Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

The South

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Birmingham

Italians arriving in New Orleans often went to work first on Louisiana citrus farms or one of the state’s sugar cane plantations. But word got around that Birmingham offered a chance to earn wages in one of its factories. Attracted by the promise of better pay, many Italian immigrants left Louisiana for Birmingham. They were joined by fellow Italian immigrants who came directly from Sicily or other parts of Italy, or who may have spent some time in a northern city before deciding to head south to seek better paying jobs.

By 1910, Birmingham’s Italian population numbered almost 2,000 and was spread out over several neighborhoods. There was Little Italy in Ensley, a working class neighborhood associated with Tennessee Coal and Iron. There was the Italian community of Thomas, where Republic Steel was located. To the west lay another Little Italy, in West Blocton, where Italian immigrants mined coal and the town is known to this day for its Italian Catholic cemetery. Each community was anchored by a Catholic parish, supplying social and spiritual support and operating schools for Italian speaking children. Corner grocery stores, some of which grew into major supermarket chains, supplemented their owners’ income. Fig trees, small family gardens and even livestock kept Italian food traditions alive.

La Storia: Birmingham’s Italian Community exhibition at Vulcan Park and Museum

Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and is considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Both the Vulcan statue and the pedestal it stands upon, display the Italian heritage that is prevalent throughout Vulcan Park and the Birmingham community. Designed by Italian artist, Giuseppe Moretti, and cast from local iron in 1904, Vulcan has overlooked Alabama’s largest city from atop Red Mountain since the 1930s. Vulcan Park and Museum features spectacular views of Birmingham, an interactive history museum and Birmingham’s Italian immigrant story.

Italian Americans had a huge impact on not only Vulcan Park and the Museum, but also on the city itself. La Storia tells the story of Italian immigration to the city of Birmingham from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century.  While the exhibit showcases prosperity for Italian immigrants, it also documents the hardships these immigrant families endured as a community and how they relied on faith and family to hold them together.

Cassoeula

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A traditional dish that is popular in Northern Italy—particularly in Lombardy. Alabama Italian chef/owner, Marco Morosini shares his expertise in cooking this comforting recipe. B-Metro Magazine December 2013

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Spare ribs
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 8 pieces pork rind (optional)
  • 1 large head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • Salt

Directions

Place the extra virgin olive oil, carrots, celery and onion in a large pan over low to medium heat. Brown for approximately five minutes. Add and brown the spare ribs. Add the pork rind. After five more minutes add the sausages. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add the Savoy cabbage. Stir until all are well mixed. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Serve over polenta. Serves eight.

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Mississippi Delta

Few people associate the South with Italian immigration to America, assuming immigrants settled only in the urban Northeast. Yet, many communities throughout the United States have a significant proportion of Italian Americans. Immigrants gravitated to places where they could find work, whether it be in the garment industry, coal mines, farms, fisheries, canning factories or lumber mills. In the peak immigration years (1880–1910), the American South attracted its share of Italian immigrants.

The first immigrants to the Delta in the 1880s, were hired to repair levees or as farm laborers on the plantations. Some of these families became peddlers selling goods to farmers. In 1895, some Italians crossed the Mississippi River to work in the Arkansas Delta. They were mostly from central Italy and experienced in farm work.

The late 19th century saw the arrival of larger numbers of Italian immigrants, who left Italy seeking economic opportunities. Some Italians from Sicily settled as families along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Gulfport, preserving close ties with those from their homeland. They worked in the fishing and canning industries. Others were merchants, operating grocery stores, liquor stores and tobacco shops. The seafood (and small shipyard) industry of Biloxi was mainly owned by the family of Andrew H. Longino – Governor of Mississippi from 1900 to 1904, who was the first governor of a southern US State to be of Italian heritage.

Life was very challenging for the immigrants. They found the adjustment to the South’s climate especially difficult; Italian farmers did not have experience with cotton and sugarcane crops and many immigrants died as a result of  malaria. While some of the settlers remained in the Delta, bought land and became cotton farmers, others moved to Italian communities in northern Missouri, Alabama and Tennessee.

The Italian Americans were often victims of prejudice, economic exploitation and violence. The Delta states were no exception. Mississippi and Louisiana became a worldwide symbol of Anti-Italianism. In the twentieth century, mainly after World War I , the Italians were slowly accepted and integrated into society. The food and restaurant industry was one of the areas where they gained acceptance and economic success.

Italians developed a distinctive cultural life in the Delta, preserving traditional ways from their Italian ancestry and, yet, adapting to the culture of the American South. Families continued to make wine and cook Italian food with recipes long passed down from their grandmothers.

