Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

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Matera is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. Historically, the region is one of Italy’s poorest and also one of its least populated. The town lies in a small canyon, that has been eroded over the  years by a small stream. Matera was built above a deep ravine called Gravina of Matera and the ravine divides the territory into two areas. Matera was built in a way that made it difficult to provide a water supply to its inhabitants. Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building cisterns and systems of water channels to compensate.

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In later years, during some restoration work in the main square of the town, workers came across what was believed to be the main footings of a castle tower. However, on further excavation, these footings turned out to be large Roman cisterns. Whole house structures were also discovered and one can see how the people of that era lived. Found under the main square of the modern city was a large underground reservoir, complete with columns and a vaulted ceiling.

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Les Sassi et le parc des églises rupestres de Matera

The city was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC and, In AD 664, Matera was conquered by the Lombards. In the 7th and 8th centuries the nearby grottos were colonized by both Benedictine and Basilian monastic institutions. The 9th and 10th centuries were characterized by the struggle between the Byzantines and the German emperors. In the 15th century the city became an Aragonese possession and was given in fief to the barons of the Tramontano family. In 1514, however, the population rebelled against the oppression and killed Count Tramontano. In the 17th century Matera became part of the Terra d’Otranto di Puglia. Later, it was the capital of Basilicata and, in 1927, it became capital of the province of Matera. In 1943, the Materani rose against the German occupation, the first Italian city to fight against the Wehrmacht.

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Matera3Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera” (meaning “stones of Matera”). The Sassi originated from a prehistoric settlement and are believed to be some of the first human settlements in Italy. The Sassi houses were dug into the calcareous rock, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of these “houses” are really only caverns and the streets in some parts of the Sassi are located on the rooftops of houses.

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Known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City), Matera is well-known for its historical center called “Sassi” and has been considered a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1993, along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches. Matera preserves a large and diverse collection of buildings related to the Christian faith, including a large number of rupestrian churches carved from the soft volcanic rock of the region. These churches were listed in the 1998 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. There are many other churches and monasteries dating back throughout the history of the Christian church. Some are simple caves with a single altar and maybe a fresco, often located on the opposite side of the ravine. Some are complex cave networks with large underground chambers, thought to have been used for meditation by the monks.

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In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to other areas of the developing modern city. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were mostly uninhabitable. Current local administration, however, has become more tourism-oriented and has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi homes with the aid of the Italian government, UNESCO and Hollywood. Because of the ancient and primitive scenery in and around the Sassi, it has been used by filmmakers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem in their films. Today, there are many thriving businesses, pubs and hotels.

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The Cuisine of Matera

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The cuisine of Matera has much in common with the surrounding regions of Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Abruzzo and often make use of ingredients that are difficult to find elsewhere . For example, a special flour called farina di grano arso (literally, burnt wheat flour) is popular in the region. This flour was traditionally obtained by milling durum wheat grains gathered from the fields after the stubble had been burnt. A back-breaking job collecting burnt berries. However, in a situation of need, they were better than nothing. The grano arso was then milled and mixed with regular durum flour to make pasta, bread and focaccia. Today, this flour is obtained through toasting the seeds, a safer process, since burning produces unhealthy compounds. The resulting gray flour smells slightly smoky and is appreciated for its unusual color and pleasant nutty flavor.

Other pastas dishes include orecchiette (ear-shaped handmade pasta) prepared with fresh tomato or with turnip tops, broccoli, cauliflower or with breadcrumb and sultana grapes.

In this Province, peperoncino (hot pepper) is widely used and goes by at least three different names: diavolicchio, francisella and cerasella. Local favorites include legume soups made from cicerchie (a hybrid between a fava bean and chick pea); fresh wild chicory served on pureed fava beans or Peperoni di Senise – red peppers that are dried, then fried and salted and used as seasoning for several dishes. A wheat and chickpea soup is made with stale bread, eggs, olives, tomatoes and other vegetables.

Another typical dish is cotto di fichi (cooked figs), a type of cream made with boiled and dried figs. The local Cardoncello mushroom is cooked in different ways or eaten raw with ricotta cheese, lemons and olive oil. Special Easter dishes include cardoons with caciocavallo cheese and eggs, pirc buzz (pasta with a mulled wine dressing) and fusilli with fried breadcrumbs and baked figs. Majatica Olives from Ferrandina (in the province of Matera) are eaten without curing, but fried and salted instead.

Fish dishes are very common, for example, scapece (fried anchovies marinated with vinegar) and dried salted cod (baccalà) is prepared with peppers. Eel is cooked with hot peppers, tomatoes, mint and laurel.

Vegetables are widely used and offer a range of dishes spiced with a hint of pepperoncino. Typical vegetable dishes include, vegetable calzone, ciammotta (fried potatoes, peppers and eggplants with tomato sauce), cialledda with broad beans, potatoes and artichokes and lampaggioni (wild onion) salad.

Fresh meat is scarce and lamb or sheep are traditional when meat is served. On occasion, a mutton stew that gets cooked in a traditional tall earthenware pot covered with a layer of bread dough can be found. The dish is left to simmer for several hours in a wood burning oven. Pork sausages can also be found, such asSalsicce Lucane that are seasoned with fennel seeds and a touch of peperoncino. Another typical dish is the gammarid, special rolls filled with sheep and kid giblets.

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Cheeses of the region are: ricotta, sheep’s milk cheese and burrata (fresh mozzarella and cream cheese). Meals are served with Pane di Matera, an oven baked bread made with durum wheat flour. It has a very hard crust and is a light yellow color.

Typical desserts are: figs with honey; pasch nisch, a September dessert prepared with semolina and wine; cuccìa, a boiled wheat dessert mixed with chocolate, pomegranate, walnuts and mulled wine. Wines of the region include: Val Bradano, Sangiovese, Moscato, Malvasia and Elixir di noci.

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Spinach Pies

Dough

  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Filling

  • 3 lbs fresh spinach
  • 5 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the dough:

Put the flour in a bowl and make a hollow or depression in the center.

Pour in the olive oil. Then, using a spoon, mix the flour and olive oil until it forms what looks like little beads. Add the water to the mixture. Knead by hand until the dough has a soft texture.

Divide the dough in 10 equal parts. Form the equal parts into balls and set aside.

Prepare the spinach filling:

Combine the paprika, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Wash the spinach and shake out the excess water. Place the spinach into a large bowel. Add the onion, garlic and seasonings and mix well.

Pour the olive oil over the spinach. Toss gently to coat the spinach evenly.

