Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Marcella Hazan was born on this day, April 15, in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. In 1955 she married Victor Hazan, an Italian-born, New York-raised Sephardic Jew, who subsequently gained fame as a wine writer. The couple moved to New York City a few months later and Marcella was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup. The culture shock was substantial. She found canned peas and hamburgers appalling and for coffee – she described it, “as tasting no better than the water we used to wash out the coffee pot at home”.

Hazan had never cooked before her marriage. As she recounted in the introduction to her 1997 book, Marcella Cucina, “… there I was, having to feed a young, hard-working husband who could deal cheerfully with most of life’s ups and downs, but not with an indifferent meal. In Italy, I would not have wasted time thinking about it. My mother cooked, my father cooked, both my grandmothers cooked, even the farm girls who came in to clean could cook. In the kitchen of my New York apartment there was no one.” She began by using cookbooks from Italy, especially Ada Boni’s cookbook, The Talisman Italian Cookbook, – also my first Italian cookbook. Soon after she realised that she had an exceptionally clear memory of the flavors she had tasted at home and found it easy to reproduce them in her kitchen. “Eventually I learned that some of the methods I adopted were idiosyncratically my own,” she recalled, “but for most of them I found corroboration in the practices of traditional Italian cooks.”

In October 1969 she began teaching Italian cooking classes that were as much about Italian culture and history as about food. She taught students that Italian cooking was really regional cooking, from the handmade noodles and meat sauce of Bologna to the fish and risotto of Venice to the linguine and clams of Naples.

Her recipes tended to use only ingredients that would actually be used in Italian kitchens (with some concessions for ingredients that are not readily available outside Italy). Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She emphasised careful attention to detail. In her third book, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Hazan laid out her “Elementary Rules” with some 22 commandments. Among them are:

  • Use no Parmesan that is not Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Never buy grated cheese of any kind; grate cheese fresh when ready to use.
  • Do not overcook pasta. Do not pre-cook pasta.
  • Unless you are on a medically prescribed diet, do not shrink from using what salt is necessary to draw out the flavor of food.
  • Dress salads with no other oil than olive.
  • Do not turn heavy cream into a warm bath for pasta or for anything else. Reduce it, reduce it, reduce it.
  • Choose vegetables that are in season and plan the entire meal around them.
  • Soak vegetables in cold water for half an hour before cooking to remove all trace of grit. Cook them until they are tender, but not mushy, so that they have a rich flavor. Cooking brings out the taste. If you cook vegetables too little because you want them crunchy, they all have one thing in common: They taste like grass. 
  • When sautéing onions, put them in a cold pan with oil and heat them gently; this will make them release their flavor gradually and give them a mellower taste than starting them in a hot pan.
  • Although some types of pasta, like tagliatelle, are best made freshly at home, others, like spaghetti, should be bought dried. Pasta should be matched carefully to the sauce.
  • Olive oil isn’t always the best choice for frying; in delicately flavored dishes, a combination of butter and vegetable oil should be used.
  • Garlic presses should be avoided at all costs.

Bibliography of Marcella’s books:

  • The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973)
  • More Classic Italian Cooking (1978)
  • Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986)
  • Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)
  • Marcella Cucina (1997)
  • Marcella Says: Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes With 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes (2004)
  • Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (Gotham Books, 2008)

marcella-logo1

Scholarship Award

In her honor, the International Culinary Center (ICC)—the only school at which Marcella taught—is launching a scholarship in her name, sending worthy aspiring chefs to the seven-month Italian Culinary Experience, a program that begins at ICC’s campus in New York or California, then continues in Marcella’s home province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, including staging (apprenticeships) in top restaurants in Italy. To access information and the application, click on the link below.

http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/scholarships/marcella-hazan-summer-scholarship/

Recipes for some of Marcella Hazan’s pastas.

eggplant pasta

Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta

(From Marcella Says)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant or 2 small eggplants
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • Salt
  • 1/4 lb mozzarella, cut into thin strips
  • 1 lb short tube pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • Torn basil leaves

Directions

Boil 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot.

Remove the tops of the eggplant and cut into 1-inch dice.

Heat a 10-inch saute pan and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the eggplant. Cook about a minute, turning the eggplant frequently. Add tomatoes and chili flakes. Turn heat to low and simmer until the oil floats to the top of the sauce. Season with salt and remove from the heat.

Drop pasta into boiling water. When the pasta is nearly done, turn the heat down on the sauce and add the mozzarella, stirring until it dissolves into the sauce.

When the pasta is done, drain and transfer into a large warm bowl. Pour sauce over. Add pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves. Toss and serve at once.

Abruzzi pasta

Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce

(From Marcella Cucina)

Serve 4 to 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juices.
  • 1 pound penne, ziti or rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.

Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.

Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

clam pasta

Pasta With Fresh Clams

(From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 18 littleneck clams
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced paper-thin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh hot red pepper or crushed dried red pepper to taste
  • 1 ripe plum tomato, seeded, diced and drained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound spaghettini or spaghetti
  • Several basil leaves, torn up.

Directions

Wash and scrub the clams, dunking them in several changes of fresh water until there are no traces of sand. Discard any that remain open when handled. Place them in a dry skillet in one layer, cover the skillet and turn the heat to high. Cook, checking and turning occasionally to remove each clam as it opens; the total cooking time will be about 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Remove each clam from its shell and swish it in the cooking liquid to remove any remaining sand. Cut the clams into two or three pieces each, then put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and set aside. Pass the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth and set aside.

Place the remaining oil and the garlic in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring, for a few seconds, then add parsley and chili pepper. Stir once or twice, then add tomato. Cook for a minute, stirring, then add the wine. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until it is very firm to the bite, just short of being fully cooked (it should be so firm that you would not yet want to eat it). Drain it, turn the heat to high under the skillet and add the pasta to the skillet, along with the filtered clam juice. Cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until the juice has evaporated. The pasta should now be perfectly cooked; if it is a little underdone, add some water and continue to cook for another minute.

Add the cut-up clams with their oil and the basil leaves; toss two or three times, then serve.

carbonara

Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti Carbonara

(From Essentials of Italian Cooking)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cubed pancetta or slab bacon
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 1/4 pound spaghetti

Directions

Mash the garlic with a fork and saute in the olive oil in a pan on medium heat while you cook the spaghetti. Saute until the garlic becomes a deep gold color, then remove and discard it.

Put the onion and cubed pancetta or bacon in the pan and cook until onions are golden and the pancetta is crisp at the edges. Add the wine and let it bubble for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Break the eggs into a serving bowl in which you will toss the pasta. The serving bowl can be warmed in the oven, if it is oven proof. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, add the cheeses, a liberal grinding of pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix thoroughly.