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Italians established restaurants that helped popularize Italian food in the region. Greenwood, in particular, has several restaurants with deep Italian connections. Lusco’s and Giardina’s both trace their ancestry to families from Cefalu in Sicily. Charles and Marie Lusco were first generation Italian immigrants, who established a grocery store in 1921. Local cotton farmers spent time there, playing cards in the back of the store, eating the dishes that Marie prepared and drinking Charles’s homemade wine. Lusco’s emerged from a grocery store into a restaurant because their food became popular. Patrons and customers began requesting the sauces made in the restaurant to take home. As a result, Lusco’s began bottling and marketing the three most requested salad dressings and sauces.

Beef and Spinach Lasagna

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Mississippi Farm Families recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 32 oz (4 cups) homemade spaghetti sauce
  • 14 ½ oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef 8 – 10 minutes until no longer pink. Pour off the drippings.

Season with salt. Add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and red pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese and egg.

Spread 2 cups beef sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange 5 lasagna noodles in single layer completely covering the bottom. Press noodles into sauce.

Spread entire ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 2 cups beef sauce.

Arrange remaining noodles in a single layer and press lightly into sauce. Top with remaining beef sauce.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Tent lightly with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into 12 servings.

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Galveston

Galveston was called the “Ellis Island of the West” as it was the primary point of entry for European immigrants settling in the western United States. By 1910, there were more than 1,000 Italian immigrants living in Galveston.  The language barrier and discrimination caused the Italian immigrants to stick together. Most of the southern Italians were fishermen, laborers and farmers, while the northern Italians tended to be businessmen. The northern Italians used their business skills to set up small, family owned shops. At the time, half the grocery stores in Galveston were owned by Italian families, who made up only 2 percent of the population. “There was an Italian grocery store on every street corner,” said Anthony Piperi, 89, who remembers those days well. Piperi said those who did well in business formed benevolent societies to help the new immigrants and the less fortunate get a foothold. “Fifty percent of them owned some kind of small business,” Piperi said. “By the second generation, everybody had a lawyer or doctor in the family.”

The reason the Italian community did so well, he said, was that it put a premium on education. Everybody in the second generation tried to get an education, he said, because their parents knew what it was like to try to make it without one. The emphasis on education allowed those children to have great mobility and freedom — a mixed blessing. “The families spread out,” Piperi said. “A brother would get a job in Houston. Somebody else would get a job in New York.” An American Army captain whose father was an immigrant, said one of the many things about the Italian experience in Galveston was how quickly many of the immigrants succeeded in their new American life.

Joe Grasso from Sicily pioneered the shrimp industry along the Texas Gulf Coast. Arriving in Galveston in 1906, he worked as a fisherman and saved his money to buy a boat. For 15 years he sold shrimp as bait to fishermen and, then in the 1920s, he began freezing shrimp to export to Japan, creating a successful business.

The Galveston Shrimp Company was founded in 1978 by Rosario Cassarino, an immigrant from the Italian island of Sicily. For twenty years he and his wife, Giovanna, unloaded  fish and shrimp boats at the historic Pier 19 and sold the catch of the day to Galveston locals and the visiting tourists. In 1994 their son, Nello, took over the daily  operation and moved the company to a larger facility that was more accessible to highway transportation. The company began to shift its focus from a retail operation to a wholesale seafood company that now supplies  retailers and distributors around the nation.

Texas Cioppino

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Chef Maurizio Ferrarese from Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. This Gulf version using brown shrimp, redfish and blue crab make it a Texas-Italian Cioppino.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds uncooked heads-on shrimp
  • One 4 pound whole redfish
  • 8 live crabs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • Small can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 bay leaves

Directions

Shell the shrimp and filet the fish. Make a stock with the fish bones and head and the shrimp shells and heads. When the stock boils, add the crabs and cook until done, about ten minutes. Remove the crabs and allow to cool. Reserve the crab bodies and claws and return the rest of the crab including the innards to the stockpot. Simmer the stock for a total of 30 minutes adding water as needed, then turn off the heat. You should have 8 cups of stock.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic and jalapeño; saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes, wine and bay leaf.

Strain the stock and pour the strained liquid into the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Cut the fish into 2 inch chunks. Add the shrimp, reserved crab and fish to the soup. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and some hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread and nutcrackers for the crab claws.

