Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Freezing Extra Summer Produce

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Freezing vegetables is a fast and easy form of preserving food, such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes and berries. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), fruits and vegetables will last in the freezer for eight to 12 months if prepared and stored properly. Vacuum-seal bags cost more than regular freezer bags, but advocates say they are worth the extra expense because they make frozen foods last even longer.

Most freezer bags are made of No. 4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is not known to leach chemicals. If you’re worried about putting hot food into plastic, however, wait until the food cools before packing it into bags. Freezer bags are ideal because they can lay flat in the freezer and not take up too much room.

Only freeze fruits and vegetables that are in excellent condition and that have been thoroughly cleaned. Some vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for a few minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled vegetables can then be packed into freezer-safe storage containers. Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and, then, put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, thus allowing you to remove a handful at a time from the container.

Blanching Vegetables

Get a blanching pot, which has a basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large pot with a lid. Boil 1 gallon of water per pound of vegetables in the pot. Lower the basket of vegetables into vigorously boiling water and cover with the lid. The water should resume boiling within 1 minute; if it doesn’t, you have too much vegetable or too little water. Start the blanching time when the water returns to a boil.

As soon as the recommended blanching time elapses, pull the vegetable basket out of the boiling water and plunge it into cold water (60°F or colder) for the same length of time as you blanched them. Drain the vegetables thoroughly after cooling—extra moisture ruins the produce in the freezer. Package in freezer containers.

Blanching Times

Vegetable Quantity (yields 1 pint) Blanching time (minutes)
Asparagus 1 to 1 1/2 lbs 2 (small), 3 (medium), 4 (large)
Beans (snap, green, wax) 3/4 to 1 lb 3
Beets 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs Until tender, then slice or dice
Broccoli 1 lb 3
Brussels sprouts 1 lb 3 (small), 4 (medium), 5 (large)
Carrots 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs 2 (sliced or diced), 5 (small whole)
Cauliflower 1 1/4 lbs 3
Corn on the cob 6 to 8 ears 7 (small), 9 (medium), 11 (large)
Eggplant 1 to 1 1/2 lbs 4
Peas (snap or snow) 2 to 2 1/2 lbs 1 1/2 (small), 2 (large)

Unblanched Freezing

This is the fastest, easiest method of freezing vegetables. It was originally thought that this method was acceptable only for chopped onions, peppers, fresh herbs or vegetables that were to be stored for less than 1 month. But I have found that many unblanched, frozen vegetables can be stored for up to twice as long and still maintain good color, flavor and texture. Try this method with onions, peppers, herbs, celery, corn in husks, cabbage, sugar snap peas, summer squash, young tender broccoli and green beans. It is the preferred method to use with berries. It can also be used with high quality fruits, especially ones you plan to use semi-thawed or baked in a dessert such as a crisp or a crumble.

1. You will need a scrubbing-brush, towels, freezer bags and a labeling pen and tape.

2. Select vegetables that are slightly immature. Wash the vegetables and drain on towels.

3. Prepare the vegetables: slice, dice, chop, Julienne or leave whole. Leave berries whole; peel and slice or chop other fruit.

4. Pack in freezer bags, expelling as much air as possible. Label with the name of the fruit or vegetable and date.

5. Freeze in a single layer in the coldest part of the freezer.

6. The best methods of cooking vegetables frozen in this manner are stir-frying and steaming.

Bell Peppers

It’s pepper season, which means that you will find plenty of peppers at the market for a very reasonable price. Buy extra and freeze them for the winter months when fresh peppers are expensive – especially the red ones.

Peppers can be frozen without blanching:

All you have to do is slice the upper fourth of each pepper off, remove the peppers’ ribs and seeds, place the gutted peppers — along with their tops — inside freezer bags, then expel the air from the bags, seal tight and place them in the freezer.

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Roasted Red Pepper Recipe

Wash red peppers and cut out any blemished spots.