Add cooked drained spaghetti to the bowl and toss rapidly, coating the strands well. Briefly reheat the onion and pancetta over high heat. Turn out the contents of the pan into the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly once more. Serve immediately.

zucchini penne

Penne with Creamy Zucchini and Basil Sauce

(From The Classic Italian Cookbook)

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 1 lb penne
  • 2 lb zucchini
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • One bunch of basil, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Directions
Set a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente.

Meanwhile, slice zucchini in thin strips.

Heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir. Before garlic starts to brown, add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and starting to brown a bit.

Add cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on medium-low heat until thickened a bit and let simmer until the pasta is done.

Just before mixing with the pasta, stir basil into the sauce and turn off the heat. Toss with pasta and parmesan cheese.

 

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passover

The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia-Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role while the Duke Ercole I d’Este was in power. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, after the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located on three city streets, formed a triangle near the cathedral and became a ghetto in 1627. Between 1627 and 1859, the Ferrara Jews were restricted to the ghetto, a self-sufficient small town within the larger one. With a population of about 1,800, the ghetto had its own synagogues, schools and old age homes. In 1848, King Carlo Alberto proclaimed the emancipation of the Italian Jews, granting them equal rights. Today, the old ghetto area, with its small attractive stores and refurbished colorful houses, is an essential part of the itinerary of all guided tours.

In 1799, the city was taken over by the Republic of France, which established a small garrison there. Shortly after, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Klenau approached the fortress with his military forces consisting of Austrian cavalry, artillery and infantry men, augmented by Italian peasant rebels, and demanded its capitulation. The commander refused. Klenau blockaded the city. For the next three days, Klenau patrolled the countryside, capturing the surrounding strategic points. The French attempted two rescues of the beleaguered fortress and, finally, a column led by Pierre-Augustin Hulin reached and relieved the fortress. Klenau took possession of the town, though, and garrisoned it with a light battalion. The Jewish residents of Ferrara paid 30,000 ducats to prevent the pillage of the city by Klenau’s forces, thus, saving the city from being sacked.

Although Jews lived in several towns of Emilia-Romagna, including Modena, Bologna, Parma, Reggio and Emilia, the Jewish cuisine that seems to have survived or prevailed is the one from the city of Ferrara. Their influence in the region’s cooking is mainly Sephardi, with dishes such as buricchi, which is reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese empanadas and can have both sweet and savory fillings.

Jewish Museum

Jewish Museum

An old saying from Ferrara goes, “Dell’oca non si butta via niente”, which translates as “Nothing gets thrown away from a goose”. Inspired by the Italian pork cold cuts, the Ferrara Jews recreated similar cuts using goose. All the parts of the goose were eaten: its fat was widely used in cooking as it was full of protein and calories and was cheap to buy. Its meat was used to make ‘prosciutti’ and goose sausages or salami. For centuries the word ‘sallame’, spelt with two ‘l’s instead of ‘salame’ was used within the Jewish community in order to distinguish the goose salami from the forbidden pork one. Foie gras was made from the goose liver and it was very expensive. Sometimes it was even used for payment in illegal betting and smuggling.

Goose was widely used in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont until modern times, when it was replaced by turkey, as turkey is more tender, less fatty and cheaper. Many recipes from the Jewish community of Ferrara have goose and turkey as their main dish entree and turkey meatloaf is still a popular dish. A well-known and interesting goose dish is the ruota del faraone or Pharaoh’s wheel. It is made with fresh tagliatelle, goose salami, pine nuts and raisins. It’s ingredients represent the Egyptian soldiers and chariots being caught up in the waves of the closing Red Sea, while chasing the Jews who were escaping from Egypt. This dish and many other old traditional recipes are laborious and few people make them today, if at all. Testine di spinaci – the stems of spinach – and guscetti – the husks of green peas were dishes created at the time of the ghettos, when living conditions were particularly poor and creativity was a necessity in the kitchen.

During Passover, foods containing chametz, that is leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not allowed. The Ashkenazic tradition also places kitniyot in the list of prohibited Passover foods: rice, corn, soy, millet, beans, peas, any other legume or anything derived from those products, such as corn syrup, tofu or soy oil fall under this category. Similarly, seeds, mustard, sesame and fennel are also avoided during Passover. This restriction includes peanuts, even though we think of them as nuts, they really are classified as legumes. People from a Sephardi or Mizrahi background do not have the kitniyot restriction.

Look on products like matzah flour, juices, wine, oil, candy and soda for the “Kosher for Passover” certification. That can help you be sure.

matzah gnocchi

Matzah Gnocchi

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer

Ingredients

  • 11 matzahs, broken into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons of matzah meal, plus more to dust the gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon kosher approved extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

Soak the matzah in cold water or broth for at least 1 hour or until soft. Drain, squeeze well and place into a clean bowl; add the eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, nutmeg and matzah meal. Mix all the ingredients together.

In a second bowl, place some more matzah meal. With a wet tablespoon or a small scoop, take some of the mixture and place it on top of the matzah meal. Using your hands, roll the mixture evenly over the matzah meal and shape it into a ping-pong size ball. Proceed with the rest of the mix and place the rolled gnocchi on a piece of wax paper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the gnocchi and scoop them out as they rise to the surface using a slotted skimmer. Place them in with the tomato sauce and serve.

Prepare the sauce:

Heat olive oil and add thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts) and a whole clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, and discard the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon . Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for about 10-15 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken.

passoverrolledturkeys-01

Passover Rolled Turkey Breast With Mushroom-Spinach Stuffing

FOR THE STUFFING:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE TURKEY:

  • 1 Kosher whole turkey breast, boned, with skin (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium Kosher chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup kosher-for-Passover dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks are tender and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and spinach and stir until spinach wilts. Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and stir in matzah meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

TO PREPARE THE TURKEY:

Lay turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board or wax paper. Trim any excess skin. Holding a knife parallel to the meat, make lengthwise cuts on both breast halves, cutting away from the center, so meat is of a consistent thickness (creating a rectangular shape). Cover with wax paper and pound to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with the spinach stuffing mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Starting from the left side, roll into a cylinder. Tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string and secure open edges with toothpicks.

Place turkey on a rack, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Combine 2 cups chicken broth with the wine and pour over the turkey. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting with stock mixture every 15 minutes (add broth if evaporating too quickly) or until temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.

Remove from roast the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Skim fat from the roasting pan and pour pan juices into a small saucepan with the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and string, and slice turkey into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve with sauce.

Latkes
Easy Latkes

These latkes are oven fried.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Matzah meal
  • Kosher approved vegetable oil for the baking sheets

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray two large cookie sheets with rims with cooking spray.