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New Orleans

Italians flocked to New Orleans in the late 1800s because of the growing business of importing Mediterranean citrus into the port city. Many of these immigrants worked on the docks in the fruit district and, eventually, these workers opened grocery stores and restaurants around the city. Italians made up about 90 percent of the immigrants in New Orleans at the time and dominated the grocery industry. Italian contributions to the cuisine include “red gravy”, a red sauce thickened with roux that is used in everything from Creole Daube to grillades, stuffed artichokes and peppers. Today, the Italian influence in shaping Creole cuisine is unmistakable – Southern Italian and Sicilian ingredients fundamentally transformed the cuisine.

Joseph Maselli was a catalyst for countless American Italian activities in Louisiana, founding the first state-wide organization of American Italians that later became the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Ten years later, he founded the Italian American Renaissance Foundation Museum and Research Library, the first of its kind in the South, which contains more than 400 oral tape histories, vertical files on 25,000 individuals and 5,500 American Italian books. Today, it has been renamed the American Italian Cultural Center. To honor Louisiana Italian Americans who have excelled in athletics, he founded the Louisiana Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Maselli focused his energy on civic endeavors and, in particular, on preserving the Italian culture and heritage and fighting against prejudice on behalf of all nationalities. Mr. Maselli was the publisher of the Italian American Digest which he founded to preserve immigrant values of family tradition, hard work and education.

Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken

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Vincent’s Italian Cuisine/New Orleans

Vincent’s Italian Cuisine was founded in 1989 by native New Orleanian, Vincent Catalanotto. From a large, close Sicilian family, Vincent grew up eating wonderful food prepared by his parents who were both great cooks. The “little Italian place on the side street” quickly became Metairie’s hidden jewel. Vincent developed a menu that showcased the finest and freshest ingredients available. In fact, there are no walk-in coolers or freezers at Vincent’s – produce, seafood, meats and cheeses are delivered fresh daily. It wasn’t long before Vincent had more customers than chairs. A second location was added in 1997 on St. Charles Avenue near the Riverbend.

CREAMED SPINACH

  • 2 boxes (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sambuca Liqueur
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese

Mix ingredients together and set aside.

CHICKEN

  • 6 Chicken Breast Halves – boneless, skinless, pounded thin
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil

Dredge chicken in flour, dip in beaten eggs, then in parmesan cheese, pressing cheese into chicken until well coated.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan; add chicken and sauté until golden brown.

While cooking chicken, heat creamed spinach in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Spread approximately 3 tablespoons of heated spinach on each dinner plate, then top with a cooked chicken breast.

Finish the dish with lemon butter sauce (as follows).

LEMON BUTTER SAUCE

  • Juice of 2 small or 1 Large Lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry White Wine
  • 1 stick butter, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Green Onions (tops only)

Mix lemon juice, wine and Worcestershire in a small saucepan and cook until reduced.

Add butter and green onions, stirring until butter is melted.

Drizzle over chicken and serve.

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Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.

Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.

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Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.

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Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:

  • Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
  • Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
  • Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.

In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.

Trapani Salt Fields

Trapani Salt Fields

Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.

Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.

Sfincione

Sfincione

Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .

Panella

Panella

Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.

Cassata Cake

Cassata Cake

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Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.

Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.

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Spicy Clams with Tomatoes

The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

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Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)

This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.

In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.

A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine, white or red
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Other preferred herbs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
  • Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs

Marinade:

In a plastic or stainless steel  bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.

Steaks:

Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.

Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.

Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying  pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.

Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.

Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.

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Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)

This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 head of lettuce 
  • Fresh peppermint leaves

Directions

Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.

Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.

Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.

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Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.

Makes 10 cannoli

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 oz butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Lard or olive oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • Milk to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped

For the Garnish

  • Pistachio nuts, finely ground
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

To make the shells

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.

Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.

To make the ricotta filling:

With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.

Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.

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veggiebakingcover

Fruits and vegetables can be added to bread to enhance the flavor and create a moister texture. You will find breads and desserts baked with onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach and even avocados. Vegetables can be added raw, canned, dried or freshly cooked to produce delicious baked goods. Vegetable breads are richer than basic breads because the vegetables contribute flavor and texture to the loaves. You can also use potatoes, corn, rutabagas, parsnips and other starchy vegetables to sweeten and bring a soft texture to the bread.

Some vegetables, like zucchini, are 80% to 90% water so you have to remove some of that water before adding it to the dough.  You can do that by mixing the shredded vegetable with a little salt, letting it drain in a colander and squeezing it dry in a paper towel.

Any time that you add vegetables to your bread, be prepared to adjust the amount of flour that you use. Vegetables will add moisture to your bread and if they are grated or pureed (along with the type of vegetables) will determine the moisture added. The kneading process will also extract some water from the vegetables. It’s easy to add a little more flour if the dough feels too watery.  Because it is easier to add more flour than water, start your dough a bit on the wet side and add flour as needed.