Make the pies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured board, roll out each ball of dough into circles about 8 inches in diameter.

Place 1 cup of the prepared spinach leaves on each dough circle.

Fold dough in half, completely enclosing the filling and crimp edges to hold together.

Bake about 35-40 minutes until pies are golden brown.

Serve immediately or cool and serve at room temperature.

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Piatto d’erbe Alla Lucana

Ingredients

  • 3 large onions
  • 2 eggplant
  • 2 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Handful of basil
  • Handful of parsley
  • Crostini (bread slices), toasted or grilled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Dice the eggplants and put them on a plate, sprinkle with salt and leave them for an hour, so that they lose their bitterness. Wash and dry the eggplant.
Peel the onions and cut into thin rings.
Cut the peppers into strips. Peel and chop the tomatoes, discarding the seeds. Chop the parsley and basil together with the garlic.
Pour a half a cup of olive oil into a saucepan and add the onions; when they are wilted add the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, add salt to taste, stir and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the basil, parsley and garlic, stir again and continue cooking over medium heat, uncovered, for about an hour. Serve the vegetables with the crostini.

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Cutturiddu – Lamb Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Salt and black pepper  to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 whole sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dry the lamb with paper towels. Rub the pieces with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until it is fragrant. Brown the lamb well on all sides and place in a ovenproof casserole with a cover.

Add the potatoes to the skillet. Salt and pepper them and saute until lightly brown. Add the potatoes to the casserole along with the tomatoes and remaining ingredients except the grated cheese. Cover and bake for about 2 hours.

Uncover and sprinkle on the cheese. Serve immediately.

Figs with honey cheese and nuts

Orange Ricotta Stuffed Figs

Ingredients

  • 12 medium ripe fresh figs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts

Directions

Remove stem ends from the figs. Cut each into a tulip shape by slicing in quarters from the stem almost to the blossom end. Press on the stem end to open petals.

In a blender or food processor, process the ricotta, orange zest and juice, and honey. Stuff each fig with 2 tablespoons ricotta and sprinkle the chopped nuts on top.

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A single plant can produce over a dozen tomatoes, which means you can give a basket to the neighbors and still include almost every meal with this nutrient-rich fruit. Serve them in pasta, pizza, vinaigrettes and even desserts. Paired with the right spices, tomatoes can be sweet, tangy or tart.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy fresh produce is to free it from heavy sauces or other flavor-masking extras. Serve a Mediterranean-inspired stuffed tomato with feta, olives and a little basil. It’s a great complement to any grilled entrée or add a little chopped chicken to the mix and serve on its own. Use sturdy, ripe tomatoes for optimal flavor and presentation.

When the temperature climbs, dinner cravings often tend toward light and simple. Make a pasta dish that’s packed with the freshest of ingredients, including fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. A little olive oil adds flavor that rounds out the simple sauce.

Fresh tomato salsas, chutneys and dressings add color and flavor to almost any meat. Try it with grilled sea bass for a refreshing summer dish. A warm vinaigrette dressing pairs well with fluffy couscous, so make extra to use on other main dishes.

Update pizza night by replacing the standard jarred tomato sauce with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Top a store-bought pizza dough with the pesto, then layer on chopped tomatoes, garlic, provolone and a few sprinkles of basil and bake for a quick homemade pizza.

Looking for some new ideas on how to use tomatoes? Have you thought of these?

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup torn crusty country bread
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, sweet pepper quarters, onion wedges and garlic between two 15x10x1 inch baking pans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and vegetables are lightly browned on edges.

Place roasted vegetables and any pan juices in a large food processor. Add bread. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir in vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to make a thinner consistency. Cover; chill at last 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Spoon soup in bowls. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley.

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Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 thin slices firm-texture whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Chop enough meat to measure 2 cups; save the remaining chicken for another use.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups chicken, the spinach, green onions, basil, vinegar, oil and garlic. Toss to evenly coat.

Cut a 1/4 inch-thick slice from the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Place shells, open sides up, on a serving plate. Discard tomato seeds. Chop enough of the tomato pulp to measure 1/2 cup; reserve remaining pulp for another use.

Stir the 1/2 cup tomato pulp into the chicken mixture.

Divide chicken mixture among tomato shells. Top with bread cubes and cheese.

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Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pork rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large clove mashed garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dry the pork chops on paper towels. Heat the oil in a heavy, 10-12 inch oven-proof skillet with a cover.

Brown the chops, 2 or 3 at a time, on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. As they are browned, transfer them to a side dish.

Add the onions, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and the next four ingredients.

Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the pork chops to the pan and push them into the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to simmer on top of the stove, then set the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chops are done.

Arrange the chops on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chops. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornmeal and 2 cups of the remaining flour.

You can also use the dough hook on the electric mixer for this addition and the addition of the remaining flour below, instead.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to oil the surface.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Punch down dough; let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Place dough in the prepared baking pan. Gently pull and stretch dough to the edges of the baking pan, being careful not to overwork dough.

Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange tomato and artichoke slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Let stand for 15 minutes. Change paper towels as necessary so all of the excess liquid is absorbed from tomatoes and artichokes.

Using your fingers, press deep indentations in the dough 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary. Arrange tomatoes, artichokes, onion rings and garlic slivers evenly on top of dough.

Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

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Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) fish fillets (3/4- 1 inch thick) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season fish with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook fish in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in capers, basil, oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Return fish to the pan with the tomato sauce and heat gently. Serve fish topped with the sauce.


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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

It All Starts with Crust  

Whole-wheat flour. Forgo the traditional white-flour crust and make your own whole-wheat dough for some extra protein and fiber.

Tortillas. Rice and beans aren’t the only ingredients that can top a tortilla. Make your own whole-wheat tortilla for a perfect thin-crust alternative.

Pita bread. Pita pockets are the perfect size for a personal pizza and the whole-wheat variety adds an extra nutrition.

English muffins. With all the nooks and crannies, an English muffin pizza crust can toast up perfectly in the oven and are great for making mini-pizzas for a light lunch.

Matzo. Think of this as the ultimate thin-crust pizza. Super simple and super crispy.

Cauliflower. For a lighter option, forgo the extra carbs and turn cauliflower into a healthful, delicious pizza crust.

Zucchini. Similar to cauliflower, zucchini is easy to make into a lean, green, pizza crust.

Portobello. These mushrooms are a perfect bed for any pizza sauce and toppings.

Quinoa. This grain isn’t only great on top of salads or in soups. Cook up your own quinoa crust for a nutty, protein-packed alternative to classic pizza dough.

