Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Italian Regional Cooking – Veneto

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Veneto includes the eastern part of the Po Valley and, to the north, a part of the Dolomites. Venice ruled for centuries over one of the largest and richest maritime republics and trade empires in the world. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it was ceded to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence. Besides Italian, most inhabitants also speak Venetian. Veneto is, today, one of the greatest immigrant-receiving regions in the country, the most recent of whom are Romanian, Moroccan and Albanian.

The regional capital is Venice. Other important cities are: Verona, Padua, Vicenza, Treviso, Rovigo and Belluno.

Treviso Piazza

Treviso Piazza

Numerous and important Roman traces can be found in this region: the best known example is the Arena of Verona. In the area around Venice, Byzantine influences are visible (St. Mark and the Cathedral of Torcello) and there are many outstanding examples of Romanesque and Gothic art. The Renaissance palaces are still numerous. In Venice, the Academy Galleries house the major collections of Venetian paintings from the years 1300 to 1700; while the Guggenheim collection exhibits international works of contemporary art, as does the National Gallery of Modern Art.  The Correr Museum is reserved for the Renaissance masterpieces.

Venice Canals

Venice Canals

In Verona, the Civic Museum of Art, is devoted to Verona painters. Padua has the famous Scrovegni Chapel with its Giotto’s frescoes, the Civic Museum and the Botanic Garden, the oldest in Europe. In Treviso, there is the Museum of the Casa Trevigiana with its modern furniture and sculptures.

Take a tour of Veneto via the video below.

Cuisine is a very integral part of the culture of Veneto and the region is home to some of the most recognizable dishes, desserts and wines in Italian, European and World cuisine.

Veneto is an important wine-growing area and produces: Soave, Bardolino, Recioto, Amarone, Torcolato, Prosecco, Tocai Rosso, Garganega, Valpolicella, Verduzzo, Raboso, Moscato, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Nero, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot varietals. Homemade wine making is widespread. After making wine, the alcohol of the pressed grapes is distilled to produce grappa or graspa, as it is called in the local language.

Veneto Vineyards

Veneto Vineyards

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine. It is made from a variety of white grapes of the same name, which is traditionally grown in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The name, Prosecco, is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco, where this grape variety is believed to have originated. Around the holidays, I like to make pre-dinner drinks with Prosecco and different fruit flavors. My family looks forward to this special drink.

Spritz, in the Venetian language also called “spriss” or “spriseto” depending on the area, usually consists of 1/3 sparkling wine and 2/3 Aperol. Campari or gin may also be used.

The cheeses of Veneto include: Asiago (PDO), Piave (PDO), Monte Veronese (PDO), Morlacco and Grana Padano (PDO). The sopressa vicentina (PDO) is an aged salami, cylindrical in shape and prepared with raw, quality pork meat. It may or may not include garlic in its ingredients and comes in medium and large sizes. Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (PDO) is obtained from the fresh meat of a top breed of adult hogs. The aroma is delicate, sweet and fragrant.

Treviso Radicchio

Treviso Radicchio

Radicchio rosso di Treviso (PGI) is a vegetable with a faintly bitter taste and a crunchy texture. The production area encompasses many town districts in the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice. The radicchio, Variegata di Castelfranco (PGI, has a delicate and slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. Veronese Vialone Nano Rice from Verona (PGI) is a type of rice with short, plump grains, which have a creamy consistency when cooked. They are commonly used in risotto dishes and have a high starch content. The Bean of Lamon (PGI) is particularly prized for its delicate flavor and extremely tender skin. The White Asparagus of Cimadolmo (PGI) has a characteristic scent and a very delicate taste. The White Asparagus of Bassano is a typical product of the northern part of the province of Vicenza. The San Zeno di Montagna (Verona) chestnut has Protected Geographical Status.