Place whole peppers on a hot grill or under a hot broiler. Use tongs to turn peppers as needed until they’re blistered on all sides with brown and black patches.

Place the hot, roasted peppers in a large pot with a lid or enclose them in a paper bag. Allow them to cool. When the peppers are cool, use your hands and a table knife to remove loose pieces of skin. Cut peppers in half and remove cores.

Freeze the roasted peppers on cookie sheets and then pack into freezer-safe containers. Roasted peppers can be used for dozens of recipes.

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Stuffed Green Bell Peppers

Ingredients

  • 8 frozen whole green peppers
  • 2/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 six-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Stand the frozen peppers upright in a Dutch Oven.

Next, heat the rice in the oil in a frying pan and when the rice begins to turn brown add the garlic and onion. When both are browned, add the ground beef to the pan, break the meat into small chunks and cook until brown. Stuff each peppers about half full with the rice-onion-beef mixture.

Wipe out the pan and empty the can of tomato paste into the pan. Heat the paste until visibly darkened, stirring constantly. Add three cups of water to the pan, stir to dissolve the browned paste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the tomato sauce into and around each of the stuffed peppers so that they are filled with and standing in liquid. Put the tops back on the peppers, cover the saucepan tightly and cook over low heat until the rice is done (30 to 45 minutes).

Corn

Experts recommend blanching sweet corn before freezing it, which locks in taste, texture and nutrition. You can freeze whole, blanched ears, if you have freezer space, or cut the kernels from blanched, cooled ears and freeze only the kernels. I save some of the cobs and simmer them in water to cover and to make corn broth. Corn broth is a great base for vegetable soups and chowders.

For corn that’s ready to heat and eat in the winter, try this easy roasting method. Cut the corn kernels off a dozen or more ears. Spread the kernels out in a big baking pan, dot with 8 oz of butter cut into small pieces and add enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until piping hot, stirring every 10 minutes. After the roasted corn cools, spoon the mixture into freezer bags.

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Corn Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 small leek (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • Pinch ground nutmeg

Directions

In a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until browned but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.

Add the leek, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk and potatoes. Simmer gently until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and ladle into bowls.

Tomatoes

When it comes to tomatoes I take the easy way. I prefer to quarter and core the tomatoes and place them, uncooked, in gallon freezer bags. These tomatoes are excellent for making tomato sauce or soup. No extra work removing the skins before freezing, because after being frozen the skins slip right off after I take them out of the freezer.

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Pasta Sauce from Frozen Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon bag of frozen tomatoes (as described above), partially defrosted
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

Remove the tomato skins.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender in a large Dutch Oven., Add tomatoes and seasonings.

Heat on medium to boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

For a thicker consistency, remove the lid and raise the heat to medium and cook until more liquid evaporates. The longer this sauce simmers the better it is.

Summer Squash

Despite their profusion in the garden, summer squash — including zucchini, yellow squash and patty pans — are lightweights in the flavor department. They’re also spoil rapidly. I like to hollow out zucchini squash for stuffing and steam them before freezing. They are then ready for stuffing and baking throughout the year.

The standard procedure for freezing summer squash is to blanch half-inch slices in boiling water or steam for three minutes. However, I don’t care for them prepared this way since they get mushy when cooked after being frozen.

Another method for freezing summer squash is to slice zucchini horizontally into large, flat slices before blanching. These can be grilled or used to make roll-ups. You can also freeze grated squash to add to baked goods. Zucchini bread is excellent made with frozen, shredded zucchini.

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Freezer Zucchini Bread

Defrost the zucchini in the refrigerator overnight or if you forget just defrost it in the microwave. You may want to double the ingredients and make 2 loaves.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cups frozen shredded zucchini, defrosted 
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions

In a small bowl, beat the sugar, applesauce, oil, egg whites and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and baking soda; gradually beat into the sugar mixture. Fold in zucchini and walnuts.

Transfer to an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 loaf (12 slices).