Grate or shred the potatoes. You can use the fine shredding attachment on a processor or mixer. Wrap the grated potatoes in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them, wringing as much liquid as possible from them.

Shred or grate the onion. Don’t use the finest shredding disk of your food processor, as it will turn the onion to mush; the medium shredding disk is preferable.

Combine the drained potatoes, onion, egg, salt and matzah in a bowl, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Pour a thin layer of oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move. For easier-to-clean pans and slightly less greasy latkes, heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil.

Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4 to 1/3-cupful. Space them far enough apart so that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over when the time comes.

Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, turn the pancakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and drain the pancakes on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.

rootveg

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • About 3-4 pounds, in any combination: turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery root, shallots, golden beets, butternut or kabocha squash
  • 1/3 cup kosher approved olive oil
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel all the vegetables and dice into 1 inch pieces.
Combine al lthe ingredients in a mixing bowl and transfer to two rimmed cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
Roast about 20-30 minutes, until very tender.
Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Serve with the turkey roast.

Passover basic_sponge

Italian Almond Passover Cake

Servings: 12

Dress this simple cake up by dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar and topping it with fresh fruit.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal, plus more for coating the cake pan
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds or 2 cups packaged finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup kosher approved extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and grease the paper. Evenly coat the bottom and sides with matzah meal, tapping out any excess.

If you are using whole blanched almonds, pulse the whole blanched almonds in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of matzah meal and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until very finely ground. If using packaged finely ground almonds, mix by hand: packaged ground almonds with the matzah meal and the 1/4 cup sugar.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar at high-speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. At low-speed, gradually add the ground almond mixture, the extracts, the olive oil and the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Beat 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it; then quickly fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Run a small, sharp knife around the side of the cake, transfer it to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the base of the pan, then carefully peel off the paper. Garnish according to taste.

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3 lentils

Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling and very flavorful. From a nutritional standpoint, they are rich in fiber and in iron and are, consequently, ideal for people suffering from anemia.

Lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times and lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs dating back 8,000 years. As a plentiful source of protein, lentils were found on the tables of peasants and kings alike and the poor, who could not afford fish during the season of Lent, substituted lentils.

Thought to have originated in the Near East and/or the Mediterranean area, lentils are small disks resembling a flat baby pea. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins. They grow two to a pod and are dried after harvesting.

In Italy two major types of lentils are grown: the hiemal strain matures in late summer and produces larger seeds that are more delicate in flavor, whereas the minus strain matures in the spring and has smaller seeds.

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional Italian accompaniment for sausages. Lentils are served on New Year’s Day in Italy because their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won’t want for cash during the rest of the year.

There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as fifty or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors with red, brown and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor and some varieties have a slight peppery taste.

Select lentils that are dry, firm, clean and not shriveled. The color of lentils you choose will depend on your usage, but in general, the color should be fairly uniform. Canned lentils are also available, but it is just as easy to cook your own.

If your recipe calls for a lentil that will retain its shape when done, common brown lentils are the usual choice. Brown lentils still have their seed coat and have not been split. Most red, yellow and orange lentils tend to disintegrate with long cooking because the hulls have been removed. Slightly sweet in flavor, these are best reserved for pureed soups or stew thickeners. Other choices include French lentils which are olive-green and slate-colored. These will cook up the firmest. Persian green lentils will turn brown as they cook and become tender while still retaining their shape. Considered the most flavorful (and most expensive) are the French Puy lentils, which also retain their shape.

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

You may be able to find lentil flour in some specialty markets. It is used in India to make a fermented dough for bread.

Dried lentils have an indefinite shelf-life, yet another reason why our ancestors kept them as a staple food. With age, the color may fade a bit, but the flavor will not deteriorate. Store lentils in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry place.

red-lentil-jar

Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils may also be frozen up to six months. However, they may fall apart when reheated, if not handled gently.

These measures will help you determine how many lentils you need for your recipe.

• 1 cup dry lentils = 2-1/2 cups cooked
• 1 pound dried lentils = 2-1/4 cups dry
• 1 pound dried lentils = 4 servings
• 1 pound dried lentils = 5 cups cooked

Lentils are a natural in soups and stews and also make a great cold salad. The high protein content in lentils makes them an excellent meat substitute.
Lentils need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes. To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt once the lentils are completely cooked. Acidic ingredients such as wine or tomatoes can lengthen cooking time. You may wish to add these ingredients after the lentils have become tender. Older lentils will take longer to cook because they have lost more moisture. Do not mix newly purchased lentils with old ones. They will cook unevenly.

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

Lentils are popular across Italy, where they are grown in Umbria in the north and Puglia and Sicily in the south. Technically not a “bean,” lentils are legumes. Unlike beans, lentils require no soaking, so this salad is quick and easy to prepare. Serve as a side salad or add a cup of diced mozzarella and it makes a light main dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Place lentils in a large bowl. Stir in onion and next 4 ingredients (through pepper). Add vinegar and oil; toss well. Serve at room temperature.

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 g) short-grained rice
  • 1 cup (200 g) lentils
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • One whole onion
  • 1 rib celery, cut in half
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the lentils and cook them for 30-45 minutes in 2 quarts of water with the onion and celery.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lentils with a slotted spoon and strain the broth, discarding the celery. Reserve the broth and onion separately.

Slice the onion and sauté it with the oil and the garlic for 3 minutes; add the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Add the lentils, the spinach and the lentil broth. When the soup comes to a boil add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is done, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • Cold water
  • 2 pounds fresh italian sausage, sweet or hot
  • 3 cups homemade or low sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in a little water

Directions

Wash lentils well by soaking them briefly in water and changing the water at least once. Put them in a 2-1/2-quart saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until not quite done, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, pierce the sausages in several places and then put them in a small saucepan. Add the chicken broth and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. From time to time, skim off and discard foam and fat that rise to the top. When sausages are done, remove the pot from the heat and let them sit in the broth while you finish the lentils.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and sage in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are done.

Drain the sausages, saving their liquid. To the lentil pot, add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and add the tomato paste. Mix gently using a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 cup of the broth in which you cooked the sausages. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

To serve, arrange the sausages on a platter next to the warm lentils.

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1- 28 to 32 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (juice reserved)
  • 1 1/4 cups dried green lentils
  • Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound shaped pasta, such as cavatappi or rigatoni
  • Pecorino cheese, grated or shaved
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Cook until the mixture dries out a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season with the oregano,crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the lentils. (If the sauce begins to dry out, add additional water as needed.) Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Serve with the lentil sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino and garnish with basil.