Tiramisù (a dessert made from mascarpone, coffee, Marsala wine, savoiardi and chocolate) originates from Veneto. Veneto is also home to a golden sweet bread, called Pandoro. This bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipe. Scalete, Pàndolo and Baicoli are all traditional sweets of the city.

Venetian Specialties

Veneto

Fritto Misto di Mare

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The Italian phrase “fritto misto” roughly translates as “mixed fry,” and it encompasses all sorts of fried foods: meats such as sweetbreads, vegetables and even desserts. But in Venice the term almost always applies to the city’s famous frutti di mare—fruits of the sea. The chefs of Venice’s restaurants and cafés feel that frying is one of the best ways to showcase the impeccably fresh fish and seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

In Italy, fritto misto is nearly always served as a first course. In Veneto, bite-size pieces of fish, fried and served with a squirt of lemon juice are a very popular antipasto. A  Venetian fritto is rarely vegetarian, given the city’s available fish. Consequently, you can sample all manner of fresh tiny fish, miniature soft-shell crabs, shrimp and many more. Natives stop by a trattoria at sunset for a plateful; then stroll for a while before dinner.

To serve 6, you will need about 4 pounds of fish. Here are some suggestions: fresh sardines, anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, shrimp and other assorted shellfish, tiny whiting, sole or whatever else you would like to include.

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup seltzer or club soda

For Dredging:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Fritto Misto:

  • 4 cups vegetable oil, or a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, cut in 1/2 ­inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, steamed and shucked
  • 1 pound smelts or sardines
  • Sea salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper for garnish, optional
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Make the batter: Put the flour and salt in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the wine to obtain a smooth, lump free mixture. Rest 30 minutes. Add seltzer just before frying.

Near the stove, put the seasoned dredging flour in a shallow bowl. Place the finished batter next to it and an empty plate next to that. Put fish and other ingredients for frying and a paper towel lined baking sheet nearby.

Put oil in a large wide, deep pot and fasten a candy thermometer to the side. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Working in small batches, dip a few pieces of fish, first into the seasoned flour to coat lightly, then into the batter. Put battered pieces on the empty plate.

Slip a few pieces into the hot oil and fry 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Remove with tongs or a wire spider and drain on the paper towel ­lined baking sheet. Hold the fried food in a warm oven while continuing to fry additional fish. Make sure to regulate the heat below the pan to keep oil at the correct temperature (adding too many pieces to the oil will cause it to cool.)

Remove pieces of batter from the oil between batches with a fine meshed skimmer.

As soon as you have enough to serve, pile it onto a warmed platter. Sprinkle with sea salt (and crushed red pepper, if desired). Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Continue to fry in small batches until all the fish is used. (Recipe adapted from the New York Times.)

Crespelle with Treviso Radicchio

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The delicate flavor of the béchamel contrasts with the bitter taste of the radicchio, making a balanced and delicious dish.

4 Servings

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 4 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 oz butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling

  • 1 ¾ lb radicchio from Treviso
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • White wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 oz diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Prepare the crepes:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. Then remove it from the heat and let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing the pan and add the remainder to the bowl where you will mix the crepe batter.

Add the flour, eggs and a pinch of salt in  the bowl with the melted butter. Whisk together until you have a smooth, fairly dense batter. Add the milk, slowly, while whisking. You should have a smooth batter without lumps. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan or crepe griddle. Once hot, brush the pan with the reserved melted butter. Use a ladle to add enough batter to cover the entire pan. Try to make the thickness even across the pan.

When the crepe begins to separate itself from the pan, flip the crepe quickly using a spatula and cook the other side. Once you have cooked both sides, place the crepe on a kitchen towel or on paper towels. Continue making crepes until you have finished the batter. Let cool slightly before filling.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:

Put a fairly large pot over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Be careful not to burn or brown it.

Sift the flour and add it to the butter with the salt. Mix using a whisk to make a smooth, uniform mixture, known as a roux. Continue cooking the roux until it is slightly golden, while whisking.

