Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Jeta farms

Jeta Farms

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

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

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

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

Potato Salad

Hash Browns

Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette Pasta

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

Eggplant Tomato Bake

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Stuffed Peppers

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Grilled Summer Squash

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Ingredients

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

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire.

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

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

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

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

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

Italian Flat Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Corn Chowder

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Grilled Patty Pan Squash with Italian Salsa Verde

Pattypan Squash 004001

 

4 servings

For the salsa verde:

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

For the squash:

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

Directions

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

Prepare an outdoor grill.

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

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

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

Yield: 4 servings


basil-varieties

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

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

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

basil-christmas
1. Christmas Basil

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

basil cinnamon2. Cinnamon Basil

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

basil-dark-opal

3. Dark Opal Basil

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

basil-holy

4. Holy Basil

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

basil-lemon

5. Lemon Basil

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

basil-lime

6. Lime Basil

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

basil-spicy-bush

7. Spicy Bush Basil

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

basil-purple-ruffles

8. Purple Ruffles Basil

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

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9. Sweet Basil

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

basil-sweet-thai

10. Sweet Thai Basil

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

Basil-Greek

11. Greek Columnar

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

Basil-Lettuce-Leaf

12. Lettuce Leaf Basil

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

Resources: Pantry Garden Herbs and Hobby Farms.

basil dip

Basil Herb Dip

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

basil Tuscan-Bread-SaladTuscan Bread Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

basil Tagliatelle_carbonara

Basil Carbonara

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

basil zucchini-soup3

 

 

Zucchini Basil Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

basil roast-beef-wrap

Roast Beef Wraps with Garlic Basil Aioli

Ingredients

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

Directions

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


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

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

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

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

Father’s Day Brunch Menu

Father's day 1

Glazed Fruit Medley

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Father's day 2

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

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

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

Father's day 3

Meat and Potato Hash

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

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Perfect Poached Eggs

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

father's day 6

 

Baked Vegetarian Zucchini Frittata

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Father's day 4

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

Gently fold in the blueberries.

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

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

Father's day 5

Pear Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Core and slice the pear; set aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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sandwich

What makes for a great sandwich?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

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

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

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

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

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

sandwich 5

Mortadella, Cheese and Basil Panini

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

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

sandwich 2

Family Style Hearty Steak Sandwich

6 Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat an outdoor gas grill.

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

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

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

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

sandwich 1

Vegan Muffuletta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

sandwich 3

Mediterranean Tilapia Sandwiches

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

Ingredients

Fish:

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

Tzatziki:

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

Sandwich ingredients:

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

Directions

Preheat a broiler.

To prepare fish:

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

To prepare Tzatziki:

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

To prepare sandwiches:

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

sandwich 4
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Light an outdoor grill.

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

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

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

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


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

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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

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

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

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

Some ways to serve ricotta cheese:

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

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

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

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

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

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

ricotta 3

Sugar Snap Peas with Ricotta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes: 4 servings

ricotta 4

Baked Ricotta Pudding

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

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

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

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

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

ricotta 1

Rice and Ricotta Cakes

Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as an appetizer

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

Directions

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

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

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

ricotta 2

Ricotta, Broccoli Rabe and Mushroom Pizza

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza Dough

Ingredients

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

Directions

Brush a large bowl with olive oil; set aside.

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

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

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

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

ricotta 5

Ricotta Omelets

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

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Sabina

Italy has many places of interest that are in the ‘off the beaten track’ category. One such place is Sabina. Sabina is the ancient region in the North-Eastern Province of Lazio.
The Sabine hills are a chain of mountains that lie between the river Tiber in the west and the town of Rieti in the east. The river Nera flows in the north and the river Aniene in the south. The highest peak in the Sabine Hills is Monte Pellecchia.