Green Beans

You can freeze most types of snap beans, including yard-long beans. The more substantial the bean, the better they are for freezing. For example, pencil-thin green beans soften too much when blanched and frozen, but bigger, firmer green beans are fine. After blanching green beans, you can put them directly into freezer containers, or pat them dry and freeze them on a cookie sheet before placing them in freezer bags.

When cooking thawed green beans, use a “dry” cooking method, such as braising them in a little butter or olive oil, instead of cooking them in boiling water.

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Baked Parmesan Frozen Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen whole green beans
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and spray with olive oil cooking spray.

Place the bag of green beans in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or until just thawed (or you could leave them out at room temperature for a few hours).

Place the beans on the prepared baking pan, making sure they are evenly spread out and none are laying on top of each other.

Sprinkle seasonings and Parmesan cheese evenly over green beans.

Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

 

Garden Fresh Dinners

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Take a trip to your local farmers’ market and check out all the fresh fruits and vegetables it has to offer. You will quickly see all the possibilities that you can make for dinner. In fact, I have to stop myself from buying more than I can cook in a week – it all looks so good. Here are some easy dinner suggestions to use up what you bring home from the market.

Dinner 1

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Grilled Chicken With Fresh Basil Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 25-30 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken cutlets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates

Chop basil (will yield about 6 tablespoons) and tomatoes coarsely.

Place tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the basil in food processor (or blender); process and set aside.

Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Combine in a shallow bowl: 1 tablespoon of the oil, 2 teaspoons of the garlic and remaining 4 tablespoons of basil. Add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Marinate 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Place chicken on the grill and discard any remaining marinade. Close the lid and grill for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to accurately ensure doneness.

To the processed tomato-basil mixture add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar and remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse 2-3 times or until just blended.

Serve sauce with the chicken.

Couscous with Peas, Lemon and Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain couscous
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup cooked fresh peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Stir in the broth and lemon zest. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the couscous and peas and remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fold the parsley and lemon juice into the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Dinner 2

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Garden Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup small onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable broth or two 14.5-ounce cans vegetable or chicken broth
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shelled peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add fennel and onions; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.

Add green beans and carrots; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, undrained tomatoes, wine and Italian seasoning.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes. Add peas and simmer about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve in individual soup bowls.

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Corn and Ricotta Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears fresh corn-on-the-cob, kernels removed from the cob
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup self-rising unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

Directions

In a medium-sized bowl, combine corn, basil, ricotta, eggs, flour and a pinch of black pepper.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.

Carefully add spoonfuls of the corn mixture to the hot pan.

Cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove cakes to a serving platter when they finish cooking.

Season with Kosher salt.

Serve with low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt on the side, if desired.

Dinner 3

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Grilled Lamb Chops with Vegetable Bulgur

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup Bulgar wheat
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 lamb loin chops, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning, divided
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups small spinach leaves 
  • One 7 ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and coarsely chopped

Directions

In a medium saucepan combine broth, bulgur and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Stir 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning, the spinach and roasted peppers into the bulgur mixture. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Turn off one side of the grill for indirect cooking.

Trim fat from the meat. Brush the chops with olive oil and sprinkle the meat with 1 teaspoon of the lemon-pepper seasoning.

Start the lamb on the indirect side of the grill. When the meat reaches 110°F for medium-rare on an instant read meat thermometer, moved the chops to the hot side of the grill.

They’ll quickly sear and come up to the desired temperature of 120°—130°F. Let them rest for 10 minutes off the grill on a platter before serving.

To serve: Divide bulgur mixture among 4 dinner plates. Top each with a grilled lamb chop.

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Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 3 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt  
  • 1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions

Halve cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick pieces.

Place the cucumber slices in a colander set over a bowl and toss with the salt; let stand 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, dill, vinegar and pepper.

Remove cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Add to the bowl with the yogurt dressing; toss to combine and serve with the grilled lamb chops.