Add the milk and broth to the roux, a little at a time, and mix with a whisk. Be careful not to let any lumps form. Bring the sauce to a boil and continue cooking to thicken it. Remove the pot from the heat.

Prepare the filling:

In the meantime, wash and cut the radicchio into very small pieces. Add the oil to a sauté pan and heat.

Once hot, add the radicchio, salt, pepper, garlic and a little bit of white wine. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Then add the egg yolks, Fontina cheese and the sautéed radicchio.

Assemble for baking:

Place a layer of crepes in a baking dish and cover with some of the radicchio sauce; repeat the layers ending with a layer of crepes. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.

Marinated Grilled Tuna with Anchovy Sauce

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This is an old Venetian recipe for grilled tuna.

Tuna Ingredients

  • 6 slices fresh tuna steaks, about 3/8 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for basting
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges

Anchovy Sauce Ingredients – Makes 1/4 cup

  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions for the tuna:

Place the tuna steaks in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan and add the olive oil, white wine, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours, turning once. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high. You may also use a stovetop grill pan.

Remove the tuna from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, basting with olive oil and turning only once, until deep black grid marks appear, about 3 1/2 minutes on each side.

Directions for the anchovy sauce:

In a mortar, pound the anchovy fillets, garlic and parsley with a pestle until a pest . Slowly pound in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the grilled tuna and serve with additional lemon wedges.

Zalti (Cornmeal, Pine Nut and Raisin Cookies)

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Zaleti” means “little yellow things” in the Veneto dialect. Zaleti are a traditional cookie from the Veneto region. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling, aromatic wine like Prosecco della Valdobbiadene.

Zaleti, a rustic type of cookie once served only during the Carnival season, are now available year round. Like all rustic, farmhouse recipes, zaleti can be prepared in many ways. Each home cook had her own recipe and would prepare the cookies using the ingredients she had available. The peculiar characteristic of these cookies is their yellow color, which comes from the corn flour – an ingredient present in all of the farmhouses in centuries past – that is used in the batter. Carlo Goldoni mentions the cookies in his 1749 book “La Buona Moglie”.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb cornmeal
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
    5 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz raisins, soaked in warm water
  • 2 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Lemon zest, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder together.

With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the drained raisins, pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3.2 inches long. Place them onto a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minute. The baking time can vary according to the size of the “zaleti”.

Winter Comfort Food – A Hot Italian Style Sandwich

 

hotsandwiches

Winter is the time of year when we crave warm, home-cooked food. We love getting cozy with a variety of winter comfort food recipes, from mashed potatoes and gratins to mac n’ cheese.

Comforting or not, though, those classics are typically loaded with butter, milk, heavy cream and refined carbohydrates, piling on pounds that can stick around long past the winter thaw. But you don’t have to give up on comfort food just yet.

Hot and hearty sandwiches are the best of all worlds on chilly days: filling, warming and easy to eat. They can be delicious, yet healthy. Whether you grab a bite as you’re rushing around or fix yourself a dinner plate, the following Italian sandwich recipes will give you comfort.

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Tuna Panini

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Mozzarella or Fontina cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sliced bread and butter pickles, optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a panini press or griddle.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on the bottoms and add a few pickles slices, if desired.

Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter.

Place the sandwiches in the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

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Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 crusty rolls, such as ciabatta, sourdough or hero, split horizontally
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2  pounds thin chicken cutlets
  • Directions

Heat a stove top grill pan.

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

Brush the, chicken, tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of 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 Remove to a plate.

Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and grill them, 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.

"Party Primer" August 09

Sausage-and-Pepper Heros

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 pound red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Italian chicken sausages, about 5 ounces each
  • 3 long hero rolls, split lengthwise

Directions

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet and add the oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened and just beginning to brown, 6 minutes. Place the vegetables in a heatproof bowl, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while you cook the sausages.

Prick the sausages with a knife and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausages to the vegetables and keep warm.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler. Fill the rolls with the sausages and peppers, cut each one in half and serve.