Leftover rice. Another use for that leftover rice from dinner last night. Add just a little flax-seed meal and Italian seasoning, and you’ve got an easy, inventive crust.

And Then There’s Some Crazy Toppings!

  • Start with a whole-wheat crust, spread on a thin layer of goat cheese. Layer on some roasted beets and drizzle with oil. Bake until crispy and top with a handful of fresh arugula before serving. Drizzle with some high-quality balsamic vinegar.
  • Toast a large tortilla until slightly crisp. Remove from oven and top with pumpkin puree, chicken sausage and kale.
  • Start with a zucchini crust. Add pesto. Top with :broccoli or spinach or asparagus and sliced artichokes. Dollop with some pieces of fresh mozzarella and bake until crisp.
  • On a whole-wheat crust, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. Bake until the cheese starts to brown. Top with sliced figs, grapes, strawberries and blueberries or any combination. Add a drizzle of honey.
  • On a whole-wheat pita, spread a few tablespoons of fresh tomato sauce. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and sliced cooked  sausage. Top with some mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Bake a few minutes to melt the cheese.

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Polenta Pizza Crust

Who says pizza has to be made from bread dough? Best of all, it’s gluten free!

Makes: one 11” x 14” rectangular crust

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups Polenta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 3½ cups of water to a boil. Add the salt.

Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water and stir. Reduce the heat and continue stirring for about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and stir to incorporate. Add the chopped parsley, oregano and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Stir to combine.

Remove the pan from the heat and prepare an 11×14 inch baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Using a spatula (a silicone spatula works the best), spread the polenta evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the pan and refrigerate for about an hour to set the polenta. You can also chill it overnight.

Once chilled, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until slightly crispy on top. Remove from the oven and apply  pizza toppings of choice. Return to the oven just until the toppings are heated. Cut into serving pieces.

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Pizza Dough

This pizza dough has a thick crust – more like focaccia. Top with prosciutto, figs and pesto for an unusual sandwich.

Makes: one 9×13” thick crust pizza

Ingredients

For the starter:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • Extra water
  • Kosher salt

Directions

For the starter:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1 cup of warm water (about 115 degrees F). Let the mixture stand 5 minutes—it should start to foam and bubble a bit. Add flour and mix well. Cover and let it stand for about 1 hour.

Make the dough:

Add the remaining 1 cup water, oil and salt to the yeast mixture and mix together. You can use a standing mixer or food processor as well.

Add the bread and whole wheat flours and using the paddle attachment mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky, but still slightly tacky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover it and let it rise for 1½ hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly oiled 9×13 pan. Press the dough out to fit the pan and let it rise for 30 more minutes. After the 30 minutes, press the surface of the dough with your fingertips to make small depressions on the top. Apply toppings of choice or use the bread for sandwiches.

Bake the bread in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes longer. If the top of the bread browns too quickly, cover it with some aluminum foil.

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Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

Makes four 8” personal pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potato (about two medium sweet potatoes)
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour (or use gluten-free flour as an alternative)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk or nondairy milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare the sweet potatoes:

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Peel, dice, the sweet potatoes and then place them in the boiling water until soft.

Drain and mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Allow to cool. Add the milk, olive oil and salt and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine.

Dust hands with flour and gently knead the dough until it is well mixed. You may want to turn the dough out onto a floured work surface for more space. You can add a little more flour to reduce the stickiness of the dough, but not too much, as it should still be slightly sticky.

Separate into 4 equal parts and form into rounds. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press one of the dough balls in the center. Press out from the middle of the ball, forming a flat, round disc (about 8  inches diameter). Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes. Add  toppings of choice and return to the oven to bake for 10 more minutes.

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Quinoa Pizza Crust

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa plus enough water to cover for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup  water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Place the quinoa in a bowl and pour in enough water to cover the quinoa. Let it sit for about 8 hours to soak .

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or baking pan and brush with oil. Place in the oven to preheat.

Drain the quinoa, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place the quinoa in a blender. Add the 1/3 cup water and the seasonings and blend. Add more water as needed, until the batter resembles a thick pancake-style batter.

Once the oven reaches the set temperature, pour the batter into the skillet and quickly spread it out evenly across the bottom.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the underside is well-browned and starting to crisp. Use a large spatula and carefully flip the crust over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and top with desired toppings. (Such as, tomato-based pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pork sausage or greens.)

As with any pizza, be careful not to overload on toppings or the crust will get soggy.

Return the pan to the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is well-browned on the bottom and crisp. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Slice into serving pieces.

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Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded (1 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup. grated fresh parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Dry zucchini well with clean paper towels. Shred the zucchini using a hand shredder, then take all the shredded pieces and squeeze out all the excess water in between two paper towels.

Combine the zucchini, flour, eggs, oil, herbs and the cheeses until well-blended.

Once the dough is fully formed, spread evenly to about 10 inches on a pizza pan covered with parchment paper, then bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crispy.

Carefully turn the crust over with a wide spatula so the other side cooks as well. This will prevent sogginess. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Once cooked, remove from the oven and add whatever toppings you choose (see below for ideas).

Turn the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Once topped, put the pan back in the oven for about 8 minutes until heated.

Some Topping Ideas Or Use Your Imagination:

  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
  • 2-3  sautéed garlic cloves
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced bell peppers
  • Thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with garlic
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced onion
  • Pesto
  • Fresh Mozzarella or Italian Fontina cheese

Dear Readers: What is the most unusual pizza you have created or eaten?


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Gallipoli (beautiful town) is a village of 20,969 inhabitants in the province of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy, in the heel of the boot. It is located by the Ionian Sea and is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century. It’s a picturesque town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks coming from the sea. The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522, the eastern wall was added. Extending out into the sea, the impressive and majestic Castle remains a focal point of Gallipoli, as does the Cathedral in the town center. Started in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th, the Cathedral, with its decorative facade and Baroque interior, was built in honor of Saint Agata.

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Once an important fishing center; it feels more like a working Italian town, rather than what it is – a resort region. The attractive port is still used by fishing boats and one will see fishermen mending their nets and houses decorated with fishing baskets. Restaurants serve fresh seafood and sea urchins are a specialty of Gallipoli. Gallipoli has a mild climate and can be visited year-round but the main season is May through October, when the weather is almost always hot and clear. There are celebrations and festivals for Easter Week, Carnival (40 days before Easter), Sant’ Agata in February and Santa Cristina in July.