Dinner 4

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Pasta with Shrimp and Seasonal Vegetables

Bread sticks would be great with this dinner.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium wild caught shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil,  divided
  • 8 ounces fresh, small, thin green beans, trimmed
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz linguine pasta

Directions

Cook the pasta according to directions for al dente. Drain.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and Italian seasoning to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more. Add the cooked pasta and the sauce. Toss gently and serve.

Dinner 5

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Grilled Sweet Potato Packets

Ingredients

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (24 x 12-inch) sheet nonstick aluminum foil
  • Half of a 10 oz bag of frozen sweet potato fries (such as Alexia brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Turn off one of the burners for indirect cooking.

Place peppers and onions in the center of the foil sheet. Top with the sweet potatoes, seasoned salt, pepper and cheese.

Bring up foil sides; double-fold the top and the ends to seal the package.

Place on the grill (seam side up) over indirect heat; grill 30 minutes or until the fries are hot and the cheese is melted.

Grilled Steak with Artichoke Topping

Ingredients

  • 1 (7.5-oz) jar marinated artichokes, undrained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine artichokes, onions and garlic in a small skillet. Heat on low and, then, keep warm until the steaks are cooked.

About 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, plan on cooking the steaks on the direct side of the grill.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the direct side of the grill and cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 3-4 minutes more minutes or until the temperature of the meat reaches 125°F on an instant read meat thermometer for medium rare.

Remove steaks from the grill and place them on a serving platter. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and top with the warm artichoke mixture.

Father’s Day Dinner From The Grill

fathersdaycover It’s great that Father’s Day falls during the month of June – that’s grilling season. Most dads love it when dinner comes off the grill. What is even better for the person cooking the meal is that most of the dinner can be made on the grill. Easy clean-up. Give Dad the day off and let someone else tend the BBQ. Even though it is a special day that calls for special foods, I like to keep things somewhat on the healthy side and prepare foods with Mediterranean flavors. Don’t forget the wine. A Riesling or a fruity Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect for the appetizer. For the main course, a light red, such as Zinfandel or Syrah would be ideal for the BBQ chicken.

Appetizer

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Herbed Shrimp Kabobs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon white champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for the grill
  • 24 peeled and deveined medium shrimp (about 1 pound)
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 24 small wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Directions Preheat the grill to medium high. Combine basil, parsley, vinegar, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a blender and puree. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Thread one tomato and one shrimp on each skewer. Place skewers on a grill rack coated with oil and grill 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until the shrimp turn pink. Place the skewers on a large serving platter and brush the grilled shrimp on both sides with the herb sauce. Serve immediately.

Main Course

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Spicy Grilled Chicken Thighs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried crumbled sage
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs

Directions Coat the grill rack or grill pan with oil; heat for direct, medium-high cooking. Combine sage, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl; dredge chicken on all sides in the mixture. Grill until browned and well marked on the undersides, about 10 minutes. Turn and cook until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the center reads 165 degrees. Move to a serving platter, cover with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Serves 6-8 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 medium red cabbage (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 2 large carrots grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Directions In a large bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, carrots and chives. Toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 45 minutes before serving. fathersday4

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter

6 servings Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ears corn, husked

Directions Prepare grill for direct-heat grilling. Thoroughly combine the softened butter, basil, parsley, lime juice, zest and salt in a small bowl. Place each corn ear on a sheet of foil large enough to enclose the corn. Brush each ear with the herb butter on all sides. Roll the corn in the foil and secure the ends tightly. Grill over direct heat, turning occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until corn kernels are just tender when pierced with a fork. fathersday1

Grilled Zucchini Salad

This dish can be cooked first and set aside while the remaining foods are grilled. Ingredients Serves 6 Ingredients

  • 2 pounds medium zucchini (about 6), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and grill until tender, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cut the zucchini into 1-inch pieces and toss in a large bowl with the scallions, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, oregano, the remaining tablespoon of oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Serve at room temperature.