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Eggplant Parm Sandwiches

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the baking pan
  • Salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2-pounds of eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 4 long hero rolls, cut in half and split lengthwise

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes with their juices, garlic and the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the sauce with salt. Set aside.

Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.

Put the eggs and bread crumbs in 2 separate shallow bowls. Working with 1 slice of eggplant at a time, dip the slice in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then coat with the bread crumbs. Place the slice of eggplant on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. You may need a third baking sheet.

Bake the eggplant slices until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Lightly oil a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a single layer of eggplant. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with a few mozzarella slices and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the parmesan. Tear one-third of the basil leaves and place over the cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients for a total of 4 layers, ending with a layer of eggplant and a thick layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top.

Wrap the entire pan in foil and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 1 hour, until heated through.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Remove the foil from the top of the pan and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned on top.

Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.

Cut wedges of eggplant to fit the rolls and serve.

FOOD WINE PULLED PORK SANDWICH POMPANELLA FENNEL SALAD

Pepper Pork and Fennel Sandwiches

Aleppo chili pepper comes from Syrian town of Aleppo, just east of the Turkish border. These red chilies are also known in the Mediterranean region as halaby peppers. Moderately hot, the crushed, dried peppers are celebrated for their rich, fruity flavor that’s sometimes described as a cross between cumin and cayenne. It has a moderate heat level with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Aleppo pepper offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red pepper flakes.

6 servings

Ingredients

Pork

  • 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Sandwiches

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 4 cups (packed) arugula
  • 6 toasted ciabatta rolls, split, for serving

Directions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered in the pan, for 10 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board.

Combine the pan juices with the reserved juices in a microwave safe bowl.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Reheat the juices in the microwave or in a pan.

Shred the meat and toss with the hot pan juices.

Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.

Cook An Umbrian Inspired Winter Dinner For 4

Umbrian dinner

Umbria is a region of both historic and modern central Italy. It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and influence on Italian culture. The region is characterized by hills and historical towns such as Assisi, Norcia and Orvieto. Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south.

Despite being landlocked and somewhat economically depressed — or perhaps because of these things — Umbria is the quintessential embodiment of all things Italian. This is certainly true of its cuisine, which emphasizes the virtues of Italian cooking: simplicity, tradition and respect for fresh, local ingredients. Any list of the products for which Umbria is famous would include farro, a grain; prosciutto and other pork or wild boar products from the town of Norcia and the well-known black truffle.

Umbrian pigs live on the land and eat acorns and chestnuts that give the meat its characteristic flavor and texture. Umbrians take special pride in how their pigs are raised and treated, especially in the mountainous area of Norcia. Over the centuries, the word norcino, or person from Norcia, became synonymous with butcher. The most important cured meat in Umbria is, without a doubt, Prosciutto di Norcia IGP, followed by pork sausages and mazzafegati, a pork and liver sausage that can be traced back to Renaissance tables.

The best of Umbria’s cheeses are mature pecorino sheep’s cheese and fresh or ripe goat’s milk cheese. The lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia are utilized for soups, main courses and side dishes. Everything is seasoned with the golden and fruity olive oil produced in this region. Umbrian oil of high quality is awarded with a PDO quality mark (Protected Designation of Origin).

Umbria is particularly suitable for wine growing and its mild climate gives this land top-quality white and red wines, including among the many well-known labels, Assisi Grechetto and Sagrantino di Montefalco. The wines of Montefalco have an interesting history, having been identified as important local products. In the 1400s, a city council made it illegal for people who owned grapevines in the area to neglect them and the fruits they produced. As a result, Montefalco wines are some of Italy’s finest wines. Each year, around Easter, the town holds a wine festival celebrating the fruits of its winemaking labors.