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Gallipoli7With its labyrinth of narrow streets and churches, palazzi and structures, Gallipoli’s history and mix of different influences and cultures is apparent. Strolling through the old town, it’s impossible not to be facinated with the charming alleys and courtyards that greet one at every turn. There are many places of interest in the city, beginning with the Greek-Roman fountain (III Century BC) above photo, which one will see after crossing the bridge that divides the new city from the old.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

There was a time when oil was as valuable as gold and the subterranean cisterns of Gallipoli were full of it. We are talking about lamp oil, needed to light the chandeliers in palaces and aristocratic mansions or transformed into soap for the great ladies of Paris. Apparently from the by-products of Gallipoli’s oil mills the famous “Marseilles kitchen soap” was made.

The oil from Gallipoli was the best in the Mediterranean and the most popular. From the 17th to the 19th century ships crowded the port of Gallipoli,  loading precious liquid that reached the seaports of Northern Europe and Russia. That was because this oil, thanks to its purity, was the only one allowed to burn along with incense in front of the statues in the Moscow orthodox churches.

Even the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg was only lit with the lamp oil from Gallipoli, which made less smoke as compared to other oils and gave more sheen in the vast salons. The Czarina, Catherine, sent envoys to try and discover the secret. The secret, yes olive oil, had its origin in the ancient Gallipoli subterranean oil mills that did not depend just on the quality of the olives, but also, on the stone in the cisterns, in which the oil was often stored for long periods. The carparo (tuff) stone filtered the oil, giving it a special pureness. Many historians believe that the rough stone in these ancient subterranean oil mills blended the olive oil with the saltiness from the sea below to give it its uniqueness..

In the old town center there once were about thirty oil mills. It was not only the production of olive oil (which in the 19th century employed about 8,000 workers from October to May) that had developed, but also a number of satellite activities, such as the production and marketing of casks, whose wood was aged in salted water so as to make it more resistant and ideal for long voyages. A rich class of craftsmen and traders established themselves, which made possible investments in the restructuring and building of new churches. A donation of the “dockers” was the church of Santa Maria della Purità and the lamp oil trade gave the town of Gallipoli an international atmosphere. The ships that loaded oil brought to the town a variety of goods, which even came from America, England, France, Germany, Venice and Trieste, trays from Sheffield, Limoges porcelain, glasses from Murano, cheese from Bavaria and foreign wines.

All European languages were spoken on the quays of Gallipoli and merchants and consul authorities abounded, with the British playing a leading role. The trade of lamp oil was controlled from London and a number of families related to the industry moved to the area to oversee the oil trade. This can explain why in the region, even today, one can find the descendants of numerous families with English surnames and that the relations between the United Kingdom and this far corner of the boot have been close throughout the centuries.

Gallipoli

The Cuisine of Gallipoli

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Friselle Bread and Tomato Salad

Friselle are ring-shaped rolls, similar to bagels. They’re partially baked, removed from the oven and divided into two halves, which are returned to the oven and allowed to bake until done, then dried completely.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wheat friselle
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 4 basil sprigs
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the Friselle for a couple of minutes in a bowl of cold water before using. Drain and break them into chunks. Place in a serving bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, basil and oregano and mix well. Season with a generous pinch of salt and dress with the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to eat.

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Mussels au Gratin

Cozze al gratin is a classic dish from this region. It’s easy to make, especially if you buy pre-cleaned mussels.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds live mussels, washed and purged
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, add 1 clove of peeled garlic.

When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the mussels open, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When cool, remove the half-shells without mussels and discard.

Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil, the minced parsley, 1 minced garlic clove and the crushed red pepper. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spread the mixture over the mussels, put them in a low-sided oven-proof dish, drizzle the remaining oil over them and bake them until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.

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Ciceri e tria (Tagliatelle with Chickpeas)

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, celery and garlic and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover the mixture with ample water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the chick peas soften.

Add the fresh pasta simmer until the pasta is cooked. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in pasta bowls.

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Gallipoli-Style Swordfish

Ingredients

  • 4 swordfish fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions

Combine the herbs with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Rub some olive oil on both sides of the swordfish, then dredge in the breadcrumbs to coat them well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the fish, about ten minutes per side. Serve with the orange slices on the side.

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Sesame Seed and Olive Oil Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Beat the egg with the sugar, honey, vanilla and olive oil. In another bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.

Use a rubber spatula to stir the liquid mix into the dry one, then use your hand to mix until you have a smooth ball of dough.

Roll it out roughly between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Then cover with sesame seeds.

Place the cookies onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and prick them with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool a couple of minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool further.


July

The Declaration of Independence was the name adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Times were much different when our founding fathers lived. They cooked over open wood fires and often had farms where they grew their own produce. Food was simpler for the,. but eating was a big part of their lives. What kinds of food did our founding fathers eat?

Thomas Jefferson was known for his culinary adventurousness. He was an avid gardener and trained his kitchen staff in French cooking techniques. Almost all of our founding fathers lived on large farms. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, had a deep love for farming and he published many books about it. In his Garden Book, he mentioned planting green beans often. Everyone knows the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree, but did you know that he actually had a cherry orchard on his property? Both he and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherry trees on their land.

Seafood in general was popular amongst the founding fathers. Most of them spent a lot of their working lives near large bodies of water. Even though they enjoyed all seafood, oysters were by far their favorites. Martha Washington, the first First Lady, included many recipes for oysters in her cookbook, The Martha Washington Cookbook.

Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he suggested it should be our national symbol. The bald eagle won that fight, but turkey continued to be popular. Dolley Madison, the fourth president’s wife, introduced ice cream to the United States in 1812, when she served it at her husband’s inaugural ball.

It’s common knowledge that George Washington had dental issues. For most of his life he wore dentures, so he often couldn’t chew foods properly. Because of this, he preferred soft, easy-to-eat foods. Cornmeal cake was one of his favorites. George Washington also brewed his own beer. He included molasses in his recipe.

John Adams, the second president, had a relatively simple palate. He preferred boiled meals with nothing too elaborate added. His wife, however, liked to cook more interesting meals. Each year, Abigail Adams would make apple pandowdy, which is very similar to apple pie, from the harvest from their orchard. Apple cider was John Adams’ drink of choice. It was also made from the apples that grew in his orchard and he drank at least one pint of cider before nine in the morning.

The colonists were not fond of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they were considered unappetizing. Most of the time, a lot of sugar was added to the cooking water to make the vegetables more palatable to their taste.

Today, Independence Day, a national holiday, is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States.

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

On each of 12 wooden appetizer skewers, alternately thread two tomatoes, one cheese ball and two basil leaves; place on a serving plate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the kabobs just before serving. Yield: 12 kabobs.