The Sabina has been inhabited since prehistoric times and remains of a human settlement and tools dating from the Palaeolithic era, (60.000-30.000 B.C.) have been discovered throughout the area. The Sabini, a tribe from the Adriatic coast, arrived in the area around the ninth or tenth century B.C. and founded the cities of Reate, Trebula Mutuesca and Cures Sabini. Thanks to its strategic position close to the river Tiber and the Salaria road, Cures (close to modern-day Talocci) became rich and controlled most of the surrounding lands. Cures was gradually absorbed into the Roman state in 290 B.C. After a destructive earthquake in 174 B.C., the territory was reorganized and new agricultural systems were introduced. The main focus was to increase production and supply the Roman market with olives and livestock.

sabina 1

The period following the decline of the Roman empire was characterized by repeated invasions, depopulation due to the plague and the lack of a centralized government. It was during this time that Farfa Abbey was established and the abbey played a fundamental role in the history of the area. The abbey belonged to the Benedictine order, a powerful organization with its own political and economic interests. The monasteries during this time period contributed to the spread of knowledge in an almost completely illiterate world. Farfa Abbey became rich under the protection of the Lombard dukes and, after 775 A.D., brought a certain amount of economic and agricultural development to the area.

sabina 2

During this same period the population abandoned old settlements in the valley bottoms in favor of the more easily defended hilltop sites. Almost all of the villages and towns in the Sabina were founded during the period between the ninth and the eleventh century A.D. and many of them were vassals of the abbey. Almost the entire population lived within the walls, going out to work in the fields during the day. During the twelfth century A.D., the Sabina saw the gradual decline in the power of the abbey and the growth of the Papacy and the Roman nobles. During the Renaissance, some of the medieval castles were transformed into baronial palaces, most notably in Roccasinibalda, Collalto and Orvinio, while other completely new palaces were built, for example, Palazzo Camuccini at Cantalupo and Palazzo Orsini at Toffia.

During the eighteenth century the population moved into the surrounding countryside, building up the farming community. This process took place in the lower Sabina (closest to the Tiber valley), where the fertility of the soil allowed the introduction of the “mezzadria” or sharecropping system, under which farmers gave half their produce to the landowner in return for the rent of the land and farmhouse.

The landscape of Sabina is dominated by the hilltop towns, watched over by their original castles and fortresses. Nowadays, the variety of castles in Sabina range from abandoned, ghostly ruins, to beautifully renovated castles that accommodate weddings.

The Sabina region has a rich culinary heritage and has been famous since ancient times for the quality of its food and drink, in particular its olive oil, one of the best in the world.
Other local products include cheese, meat, honey, mushrooms and fruit. Their high quality is thanks to a way of working the land which has resisted industrialization and older, more environmentally friendly methods continue to be used here simply because they work well.

The oldest olive tree.

The oldest olive tree.

Sabina olive oil is characterised by its low acidity and smooth yet peppery finish, which is a result of both the landscape in Sabina and the main varietal of olive grown (Carboncella). It is the steep hills and rocky limestone which gives the Sabina olive oil its distinctive taste. Sabina olive oil was the first olive oil in Italy to receive the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) appellation. In the village of Canneto, you will find the oldest (and one of the largest) olive trees in Europe. At over 1000 years old and with a trunk of 23 feet (7 meters) in circumference, this huge tree produces 1600 pounds (800 kilos) of olives every harvest!

Harvesting Olives

Harvesting Olives

Sabina, like elsewhere in Italy, has many Sagre. Some villages are especially well-known for a particular Sagra. For example, Roccantica is known for its popular ‘frittelli‘ festival in March. A sagra is simply a particular kind of festival that usually revolves around food and usually one specific seasonal ingredient or dish, which is particularly associated with that town or the local area. Sagre (plural) are run by the people who live in the town, so they are real community affairs, where everyone comes together to celebrate the food that they are so proud of. Visiting a Sagra is a great opportunity to sample some genuine, authentic dishes, cooked by people who live in the town.

Some of these specialties are:

Falloni of the Sabina

sabina 10

Falloni are a kind of wrap, similar to a calzone, that are stuffed with green vegetables before being baked in the oven.They make a great hot or cold snack or a picnic food. You can find falloni in many a forno (bakery) in the Sabina region, particularly the area around Montebuono, Poggio Mirteto, Torri in Sabina and Selci, where they are a local speciality. The falloni can differ depending on which village in Sabina they are made. Around Selci they like to use chard and raw spinach, in other places such as Stimigliano, they put spinach with other vegetables.The shape of the falloni can range from a long thin wrap to a rounder calzone shape. In some villages they cook the vegetables a little first before wrapping in the dough and finish baking them in the oven, while others do not pre-cook the vegetables. Falloni are pretty much exclusive to the Sabina region and are a great example of a regional food with a number of variations.