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 and 1/4 lbs (1 kg) white fish or white fish bones and heads, gills removed
  • Salt

For the Stew:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 and 1/2 oz (100 grams) cooked lentils
  • 9 oz (250 grams) fish and seafood cut into serving pieces, such as sea bass fillets, prepared squid, peeled prawns, peeled langoustines (small lobsters or use lobster claws) and scrubbed clams
  • 28 oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 1 fresh basil sprig, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

Pour 3 pints (2 liters) water into a large saucepan, add the herbs, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns and season with salt.

Gradually bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool.

Add the fish bones and return to the heat, bring just to the boil;  lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the fish bones cool in the stock for a stronger flavor. Strain the stock.

Prepare the Stew:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet and add 1 tablespoon each of the celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cook for a few minutes more.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a shallow saucepan and add the remaining celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add the sea bass and the squid. Increase the heat to high and cook for 1 minute, then add the prawns, langoustines, clams and lentil mixture.

Pour in the strained fish stock, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and basil. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef chuck blade steaks, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Heat a large deep skillet with a cover over medium heat until hot. Add the beef to the skillet and brown evenly. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste.

Add water, onion and bay leaves to the skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-1/4 hours.

Add lentils, carrots and Italian seasoning to the skillet; return to a boil. Continue simmering, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils and beef are fork-tender.

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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BalancedLunch

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.

But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.

For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.

Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.

Lunches at Home

Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs

Directions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.

spanakopita-quiche-h-4

Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought) 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill 

Directions
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.

Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.

Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.

chicken-salad-rs-1213081-l

Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.

Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat wraps
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions

Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

pesto-turkey-club-1994854-x

Pesto Turkey Sandwich

If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 ounces sliced turkey
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.

cartoon

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eggplant

Eggplant has been vastly under-used by the American public. Today, thanks to Asian and Southern European influences, it is finding its way into more and more dishes. It is a good meat substitute which also makes it attractive to vegetarians. Eggplant actually has a bland flavor, but it soaks up flavors of accompanying foods, herbs and spices like a sponge. The eggplant is considered a vegetable but is botanically a fruit. Early varieties of eggplant were smaller and white, resembling eggs, hence the name.

How to Buy Eggplant

Eggplants come in all shapes, from small, round fruits (about two inches in diameter) to the popular large oblong Black Beauty variety, which can range up to 12 inches long. Japanese eggplant is long and thin, resembling zucchini and has fewer seeds. The seeds are edible in all varieties. Eggplant colors range from white to lavender to dark purplish-black as well as pale green, yellow and reddish. There are even some striped varieties. Eggplant varieties may be used interchangeably in your recipes. When shopping, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin, heavy for their size and free of blemishes, tan patches or bruises. Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age and the fruit will be bitter. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin and tend to be sweeter, more tender and less bitter. Press your finger lightly against the skin. If it leaves a light imprint, it is ripe. If it is soft, it is too old.

How to Store Eggplant

Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. Depending on the freshness factor of the eggplant at the time of purchase, it may be refrigerated for up to 4 days (up to 7 days if you pick right from the garden). However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, preferably within a day.

Handle eggplants carefully as they bruise easily. Wrap each in a paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store eggplant at temperatures less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).

Cooked eggplant may be refrigerated up to 3 days (it will get mushy when reheated) or frozen up to 6 months in a puree form. It holds up fairly well in chunks in soups and stews when thawed in the refrigerator, but not as chunks on its own. I have had great success in freezing breaded, oven baked eggplant slices to use in future eggplant parmesan recipes. I freeze them in single layer packages and pull out what I need for a casserole.

Cooking Tips

Eggplant skin is edible. However, some find it bitter.

The flesh is very sponge-like and will soak up juices and oils. Coat slices with flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs to avoid soaking up too much oil. Let breaded patties dry for half an hour in the refrigerator before cooking.

Parboiling slices for 1 to 2 minutes can also help reduce eggplant’s absorbancy, while ridding it of moisture. Be sure to thoroughly drain and pat dry with paper towels before further cooking.

Once cut, eggplant flesh will begin to darken with exposure to air. A brushing of lemon juice will help keep the flesh from darkening.

Do not use aluminum cookware with eggplant as it will cause discoloration.

salting

Some cooks salt cut eggplant and let it sit for up to an hour to leach out water and bitterness before cooking. In general, it’s not necessary to salt smaller eggplants, since they have fewer seeds than larger eggplants. Larger eggplants tend to become soft when cooked, so salting them before cooking leads to a firmer cooked texture. Bitterness is concentrated just under the skin, so peeling will also work on especially large eggplants.

Here are the directions, if you choose salting. Slice the eggplant according to your recipe and generously season the slices with kosher salt. Let them sit until you can see the liquid coming to the surface, 20-30 minutes (see photo above). Rinse the slices well and pat them dry. It’s also a good idea to use half as much salt as the recipe calls for (unless the recipe takes into account the fact that the eggplant has been salted).

Eggplant may be microwaved to remove excess water. Microwave slices on high for 4 to 6 minutes, remove, cover and let stand for a minute or two. Use paper towels and press lightly to soak up the water.

If you are baking a whole eggplant, be sure to puncture the skin in several places so it does not burst.

Add eggplant to soups and stews during the last 10 minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking.

Eggplant Measures and Equivalents

• 1 medium eggplant = about 1 pound.

• 1 medium eggplant = 4 to 6 servings.

• 1 pound eggplant = 3 to 4 cups diced.

• 1 serving = 1/3 pound as a side dish.

• 1 serving = 1/2 to 3/4 pound as a main dish.

linguine

Linguine with Eggplant 

8 servings

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 32 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Pasta

  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 3 thin eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Crushed red pepper to taste

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add celery, carrots and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 more minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

For the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil from the sun-dried tomato jar in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the marinara sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella cheese, basil, salt and pepper.

Serve in shallow pasta bowls, topped with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Grilled-vegetable-goat-cheese-pizza-606x455

Flatbread Topped With Grilled Vegetables

Dough

  • 3 cups Italian-Style Flour (00) or other low-protein flour
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil mixed with 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 roasted red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 large tomato, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, optional

Directions

For the dough:

Mix and knead all of the ingredients — by hand or mixer — to make a soft, supple dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

To grill the vegetables:

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Brush a thin coating of the garlic oil onto each side of the eggplant rounds and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant rounds on the grill and cook for 5 minutes or until you see well-defined grill marks. Turn the rounds over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes to achieve the same grill marks. Add the pepper and tomato slices, coated with garlic oil, during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Transfer to a plate until you’re ready to top the flatbreads.

To grill the flatbread:

Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper and stretch into 1/4″-thick irregular ovals. Flip one piece of dough from the greased parchment onto the heated grill. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until you see well-defined grill marks; then turn over.