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium sweet red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) pitted ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet or a combination), sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 6-8 corn on the cob, husks and silk removed, each cob cut into three portions
  • 1/4 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 4 pounds shrimp, peeled if desired
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Place potatoes and sausage in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with 6 quarts cold water. Stir in the seafood seasoning, cover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and carefully add the corn; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Drain.
Arrange on a large platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper.
Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

This fat-free, all-fruit sorbet adds lemon for refreshing tartness. For a smoother texture, strain the blueberries through a fine-mesh sieve before freezing. For a blueberries-and-cream variation, substitute milk or cream for the juice, omit the lemon and add 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup organic honey
  • 36 ounces fresh blueberries (divided)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the juice and add the honey; stir until completely dissolved.
Combine with 6 cups blueberries in a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain, if desired.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add lemon juice and salt to the blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice-cream-maker canister, stir in all but 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, place one scoop in each serving dish and garnish with remaining lemon zest and remaining blueberries. Serve immediately.


 

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When you become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly during the growing season in your area, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront and shares usually include 7-10 types of vegetables; enough for a family of 2-3 people.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and the farmers have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow. The consumer gets to eat fresh picked food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits, learn more about how the food is grown and develop a relationship with the farmer who grows the food.

Jeta farms

Jeta Farms

My CSA is Jeta Farms, a family owned and operated farm located in Elberta, Al. They offer a variety of vegetables and some specialty and heirloom varieties. They do not plant GMO vegetable crops. I pick up my share on Saturday mornings and the produce is truly fresh and delicious. As soon as I get my share home, I start planning the week’s menu.

See the photo at the top of the post for last Saturday’s share, which included: a dozen ears of corn-on-the-cob, 2 eggplant, 4 plum tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, a package of blackberries, 2 large bell peppers, 4 patty pan squash, a pound of Italian green beans, a sack (about 5 lbs) of potatoes, lots of zucchini and yellow squash.

I was able to create a whole week’s worth of meals using these vegetables. All the herbs used in the recipes come from my garden.

  • Sunday: Grilled Italian sausage, 2 grilled corn on the cob (from the corn share) and potato salad (from the potato share)
  • Monday: Eggplant-Tomato Bake (recipe below) and sautéed zucchini (from the zucchini share) over Orecchiette pasta
  • Tuesday: Stuffed peppers (recipe below) and cucumber (from the cucumber share) salad 
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish, grilled summer squash (recipe below) and potato salad
  • Thursday: Chicken Oreganata, Italian green beans (recipe below) and eggplant bake
  • Friday: Corn Chowder (recipe below) and hash-browned potatoes (from the potato share) with eggs
  • Saturday: Grilled shrimp, grilled patty pan squash (recipe below) and tomato salad
  • The blackberries became dessert; see the Blackberry Crumble recipe in my post on Using Summer Fruit
Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Hash Browns

Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette Pasta

Here are some of the recipes I used for this menu.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4” round slices (from the eggplant share)
  • 3/4 lb package fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4”slices (from the tomato share)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters (refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh or dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place the slices on the prepared pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the tomatoes and half of the cheese. Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with oregano.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Peppers

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut off 2 cobs from the corn share
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 large bell peppers: halved and seeded (from the bell pepper share)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of your favorite prepared BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until browned..
Add the chopped garlic, onion, corn and squash; stir and heat through. Season mixture with sea salt and pepper. Stir well to combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Add in the chopped parsley and cheese.

Coat a shallow baking dish that will fit the halved peppers with cooking spray. Stuff the halved peppers with the turkey mixture, pressing it in firmly. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish. Top each pepper with a spoonful of BBQ sauce.

Pour about an inch of hot boiled water into the bottom of the baking pan, around the peppers, and loosely cover the pan with a foil tent. This helps to cook the peppers. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender.

Grilled Summer Squash

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Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs green and yellow squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals (from the squash share)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire.

In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and drain for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, put the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons., 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, turning once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes.

Arrange the squash on a platter, dot with the pesto and balsamic syrup. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Italian Flat Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian flat green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 3-inch pieces (from the green bean share)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, cut into very thin slices ( a 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice ( 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 -8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade ( stacked, then rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic slices, distributing them evenly. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the slices become almost translucent and start to brown on the edges; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the tomato is heated through. Add the cooked green beans and heat through for 1 to 2 minutes; mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the basil, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn Chowder

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Ingredients

  • 8 corn on the cob from the corn share
  • Corn Stock, see below
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) 
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, diced (from the potato share)
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 2 fresh whole sprigs of thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 can) evaporated whole milk

Directions

Cut the corn kernels from the 8 cobs and reserve the corn and cobs separately. Place the corn cobs and 4 quarts water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the cobs and discard.

Add half the reserved corn and all the vegetables to the soup pot and return the broth to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the soup pot. Add the seasonings, remaining corn and milk. Heat on low for about 15 minutes or until the corn is tender.

Grilled Patty Pan Squash with Italian Salsa Verde

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4 servings

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 large garlic clove, halved, 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (tightly packed) parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the squash:

  • 4 small to medium patty pan squash from the squash share
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the garlic, salt, anchovy fillet and capers in a food processor. With the motor running add the olive oil with the parsley and blend to a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If serving within a few hours, allow to sit at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Prepare an outdoor grill.

Slice the patty pan squash in half horizontally and coat with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill the squash for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender all the way through.

Transfer the squash to a serving platter. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of the salsa verde and serve.

Yield: 4 servings


basil-varieties

Basil comes in many different varieties, each of which have a unique flavor and smell. Described below are 12 varieties, but there are even more – well over sixty.  I never realized that there were so many varieties of basil until I shopped at a nursery for my plants. If it weren’t for its distinctive smell, it would be difficult to recognize all the different kinds of basil.   Leaves range from a mint color to dark green to purple and grow in size from tiny to large – some are even ruffled!

Basil is traditional in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisine. It is superb with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. It blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon. Basil adds zip to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spinach and to the soups, stews and sauces that contain these vegetables. Basil is also one of the ingredients in the liqueur, Chartreuse.

Bring the wonderful fragrance of basil indoors by incorporating them in potpourri, sachets and dried winter bouquets. The sweet-scented Opal basil and Thai basil are particularly good for these projects. Other fragrant varieties include lemon, lime and cinnamon basil.