Stringozzi Pasta

sabina4

Also known as strangozzi , this popular Sabina pasta is flat, rectangular and made without eggs. The shape somewhat resembles shoelaces, which is where Stringozzi gets its name – stringa is a shoelace and stringhe are shoelaces. Stringozzi is also popular throughout Umbria, Marche and other parts of the Lazio region.

Frittelli

sabina 5

Frittelli, deep-fried savory or sweet bites, are often eaten at some point during a big meal, especially for special occasions. Different types of Frittello may be associated with different occasions, for example a sweet Frittello with raisins is popular at Christmas and Lambs brain can be found on Easter tables.The most common type of Frittelli in Sabina, however, are fried cauliflower florets. Pieces of cauliflower are dipped in batter, fried and then seasoned with a little salt. They are so popular, in fact, that an entire festival was created to celebrate their existence.

Sabina’s Traditional Recipes

sabina 6

Pollo alla Romana (Roman-style chicken)

This is a traditional, very rustic Roman dish of chicken with bell peppers, onion and tomatoes.

Serves 4

  • 1 chicken, cut into smaller pieces (or 8 chicken thighs). Leave the skin on.
  • 4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 26-28 oz can plum tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut into smaller chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and place in the pan with the garlic. Cook over a low heat, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn the chicken occasionally.

In another skillet, heat the remaining oil and add the peppers and onions. Cook and stir for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and mix together, cover the pan and cook over a low heat until the peppers are soft.

Pour the white wine over the chicken and cook, uncovered, until all the wine evaporates.

Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in the pan with the onions and peppers. Stir well to mix everything together. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes.

sabina 8

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

This pasta sauce is so famous that it is recognised as a traditional dish of Lazio by the Italian ministry of agriculture, food and forestry.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 oz cubed guanciale or pancetta
  • 28 oz can Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and brown the guanciale until crispy and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Saute the onion, garlic and chilli in the remaining oil until the onions are soft, (but don’t let them brown). Add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper.

Simmer until the sauce has thickened and lost its ‘watery’ appearance. Add the guanciale back into the pan with the sauce.

Boil the pasta until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and then return the pasta to the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta, mix well, top with the grated cheese and serve.

sabina 11

Ciambelle all’ Anice

Ring-Shaped Anise Flavored Breads

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ½ cup dry white wine, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup anise seeds
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the water into a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow it to proof about 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine, olive oil, salt, and anise seeds. Mix well. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be soft. If the dough is still sticky after 5 cups of flour have been added, gradually add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes away from the bowl easily.

Transfer the dough to a board or the counter and knead the dough for 2 – 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces, depending on how big you want the rings.

Roll each piece into a long rope, bring the two ends together and place the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean towel and let them rise covered for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the Ciambelle to the water one at a time. When each ring floats to the surface, use a slotted spoon transfer the boiled ring onto a damp towel.

When one ring is taken out, place the one before back onto the lined baking sheet. When all have been boiled and put back on the lined baking sheets, bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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parfait cover

Parfait (from the French meaning “perfect”) is a type of frozen dessert that dates back to 1894. At that time parfaits tasted like coffee and it was a frozen treat. Eventually, these layered ice cream desserts were laced with fruit syrups or liqueurs.

Modern day parfaits are usually prepared in tall glasses and the visual appeal of these traditional layered desserts makes them a favorite on many party menus. Popular parfait ingredients include fruit, nuts, chocolate, coffee, ice cream and yogurt. Strawberry parfait, mango parfait, apple parfait, peach parfait, yogurt parfait are all different kinds of parfaits that are served chilled as a casual dessert.

PARFAIT

Around the world, parfait can mean many things. In France, parfait refers to a frozen dessert made from a base of sugar syrup, egg and cream. In the UK and Germany, parfait refers to a very smooth meat paste (or pâté), usually made from liver (chicken or duck) and flavored with liqueur. In Italy, Italian ice is a frozen confection somewhat similar to shaved ice or snow cones but should not be confused with gelato, Italian ice cream. Sometimes, parfait-like confections are sold in Italy that layer different flavored Italian ices with gelato. This type of parfait dessert may be called gelati, which may be confusing.