Make sure the bread is completely baked.  It should register 195 to 200 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If it’s not thoroughly baked, the water in the vegetables will make the bread soggy.

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Corn and Bacon Spoon Bread

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen/defrosted
  • 4 large eggs, separated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Heat a 9″ square or round cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it’s starting to crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard the drippings, but don’t clean the pan.

You can also make the spoon bread in a 9″ square or round cake pan. Cook the bacon in a regular skillet and grease the 9″ pan with some of the bacon drippings.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat it to simmering. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring to prevent lumps from forming.

Add the sugar, salt, pepper, cooked bacon and corn. Stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the egg yolks one at a time until incorporated. Allow to cool slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a small amount of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture to lighten it a little, then fold all of the cornmeal mixture into the egg whites. Transfer the batter to the bacon-seasoned pan.

Bake the spoon bread for 50 to 60 minutes, until it’s set in the middle and golden brown around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and serve it hot, right out of the pan.

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Sweet Potato Biscuits

One large sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cooked, will yield about 1 cup mashed. I cut my biscuits into squares instead of rounds because it saves time and there is no waste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups flour (you can also substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour in place of 1 cup of all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Mash or puree cooked sweet potatoes with milk and honey until smooth. Set aside; cool to room temperature.

Mix dry ingredients together  in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Make a well with dry ingredients and add the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle about to 1-inch thick. With a sharp knife cut biscuit dough into 3-inch squares.

Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly browned on top. Serve warm with butter and jam.

veggiebread4

Orange Carrot Quick Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup, firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened orange juice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and gradually add the sugar, beating well. Beat in milk, orange juice, egg, vanilla and orange zest. Stir in carrots and walnuts. Add reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon batter into a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

veggiebread2

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Since gluten-free batter is thinner than standard batter, the chips and nuts tend to sink to the bottom of the loaf; that’s why it’s important to let the batter rest and thicken for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir to redistribute the add-ins before pouring it into the pan and baking. Another technique you can try is leaving the chips and nuts out of the batter initially, then stirring them into the top third of the batter once it’s been poured into the pan.

Yield: 9″ x 5″ loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup molasses or honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Place shredded zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and let it drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini dry.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, molasses or honey, oil, sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Add the flour, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon, mixing until well combined.

Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, then stir to redistribute the chips and nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the bread for 65 to 70 minutes or until the loaf tests done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean).

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack.

Cool completely before slicing; store well-wrapped, at room temperature.

veggiebread5

Pizza-Style Dinner Rolls

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup seeded and chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup  shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough, at room temperature, See recipe homemade below.
  • Milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl combine tomato, mozzarella cheese, garlic and basil; set aside.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each dough portion into a 3-inch round.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the tomato mixture into the center of each dough round; shape the dough around the tomato mixture into a ball, pinching the dough together to seal.

Place rolls, seam sides down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (30 to 45 minutes).

Lightly the brush tops of the rolls with milk and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Easy Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 1 pound of pizza dough

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, (105-115°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

Directions

Stir water, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl; let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in whole-wheat flour, bread flour and cornmeal until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, mix the dough in a food processor. Process until it forms a ball, then process for 1 minute to knead.)

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.


 

lightspringcover1

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

Dinner Menu 1

lightspring3

 

Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

For the marinade:

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

For the risotto:

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 2

lightspring4

Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 3

lightspring2

Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

lightspring1

White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

For the dressing:

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

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

Dinner Menu 4

lightspring7

Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Dinner Menu 5

lightspring6

Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

For the omelet:

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

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

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

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

lightspring5

Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

lightspringcover


pastatonightcover

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

pastatonight1

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pastatonight2

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

pastatonight4

 

Creamy Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

pastatonight3

Baked Ziti with Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

pastatonight5

Linguine with Sweet Bell Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

pastatonight6


fishandcover

Tips on grilling fish:

