Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: potatoes

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Warmer weather means BBQ time.

Getting started:

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal. When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat if specified in the recipe.

Keep a third of your grill fire-free. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Do not boil sausages before grilling because it diminishes flavor and moistness  Pre-boiling is unnecessary, if you grill carefully.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F. The casing will be crisp and brown, the filling plump and bubbling. But the only way to check, if the sausages are cooked, is to insert an instant-read meat thermometer through one end of the sausage toward the center.

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Warm Pepper and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 mixed colored large bell peppers, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and separated into layers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Toss peppers and onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill on a lightly oiled grill sheet or a sheet of heavy-duty foil set directly on the grill rack (with grill covered if using a gas grill), turning occasionally, until slightly softened and charred, 9 to 15 minutes (onion will cook faster), transfer vegetables to a platter when cooked.

Add vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the peppers and onion, tossing to coat. Let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Place grilled sausages on top.

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Potato and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 2 pounds peeled small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Simmer green beans in salted water until barely tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or wire-mesh skimmer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and pat dry.

Add potatoes to the same pot of salted water and simmer until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and halve them.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and thyme in a large bowl. Add potatoes, beans and red onion. Gently toss. Season with coarse salt.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 600 gr (1.3 lbs) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 19 oz can cannellini beans, well-drained and rinsed (if using dried beans, 450 gr or 1 lb)
  • Arugula

Directions

If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered with water, add some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 160 C/320 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.

Pour the tomato mixture onto a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until they begin to blistered. Place the tomato mixture in a serving bowl.

Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while they are still warm, taste for seasoning.

Serve warm as a side dish over arugula leaves.

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Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 pound sliced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush two rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil each. Arrange eggplant slices on the baking sheets. Brush tops with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

On a serving platter, layer eggplant with sliced mozzarella and tomatoes. Top with basil leaves and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Tortellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

8 servings

Ingredients

Tortellini

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Arugula or baby spinach, for serving

Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortellini until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the tortellini along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, scallions and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Vinaigrette:

Working over a bowl, rub tomato halves on the large-holed side of a box grater until only the skins remain. Discard the skins.

Add vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to the tomato juice and whisk until blended.

Add the Tomato Vinaigrette to the tortellini salad and toss. Serve the salad on a bed of arugula or baby spinach.


 

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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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For conscious carnivores who like beef, the best option — for your health and for the environment — is meat from pastured cattle raised on grass from start to finish. They’re rich in good fats and managed in a sustainable way. And if you use the meat as a supporting player, rather than the main attraction, you can serve more people while spending less.

For good tasting grass-fed beef, the key is to limit the exposure to high heat so that the meat juices, in limited supply, do not escape, which is what happens over extended cooking times. Keep the steak over the hottest part of the grill for no more than 3½ minutes per side.

While your grill preheats, or about 30 minutes in advance, take the steaks out the refrigerator to take off some of the chill. Use a paper towel to pat them dry on both sides and season them well with kosher salt.

Oil the grill and place the steaks on the hottest part of the grill. Set your timer for 3 minutes for rare or 3½ minutes if you like medium-rare. Use tongs to turn the steak and reset the timer for 3 to 3½ minutes. If you have a digital instant-read thermometer, check the temperature during the last 30 seconds of cooking. For rare, remove the meat at 125 degrees, for medium-rare 130 degrees. Let the steak rest for five minutes before serving.

Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Simmer vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add shallots, 1/4 cup oil, and crushed red pepper; return to simmer. Remove from heat; whisk in parsley, capers, and thyme. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Rub both sides of steaks with oil and garlic. Mix paprika, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of steaks. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over each steak.

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Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 T chopped celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 chopped plum tomato
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/4-inch in the shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop the zucchini pulp.

In a large skillet, saute pulp, celery and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic and tomato; cook 1 minute longer. Add panko crumbs; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, basil and salt. Spoon mixture into the zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

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Basil Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

Place the potatoes, chicken stock, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place them in a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of basil. Toss well and garnish with the remaining chopped basil.