In the United States, parfait refers to a popular dessert made by layering fresh or canned fruit and/or liqueurs with ice cream in a tall, clear glass and topped with whipped cream. In Canada and the northern United States, parfaits may also be made by using yogurt layered with granola, nuts and fresh fruits, such as peaches, strawberries or blueberries and are intended to be a healthier alternative to the ice cream/mascarpone and heavy cream parfaits.

Parfaits may be prepared as comfort food or as a health food, depending on the ingredients used. With ice cream, nuts and whipped cream, parfaits can be pretty high in calories. Yogurt in different forms, such as low-fat yogurt, organic yogurt or Greek yogurt, to name only a few, can be chosen according to suitability for the type of parfait you want to make. Yogurt parfaits make a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

Yogurt Parfaits can be made with unflavored yogurt or flavored varieties. The recipe may be made with a variety of yogurts with different consistencies, depending upon your taste. Full fat yogurt may be preferred by people who do not have to be conscious about losing weight. Those who prefer organic food, can choose to make their parfait with the organic varieties, while others may opt for regular.

Making a yogurt parfait is quite simple. A parfait glass is filled with layers of yogurt, granola and fruit. The layers are repeated and the final topping may be berries. It should be noted that it’s always better to fix a yogurt parfait and serve it immediately, otherwise, the cereal may get soggy and lose its crunchiness, thus making the dish less palatable.

Gelatin Parfaits are prepared by layering different fruit flavored gelatin (jello) in a parfait glass and topping the mixture with whipped cream and nuts. As the gelatin takes time to set, about 4-5 hours, make this parfait only when there is adequate time to prepare the gelatin before the occasion in which it is to be served.

Mixed Fruit parfaits are made with a base of sour cream mixed with sugar, fruit juice of choice and a liqueur. The mixture is placed at the bottom of a parfait glass, fresh fruits are placed as the next layer of the parfait, followed by a final layer of chocolate shavings. The dish is best served after being chilled for a couple of hours.

All parfaits are not desserts, as some are savory dishes made of seafood, vegetables and even foie gras. Savory parfaits are made in the same way as the dessert parfaits, except of course, with different ingredients. The common factor is their method.

Here are a few parfait recipes to suit a variety of tastes. Let your imagination create even more.

parfait 2

Italian Hazelnut Parfait

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup skinned hazelnuts
  • 15 ounces part-skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25 amaretti cookies
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, grated (for garnish)

Directions

Set the oven at 375 degrees F.
Use 4 tall glasses.
In a baking pan, toast the hazelnuts, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned; cool. Chop the hazelnuts coarsely; transfer to a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the ricotta until creamy, then whisk in the yogurt, ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, place cookies in a large zipper-top plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush them to the size of peas.

In a cold bowl with cold beaters, beat the cream and the remaining ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar until it holds soft peaks.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each glass, sprinkle with amaretti and a few hazelnuts (save 2 tablespoons of the nuts for the top garnish).

Continue to layer in this way, ending with a thin layer of ricotta. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and top with the reserved hazelnuts and grated chocolate.

3J-315251 042

Fresh Fruit Parfait

These parfaits are perfect for breakfast or for dessert.

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 rounded cup (½ dry pint) blackberries, raspberries or hulled strawberries, plus 2 extra berries per person for garnish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 large, ripe, firm bananas
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups melon balls from two or three different types of ripe melon
  • Two 8-ounce containers vanilla yogurt
  • Optional additions: Your favorite granola or some dry-toasted sliced almonds or walnuts and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions

Place the berries in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a blender. Process the berries until thoroughly pureed.

Place the jam in a 1-quart saucepan. Position a fine-mesh sieve over the pan and pour the berry puree into the sieve. Using a sturdy rubber or wooden spatula, rub the puree through the sieve, leaving the seeds behind (straining is not necessary if using only strawberries). Bring the pureed mixture just to a simmer over low heat, stirring to break up any coagulated jam. Remove the pan from the stove, pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool.