Pretend you are in Umbria this weekend and make this dinner for your friends:

Umbrian dinner 1

Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 5 oz. baby arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine water and raisins in a bowl; let sit 20 minutes and drain. Toss lemon juice with the pears in a bowl. Arrange arugula on four separate salad plates; season with salt and pepper.

Top each plate with some of the pears and shave pecorino over the top of each salad; sprinkle with raisins and the pine nuts.

Whisk balsamic, salt and pepper in a bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified; drizzle dressing over each salad plate.

Umbrian dinner3

Tagliatelle with Goose Ragù (Tagliatelle al Ragù d’Oca)

If goose is difficult to find, you can certainly substitute duck.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 oz boneless, skinless goose breast, diced
  • 3 oz goose liver, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • 3/4 tablespoon minced sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14 ­oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb fresh tagliatelle pasta
  • Grated parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium ­high. Cook goose breast until browned, 5–7 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Cook liver until browned, 4–6 minutes; transfer to bowl with the breast.

Add remaining oil to the skillet; cook rosemary, sage, chili flakes, celery, carrot and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 5–7 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook until thickened, about 20–22 minutes.

Stir in reserved goose breast and liver.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; toss pasta and reserved water in skillet with the sauce. Garnish with parmesan.

Umbrian dinner 2

Pork with Juniper Berries (Filetto di Maiale con Bacche di Ginepro)

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Potatoes:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 10 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1½ tablespoons minced sage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pork:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 1 (1 ­lb) pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Directions

To make the potatoes:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium ­high. Cook potatoes until golden, 10–12 minutes.

Stir in green beans, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, until potatoes and green beans are tender, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; keep warm.

To make the pork:

Wipe the skillet clean and heat the oil over medium ­high. Cook guanciale until crisp, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer guanciale to a plate.

Season pork with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, 8–10 minutes. Add juniper berries, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and garlic and cook 1–2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until evaporated, 12–15 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, slightly covered, until an instant ­read thermometer inserted into the pork reads 145° F.

Let pork rest 5 minutes, then slice ½” thick; divide between plates. Simmer sauce until thickened, 10–12 minutes. Discard herbs and stir in reserved guanciale, salt and pepper; spoon over pork. Serve with potatoes and green beans.

Umbrian dinner 4

Umbrian Snowflake Cookies (Biscotti ai Cereali)

Corn flakes—both mixed into the batter and coating the cookies’ exterior—give these crumbly chocolate chip treats a crunchy, nutty flavor. Served at festivals, wineries and charity bake sales, they’re a favorite of the residents of the Umbrian hill town of Montefalco.

Makes 28 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups corn flakes cereal (2 cups lightly crushed, 4 cups whole)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric  mixer, cream granulated sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients; mix until dough forms.

Fold in crushed corn flakes and the chocolate chips. Divide dough into 28 balls; roll in the whole corn flakes. Space 1″ apart on parchment paper—lined baking sheets.

Bake until golden and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cookies cool; dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

It’s Time For Soup

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Soup is a great way to make the most of seasonal produce. Vary your choices throughout the year and stock up on what’s in season. Not only will it taste delicious, it will work
out a lot cheaper than buying vegetables that are being grown out of season. Making a big batch of soup, even if you’re only cooking for yourself, is a great dish to keep on hand.
You can keep a batch in the refrigerator for light suppers, lunch or freeze portions  for the future.

It’s that time of the year again: the season when rich, hearty soups add some much needed warmth and comfort to the long winter months.

Sweet Potato and Bean Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 cartons (32 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb. (3 – 4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil or parsley, coarsely chopped

Directions

In a large pot over high heat, pour in broth and add the sweet potatoes, onion, celery, tomato paste, paprika and oregano and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in beans and chickpeas. Cover and simmer until beans are heated through, about 3-4 minutes.

Gently stir soup until well mixed and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve.

For creamy soup, purée a portion of the soup in the processor or with a hand immersion blender and stir well before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced
  • 1 pound bag of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 head of kale, chopped
  • 32 ounces chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat add broth, onion, celery, carrots and potatoes.