Dessert

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Grilled Peaches with Cherry Wine Sauce

6 servings Ingredients For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons. Kirsch (cherry liqueur)

For the peaches:

  • 6 medium peaches
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons. brown sugar
  • Vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint garnish, optional

Directions To make the cherry sauce: In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the pitted cherries, sugar, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until completely smooth. Return the mixture to the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the Kirsch. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. To make the grilled peaches Cut the peaches in half and remove and discard the pits. Place the halves in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Coat the peaches with the butter mixture. Grill the peaches over direct medium heat on an oiled grill until grill marks are clearly visible and the peaches are soft, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once halfway through the grilling time. To serve: While the peaches are still warm, layer each serving dish with 2 peach halves, 1 scoop of frozen yogurt and 2 tablespoons of cherry sauce. Garnish with mint, if desired and serve immediately.

Have Lots of Basil?

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I always grow way too much basil. As soon as the weather is hot, these plants grow like weeds. I don’t like to see the leaves turn brown and wither, so I am constantly thinking of ways to use this wonderful scented herb. Of course, there is always basil pesto in my refrigerator or freezer, of which I make plenty. It is wonderful in the winter on spaghetti. But just using basil for pesto all summer gets boring.

Basil is the perfect complement to tomatoes, olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, cheese and summer vegetables. Serve it slivered over thick tomato slices with a drizzle of olive oil or serve it sandwiched between thick slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh tomato with a sprinkling of pine nuts, capers and a drizzle of olive oil.

Here are some of the ways I try to make use of this flavorful herb.

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Fresh Tomato and Basil Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Serve this light dressing over a fresh green salad with a slice of warm garlic bread on the side.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Appetizer

:6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) watermelon, cut into 32 (1 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 32 small basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 (6-inch) skewers

Directions

Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Starting with the watermelon squares, push the watermelon to the very tip of the skewer, then skewer a basil leaf; then a tomato half. Continue with another watermelon, basil leaf and tomato half. Place the skewer on a serving platter so it stands upright, using the lowest watermelon square as a base. Continue with the remaining skewers.

Drizzle the skewers with the reserved balsamic syrup and the olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve.

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Chilled Basil Melon Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives, and Fresh MozzarellaSpaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6), chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes with the mozzarella, basil, olives, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, add to the tomato mixture and toss.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour the oil over the pasta and toss again. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

basil8

Brown Rice Salad

This salad makes an excellent side to grilled fish or meat.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked long-grained brown rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seedless cucumber
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup frozen and thawed peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake vigorously. 

Put the cooked rice and vegetables into a large serving bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

basil7

Steak with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 to 6

You’ll have some salsa verde left over, so enjoy it on chicken, fish or vegetables as well as the beef in this recipe. This is a sauce you will want to have on hand, so I would even double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 anchovy fillet, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
  • 5 cups baby field greens

Directions

In a food processor, purée the parsley, basil, garlic, capers and the anchovy fillet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, pulsing until completely combined. Add lime juice and pepper. Process until blended and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. The anchovy will contribute salt, so additional salt may not be needed. Set sauce aside.

Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill, broil or pan fry to your liking. Slice it thinly and drizzle with salsa verde. Serve over greens.

basil6

Lemon Basil Sherbet

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Juice of 3 lemons, chilled
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Directions

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled.

Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed.

Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze the sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.

 

Summertime Pizza

summerpizzacover

Pizza is a very adaptable dish that works with any seasonal ingredients.

In winter, I usually make a pizza sauce that is similar to my pasta sauce for our Friday night pizza. In the summer, however, I like to take advantage of being able to use fresh tomatoes and other fresh vegetables on my pizzas. Our favorite summer pizza is a simple one topped with sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, basil pesto and mozzarella cheese.

The best tasting pizza crust is made the day before you want to use it. Here is an easy no-knead recipe that is adaptable to any shape or even for grilling.

