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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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 with Turnip Tops
- 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
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.
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
- 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
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.
Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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:
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.
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 Crumbs
- 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
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.
Fresh Corn and Squash Saute
- 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
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.
Green Bean and Vegetable Medley
- 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
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.
Au Gratin Potatoes
- 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
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.
Penne with Broccoli and Ricotta
- 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
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.
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.
Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
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
- 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
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.
Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
Italian Green Bean Salad
- 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
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.
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
- 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
- 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
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.
Spring Vegetable Soup
- 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
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.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
- 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
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.
Vegetable, Fennel Soup
- 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
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.
Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto
- 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
- 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
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.
The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.
Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.
The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.
Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.
The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.
Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.
A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.
Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.
Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.
Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.
Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.
This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.
The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.
As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.
Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo
Potato Soup with Saffron
- 1 ¼ lb potatoes
- 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
- 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
- Celery leaves for garnish
Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.
Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.
Timballo di Crespelle
This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.
For the crespelle (crepes):
- 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
- Olive oil, for the pan
- 3 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
For the filling:
- 125g [4 oz] ground meat
- 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
- 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 20g [1 scant oz] butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 chicken liver
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
To make the filling.
Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.
Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be. Set aside.
Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside
To make the crespelle.
Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.
Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.
To assemble the timballo.
Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.
Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.
Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.
Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
- 2 cups 70% dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sweet almonds
- 10 bitter almonds
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs, separated
Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.
Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.
Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.
Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.
Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.
Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.
The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.
I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.
Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.
- 2 ounces light rum
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 2 ounces passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- Juice of a half a lime
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon grenadine
- Orange slice and cherry for garnish
Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.
Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.
Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce
Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings
- 2 lemons, halved
- 2 limes, halved
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 cups grapefruit juice
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lime, sliced
- 1 grapefruit, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- Garnish: citrus fruit slices
- 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Make the Louis Sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Make the Shrimp
Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.
Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.
Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups cornflake crumbs
- 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- Louis Sauce, recipe above
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.
Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.
Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes
Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
- 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
- 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 8 medium white baking potatoes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
For the potatoes
Preheat the oven to 475ºF.
Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.
Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.
Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.
Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.
For the steaks
Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.
Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).
Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.
Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad
- 4 navel oranges
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
- 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin
- 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
- Black or green olives, slivered
Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.
Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.
Country Corn Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.
Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm
Makes 1 dozen
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
- 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
- Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles
Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)
Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.
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.
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.
Eggplant Souvlaki with Yogurt Sauce
- 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
- 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)
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.
Farro, Shrimp & Tomato Risotto
- 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
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.
Swiss Chard with Olives
- 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
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.
Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Artichokes
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.