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1. Christmas Basil

With 2-inch, glossy green leaves and purple flowers, Christmas basil adds fruity flavor to salads and drinks, and the plants are gorgeous in the landscape. A beautiful border plant, it averages 16 to 20 inches tall and combines the attributes of both Sweet and Thai basil.

basil cinnamon2. Cinnamon Basil

This basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor. A beautiful, 25 to 30 inch tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves. it’s a favorite basil to use for fresh arrangements, garnishes and in fruit salads.

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3. Dark Opal Basil

Dark Opal basil adds color to fresh summer floral displays and depth to dried arrangements and wreaths. Beautiful and spicy in a salad or as a garnish, it can also be made into pesto, which adds an unexpected color and flavor to your pasta or bruschetta. The plants are attractive in the herb garden, ranging from 14 to 20 inches in height with purple stems, flower and leaves.

basil-holy

4. Holy Basil

A revered plant in the Hindu religion, Holy basil is also referred to as Sacred basil or Tulsi. Its leaves can be used to make tea for boosting your immune system. It is a beautiful plant in the garden with mottled green and purple leaves and grows to about 12 to 14 inches tall.

basil-lemon

5. Lemon Basil

This basil variety can be added to salads and fish dishes. A sprig of Lemon basil in a glass of iced tea is particularly delightful on a hot summer day. The 20 to 24 inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½ inch long leaves.

basil-lime

6. Lime Basil

With small green leaves on compact 12 to 16-inch plants with white flowers, this basil variety’s lime scent and flavor makes it great in fish and chicken dishes. A simple syrup infused with Lime basil is a delicious addition to tea and margaritas.

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7. Spicy Bush Basil

Spicy Bush basil has tiny leaves on small, mounded plants, which are perfect for pots or lining the garden in bonsai-like fashion. It only takes a few of Spicy Bush basil’s intensely flavored leaves to add a punch to a sauce or soup. The plants are a soft green and about 8 to 10 inches in height and width, with 1/2 to 1 inch long leaves.

basil-purple-ruffles

8. Purple Ruffles Basil

A feathery variation of Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles adds another dimension to the landscape, floral arrangements or garnishes. It has the same flavor as Opal basil and can be used similarly. It is a 16 to 20 inch-tall plant with 2 to 3 inch long leaves.

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9. Sweet Basil

This basil cultivar is the best choice for Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto. Varieties include Genovese, Napoletano, Italian Large Leaf and Lettuce Leaf. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations. Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.

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10. Sweet Thai Basil

An Asian variety with a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil, sweet Thai is a must for Asian cuisine and makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. It has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inched tall.

Basil-Greek

11. Greek Columnar

Greek Columnar’s attractive appearance is in the plant’s dense columnar shape. It does not flower, so the plant can be maintained throughout the year. It can be grown indoors in the winter. This basil has a pungent flavor that is best for stews and hearty dishes.

Basil-Lettuce-Leaf

12. Lettuce Leaf Basil

Lettuce Leaf Basil has the look of green, wrinkly lettuce but packs a bigger punch. The spicy flavor is typical of basils and tastes great with fresh tomatoes, in salads (your guests will be surprised by the rich flavor of what looks like a regular salad leaf!) and in any type of Mediterranean dishes. Pinch back the flowers to make a fuller plant.

Resources: Pantry Garden Herbs and Hobby Farms.

basil dip

Basil Herb Dip

A cool and refreshing dip for fresh vegetables and even chips and pretzels.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon country-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice into a blender, then add the basil leaves.
Pulse until the basil is incorporated throughout the mixture.
Chill for at least 20 minutes. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Genovese
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Italian Large Leaf

basil Tuscan-Bread-SaladTuscan Bread Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 slices of thick, whole grain or crusty bread cut in chunks
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 4-5 jarred artichoke hearts, diced
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese cut in chunks
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup torn basil leaves

Directions

Gently combine the bread, vegetables, basil, and cheese together.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with vinegar and oil. Chill.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Italian Large leaf
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Purple Ruffle

basil Tagliatelle_carbonara

Basil Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter.
After draining the cooked pasta, return the pasta to the cooking pot and place over medium heat.
Toss the pasta with the onion mixture, add chicken broth.
Beat the eggs and pour over the hot pasta stirring constantly to coat pasta and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add Parmesan, bacon and torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Use one of these varieties:
Lemon
Sweet
Italian Large Leaf

basil zucchini-soup3

 

 

Zucchini Basil Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups roughly chopped sweet onions 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped sweet bell pepper (any color) 
  • 2½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh sweet basil
  • Any number of toppings can add additional flavor: chopped fresh tomato, diced squash, croutons or Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic and salt until vegetables start to soften. Stir in pepper, zucchini and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the pepper is soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach and basil just until wilted. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add a topping and serve
Makes about 6 servings.

basil roast-beef-wrap

Roast Beef Wraps with Garlic Basil Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh basil (any variety will work in this sandwich)
  • 4 8-inch whole-grain sandwich wraps
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 6 ounces roast beef (Italian-style if available), thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced

Directions

To make the aioli, place mayonnaise, garlic and basil in a blender; purée until smooth.
Divide the mixture into four portions and spread each wrap evenly with aioli. Lay the spinach leaves evenly over the aioli.
Place beef, then Provolone in single layers over the spinach. Roll up tightly.
Chill until ready to serve.


father's day
Brunch is special. It’s almost always more of an occasion than a simple meal. Even if it’s just a midday meal with you and your partner, by its very nature, it’s a statement that we’re taking our time during this meal! What better way to celebrate Father’s Day, than to host a special brunch at home?

I think the main reason we don’t do this more often is because, in the midst of our busy lives, the planning can seem a little daunting. But after tending to a few things, a brunch get-together can actually be quite simple and seamless. Here are a few tips and recipes to help get you hosting this special meal:

Food is obviously something you want to think about for this get together. You can prepare a number of dishes, many with advance preparation, to suit a variety of tastes or you can choose one big dish along with a few little bites and nibbles that people can snack on while chatting. I always prepare a few different dishes, so I can please those family members with special diets, such as gluten-free or vegetarian. Mostly, I try to keep it healthy without losing all the great taste that many brunch recipes are known for. Fresh baked muffins and coffee cake are always a big hit. Don’t forget plenty of fresh fruit.

Not everyone drinks coffee, so it’s nice to have a few alternatives as well. A good herbal tea, fresh juice, like orange or grapefruit, or a fruity punch with a touch of champagne.

Father’s Day Brunch Menu

Father's day 1

Glazed Fruit Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups cubed cantaloupe or honeydew melon
  • 3 medium firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • 2 cups halved fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small saucepan, mix the orange juice, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a small bowl; cool slightly. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, combine the fruit in a large, attractive serving bowl. Drizzle with orange juice sauce; toss gently to coat. Yield: 10 servings.