When you’re almost ready to serve the parfaits, lay each peeled banana on a flat surface and with a melon ball scoop make banana balls. When you’ve measured at least 1 cup, toss them with the lemon juice to prevent discoloring.

Gently fold together the banana and melon balls. Place 1¼ cups of the fruit balls in each parfait glass and ladle 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt over the fruit. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the berry puree on top of the yogurt. Allow the parfait to sit for a few minutes so the toppings can trickle down throughout the fruit.

If desired, top each parfait with a tablespoon or so of your favorite granola or some toasted sliced almonds. Garnish each serving with two plump berries and a sprig of fresh mint.

parfait 3

Healthy Tiramisu Parfaits

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 4 oz (half of 8-oz package) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 3/4 cup skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 container (6 oz) vanilla yogurt
  • 1/3 cup cold brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 1 package (3 oz) soft ladyfingers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 oz semisweet baking chocolate, grated (1/4 cup)

Directions

In medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until the mixture is creamy. Beat in yogurt until well blended.

In small bowl, mix espresso and coffee liqueur.

In 8 small parfait glasses or clear drinking glasses, layer half of the ladyfingers, half of the espresso mixture and half of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle each with about 3/4 teaspoon grated chocolate. Repeat layers.

Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors but no longer than 4 hours. Store covered in refrigerator.

parfait 4

Tomato Caprese Parfaits

Ingredients

  • A pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • A cup of basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 16 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced and then cut into small wedges
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 parfait glasses depending on size

Directions

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pesto to make it more pourable. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tomatoes.

In attractive parfait glasses, layer tomatoes – mozzarella – basil and then a drizzle of each – pesto and vinegar. Repeat until glasses are full. Top with the basil shreds.

parfait 5

 

Seafood Parfait

This recipe makes a great summer first course.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces crab meat
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Cocktail sauce, homemade or store-bought (homemade recipe below)
  • Boiled shrimp, peeled, shells and tails removed and diced
  • Prepared horseradish sauce, homemade or store-bought 
  • Light sour cream
  • Grape tomatoes

Directions

Combine cream cheese, crabmeat, lemon juice and seafood seasoning until well blended.

Line the bottom of tall parfait glasses with shredded lettuce. Add a layer of the crab spread. Add a drizzle of cocktail sauce. Add a layer of diced boiled shrimp and more cocktail sauce.

For the topping, combine equal amounts of horseradish sauce and sour cream. Spoon a dollop on top of each parfait and add a grape tomato.

Cocktail Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Combine all ingredients, making sure the sugar has dissolved. Store covered in the refrigerator.

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salad night cover

A salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. To make a truly great salad, you’ve got to use ingredients that are fresh, ripe and in season.

If you think salads are limited to watery lettuce and a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, think again. There are endless amounts of wonderful combinations and you can make a salad as simple or as complex as you like. Spend a minute thinking about the contrasts of tastes and textures in the ingredients you are choosing and what sort of dressing you want to use, so you end up with something delicious and exciting every time.

THE BASE OF YOUR SALAD

The ingredient that forms the bulk of your salad is the base. And when we hear the word ‘salad’, lettuce is often the first ingredient that comes to mind because it is used as a base for so many salads. Oakleaf, cos or romaine lettuce and baby mixed lettuces, also make great salad bases, as do chicory, radicchio, arugula, watercress, baby spinach, tiny red-veined chard leaves, mustard leaves, pea shoots and sorrel. But plenty of salads don’t have any lettuce in them at all. You can make beautiful salads using cooked new potatoes, couscous, lentils, shredded cabbages or any other robust interesting vegetable. Use your imagination and you’ll never be bored.

PREPARING AND WASHING SALAD LEAVES

Wash your salad leaves before using them. Make sure your sink is clean then fill it with cold water. Gently wash the salad leaves in the water until they are clean and then transfer them to a salad spinner and spin dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, put them into a clean tea towel, gather the edges up and spin it around your head. Make sure the leaves are dry – if they aren’t, the salad dressing won’t cling to them. Keep them in the refrigerator or bowl under a damp cloth until you’re ready to use them.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU ADD TO A SALAD?