Spread half the pesto onto the grilled side of the crust. Top with the grilled eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and cheese. Close the grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, then transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Garnish flatbreads with basil leaves, if desired, and serve warm.

Yield: 2 flatbreads

To make the flatbread in the oven:

Preheat your oven to 450°F (with or without a baking stone). One at a time, place the rolled-out pieces of dough with their parchment directly onto a preheated pizza stone or onto a baking sheet. Bake until the dough is just starting to brown around the edges, about 4 minutes.

Grill vegetable slices on a stove top grill following directions above.

Remove crust from the oven, add toppings and bake for an additional 6 minutes, or until the pizzas are warm and bubbly.

stuffed eggplant

Italian Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 eggplant, cut in half and flesh scooped out and chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Cook until browned, 8-10 minutes, breaking up sausage into pieces. Remove sausage from pan, drain on paper towels and set aside in a mixing bowl.

To the same skillet, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until almost tender, 3-5 minutes. Add eggplant flesh and salt; cook until browned. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl with the sausage. Add parsley, chopped tomato, basil, thyme, marjoram, cayenne, the half cup mozzarella and the half cup Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, egg and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir to blend mixture evenly, then stuff into eggplant halves. Place stuffed eggplant on a baking sheet, top with remaining cheeses. Bake 45-50 minutes until tender.

eggplant balls

Eggplant Balls

I often make these for parties and they are a big hit with my vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends.

Makes about 15

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Marinara sauce for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and place on a baking pan. Roast in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until very soft and collapsed. Let cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a large mixing bowl and let cool completely. Discard the skin.

Mix the cheese, onion, garlic, parsley, egg, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the bread crumbs into eggplant pulp. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture holds together.

Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls. Roll the outside of the balls in the ¼ cup remaining bread crumbs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes turning once until nicely browned. Serve with warm marinara sauce, if desired.

eggplant fries

Baked Eggplant Fries with Lemon Sauce

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into thin strips (peeled, if you choose)
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Heat oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet (cookie) pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray with olive oil cooking spray.

In a shallow bowl mix flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, beat egg with milk. In another shallow bowl, mix panko crumbs, crushed pepper flakes, garlic powder and paprika.

Dip eggplant strips into flour coating all sides; shake off excess. Dip in egg mixture. Roll in bread crumb mixture until coated. Place on prepared baking pan. Spray with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake about 20 minutes, turning once, or until coating is crisp and lightly golden.

For Lemon Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill and allow flavors to combine.

To My Readers:

I have added a feature called My Taste ( http://www.mytaste.com/) that will allow you to create cookbooks, save recipes and follow other users.  See the green box on the right. It is also linked to the following social site https://www.facebook.com/groups/437545196294432/

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saute-pan-demonstration

Skillets were originally deep, much like the sauce pans we use today. A frying pan, often referred to as skillet these days, is a shallow, long-handled pan used for frying food. Frying pans are not for slow cooking or braising. Often they do not have lids because they do not have the need to seal in juices as a pan for braising must do. The sides of these pans flare out while the height remains shallow. A frying pan should not be too heavy to lift or move around easily. It should have a long handle that stays cool, so that you feel safe when cooking. The frying pan is the one to turn to when you want to sear and brown something fast and then bring the heat down quickly. These pans are what you need to use when you want to cook foods like pork chops, potato pancakes or soft-shell crabs, as well as peppers and onions.

You may also use a frying pan to sauté, which involves rapid frying in a small amount of fat followed by the addition of other ingredients to the pan, but that technique is better left to a true sauté pan with high straight sides.

saute._V192549726_

Sauté pans have straight sides and a lid. They are also very versatile. The added height on the sides allows for cooking with more liquid or keeping moisture in the dish. This type of pan is well-suited for braising, pan-frying, sautéing, searing, or even making small amounts of sauce.

A 7-8 inch skillet is appropriate for cooking an omelet or scrambled eggs, sautéing garlic or your favorite vegetables. A 10-12 inch skillet can be used for frying greater volumes of the same items and for stir-frying, if the pan is made from heavy material that conducts heat well so there are no hot spots.

A French Skillet is a saute pan with sloped sides. An omelette pan has sides that are more flared than an ordinary frying pan to enable the omelette to slide easily out of the pan.

copper

copper

A copper pan that is lined with tin or stainless steel is the first choice for delicate items that needs precise timing. Copper is the quickest responsive metal; it picks up heat immediately, but it will also lose heat as soon as the pan is removed from the burner.

Nonstick Omelet

Nonstick Omelet

If you purchase any non-stick aluminum pans, you should make certain they are anodized. Inexpensive non-stick pans will not wear well nor will they hold up to high heat. The editors of Cook’s Illustrated warn that even the best nonstick skillet will eventually become scratched and roughened from use, voiding its nonstick properties. Treating your skillet gently can delay this deterioration, but not prevent it. For this reason, they recommend choosing a lower-priced nonstick skillet, provided you can find one that performs well.

cast iron skillet

cast iron

For everyday cooking, whether sautéing mushrooms, hamburgers or chicken cutlets, pans made from stainless steel-wrapped aluminum and anodized aluminum are excellent choices.

Some foods require steady, even heat to brown. An old-fashioned cast iron skillet that doesn’t cool down when you take it off the heat would be a good choice for hash browned potatoes, bacon or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Although it is better to use a potholder when you are cooking, it is also important that the frying pan handle stay as cool as possible. You can look for metal handles that are hollowed in some way or that are made of a different metal than the pan itself. If you place your pan in the oven to finish cooking a dish, then you want handles that are oven proof.

fingerlings

Lemon-Thyme Chicken with Fingerlings

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise, or tiny new red or white potatoes, halved
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds total)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, the salt and pepper into the oil. Add potatoes; toss to coat. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring twice.

Stir potatoes and push them to one side of the pan. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the other side of the pan. Add chicken breast halves to the side with the oil. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Turn chicken. Spread garlic over chicken breast halves; sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Arrange lemon slices on top of chicken. Cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F) and potatoes are tender.

beef skillet

Italian Beef Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef round steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Hot cooked spaghetti for 4, optional

Directions

Trim fat from round steak, then cut meat into 4 serving-size pieces. Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add meat pieces and brown both sides of each piece. Remove meat to a platter.