Add garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper, a generous amount of sea salt and enough water to cover the vegetables.

Cook for about 30 minutes and then stir in the tomatoes and kale. Add sea salt and pepper, as needed.

Cook another 10 minutes and remove from the heat.

Winter Soup with Sausage, Leeks, White Beans and Rapini

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Ingredients

  • 2  leeks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1  dried bay leaf
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound pork or turkey sweet Italian sausage with fennel
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2  large bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) woody stem ends removed, and chopped (6-8 cups kale, collards or any hearty leafy greens would also work here)
  • 1 – 15-ounce can cannellini beans, or 2 cups beans made from scratch
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions

Wash and trim the leeks. Slice the tender white ends into thin rounds to make 1 cup.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, onion, carrots, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over medium-low heat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, brown all sides of the sausage. Remove the sausages from the heat and slice into ½-inch-thick rounds.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the chicken broth and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add the rapini and sausage rounds. Cook until both vegetables and sausage are cooked through, about 8 more minutes of simmering.

Add the beans to the pot. Turn off the heat and let all the ingredients rest. Taste for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to your liking.. Fish out and discard the bay leaf.

Scoop the stew into large shallow bowls and scatter chopped parsley over the top. Pass around bowls of grated Parmigiano and red pepper flakes.

Tuscan Herb White Bean Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 container (32 oz.) vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pkg. (4.5 oz.) Baby Kale or any greens to your liking
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Heat oil in large sauce pot.  Add garlic, onion, carrots and herbs.  Cook over medium-high heat until onion and carrots are just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add vegetable broth and beans; bring to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.  Add baby greens and cook until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chicken Risotto Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces trinity mix (fresh diced onions, bell peppers, celery)
  • 8 ounces sliced baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 (32-ounce) box chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 10 ounces cooked chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions

Preheat olive oil in a large saucepan; swirl to coat. Add trinity mix, mushrooms and black pepper. Crush garlic into the pan using a garlic press. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables begin to brown.

Meanwhile, chop spinach coarsely. Stir in rice and spinach. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until spinach wilts.

Stir in broth, half-and-half and wine (in that order); bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; set aside.

Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl until well blended. Stir chicken into soup. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring continuously, until blended and soup begins to thicken. Cook 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally, to heat chicken and blend flavors.

Italian Regional Cooking – Friuli Venezia Giulia

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Like all the northern regions on Italy’s border that I have written about so far in this series, the regions are heavily influenced by the countries they touch.

Friuli

Friuli–Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region and is the fifth smallest region of the country. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west. The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to Alpine continental in the north. The total area is subdivided into mountainous-alpine terrain in the north, hilly areas in the south-east and in the imterior the coastal plains area.

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The regional capital is Trieste; the other important cities are Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone.

The ancient Romans left many remarkable traces, mainly at Aquileia, which is a famous archaeological center. In Grado and Cividale, there are important architecture examples of the Byzantine style. The Basilica of Aquileia, which is in the Romanesque Gothic style, houses splendid mosaics.

In Trieste, the Revoltella Civic Museum, holds an important collection of sculptural and pictorial works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the Civic Museum of the Sea, shows the history of navigation from its origins to the end of the last century, with models, instruments and projects. The Civic Museum of Risorgimento is an interesting review of Trieste’s struggle for freedom; the Civic Museum of Art History holds a remarkable collection of archaeological relics, from the Paleolithic to the Roman Age with collections of archaeology, sculpture, painting, ceramics, coins and jewelry.

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Italian is the official national language. Friulian language is also spoken in most of the region — with a few exceptions, most notably Trieste and the area around Monfalcone and Grado, where a version of the Venetian language and Triestine dialect is spoken instead. The local languages are more common in the countryside, while in the larger towns (Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia), standard Italian is the predominant language.