Father's day 2

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour and cornmeal and the next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in the center. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin-cup liners in a muffin baking pan; coat with cooking spray. Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake at 375°F for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the muffin pan. Remove muffins to a wire cooling rack.

Father's day 3

Meat and Potato Hash

Roasting the potatoes separately gives them a crisp texture without the addition of extra fat. This recipe can be doubled.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast, beef pot roast, corned beef or pork roast, cubed
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Poached eggs, for serving over the hash

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Place potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; bake until tender, browned and slightly crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until cooked, about 4 minutes. Add thyme, chili flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

Add the cooked meat or poultry of choice and the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are warmed through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve a poached egg on top of each serving, if you like.

Perfect Poached Eggs

To make perfect poached eggs, crack a chilled egg into a small bowl. Bring a deep pot of water to a simmer. Swirl the water in a circle with a wooden spoon, then tip the egg out of the bowl into the center of the swirling water. Cover, turn off the heat, and remove the egg with a large slotted spoon after 2 minutes for soft poached eggs.

father's day 6

 

Baked Vegetarian Zucchini Frittata

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini (1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced (1-1/4 cups)
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • Sliced pitted ripe olives

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 10 inch round baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Spread shredded zucchini on a large platter or shallow baking pan; sprinkle evenly with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes. Using paper towels, gently press excess moisture from the zucchini.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until the onion is tender. Remove from the heat.

In large bowl, combine eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir in shredded zucchini, cooked onion and mozzarella cheese. Pour into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.
Bake about 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the eggs are set. Arrange whole zucchini slices on top of the baked mixture and place the tomato slices on top of the zucchini.

Sprinkle with olives and additional Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes more. Cut into small wedges.

Father's day 4

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt, stirring with a whisk in a medium bowl.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla, egg and egg white; beat well.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray. Level the batter with a spatula and sprinkle the top evenly with the sliced almonds and then the coarse sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove the cake from the pan, if desired. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Father's day 5

Pear Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pear
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Core and slice the pear; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and the oil. Add milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.

In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, baking powder, lemon peel and nutmeg.

Add to the mixture in the mixer; beat until combined. Stir in oats.

Spoon into prepared pan. Arrange sliced pears over the batter. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

If made ahead, you can rewarm the cake in a 350 degree F before serving.

fathers-day-ecard


sandwich

What makes for a great sandwich?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard, dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all (and probably some additional) factors.

But, the question is – What’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?

For me – it is the quality of the bread – what is it for you?

sandwich 5

Mortadella, Cheese and Basil Panini

Mortadella is a large Italian sausage or cold cut made of finely ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates small cubes of pork fat. Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) loaf ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 8 ounces sliced mortadella 
  • 2 hot cherry peppers, sliced
  • 1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Brush the cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush the cut side of the top half with vinegar. Top the bottom half with mozzarella, basil, mortadella, peppers and tomato. Top with remaining bread half.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add the sandwich to the pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges. If the sandwich does not fit in your pan, cut it in half and cook in two batches.

sandwich 2

Family Style Hearty Steak Sandwich

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank or sirloin steak
  • 1 (1-pound) Italian round bread loaf (boule) 
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 ounces arugula

Directions

Heat an outdoor gas grill.

Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, red onion, vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.

Place steaks on the grill over medium heat. Grill to desired temperature, turning once. Place on cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain.

Slice bread horizontally. Grill, cut side down, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Top with tomato mixture, steak and arugula. Top with remaining bread. Slice into wedges.

sandwich 1

Vegan Muffuletta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 (8-inch) Italian round bread loaf, halved horizontally
  • 1/3 cup sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1/3 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 12 basil leaves

Directions

Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard the black gills from each mushroom. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until it begins to turn light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Arrange mushrooms in the skillet in a single layer, then add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning the mushrooms once, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes total. Set aside off of the heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine black and green olives, parsley, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and press the mixture with the back of a spoon until it’s roughly mashed; set aside.

Using your fingers, remove some of the bread from the inside of both halves of the bread loaf, making sure to keep a 1-inch border around the edge. (This will help to make room for the filling. Save the bread that you remove for another use, such as bread crumbs or croutons.)

Layer both halves of bread with olive mixture then arrange peppers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and basil on the bottom half. Top with the cooked mushrooms, spreading them out to cover the entire width of the bread. Assemble the top and bottom halves of the loaf to form a sandwich.

Serve muffuletta right away or wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, weighted down with a heavy object like a cast iron skillet filled with a few heavy canned goods. Cut into wedges before serving.

sandwich 3

Mediterranean Tilapia Sandwiches

Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Ingredients

Fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Tzatziki:

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Sandwich ingredients:

  • 4 Mediterranean wheat pitas or flatbread (such as Toufayan), heated
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Directions

Preheat a broiler.

To prepare fish:

Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar , 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with olive oil cooking spray. Broil 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To prepare Tzatziki:

Combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

To prepare sandwiches:

Spread 2 tablespoons Tzatziki sauce in the center of each pita. Divide fish evenly among the pitas. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tomato slices and about 6 cucumber slices; fold pita or flatbread in half.

sandwich 4
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 crusty Italian rolls, such as ciabatta
  • Salt
  • 1 3/4 pounds thin chicken cutlets

Directions

Light an outdoor grill.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with olive oil. Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Brush the chicken cutlets with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them over high heat, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ricotta can be so much more than the main ingredient in lasagna. Its fresh and creamy flavor can shine in many other recipes. The vegetables of spring — green peas, tender green beans, earthy beets — make companionable partners.The key to the best flavors is the same in any recipe – buy the best you can find. In the case of ricotta, look for a fresh aroma and taste and creamy texture. Traditionally, ricotta is made from whey leftover from making other cheeses, but it should still taste of milk. Hand-dipped is a good phrase to look for because it is handled more gently; a lightness to it that ricotta absolutely should have. It shouldn’t be dense. Traditional basket-drained ricotta almost quivers like panna cotta or a custard. If you have a cheese shop nearby, it might carry ricotta from an artisan maker. Italian grocery stores and supermarkets with a good cheese selection often have fresh, hand-dipped ricotta.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Line a large sieve with cheesecloth (about 4 or 5 large layers) or a thin kitchen towel and set it over a medium bowl.

To make about 1-1/2 pounds of cheese: pour 3 quarts, plus 3 cups whole milk into a stainless steel pot with 1 cup heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized). If possible make them both organic.