Add mushrooms, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook until vegetables are nearly tender. Then, stir in undrained tomatoes, herbs and red pepper. Return meat to the pan, spooning vegetable mixture over the meat. Cover and simmer about 1-1/4 hours or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer meat to a serving platter. Spoon vegetable mixture over the meat and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve over pasta, if desired.

sausage

Sausage and Pepper Skillet

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage links
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a 12-inch saute pan, cook sausage links over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until browned, turning frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook about 10 minutes more or until juices run clear. Transfer sausage links to a cutting board; thinly slice sausage links. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the same pan and increase heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and onion; cook about 5 minutes or until crisp tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage slices, undrained tomatoes, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper to the pan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

italian-three-bean-and-rice-skillet-12243-ss

Italian Three-Bean and Rice Vegetarian Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 – 15 ½ ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 – 14 ½ ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen baby lima beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 of a 9 ounce package frozen cut green beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed or dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large saute pan combine beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, rice, lima beans, green beans and basil or Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

Stir in spaghetti sauce. Heat through. Top with mozzarella. Place lid on pan just until cheese melts. Serve.

Fast-Fish-Skillet-45308

Fish and Vegetable Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tilapia or any white fish fillets (1 lb.)
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite Italian Vinaigrette made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon homemade or prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise, then crosswise into slices
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Brush fish with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette; cook in a frying pan (skillet) on medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with fork. Transfer fish to a serving plate; cover to keep warm.

Add remaining dressing, pesto, vegetables and tomatoes to the skillet; cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Spoon over fish and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

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pizza header

First offered at a few big-city Italian restaurants in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, pizza started to come into its own at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno – the first restaurant built around this “foreign dish” – in 1943. Nationally franchised takeout pizza was born at Pizza Hut in 1958, Little Caesars in 1959 and Domino’s in 1960 and from then on, pizza was an established part of the American culinary landscape.

But what about homemade pizza? When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than driving down to the pizza parlor for takeout?

According to The Food Timeline, the first known American cookbook pizza recipe appeared in 1936, in Specialita Culinarie Italiane, 137 Tested Recipes of Famous Italian Foods. But it wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that pizza made it out of the Italian neighborhoods and into the American mainstream. In 1945. American GI’s were coming home from Europe and some of them returned with a new-found love for Italian food – such as pizza – at that time a treat available only at Italian restaurants. By 1954, the first yeast-crust pizzas were making an appearance, as evidenced in The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook. See the recipe page below – hardly the “real thing”. Source: (http://www.foodtimeline.org/)

first cookbook

Have a pizza party. Make the dough, sauces and toppings ahead of time and let your guests have fun making their own pizzas.

Pizza Doughs

All-Purpose Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising or instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except the cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat the surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Multigrain Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour (or cornmeal or additional whole wheat flour)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast or fast-rising yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water, at room temperature

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch the surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Tips:

  • At this point, extra dough may be placed in freezer bags that have been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • As a substitute for a baking stone, use an inverted baking sheet placed on an oven rack. For easy pizza assembly, invert another baking sheet on the counter and cover the underside with parchment paper (for baking). Mist the paper with cooking spray, then prepare the pizza on the paper.
  • Closely watch pizzas that are placed on parchment paper while baking. The high heat from the oven can cause some papers to ignite. Carefully read labels and instructions to avoid using papers in a hot oven that could cause fires.

 Pizza Sauces

All-Purpose No Cook Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together all the ingredients. If necessary, add more water to thin. It should easily spread over the dough. For an 8 to 10 inch pizza, use 1/4 cup of the sauce.

Pesto alla Genovese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil; add garlic. Cook and stir for 10 seconds; remove pan from heat. Immediately add to remaining oil.

In a food processor combine the garlic oil, basil, cheese, lemon juice and half the nuts; cover and process 20 seconds or until mixture resembles a thick green sauce. (If the contents are very thick and pasty, drizzle in a little water and process for a few more seconds. If too thin, add more shredded cheese)

Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the pepper and the remaining nuts.

For pizza: top dough with mozzarella cheese slices, drizzle some pesto sauce over the cheese, top with sliced plum tomatoes and bake.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto sauce and refrigerate (the plastic wrap will help keep the pesto a bright green). Chill for up to 5 days; for longer storage, transfer to freezer containers. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months.

Multipurpose Herb Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika, mild or hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together for about 15 seconds, long enough to evenly distribute the ingredients. Because most spices and herbs settle quickly, always whisk the oil mixture before drizzling or pouring. Let the herb oil stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature for flavors to meld.

Store, tightly covered, in a cool dark place up to 2 weeks.

Sauce Variations

  • Spicy Puttanesca Sauce: Add 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata or ripe olives, 1 tablespoon capers and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the all-Purpose Pizza Sauce.
  • Tomato Basil-Pesto Sauce: combine All-Purpose Pizza Sauce and Pesto alla Genovese
  • Garlic Sauce: Add 2 to 3 tablespoon of garlic oil (see Caramelized garlic recipe) and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to any pizza sauce.
  • Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage: thinly slice 3 Roma tomatoes and drain on a paper towel; saute 1/2 bunch of chopped broccoli rabe with olive oil and garlic;  saute 1/4 lb diced Italian sausage and thinly slice 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese. Layer cheese, tomatoes, broccoli and sausage on a 14 inch round of All-Purpose pizza dough and bake until crust is brown.

Toppings

Cheese

To any one of the above pizzas add: 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, provolone, Fontina cheese, Parmesan or 1/4 cup feta, chevre or blue cheese.

Meat

Add 1/4 cup sliced cooked chicken, salami, pepperoni, crisp-cooked bacon or pancetta, ham or any type of cooked sausage to each of the above pizzas.

Seafood

Marinate seafood in 1/2 cup of Multipurpose Herb Oil (see recipe). Place 1/4 cup cooked shelled clams, scallops, shelled mussels, shrimp, tuna, calamari or octopus strips to each of the above pizza.

 Some Of My Favorite Pizzas

artichoke

Marinated Artichoke Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ounce marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced thin
  • 1 ounce fire-roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thin
  • 6 small Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick and marinated in 1/2 cup Multi Purpose Herb Oil (see recipe); drain before using.
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from the bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Cook onions in hot oil about 10 minutes, until translucent. Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar; cook until juices bubble. Transfer onions to a strainer set over a bowl. Drain for 3 minutes. Return drained juices to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the consistency of honey. Remove from heat. Return onions to the skillet. Stir to coat, then set aside.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Evenly divide onion mixture, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes and olives and spread on each circle. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

mushroom

Mushroom-Garlic Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough
  • 1 recipe Caramelized Garlic, recipe below
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ½ cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 4 teaspoons Multipurpose Herb Oil, see recipe 
  • 1/4 cup of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil from the Caramelized Garlic recipe. Cook and stir mushrooms in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to glisten. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Top each pizza with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, one-fourth of the sautéed mushrooms (about 1/2 cup) and 6 to 8 cloves of garlic (from Caramelized Garlic).