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Creamy Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2-10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ⅓ less fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil  in small saucepan and add garlic; cook 1 minute.

Add spinach and heat.

Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cream cheese.

Heat and stir until cheese is dissolved throughout spinach.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

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Carrot, Olive and Feta Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for roasting
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ a lemon)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 1 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, chopped

Directions

Mix carrots with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Spread onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast for 30-35 minutes in a 350°F oven until tender. The cooking time will vary according to the thickness of the carrots. Be careful not to overcook.

In a small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs.

Once the roasted carrots are cooled to room temperature, mix together the carrots, olives, feta, and olive oil mixture and place on a serving platter.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 


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Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.

Puglia

Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.

The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.

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As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.

In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.

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The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

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No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.

Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.

Vineyards

Vineyards

Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.

 

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Chickpea Soup

Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.

Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.

Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.

Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and red pepper

Orecchiette with Turnip Tops

Ingredients

  • 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
  • 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta

Directions

Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.

Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.

Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.

In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper.  Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.

When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.

pugliapizza

Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)

A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.

Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.

Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.

Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.

Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.

Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.

puglia4

Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
  • 2 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.


 

chickenand1

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are versatile, easy to prepare and naturally lower in fat and calories than many other meat options. By itself, though, chicken can be quite boring. Baked, grilled or roasted chicken is probably a regular part of your dinner rotation. So you’ll need some great side dishes for that chicken to bring some excitement to your plate.

Chicken Breasts with Herbs

Using a variety of herbs brings great flavor to chicken breasts.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 large cloves finely chopped garlic 
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth

Directions

In small bowl stir together parsley, oregano, lemon peel and garlic. Set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat cook chicken in butter for 6 minutes or until browned, turning once. Transfer to plate.

Remove skillet from the heat; stir in half the herb mixture. Return to the heat. Add broth; bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits.

Return chicken to the skillet; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Pour the pan sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture.

Make a new dish by changing the sauce:

Mustard Wine

In place of the chicken broth above add 1/2 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Continue with the recipe above.

Mushrooms and Sage

Brown 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms in the pan after the chicken is removed. Add the chicken broth and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage instead of the oregano. Continue with the recipe above.

Tomato

Turn the heat up after removing the chicken and add 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue with the recipe above.

Baked Onions with Fennel Breadcrumbs + A140924 Food & Wine Nancy Silverton January 2015

Baked Onions with Fennel Crumbs

Ingredients

chickenand3

  • 3 medium red or sweet onions, peeled and cut in half, root ends left intact but trimmed so they lay flat
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced sage

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the onion halves with olive oil, season with salt and arrange cut side down in an ovenproof medium skillet. Add the chicken stock and scatter the bay leaves around the onions. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are very tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool, then coarsely crush the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl, add the panko crumbs, sage and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss and season with salt.

Carefully turn the onions cut side up in the skillet. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the crumbs are lightly browned and crisp. Discard the bay leaves and serve the onions hot or warm.

chickenand4

Fresh Corn and Squash Saute

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 small zucchini, diced
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded fresh basil leaves, for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from the ears of corn. Add zucchini and corn; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add shredded basil and grated cheese to taste.

chickenand5

Green Bean and Vegetable Medley

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into thick strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions

Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic, onions and mushrooms until almost tender.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, herbs and white pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.

chickenand6

Au Gratin Potatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the onion and add the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk very slowly. Cook until the mixture has thickened.

Stir in cheese all at once and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil with the side facing the potatoes sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more.

chickenand7

Penne with Broccoli and Ricotta

Serves 4

Ingredients

Coarse salt

  • 8 oz penne or other short pasta
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.

In the same pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water to help loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add penne and broccoli and cook until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish and mix in the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


eggsandcover

It can be challenging to serve eggs when you are entertaining house guests. A simple solution is to bake them. Eggs baked in the oven are delicious and offer an alternative to your usual sunny side up or over-easy preparations. You can bake them in individual dishes or in a baking dish and you can add whatever ingredients you like. Additions well suited to eggs are spinach, tomatoes, asparagus, cheese, prosciutto or ham and lots of herbs.

