pasta becomes unhealthy when it is overly processed or when it is topped with fatty ingredients. So when you’re deciding what to make for dinner and checking off prerequisites in your head – is it fast? is it healthy? will the kids eat it? – pasta is a surprisingly good choice, especially when paired with healthy ingredients.

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Pasta with Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

4- 6  servings

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces whole-wheat rotini or penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Combine broccoli, garlic, walnuts, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until coated.

Place broccoli mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, stirring twice.

Cook pasta following package directions for al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Add broccoli mixture to the pasta pot and stir in broth, butter and Parmesan cheese.

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Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Sausage and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound mild or hot Italian turkey, chicken or lean pork sausage
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove. When the sausage is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch slices.

Add the onion, peppers and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, broth, vermouth, the sliced sausage, the parsley and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain and toss with the sausage-and-pepper mixture and the Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Linguine with Shellfish and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pounds sea scallops
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil and add the garlic and saute until tender.

Add the scallops and shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink, about 4 minutes. Add clam juice and pepper flakes. Cook for 3 minutes more.

To the cooked pasta add the sun-dried tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest; toss. Pour seafood mixture over the linguini and serve immediately.

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Oil 

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic and Oil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pound button or portabella or wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound spaghettini
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and the red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 1 minute.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the salt and cook until the mushrooms exude liquid, the liquid evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghettini until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and toss with the mushroom mixture, the parsley and the pepper.

Linguine Carbonara

Linguine Carbonara

4 servings

  • Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and butter over moderate heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown but not crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, wine and pepper. Simmer until the wine is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and salt.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain the pasta, add it to the egg and cheese mixture and toss quickly. Pour the bacon mixture over the linguine. Add the parsley and toss just until mixed. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan.


gamedaycover

The Super Bowl is a few days away. And whether or not you care who wins, you may want to invite a few friends over to watch the game. So, what should you serve?

The average football fan eats about a day’s worth of calories during the game. Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.

If you haven’t started planning what you’re going to serve, here are some ideas. The foods below are not going to ruin anyone’s New Year’s Resolutions.

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Spicy Tortilla Strips

Ingredients

  • 6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut tortillas in half and cut each half into 5 strips to form 60 strips. Divide the tortilla strips evenly among 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray.

Brush strips evenly with oil. Combine cumin and red pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle over strips. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned, rotating baking sheets after 5 minutes.

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Fresh Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Stir the tomatoes, green bell pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. Serve with the tortilla strips.

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Barbecue Spice Roasted Chickpeas

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-15 ounce cans no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue spice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine garbanzo beans, oil, barbecue spice, paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt and onion powder.

Spread in an even layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast about 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring once halfway through roasting. Cool completely.

To Make Ahead: Place cooled chickpeas in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Italian Parmesan Pretzels

Makes 10 pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed or homemade, recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Mustard, for serving

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 15-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel, hold one end of the rope in each hand and form a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other and then twist. Then lift the ends across to the bottom of the U-shape; press to seal.

Arrange shaped pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper; let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl stir together Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush pretzels evenly with half of the melted butter then sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until browned. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Drizzle pretzels with the remaining melted butter. Serve warm or cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack. Serve with mustard.

Whole Wheat Bread Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups + 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 2 teaspoons yeast, active dry, instant

Directions

Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer or bread machine—to make a soft (though not very sticky) dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Turkey and Roast Beef Muffuletta

Makes: 10  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 jar (4.75 oz) pimiento-stuffed olives, drained and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup  olive oil
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons  red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1 large round crusty Italian bread (about 11/4 lbs)
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli roast beef
  • 1/4 pound  sliced American cheese
  • 1 jar (12 oz) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli turkey
  • 1/4 pound sliced Provolone cheese

Directions

In a small bowl, combine olives, tomato, olive oil, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and black pepper.

Cut the loaf of bread in half crosswise. Spread bottom cut side with half of olive mixture. Layer on roast beef, American cheese, red peppers, turkey and Provolone cheese.

Spread remaining olive mixture over cheese and top with the other half of bread.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and weigh down with a heavy pot filled with canned goods for at least an hour. Slice into 10 wedges to serve.

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Slow-Cooker Brisket Sandwiches

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Brisket

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 1/4 pounds brisket
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 16-ounce bottle beer or 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

Sandwich

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 8 -10 whole-wheat buns
  • Bread & Butter Pickles

Directions

To prepare the brisket:

Combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper in a small bowl. Rub all over brisket. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the brisket and brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add beer (or broth) to the pan along with any remaining spice blend from your cutting board; increase heat to high. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour over the brisket. Cover and cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 9 hours.

To prepare the sauce:

Mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a paste in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon on a cutting board. Combine the garlic mixture with mayonnaise in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When the brisket is done, transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pull the brisket apart into shreds with 2 forks and then coarsely chop the shredded meat. Combine the chopped brisket with the liquid in the slow cooker.

To serve:

Spread each bun with 1 tablespoon garlic sauce and top with about 3/4 cup brisket. Serve with pickles.

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Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 cups air popped  popcorn

Directions

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat and stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and salt over medium heat until just boiling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Add popcorn and toss until coated.

Place coated popcorn in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large piece of foil to cool. Place in a serving bowl.

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Frozen Neapolitans

Makes 48 bars

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chocolate-flavored crisp rice cereal
  • 1 ¼ cups chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 pint chocolate ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint strawberry ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup

Directions

Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over short ends of the baking pan. Butter foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl combine cereal and 3/4 cup of the almonds; set aside.