Raw crunchy veggies, like carrots or radishes, are great in salads. But they can be quite hard if they’re in big pieces, so finely slice them or shave them into ribbons with a peeler. Beets, spring onions, cucumber, squash and celery all work well. Cooked vegetables are also fantastic in salads. Peas, beans, asparagus and corn, cooked very quickly so they are not mushy, add flavor and color. Grilled slices of zucchini or pepper or even chunks of roasted squash or pumpkin also make salads much more interesting.

Adding soft herbs at the last-minute adds loads of extra flavor. Basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint or even thyme or marjoram tips are all great choices.

It’s also nice to add a bit of protein to a salad, especially if you’re having it as a main meal. Use your imagination; there are really no limits to what you can include. Try a few slices of smoked salmon, shredded roast chicken, cooked shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, cannellini beans, lentils or crumbled goat cheese.

For a bit of crunch, try adding a few nuts or seeds. Toasted or flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, crumbled walnuts and chopped cashews all work well.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRESSING

Think of your salad dressing as the link that brings all the ingredients in your salad together. There are loads of ready-made bottled dressings available in the markets, but it’s so easy to make your own, so try to get into the habit of doing that rather than buying them. Store-bought dressings are likely to contain lots of hidden ingredients and may be high in calories and sugar. Plus if you make your own, you can tweak it every time to suit the other ingredients in your salad.

The easiest way to make your salad dressing is in a clean jar. Just add all of your ingredients, pop the lid on and give it a good shake!

Most salad dressings contain an oil element – such as extra virgin olive oil, nut oil or sesame oil – and an acid element, such as balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Aim for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, then add any other ingredients you fancy. Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or some finely chopped fresh herbs or chillies can add loads of flavor. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, try stirring a spoonful of natural yogurt into the dressing.

Once dressed, salad leaves can wilt after a few minutes, so always add your dressing right before serving. If you want to ensure a really good even coating, using clean hands, quickly toss everything together. Just make sure you don’t add all of the dressing at once; add a little, mix it up, then have a taste before deciding whether you need to add more. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

salad night 1

Mediterranean Pita Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with a press
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1 large head romaine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 pita breads, toasted and broken into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, coriander and pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream until blended.

Add romaine, mint, parsley, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, cucumber and toasted pita and toss until blended. Serve immediately.

 

salad night 2Steak Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steak:

  • 1 rib-eye, strip loin or top sirloin steak (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 cups finely chopped hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta

Directions

To make dressing:

Whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Thin with up to 3 tablespoons of water so it dribbles off a spoon. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes to develop flavors. (Can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.) Makes 1 cup.

To prepare steak:

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill for high heat, pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

To prepare salad:

Make a bed of romaine on a large serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Arrange cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, avocado, olives and feta in mounds and place steak strips in the center. Pass the dressing on the side.

salad night 3

Crab Salad with Lemon Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

Crab

  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat

Salad

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives, more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/3 pound thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch endive, chopped in 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely chopped

Directions

For the crab:

Stir together shallot, hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and chives in a medium bowl. Add crabmeat and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

For the rest of the salad:

Whisk together mustard, shallot, vinegar, chives and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing slightly thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Steam Yukon gold potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are still warm, pour a tablespoon or two of dressing over them.

Steam green beans until tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly. Combine green beans with arugula, endive and radish. Toss with a tablespoon of dressing.

Toss fennel with remaining dressing in a small bowl. Check over the crab for any pieces of shell.

To serve:

Arrange greens on a platter or individual plates. Top with crab, fennel and eggs. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

salad night 4

Couscous Salad with Zucchini and Parsley

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo Beans (also called chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Directions

In a large, heatproof bowl, pour water over couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, tahini and salt in a second large bowl.

Thinly slice zucchini over dressing and then use kitchen shears to snip parsley leaves into the bowl; discard stems.

Add tomatoes, beans and couscous and toss gently to combine.

salad night 5

Grilled Chicken and Wheat-Berry Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, divided
  • 1 cup green apple, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook for 2 hours, 15 minutes or until wheat berries are almost tender.

Drain and place in a salad bowl; discard bay leaf.

For the salad dressing:

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate dressing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Preheat grill.