  • A hot fire is key. You want to cook seafood quickly to retain the natural juices and flavor.
  • A clean grill rack is equally important. Fish will stick to a dirty rack and make turning the fish difficult.
  • Oil the rack when the barbecue grill is hot, just before you’re ready to cook. Also, oil the fish whenever possible. Use a high-temperature oil, such as grape seed, peanut or plain olive oil.
  • Skin side up or down? Conventional wisdom says to cook the skin side first, but doing the opposite gives a nicer, crusted surface on the non-skin side and the skin helps the fillet hold together for turning. The result is a moist, more appealing fillet.
  • Fish will hold together better and be less likely to stick if you leave it alone during grilling. Cook it for the estimated time, then try lifting it carefully. If it pulls away easily, it is ready to turn.
  • A wide, thin spatula is essential for turning and removing fish from the grill.
  • If you’re grilling thin fillets, you can place them in a double-sided, long-handled grilling rack used for hamburgers and steaks. There are also specially shaped ones made for grilling whole fish.
  • A good rule of thumb is to grill fish for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest point.) So if you have a half-inch thick fillet, grill it for about 3 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Avoid sugary marinades or glazes, especially with thick fillets or whole fish, as the sugars can burn and turn bitter before the fish is fully cooked.
  • As with other methods, fish is fully cooked when it begins to flake and is opaque at the center. Some fish, like salmon and tuna, are often served while still somewhat ‘rare’, like steak.
  • Tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi, barramundi, trout, mackerel, yellowtail and sea bass are some of the best fish to grill.

When most of us think of swordfish, we think…well, isn’t it endangered? The answer — at least for American swordfish — is no. It is true that swordfish stocks were hurt in the 1980s and early 1990s, but a nationwide movement to give swordfish a break worked. Now, North Atlantic stocks are on the rebound and environmental watchdog groups list them as a “good alternative.”

fishand4

Grilled Swordfish With Caponata

Swordfish is made for the grill. It is firm, like steak, and many non-fish eaters will readily eat swordfish over other types of fish. Its texture also helps prevent the steaks from falling apart on the grill, a huge plus. Note: Halibut steaks or firm white fish fillets, such as red snapper, tilapia, cod or orange roughy, can be used in place of swordfish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 swordfish steaks (see note above)

Caponata

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 each Italian frying pepper and orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled or unpeeled according to taste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Directions

Marinade:

Mix ingredients in a large ziptop bag. Add fish, seal; turn to coat. Leave at room temperature while preparing the caponata.

Caponata:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers; sauté 2 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds and add eggplant, cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in marinara sauce, cover; reduce heat and simmer, stirring twice, 12 minutes or until the eggplant is very tender.

Add vinegar and capers to the caponata. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to develop flavors.

Meanwhile, heat an outdoor grill or a stove-top ridged grill pan. Remove fish from the bag; discard bag with the marinade.

Grill fish 4 to 6 inches from the heat source on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan, turning once, 10 to 12  minutes until cooked through.

Serve fish over the caponata.

Healthy sides to go with your delicious grilled fish.

fishand1

Spinach & Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Rub the inside of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.

Using a serrated knife, cut off the top fourth of each tomato and discard the tops. Cut 1/8th off the bottom of each tomato, so that they’ll sit upright in the baking dish; discard bottoms.

Using a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works the best), scoop out the seeds and pulp from each tomato and discard. Sprinkle the insides of each tomato with a little salt. Place the tomatoes upside down on a plate layered with paper towels and let them sit for 30 minutes to extract excess tomato juice, which may make the filling soggy.

Heat the remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and yellow pepper and cook 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and Italian seasoning. Cook 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in rice, salt and lemon rind. Cook 4 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

fishand2

Braised Spring Vegetables

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 spring onion or 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
  • 8 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound of peas in the pod) or frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/2 head escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In heavy 12-inch skillet, combine spring onion, garlic, oil and broth; heat to simmering on medium heat. Cover; cook about 2 minutes, or until onion softens slightly.

Add asparagus, sugar snap peas and peas and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until beans and peas are heated through. Add escarole and basil; sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until escarole wilts and asparagus is crisp-tender.

Stir in lemon peel and juice. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with chives and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

fishand3

Spaghettini with Lemon and Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 3/4 cup good-quality fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling on high. Add spaghettini; cook 6 minutes or until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix ricotta, oil and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Finely grate the peel of 1 lemon and stir it into ricotta. Season with kosher salt.

Add cooked spaghettini to ricotta mixture; stir well, adding reserved cooking water, if needed to make a sauce that coats the pasta. Season to taste.

Divide pasta among 4 plates. Finely grate the peel of the remaining lemon over the pasta and serve.

fishand5

Tomato & Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool

Whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

Add tomatoes, fennel, parsley and pine nuts; toss to coat. Serve.

fishand6

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Anchovies

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot or Dutch oven of sated water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until the garlic is very light brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, toss to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.


steakand2

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

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

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

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

Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

steakand3

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

steakand5

Basil Potatoes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

steakand4

Creamy Spinach

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Add spinach and heat.

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

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

steakand1

Carrot, Olive and Feta Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

 



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