I like baking them in a tomato sauce to make a hardier, meatless entrée and, then, serve them with some delicious sides to make a satisfying lunch or dinner. Serve this meal with some really good crusty Italian bread.

eggsand1

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 large eggs

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Set four 12-ounce ovenproof bowls or ramekins on a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes (with juice), crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Season tomato sauce with salt and pepper.

Divide tomato sauce among the bowls, reserving 1 cup. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl.

Dividing evenly, top each dish with ¼ cup reserved sauce and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

Bake until egg whites are just opaque (yolks should still be soft), 24 to 28 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through.

eggsand2

Potato-Leek Hash

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium leeks–white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Directions

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the center of a potato, 15 – 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them cool. Dice the potatoes and place in a bowl.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the butter, the black pepper and red pepper flakes, swirling the pan until the butter is melted. Stir in the leeks and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are browned and crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the leek mixture to the bowl with the potatoes. Add the oregano and use a fork to stir the mixture until combined, (don’t overmix).

In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, let it brown, swirling often, about 1 minute. Add the potato mixture and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, spreading it out into an even layer in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the bottoms of the potatoes are crisp and browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with the chives. Serve alongside the baked eggs.

eggsand3

Spinach Florentine

Besciamella Sauce

Makes 2 cups of sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot whole milk
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • Grinding coarse black pepper

Spinach

  • 2 one pound packages fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Directions

For the sauce

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook the mixture over medium heat until it thickens on the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Cook the spinach in a large pot without any additional water. When it is wilted, drain it and squeeze it dry. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the garlic and the spinach and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the besciamella sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking dish.

Spoon the remaining sauce over the top of the spinach and sprinkle the top with the cheese.

Bake about 15 minutes or until the mixture is hot. Serve as a side to the baked eggs.

eggsand5

Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 pound tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
  • Splash white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Directions

Submerge the mushrooms in cold water, swish around to wash thoroughly and drain. Trim the ends, slice and place in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mushrooms and mix.

Place the garlic and olive oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to sizzle but not brown, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until all moisture is evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

While mushrooms are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the tagliatelle pasta. When the water has come to a boil, add salt and the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, add a splash of white wine to the mushrooms and let simmer for 1 minute. Add cream and grated cheese and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from the heat.

When pasta is al dente, add to the pan of mushrooms and stir. Serve with the baked eggs.

eggsand4

Garlic-Roasted Asparagus

When making this recipe to go with the baked eggs, cook the asparagus first. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and cover the pan with heavy-duty foil. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake the eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. Place asparagus and garlic in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until asparagus are crisp-tender, stirring once halfway through roasting. Serve with the baked eggs.

eggsand6

Italian Green Bean Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds (675 grams) flat Italian-style green beans or regular green beans, ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 6 garlic cloves, each cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and 1 tablespoon salt. Boil until the beans are tender, with no crunch, 8 minutes. Drain in a colander but do not rinse. Let the beans cool and air dry in the colander.

Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and toss with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the beans to absorb the flavors. Serve at room temperature.


springsoupcover

Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

springsoup4

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

springsoup1

Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

springsoup3

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

springsoup2

Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

springsoup5

Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.



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Adventures in Healthy Living

Things My Belly Likes

Where eating to live and living to eat are not mutually exclusive

Our Growing Paynes

A journey about gardening, cooking, and knitting.

gotta get baked

musings of a baking fiend

thewhitedish

Let's talk recipes, great food and FITNESS!

on the road with Animalcouriers

pet transport through Europe and beyond

jittery cook

recipes worth sharing

charuyoga

vibrant inspiring nourishing yoga

pattytmitchell

site for Patricia Mitchell, author

Something Sweet Something Savoury

Family friendly recipes from a chaotic kitchen

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