No-Knead Pizza Dough

Makes two 16-inch pizza crusts

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (such as SAF brand)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups water

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot.

The next day, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and divide the dough into 2 pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough balls with it. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.

Stretch the dough to the edges of the pizza pan or roll the dough into the desired shape.

summerpizza

Farmers’ Market Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh pizza dough, at room temperature, see recipe above
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Position an oven rack in the next to lowest setting.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the pan and then the onion and thyme; cook for 3 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally.

Add bell pepper and garlic to the pan; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn, salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Lightly coat a 16 inch pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with a little semolina flour or cornmeal. Press dough to the edges of the pan.

Arrange mozzarella slices evenly over the dough. Spread the corn mixture evenly over the cheese and top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Bake 15 minutes. Arrange tomatoes evenly over the pizza; bake an additional 5 minutes or until the crust is browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil. Slice into 8 pieces.

summerpizza1

Summer Squash Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh pizza dough, at room temperature, recipe above
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place pizza dough on an oiled baking pan and stretch dough to form an oblong crust, about 15 inches long and 11 inches wide.

Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Sprinkle with garlic and dot with feta cheese.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel wide, thin strips of squash and place them on the pizza; stop when most of the pizza is covered (do not put too much squash on the pizza or the crust will become soggy).

Bake until the crust is browned and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the baked pizza with oregano leaves and coarse salt. Cut into squares and serve.

summerpizza2

Salad Pizza 

Ingredients

  • 7 cups mixed lettuces (red leaf, leaf, radicchio) or mesclun
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 5 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and cubed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh pizza dough, at room temperature, recipe above
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Optional Garnishes: prosciutto, roasted red peppers, olives, anchovies

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuces, onion and tomatoes. Set aside or prep several hours ahead and refrigerate.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Lightly coat a 16 inch pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with a little semolina flour or cornmeal. Press dough to the edges of the pan.

Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the crust up to the border and return the pizza to the oven just until the cheese begins to melt.

Allow the pizza to cool for 10 minutes.

Toss the salad with the dressing. Cut the pizza into wedges. Serve a wedge on a large plate. Top with salad and sprinkle the greens with grated Parmesan.

Top the pizza with any of the other optional garnishes and serve.

summerpizza4

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh pizza dough, at room temperature, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pizza pan
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Combine olive oil and the sliced garlic in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the spinach and sauté 1-2 minutes or just until the spinach wilts.

Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

Combine ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses in a mixing bowl.

Lightly coat a 16 inch pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with a little semolina flour or cornmeal. Press dough to the edges of the pan.

Spread the combined cheese mixture over the crust and evenly distribute the spinach over the cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly brown.

summerpizza5

Pizza with Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 1 pound pizza dough at room temperature, see recipe above
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Cut tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and let them rest on paper towels for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly coat a 16 inch pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with a little semolina flour or cornmeal. Press dough to the edges of the pan.

Arrange mozzarella slices evenly over the dough.

Spread pesto over the cheese and arrange the tomato slices over the pesto.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Cheesy Appetizers

cheesecover

Whether it be a simple wedge of aged cheddar paired with apples or something more elaborate, cheese is the perfect appetizer. It is my go to ingredient for making appetizers for simple get-togethers or important celebrations. You can create a cheese board with fruit and meats for a group or you can use cheese to make an appetizer for a few guests. They all work and guests are always pleased.

Cheese falls into three main types:

Soft Ripened

The term “soft-ripened” describes those that are ripened from the outside in and they are very soft and even runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened cheeses have a white rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is usually edible and these cheeses are easy to spread on crackers or fruit. Examples include Brie, Camembert and Triple Crèmes.

Semi-Soft

“Semi-soft” describes selections that have a smooth, creamy interior with little or no rind. These are generally high in moisture content and range from very mild in flavor to very pungent. Examples include Blue, Colby, Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack.