Bring the milk and cream to a very gentle simmer, stir in 2 teaspoons salt and 1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed). Simmer 1 or 2 minutes or until you have cloud-like clumps floating in almost clear liquid. Do not let the liquid boil and don’t let the clumps cook until they are hard.

Scoop them up with a slotted spoon and into the cheesecloth lined sieve. Gently pull together and twist the top of the cheesecloth so that it compacts the curds.Put the bowl in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and then your ricotta is ready to be used. Note: I do not throw away the liquid that remains. I use it for baking.

Some ways to serve ricotta cheese:

On fresh melon: Mix ricotta with a little sugar and a little milk to loosen it, then dollop it on melon slices along with fresh mint.

On pizza: Drop tablespoons on the top of the pizza. It will soften in the oven, spreading out, but won’t melt. Mix in fresh chopped herbs first, if you like. Basil is especially good.

On vegetables: Serve on top of roasted asparagus, with a little extra-virgin olive oil and pepper. Also zucchini, green beans or artichokes. Add another cheese for saltiness, if you like, such as Pecorino or Parmesan.

Stuff pancakes with ricotta or use it to replace some of the milk in your pancake recipe.

Crostini: Small slices of toasted bread are a great base for ricotta with some additional ingredients: ricotta with olives and pistachios or roasted cherry tomatoes with ricotta. Whip ricotta cheese with honey, spread on crostini and top with sliced fresh figs and toasted sliced almonds.

Dip: Place 1 cup drained ricotta in a bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (a mix of any of these: basil, thyme, parsley, chives), 1 to 2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil, and coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes for the flavors to mingle. Serve with sliced vegetables, crackers or toasted bread.

ricotta 3

Sugar Snap Peas with Ricotta

Place 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel; set over a bowl and refrigerate overnight. The ricotta will lose much of its water content and thicken.

Whisk the drained ricotta in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until smooth. Whisk in kosher salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to whisk until the ricotta is fluffy and creamy.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Blanch 2 cups sugar snap peas (about ½ pound) in the boiling water until bright green, 30-40 seconds. Drain; immediately transfer peas to the ice bath. Let stand until chilled. Drain the peas; spread them on a clean dish towel to dry.

Combine the peas in a bowl with 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and pepper to taste.

Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta on each of four plates. Mound 1/2 cup of the peas on top of the ricotta. Drizzle with more olive oil and add a sprinkle of parsley.

Makes: 4 servings

ricotta 4

Baked Ricotta Pudding

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Soak 1/2 cup yellow raisins in hot water (or sweet Marsala or rum) to cover until plumped, about 15 minutes.

Butter a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate with 1 tablespoon melted butter; spread 1 to 2 tablespoons fine cookie crumbs, such as amaretti, in the plate to coat.

Blend 1 2/3 cups whole-milk ricotta, 2 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons sugar in a blender until very smooth, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the drained raisins and 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped toasted pistachios. Pour the batter into the cookie lined pie plate.

Bake in middle of the oven until puffed, golden and just set, about 25 minutes. Cool pudding on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

ricotta 1

Rice and Ricotta Cakes

Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 and 1/3 cups cooked wild rice or any leftover rice, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 shallots or 6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

In a bowl, combine the cooked rice with the egg, shallots, ricotta, salt, pepper and flour. Mix thoroughly.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add half the olive oil. After 1 minute, spoon in half of the rice mixture in small mounds, making 4 fritters. Flatten with a spatula. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then turn and cook until the other side is also golden and the fritters are set. Remove to a plate.

Repeat with the remaining wild rice mixture and olive oil. Serve hot.

ricotta 2

Ricotta, Broccoli Rabe and Mushroom Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 crust (half a recipe) Pizza Dough, see below
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Directions

Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. If you don’t have a baking stone, use a large inverted baking sheet placed on an oven rack. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add broccoli rabe and cook for 4 minutes. Using tongs, remove broccoli rabe from the boiling water and quickly plunge it into the bowl of ice water to cool it and stop the cooking process. Transfer broccoli rabe to a colander set in the sink; drain well. Chop broccoli rabe into bite-size pieces. Set aside. (This can be done up to 24 hours ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

In a small bowl pour enough hot water over raisins to cover; set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil over low heat. Add garlic; cook about 2 minutes or just until garlic is light golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add olives. Increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms and crushed red pepper. Cook about 3 minutes or just until mushrooms soften. Remove from the heat; stir in broccoli rabe.

Drain raisins in a colander set in the sink, pressing to remove excess water. Add raisins to broccoli rabe mixture; toss to mix well.

Using a slotted spoon, place broccoli rabe mixture onto the pizza crust. Drop small dollops of the ricotta cheese onto the pizza. Sprinkle with the Pecorino-Romano cheese.

Bake on the pizza stone or inverted baking sheet for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and ingredients hot.

Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • Cornmeal

Directions

Brush a large bowl with olive oil; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a food processor, combine flour, yeast and salt. Combine the honey, olive oil and warm water in a measuring cup.

With the mixer on low-speed or the food processor running, pour in the olive oil, honey and warm water. Mix or process until all of the ingredients are combined. If using a mixer, increase the speed to medium and continue to knead about 2 minutes or until a soft dough forms. If using a food processor, continue to process until dough forms a wet ball.

Place dough in the prepared bowl; turn once to coat dough surface. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the dough does not touch plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes until nearly doubled in size.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Cut dough into two portions. On a lightly floured surface, use floured hands to stretch one ball of dough into a circle 10 to 12 inches in diameter (1/4 to 1/2-inch thick). Sprinkle a baking peel with cornmeal; place dough circle on the peel. Reserve the remaining dough portion for another pizza. Follow directions above for toppings and baking.

ricotta 5

Ricotta Omelets

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, divided
  • Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette, recipe below

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Season 2 eggs with salt and pepper and blend. Add to the skillet. Cook eggs, stirring gently with a heat proof spatula, until eggs are lightly scrambled and almost cooked, about 3 minutes. Spread eggs out to evenly cover the bottom of the skillet.

Top eggs with half of the ricotta, Parmesan, basil and chives. Using the spatula, fold up one-third of the omelet. Roll omelet over onto itself, then slide omelet onto a plate.

Repeat with remaining ingredients to make a second omelet. Top with Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Cut half of the cherry tomatoes in half. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add halved and whole tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they  begin to release juices, 4–6 minutes. Mash some of the tomatoes with a spoon.

Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature; add chives just before serving.

DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette can be made (without chives) 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and stir in chives.

 

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