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Just before serving, drizzle each pizza with 1 teaspoon Multipurpose Herb Oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Caramelized Garlic

Place 1 cup of peeled garlic cloves (3 to 4 bulbs) in a small saucepan with enough olive oil to cover the garlic (about 1 cup). Simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes, until garlic is a rich dark golden brown on the outside. They should develop what resembles a crust. Stir occasionally to prevent garlic from sticking to the pan and burning. Remove from heat. Let garlic stand in the oil for 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer garlic cloves to a plate lined with paper towels. Transfer remaining oil to a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Separately refrigerate garlic cloves and oil, tightly covered, up to 2 weeks.

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Many seafood sellers are working to raise awareness about the need for sustainable, eco-friendly fishing and the importance of not purchasing seafood on the endangered list. However, it does have one downside: a glut of eco-labels that can make for confusion at the seafood counter. When you’re grocery shopping and you’ve forgotten your Monterey Bay Guide, look for these two labels: Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea. Fish and seafood with these labels came from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s standards for sustainable fishing meet the world’s toughest best practice guidelines. With their practices and diligent efforts, they are transforming the way seafood is sourced—and helping you get the best produce for you and the Earth.

Friend of the Sea is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve marine habitats. Products stamped with the Friend of the Sea logo come from sustainable seafood fisheries and aquaculture where the harvesting of seafood leaves no lasting impact or damage to the surrounding environment.

Types of Fish

1. Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna.

2. White, lean and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish.

3. Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna.

4. White, lean and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting.

5. White, firm and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon.

Whole-Foods-

Budget-conscious families can eat fish. The key is strategic shopping.

Your seafood seller can point you to budget buys or specials. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now and freeze some for later.

For top quality, look for “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS)―fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a good alternative when fresh wild salmon are out of season. Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which are often defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.

Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood. Look for meaty heads, tails and trimmings of larger fish, like salmon, cod and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat and add to chowder and casseroles. (Don’t forget the cheek meat under the gills). Heads and trimmings are essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that ready-made varieties. Use homemade fish stock in place of water or clam juice in your recipes.

If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on fillets. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish, like salmon, cod and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.

fish_market_

How To make Good Seafood Choices

Choose a fish market with knowledgeable salespeople. Fish should be displayed attractively and surrounded by plenty of clean crushed ice.

The best approach to buying and eating fish is to aim for variety. Let freshness be your guide. It’s easy to substitute one fish for another, so if the mahimahi looks and smells fresher than the pompano, buy it instead.

When shopping, ask for your fish to be packed with a separate bag of crushed ice to keep it cold. Refrigerate whole fish up to two days; fillets and steaks one to two days. Place the fish in a plastic bag, then top with a zip-top plastic bag filled with ice. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

Farmed seafood, also called aquaculture, can provide high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly and can be a way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish.

Ways to Save

When local fish are in season, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Here is a simple guide to what is generally in season but you can also check your State Fish and Game website for additional information on fish from your region.

http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/afreshapproach/whats-in-season.aspx

Try fish that you have not eaten before. If you live in the East, try Atlantic black sea bass and weakfish; in the Gulf states try amberjack and black drum; in the Great Lakes region try walleye and smelts and on the West Coast try Pacific sardines and sablefish (black cod).

Whole fish shrink less than fillets when cooking, giving you more value for your per-pound price. Whiting, croaker, porgy and Pacific rockfish can be great values. Also, consider summer flounder (sometimes called fluke), red snapper and farmed striped bass and Arctic char.

Canned fish is an excellent budget-friendly option. It can also be a nutritious one, particularly varieties like canned tuna and salmon that are low in sodium and rich in omega-3s. Keep them―along with flavorful sardines and anchovies―on hand for fish cakes and salads.

Save extra fish from the previous night’s dinner. Leftover fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches and wraps. Add leftovers to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Panko-Crusted-Fish-Sticks

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks

Panko crumbs, or Japanese bread crumbs, are flake-like, coarsely ground bread crumbs used to make crisp, light fried foods and crumb toppings for casseroles. Here is a very simple and inexpensive way to make your own. FYI, these crumbs are also gluten-free.

  • 3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional seasonings, as desired

Place the Rice Chex cereal in a plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush the cereal into coarse flakes. You can also pulse the cereal in a processor until it is the right consistency. Don’t overprocess. Season with salt and pepper and any herb blend that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until foamy. Place the panko in a second shallow bowl and add the Italian seasoning.

Cut the fish pieces crosswise into finger size pieces. Dip each piece of fish in the egg mixture then coat in the panko crumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere; transfer to the baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

tilapia-piccata-l

Tilapia Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Directions

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot; stir in tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and flour in a large shallow dish. Dredge fish in the flour mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to the skillet; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is lightly browned. Remove fish from the pan; keep warm.

Add wine, juice and capers to the skillet; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with the orzo.

cod chowder

Cod Chowder

Great dinner for a cold, rainy night.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pork or turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice or 1 cup homemade fish stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound frozen cod, defrosted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender yet still firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

Return chowder to low heat and stir in the warmed half and half, gently to avoid breaking the fish into small pieces. Bring chowder to serving temperature over gentle heat, uncovered. Sprinkle reserved crisped bacon and parsley on top and serve with a side salad and cornbread.

Lemon & herb fish kebabs.

Fish Kebabs

Stretch your fish dollars with kebabs. Add several vegetables to make this dish even more economical. Zucchini and different colored peppers are good additions.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut or any fish fillet that is on sale, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Weather permitting, you can grill the kebabs on an outdoor grill.

Place fish and bell pepper in a shallow dish. Combine the pesto with the vinegar and drizzle over the fish and vegetables; toss to coat. Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Thread fish, onion and pepper alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; sprinkle evenly with salt. Place skewers on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

baked trout

Baked Trout Fillets

Trout is a fish that you’ll be able to buy at many markets without hurting your wallet. The flavor of trout is outstanding.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound trout fillets
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedges 

Directions

Place fish in a greased shallow 3-qqart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cheese, lemon juice, onion and salt; spread over fish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

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gnocchi headerIt seems that nearly every nation has some form of dumpling and it’s easy to see why. They are tasty, versatile and make excellent use of leftover ingredients. In Italy, dumplings are collectively known as gnocchi and are made in several different styles. In the family run trattorias of Rome, you can sample some of the best gnocchi every Thursday night in a citywide tradition. Just like most Italian cooking, these delicious lumps do not just vary from region to region, but from household to household as well, depending upon what is available. The most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (boiled, peeled or mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough. Each gnocco is then ridged along one side like a seashell. Gnocchi also come in different sizes, with gnocchetti being the smallest version.