Blue cheese has a distinctive blue/green veining created when the penicillium roqueforti mold, added during the cheese-making process, is exposed to air. This mold provides a distinct flavor, ranging from fairly mild to strong and pungent. Common examples are French Roquefort, Italian Gorgonzola and Danish Blue.

Hard Cheese

This is a very broad category. Profiles range from very mild to sharp and pungent. They generally have a texture that ranges from elastic at room temperature to hard enough to be grated. This category includes Gouda, Cheddar, Dry Jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler), Gruyere and Parmesan.

Try some of these easy to make appetizers for your next party.

cheese5

Tomato-Basil Skewers

16 skewers

Ingredients

  • 16 small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, a variety of colors if you can find them, cut in half
  • White balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Thread mozzarella, basil and tomatoes on small bamboo or wooden skewers.

Arrange on a serving platter.

Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, the white balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper just before serving.

cheese2

Parmesan Artichoke Spread

Lower calorie versions of cream cheese and sour cream work well in this recipe.

20 servings

Ingredients

  • One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini (pickled Italian peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 20 toasted baguette slices (1/4 inch thick)

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Stir in chopped artichoke hearts, olives, peppers, parsley and lemon peel. Chill until serving time.

Serve on the toasted baguette slices.

cheese1

Gorgonzola and Pear Tart

Cut this tart up into small pieces for an elegant appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (8.6 oz.), defrosted over night in the refrigerator and at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack set on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Lay dough flat on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke holes all over the dough with a fork, leaving the outer inch untouched.

Bake until the dough starts to puff, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together the egg and Gorgonzola cheese until smooth and spread over the baked dough, using a spoon to move mixture toward the edges of the pastry.

Sauté onion in oil in a small frying pan until softened. Scatter onion and pear over the cheese layer.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the egg is cooked, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and cut into small serving squares. Arrange on an attractive serving platter.

cheese4

Steak and Cheese Rolls

16 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 16 thin slices of grilled, very tender steak, such as filet mignon (about 8 ounces) or deli roasted beef slices, not cut too thin
  • 16 tablespoons light Boursin cheese 
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced red and yellow bell peppers

Directions

Spread each slice of steak with 1 tablespoon of the cheese and top each with an even amount of bell pepper slices.

Roll the steak around the bell pepper slices. Secure with a toothpick and arrange on a serving platter.

cheese3

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Bites

24 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 24 small wonton wrappers
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise made with olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar is fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Place 1 wonton wrapper in each of 24 mini muffin pan cups sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, with the edges of the wontons extending over the top of the muffin cup.

Bake for 5 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Spoon the spinach artichoke mixture evenly in each wonton cup.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the edges of the wontons are golden brown. Remove to a serving platter.

cheese6

Mascarpone Apricots with Pistachios

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Crushed seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 ounces dried whole apricots (the soft, ready-to-eat kind)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the crushed cardamom seeds, lemon juice and apricots. Let the apricots simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until they puff up. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots to a baking sheet or large plate; let the apricots cool.

Finely chop the pistachios and place in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Using a small, sharp knife cut a pocket in each apricot (they will already have a small hole from where the stone was removed, so just make it larger).

Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, stuff each apricot with some mascarpone cheese. Dip the stuffed apricots, cheese side down, in the chopped pistachios.

Arrange on a platter and refrigerate until serving time. Bring to room temperature before serving.

cheesecover1

 

Need Some New Dinner Ideas?

dinnerideacover

Are you bored from eating the same things for dinner week after week? One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before or use your favorites in a new way. Add different seasonings and herbs to change your old recipes. Try new combinations of ingredients. Hopefully, the recipes below will inspire you.

dinneridea1

Mediterranean-Style Snapper

Serve this entrée with cooked orzo pasta or couscous and sautéed green beans.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small cloves garlic
  • Half of a 6 1/2 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted mixed green olives
  • Four 5 ounce red snapper fillets with skin or other firm-flesh white fish
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • 8 whole Pepperoncini (Italian pickled peppers)

Directions

Peel the garlic cloves and with the side of a wide knife smash garlic.