Take a visit to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region via the video below:

Friuli Venezia Giulia Cuisine

The food culture has been enriched by the historical melting pot of peoples, languages and traditions, with influences from the Mediterranean and Slavic countries detectable in a range of flavors and recipes.

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The legendary San Daniele ham and wines from Friuli vineyards have become the ambassadors of Friuli Venezia Giulia food production. There are 8 D.O.C. zones where D.O.C.G. wines are produced, including robust reds such as Ramandolo, Picolit and Rosazzo, the strangely-named Tazzelenghe (do you know how it got this name?). Tazzelenghe, in English, means literally “tongue-cutting or stinging,” which refers to a great combination of acidity and tannins, born from a long, cool growing season. Tazzelenghe is an indigenous varietal that disappeared and only saw cultivation and production as recently as the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

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The foremost white wine produced in this region is the Tocai Friulano, as it is called now. Because of a confusion between a Hungarian grape called Tokaj and a French one called Tokay, the European Community had demanded a name change of the French and Friuli grapes allowing Hungary to keep the original Tokaj name.

Seafood dishes include crostacei e conchiglie (a crustacean and shellfish dish), specialities such as boreto from Grado, “scampi a la busara” from Istria, sardoni from the Gulf of Trieste and ribalta vapor from the Marano lagoon.

Montasio, smoked ricotta cheese with the taste of Alpine meadows is the best known cheese of the region and cheeses that are little known but much-loved, are formadi frant and Asìno. Dis

Delicacies such as Sauris cured ham, cured ham from Cormòns, salami, speck (smoked ham), local bacon, brusaola and pitina, smoked meatball of sheep, goat or wild animal are all characteristic foods of the region.

Specialties of the region include frico (a kind of cheese fritter, either soft or crunchy), with musèt and brovade (sausage with soured turnip). Other specialities include cjarsòns (ravioli with a sweet or herb-flavored filling) and gnocchi di susine (plum gnocchi) from Goriziano. You will also find trout (especially the Regina smoked trout from San Daniele), honey, Julia Dop apples, grappas, oils and Slavic desserts such as gubana and presnitz.

If you want to taste and buy typical Friuli products, go to the Farmers’ Market in San Daniele: it’s an open air market organised in collaboration between the San Daniele Agro-food Park and the Slow Food Movement.

Recipes from Friuli Venezia Giulia

friuli9 Frico with Potatoes and Cheese

Asiago is a good replacement for Montasio cheese.

Ingredients for 1 frico ( 4 people):

  • 8 oz (250 grams) of potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 9 oz (260 grams) of Montasio cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions

Place potatoes in a pot of cold water; when it begins to boil cook them for 20 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork.

In the meantime chopped the onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. cook until lightly brown. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan with the cheese cubes. Flatten the mixture with a wide spatula and cook until the underside is brown.

Slip the spatula under the mixture and flip it over. Cook until brown on the bottom.

Sprinkle with the grated grana padano cheese, cut into four and serve as an appetizer.

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Fresh Pasta with Poppy Seeds and Sugar

This is an unusual sweet sauce not usually found in Italy.

For the pasta:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle or reginette pasta

For the sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions

Make the pasta:

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente; then drain, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Make the sauce:

Warm the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the poppy seeds and warm through until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Keep warm.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving platter and toss with the warm poppy-seed butter. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss again. Serve hot.

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Cevapcici with Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Cevapcici:

  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces lean ground pork
  • 1 onion plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Directions

To prepare the Cevapcici:

In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Roll the mixture into sausage shapes about 3 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter.

Preheat a grill (or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat). Place the sausages on the grill; cook until done, about 5–6 minutes, turning to brown each side.

Serve with the sauce and the onion, chopped.

To prepare the Sauce:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the bell pepper and eggplant on a baking sheet; bake until the eggplant is tender and the bell pepper skin begins to brown, about 30–40 minutes. When the bell pepper is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, stem and seeds.