Coarsely chop the spinach leaves. Add spinach, apple, bell pepper and 3 tablespoons of the cucumber dressing to the wheat berries and toss well.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done. Thinly slice chicken.

Arrange chicken evenly over salad mixture; sprinkle with green onions. Pass dressing on the side.

 

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Capri's Blue Grotto

Capri’s Blue Grotto

Capri is an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. It has been a resort since the time of the Roman Republic.

Some of the main features of the island include the following: the Belvedere of Tragara (a high panoramic promenade lined with villas), the limestone crags called sea stacks that project above the sea (the Faraglioni), the town of Anacapri, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) and the ruins of the Imperial Roman villa. The island has two harbors, Marina Piccola and Marina Grande (the main port of the island).

Capri map

The city has been inhabited since early times. Evidence of human settlement was discovered during the Roman era when the foundations for the villa of Emperor Augustus (the first Emperor of the Roman Empire) were being excavated where giant bones and stone weapons were discovered. Modern excavations have shown that human presence on the island can be dated to the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Augustus developed Capri; he built temples, villas, aqueducts and planted gardens, so he could enjoy his private paradise. Augustus’ successor, Tiberius, built a series of villas in Capri, the most famous of which is the Villa Jovis, one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy. In 27 AD, Tiberius permanently moved to Capri, running the Empire from there until his death in 37 AD.

Statue of Emperor Augustus

Statue of Emperor Augustus

After the end of the Western Roman Empire, Capri returned to the status of a dominion of Naples and suffered various attacks and ravages by pirates. In 866 Emperor Louis II gave the island to Amalfi. In 987 Pope John XV consecrated the first bishop of Capri. In 1496 Frederick IV of Naples established legal and administrative parity between the settlements of Capri and Anacapri. The pirate raids reached their peak during the reign of Charles V when the famous Turkish admirals, Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Turgut Reis, captured the island in 1535 and 1553 for the Ottoman Empire.

The first recorded tourist to visit the island was French antiques dealer, Jean-Jacques Bouchard, in the 17th century. His diary, found in 1850, is an important information source about Capri.

Capri

French troops under Napoleon occupied Capri in January 1806. The British ousted the French the following May, after which Capri was turned into a powerful naval base but the building program caused heavy damage to the archaeological sites. The French reconquered Capri in 1808 and remained there until the end of the Napoleonic era (1815), when Capri was returned to the Bourbon ruling house of Naples.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers and other celebrities. Norman Douglas, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, Christian Wilhelm Allers, Emil von Behring, Curzio Malaparte, Axel Munthe and Maxim Gorky are all reported to have owned a villa there or to have stayed there for more than three months. Swedish Queen Victoria often stayed there. Rose O’Neill, the American illustrator and creator of the Kewpie, owned the Villa Narcissus, formerly owned by the famous Beaux Art painter, Charles Caryl Coleman. Dame Gracie Fields also had a villa on the island, though her 1934 song “The Isle of Capri” was written by two Englishmen. Mariah Carey owns a villa on the island.

Capri 2

Capri is a popular tourist destination for both Italians and foreigners. In summer, the island is heavily visited by tourists, especially by day trippers from Naples and Sorrento. The center of Capri is the Piazza. Piazza Umberto I, better known as the Piazzetta, is a surprisingly small little square enclosed within ancient edifices. In the past, the Piazzetta was home to a lively fish and fruit market – that was until 1938, when a young islander, Raffaele Vuotto, opened a bar and arranged a few small tables and chairs outside, where customers could relax over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. A number of his fellow citizens soon followed suit and, from that moment on, the Piazzetta became the heart of Capri’s social life, so much so that, in no time at all, the square earned itself the label of “salotto del mondo” (the world’s sitting room).

Caprisidewalkcafe

Capri is home to the Mediterranean plant, the Arboreal Euphorbia, and the Ilex Wood. The native inhabitants on the island include quails, robins, peregrine falcons, woodcocks, blackbirds, geckos, red goldfish, conger eels, sargos, grouper, mullet and the blue lizard of the Faraglioni. Capri has twelve churches and seven museums and monuments.