Drain 2 tablespoons of oil from the sun dried tomatoes and heat the oil in extra-large skillet.

Add sun dried tomatoes, olives and garlic to the hot oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until garlic is golden. Use a slotted spoon to the remove the tomato-olive mixture. Leave the oil in the skillet to cook the fish. Set aside the tomato-olive mixture.

Rinse and pat fish dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Cook fish, skin side down, in the hot oil 5 minutes for each 1/2 inch thickness of fish or until the skin is golden and crisp and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking. Remove skin, if desired.

To serve, top fish with tomato-olive mixture, cheese, chopped fresh oregano and pepperoncini.

dinnerideas2

Spicy Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes

Cook the sweet potatoes and onions in a foil packet alongside the steak on the grill. Serve with steamed fresh spinach.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces sirloin, rib-eye or strip steak, trimmed and cut into 2 portions
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat grill to high and oil the grates.

Combine allspice, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon, coriander and cayenne in a medium bowl. Remove 2 1/4 teaspoons for the steak.

Sprinkle the steaks with 2 1/4 teaspoons of the spice mixture.

Add the sliced sweet potato and onion to the bowl with the remaining spice mixture along with the oil and orange zest; toss to coat.

Place two 24-inch sheets of foil on top of each other (the double layers will help protect the ingredients from burning). Generously coat the top piece with cooking spray.

Spread the sweet potato mixture in the center of the foil in a thin layer. Bring the short ends of foil together, fold over and pinch to seal. Pinch the seams together along the sides to seal the packet.

Place the packet on one side of the grill and cook, turning once, about 6 minutes per side.

Cook the steaks on the other side of the grill, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to serving plates and let rest while the foil packets finish cooking.

Open the packets (be careful of steam) and serve alongside the steaks with steamed spinach.

dinneridea3

Linguine with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Herbs

Serve this dish with a mixed green salad and crusty Italian bread.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 3 young, thin zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with the basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili and olive oil.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente; drain well.

Add the linguine to the bowl with the tomato mixture along with the sliced zucchini and toss.

Add the 1/4 cup of grated cheese, toss again and serve in pasta bowls, passing more cheese at the table.

dinneridea6

Lemony Chicken with Cucumber Salad

Serve this dish with warm pita bread

2 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 medium tomatoes; chopped
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the salad

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey and dill in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Toss gently, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes or up to a day.

For the chicken:

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use the back of a small spoon to press garlic and dill into the other ingredients.

Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag or small rimmed dish and add the chicken. Marinate 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium frying pan (with lid) over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Turn, reduce heat to low, then cover the pan with the lid. Cook 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F (74C) when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Rest 5 minutes. Serve alongside the salad.

dinneridea4

Grilled Pork Kabobs

Serve this dish with your favorite coleslaw or use the recipe below.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Heat a gas or charcoal grill and oil the grill grates.

In a 1-quart saucepan, heat marmalade, rosemary and salt to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; set aside.

In a 1-quart microwavable bowl, place sweet potato pieces and water. Cover loosely with a microwavable paper towel. Microwave on High 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once, just until potatoes are tender (do not overcook). Drain sweet potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.

On each of eight 12 inch long metal skewers, carefully thread pork, sweet potatoes and zucchini, leaving 1/4-inch space between each piece.

Grill kabobs over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until the until pork is cooked., turning once and brushing with the marmalade glaze during the last 3 minutes.

dinneridea5

Easy Healthy Coleslaw

This coleslaw is very refreshing with BBQ foods. It keeps well, covered in the refrigerator and should be made several hours in advance to allow the flavors to develop and the cabbage to soften.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 ounce bag (about 6¼ cups) of supermarket shredded cabbage and carrot slaw

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, combine Greek yogurt, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Place slaw in a large bowl and pour the dressing mixture over the top. Stir to coat cabbage thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


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