In a large saucepan heat butter over low heat until melted. Stir in marshmallows until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add cereal mixture to marshmallow mixture; stir gently to coat. Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture firmly into prepared pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Let ice creams stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate ice cream evenly over cereal layer in pan. Freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream layer; freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread strawberry ice cream over vanilla ice cream layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup almonds and chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup.

Cover and freeze about 4 hours or until firm.

Using the edges of the foil, lift frozen mixture out of pan. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

Makes 30

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup  packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/2 cup  chunky-style applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cup  old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1 cup  golden raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in raisins.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack set over parchment paper; let cool completely.


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The traditional eating habits of the Mediterranean people are based on the agricultural products of their region, which has a long growing season and a rather mild climate. The traditional diets of the Greeks, French, Italians, Spaniards and Middle Easterners reflect distinct cuisines and culinary practices, but they also have a great deal in common.

Certain foods, such as beef and butter, were never very popular in the Mediterranean region because the region did not support the expansive grazing lands required to raise large quantities of buffalo and steer. Most cheeses are made from sheep’s milk and are lower in cholesterol than those made from cow’s milk. The region’s climate is favorable to growing olive trees, so olive oil is abundant and used in cooking instead of butter. With its monounsaturated fat, olive oil is much healthier than butter.

The Mediterranean peoples consume fish, poultry, game and lamb rather than beef. The meat of sheep, goats and chickens contains some fat, of course, but Mediterraneans usually consume far less meat than their northern European neighbors. Wine, which has certain health benefits, is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and regions like Italy and southern France have, historically, produced wine and wine is what is served with meals.

Med6

Research suggests that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean Diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil and it features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts. Here are a few recipes that can get you started on eating like a Mediterranean.

Med1

Eggplant Souvlaki with Yogurt Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for the grill
  • Pinch each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into 20 1/2-inch-wide half-moon pieces
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 6-inch whole-grain pitas
  • 2 cups lightly packed trimmed baby spinach leaves

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

4 metal or wooden 12 inch skewers (soaked if using wooden) or 8 smaller skewers (6-8 inches)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Transfer half of the dressing to a second large bowl. Add tomatoes and eggplant to the first large bowl, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes.

To prepare salad:

To the second large bowl, add cucumber, bell pepper, olives and onion; toss well with dressing and set aside.

Prepare the yogurt sauce:

In a small bowl, combine all yogurt sauce ingredients. Set aside in the refrigerator until serving.

Heat grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grate with cooking oil. If it is too cold to grill where you live, a stovetop grill or grill pan can be used.

On each skewer, thread tomatoes and eggplant, dividing ingredients evenly among the skewers. Mist skewers with cooking spray.

Place skewers on the grill; close lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until tender. On an indoor grill turn skewers often to cook evenly.

Mist pitas with cooking spray and grill, turning once, until lightly toasted and warm, about 1 minute. Cut into quarters and divide among 4 serving plates.

Add spinach to the salad and toss. Serve with souvlaki, yogurt sauce and pita bread.

Med3

Farro, Shrimp & Tomato Risotto

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 28 oz canned or boxed Italian diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 large bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups farro, rinsed
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, add tomatoes, leeks, fennel, farro, broth, tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups water; stir to break up tomato paste. Cover, bring to boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the farro is tender.

Remove lid, add shrimp and stir to combine. Replace lid and continue cooking until shrimp are pink and opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Divide among soup bowls and garnish with parsley.

Med5

Swiss Chard with Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches (about 1 1/4 pounds) Swiss chard, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup pitted and roughly chopped Kalamata olives (about 16)
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Separate leaves from the stems of the Swiss chard. Roughly chop leaves and set aside. Cut stems into 1-inch pieces.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper, and saute until onion is translucent about 6 minutes.

Add Swiss chard stems, olives and the water; cover and cook 3 minutes.

Stir in Swiss chard leaves; cover and continue cooking until stems and leaves are tender, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Med4

Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Artichokes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 – 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
  • 12 oz package frozen artichokes, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus additional for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet with a cover over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add chicken and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side to quickly brown. Remove chicken pieces to a plate.
Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and add the remaining oil and garlic; cook for 1 minute, until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the potatoes and peppers and cook for about 4 minutes, until the potatoes begin to brown.

In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, yogurt and arrowroot and whisk until smooth. Stir yogurt mixture into the skillet. Stir in artichokes and dill. Return chicken pieces to the skillet, nestling them on top of the vegetable mixture.

Cover the skillet and cook for 30 minutes, until the artichokesand potatoes are tender and the sauce is thickened.

Serve chicken and vegetables with the sauce and garnish with additional dill.

Med2

Whole-Wheat Pizza

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and, subsequently, gained popularity throughout the Middle East region. The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella and has a salty flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound homemade or store bought whole-wheat pizza dough at room temperature, recipe below
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) haloumi or feta or ricotta salata cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Oil a pizza pan.

Place tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor; season with salt and pepper. Pulse 3 to 4 times until ingredients are incorporated but chunky.

Place the dough in the pizza pan. Using your hands stretch the dough until it covers the surface of the pan.

Spread tomato sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with cheese and pine nuts; season with salt and pepper.

Bake until the crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Toss arugula with vinegar and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle arugula and olives over baked pizza. Cut into serving pieces.

Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 2 one pound loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm (115 degrees) water
  • 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour

Directions

Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

In the bowl with the yeast, whisk in the sugar, oil and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to the oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

Use one ball of dough for the pizza above and freeze the second dough for another time.



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