Other types of gnocchi are made with semolina flour, milk and cheese – also known as Gnocchi alla Romana. Some versions are made with regular flour and other kinds can be made with leftover bread. Florence’s strozzapreti are gnocchi made from a combination of spinach and ricotta. Another spinach/ricotta gnocchi is from Lombardy called malfatti, meaning “malformed”, since these gnocchi are made from leftover ravioli filling and do not have a uniform shape. What makes gnocchi so popular is its versatility – simple ingredients like potatoes and semolina flour, vegetables, mushrooms and cheeses can be combined to make endless variations.

See two of my previous posts on the different types of gnocchi and how to make them:

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/10/16/how-to-make-homemade-gnocchi/

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/23/need-some-new-potato-recipes/

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

In early writings, gnocco (singular for gnocchi) is sometimes replaced by maccherone, a generic term for pasta. The Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita tells us that gnocchi is one of the earliest pastas and is originally a Germanic word describing the distinctive shape of gnocchi. Gnocchi was originally from the Middle East, but when the Romans explored the area, they took back with them the recipe for gnocchi. Thus, it was brought with them when they settled European land, in particular, Italy. Here, gnocchi most strongly rooted itself. Various regions began to invent their own form of the dish and introduce them to other neighboring countries. When Italians immigrated into South America by way of Argentina and North America, the recipe for gnocchi went with them.

Recipes for gnocchi have been documented back to the 1300′s. In some parts of Italy, gnocchi was made of fine durum wheat. Elsewhere, it was chestnut, rye, rice or barley flour. When poverty struck, gnocchi might mean leftovers bound with breadcrumbs. We do know that potatoes came in very late as an ingredient and were slow to gain a following. An early recipe for potato gnocchi, circa 1834, calls for just one part potato to three parts flour. It takes another century for modern gnocchi to emerge—where the potato is the main ingredient, with only enough flour to bind it into a workable dough.

Commercial gnocchi is readily available, but it’s worth the effort to make your own. Essentially, you mix cooked, riced potatoes with egg, then knead in some flour. There’s no special equipment required; the familiar grooved pattern is made with a table fork. Gnocchi’s delicate flavor pairs well with robust sauces, from tomato to pesto to gorgonzola. Because they cook more quickly than traditional pasta, gnocchi are a great meal idea for weeknights. Just keep an eye on them, because as soon as they float to the top, they’re ready to sauce and serve!

CrispyGnocchi_04_mini

While gnocchi are simple enough to make from scratch, there are several varieties that can be found pre-made in supermarkets or in Italian specialty stores. Pre-packaged gnocchi, depending upon ingredients, can be found fresh (refrigerated) or frozen. Pre-packaged gnocchi should not be avoided since there are several very good brands. When buying gnocchi in the store, look for the “fresh” looking kind in the refrigerated section (usually next to the fresh pasta), preferably in a well-sealed or vacuum container. The package should be heavy for its size, as dense gnocchi will be less likely to fall apart when cooking. There are also several brands of frozen gnocchi that cook up well, so long as they remain frozen before dropping them in the boiling water, otherwise they will turn into soggy mashed potatoes if allowed to thaw.

Gnocchi in the dried pasta section is usually of the semolina variety, but you may also find vacuum-sealed potato gnocchi as well. Dried semolina gnocchi are convenient and can be tasty, but its taste and texture resembles more of a pasta than fresh semolina gnocchi. With dried potato gnocchi, there just does not seem to be enough moisture left in the dumplings, making them lighter than other varieties. Because of this lack of moisture, the gnocchi tend to fall apart somewhat and often loose their shape. The rule of thumb for buying gnocchi is: get the closest thing to making it yourself – fresh/refrigerated or frozen.

Making Homemade Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs potatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for the work surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

A General Rule of Thumb: 1 medium-sized potato per serving or person. For every potato, you want to use approximately 1/2 cup of flour.

Directions

First, clean and peel potatoes. Remove any brown spots. Cut potatoes into 1” cubes; be sure to cut them into cubes consistent in size so that they cook evenly. Place cut potatoes in a medium-sized pot; fill with water just to cover. Add salt and cover with a lid. Stirring occasionally, boil potatoes for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.

Drain the potatoes well. Allow them to cool in a colander. Rice potatoes using a potato ricer into a kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Combine potatoes, 2 ½ cups flour, egg and salt in the work bowl of a processor. Pulse just until the dough comes together.

Once the dough come together, turn out onto a floured board (using as much of the ½ cup flour as needed) and knead into a wide rectangle shape.

Gnocchi step 1

Cut the dough into about 8 pieces, 4 inches long.

Gnocchi-step 2

For shorter, heavy gnocchi, roll dough into thick ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Gnocchi-step 4

Use a fork to make ridges on the side of each gnocchi.

Gnocchi-step 5

For thinner gnocchi, roll long ropes. Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place on a floured tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Gnocchi-step 3

Note: While you are shaping gnocchi, finished gnocchi should be kept on a heavily floured tray as to prevent sticking together. Also, keep them in a cool place until ready to cook for no longer than 45 minutes or else place them in the freezer.

Cooking Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and then gnocchi. Gnocchi are finished once they float to the top, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in a saucepan with your favorite sauce.

For best taste and texture, allow gnocchi to “sit” in their sauce once cooked for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

gnocchi and peas

Fresh Peas with Lettuce and Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen potato gnocchi or homemade
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 head Boston or other loose-leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook gnocchi until they float to the top; drain and keep warm.

Place butter in a large, heavy pan; heat over medium heat until melted. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Wash lettuce and trim away the stalk end. Shake water off lettuce (it’s OK if some water remains) and add to the pan. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the peas. Cook about 3 minutes or until the peas are warm.

Remove pea mixture from the pan and keep warm. Add cream to the pan and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return pea mixture to the pan, add gnocchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

gnocchi and sausage

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon loose saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 26-28 oz container of Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 (1-pound) package potato gnocchi  or homemade
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add the garlic and sausage. Saute, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the saffron threads, basil and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float to the top. Once finished, drain and toss with the sauce in the saucepan for about 2 minutes to coat. Serve topped with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves 4

olivegardenchickengnocci

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 (16-ounce) package gnocchi or homemade

Directions

Melt the butter into the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth followed by the milk. Simmer until thickened.

Stir in a 1/2 teaspoon salt, the thyme, nutmeg, carrots, spinach, chicken and gnocchi. Simmer until the soup is heated through.

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Whole_wheat_penne,_

Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

ziti

Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

penne-walnuts-su-1575584-x

Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

steak-salad-ck-554716-x

Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

shrimp-pasta-ck-554668-x

Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

sausage-penne-ck-1041902-x

Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

raisin-pasta-ck-780432-x

Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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