Capri is known for the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), a sea cave that is flooded with a brilliant blue or emerald light. It is the most visited attraction in Capri. The Grotta Azzurra was discovered in the 19th century by foreign tourists and has been a phenomenon ever since.

Capri-train

There are no cars on the main part of Capri. Capri is served by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples, Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi, as well as by boat services from the ports of the Bay of Naples and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Boats arrive in the morning and leave after lunch (3–4 pm). From Naples, the ferry takes 80 minutes and the hydrofoil 40 minutes. From Sorrento, the ferry takes about 40 minutes while the hydrofoil takes about 20 minutes. From the port, a funicular (a cable railway)transfers tourists to Capri town. From Anacapri, a city in the center of the island, a chair lift takes passengers to the top of the island.

Capri 4

Capri’s traditional cuisine is prepared using the produce grown on the island and the fish caught in the surrounding sea. Typical island recipes make liberal use of fresh fish, caciotta and mozzarella cheese, sun-ripened tomatoes, aubergine, garlic, peperoncino, olive oil and aromatic herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary.
Limoncello is a liqueur made with Capri’s organically grown lemons. The island has any number of shops selling Limoncello in every shape and size of bottle, but, for those keen to make their own, the procedure is surprisingly simple.

Pennette Aumm Aumm

Capri pasta

This typical summer dish is made with garden vegetables, fresh cheese and basil.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 14-16 oz Pennette (penne) pasta
  • 1 lb aubergines (eggplant)
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lb Mozzarella di Bufala cheese, diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Basil

Directions

Dice the aubergine and brown it in the olive oil. Remove to a separate bowl and reserve. Add the garlic to the pan and the tomatoes (sliced in two). Cook for 5 minutes on a high flame, take off the heat and add the aubergine.

Cook the pennette “al dente”, drain and toss in the tomato and aubergine sauce. Before serving: add the cheese (in small cubes), the fresh basil, mix and serve hot.

Fish cooked in crazy water – Pezzogna all’acqua pazza

Capri fish

While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who sautéed the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, the term itself most likely originated from Tuscany. While peasants would make wine, they had to give most of it to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water, brought it to a boil, then sealed it in a terracotta vase and fermented it for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza; the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil. Acqua pazza became a very popular dish with tourists on Capri Island in the 1960s.
The pezzogna fish (also known as “occhione” or “big eye” because of the size of its eyes) is caught in the Bay of Naples and is highly prized for its delicious meat and is used in a variety of dishes. In this recipe the pezzogna is cooked “all’acqua pazza” with tomatoes.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 1 pezzogna about 1 ½ to 2 lbs (in the US substitute red snapper)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Clean and season the fish with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the garlic and peperoncino in a large skillet with a cover. Add the tomatoes, fish, white wine and water. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve immediately, dressed with the cooking liquid and sprinkled with parsley.

Limoncello

limoncello_01

Ingredients

  • Four cups (1 qt) good vodka, 80 proof
  • Nine (9) small/medium sized lemons, cleaned with a pastry brush and patted dry.
  • One Jar, 1 1/2 to 2 quart size, with a lid.
  • Simple Syrup, recipe below

Directions

With a potato peeler, peel (zest) all the lemons avoiding any of the white part, as this will make the limoncello bitter.
Put the zest in the jar and add the vodka. Place the cover on the jar and give it a good shake.
Place it in a cool dry place for five (5) days and each day give it a good shake. The more it is shaken, the more flavor is released by the lemons.
At the end of five days, strain the liquid into a large bowl or jar. Squeeze and, then, discard the lemon zest. Add the simple syrup and mix well.
Transfer to decorative bottles for storage.
Keep in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Simple Syrup

Four (4) cups of water and four (4) cups of sugar.
Without stirring, bring to a boil and simmer for five to ten minutes until the liquid is clear.
Let it cool completely.

Capri Chocolate Cake

Capri cake

Ingredients

  • 5 oz almonds, chopped
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons crème de Cacao Liqueur or Strega liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions

Cream the butter with the sugar in an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Then add the almonds and finely chopped chocolate mixed with the baking powder. Add the liqueur.
Grease a 9 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
Pour in the cake batter.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 50/55 minutes. Invert the cake on a serving dish.
When cool, dust with powdered sugar.

 

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