Slice open the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Place the bell pepper and eggplant in a food processor, along with the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and cayenne pepper; purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

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Friuli Chocolate Fondue

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 12 fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 2 pears
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 ¼ lbs (500 gr) dark melting chocolate of excellent quality, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, slightly scalded
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Directions

Wash all the fruit. Slice the bananas and pears into wedges and rub with the sliced lemon to keep them from turning brown. Take care not to use too much lemon as it will alter the flavor of the fruit.

Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler.

Remove from the heat and add the rum and the heavy cream.

Serve the chocolate sauce in a warmed ceramic (or clay) bowl and arrange the fruit around it.

Easy, Tasty, Healthy Winter Dinners

LOST IN WINTER  by Leonid Afremov

LOST IN WINTER by Leonid Afremov

Tips For Eating Healthy

Choose whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, unrefined and unprocessed foods. You’ll typically find the least processed foods around the perimeter of the store.
Eliminate artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats from your diet.
Beans, nuts and legumes are great sources of plant-based protein.
Eat a colorful variety of plants to ensure you’re getting the best nutrients for your body.
Nuts, seeds and avocados (all plant-based whole foods!) are great micronutrient-dense sources of healthy fats.
Minimize or eliminate extracted oils (like canola) and processed fats (like margarine).

Dinner # 1

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Citrus Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine, such as Riesling (or chicken broth)
  • 4 (6-oz) salmon fillets, skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon country Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Chop garlic and dill.

Cut half the orange into 1/4-inch-thick slices (rounds), then cut slices into quarters. Squeeze remaining 1 1/2 oranges for juice (about 1/2 cup).

Place wine, orange juice, garlic, dill and orange slices in large sauté pan and cover; bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 7 minutes.

Season salmon on both sides with the garlic seasoning and pepper. Add salmon to the wine mixture; simmer 4 minutes on each side or until salmon reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (or opaque and separates easily). Transfer salmon to serving dish.

Add marmalade and mustard to the wine mixture; cook and stir 1 minute or until marmalade dissolves and sauce thickens. Remove pan from the heat; gently stir in butter.

Pour sauce over salmon. Serve.

Asparagus-Almond Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons smoked almonds
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Cut asparagus into bite-size pieces, removing the tough root end.

Chop almonds. Shave the cheese. Halve the tomatoes.

Preheat a large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Place oil in the pan, then add asparagus; cook and stir 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, vinegar and pepper; cook and stir 2–3 more minutes or until the tomatoes and asparagus are softened.

Remove pan from the heat; sprinkle with nuts and cheese. Serve.

Dinner #2

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Seasoned Pork with Lemon Couscous

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped, unpeeled eggplant
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (1 medium)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 – 1/2 inch thick boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

Directions

In a large skillet heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add eggplant, garlic and red onion; cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl.

Meanwhile, trim fat from the chops. Sprinkle chops with Italian seasoning.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops; reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until just pink in the center (145 degrees F on an instant read thermometer), turning once. Remove from heat; let rest in the pan for 3 minutes. Place pork chops on a platter and cover with foil.

Return eggplant mixture to the skillet and add broth and dried tomatoes. Bring to boiling. Stir in couscous, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt; remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach. Divide couscous mixture among serving plates. Top with chops.

Dinner #3

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Carrot Ginger Soup

Serve a small cup of this soup with the baked egg dish below for a meatless dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • Juice from 1 orange, about ¼ cup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (32 oz carton) vegetable broth

Directions

Sauté onion in olive oil until it begins to soften.

Add carrots and cook for 3 minutes.

Add ginger and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, simmer covered for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Purée soup in a blender or with a hand immersion blender until just blended.

Add orange juice and reheat.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano Baked Eggs with Swiss Chard

Serves 4

Serve with thick slices of your favorite bread.

Ingredients

  • Butter for the ramekins
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 cups packed thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves (reserve chard stems for another use)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 small tomatoes, halved, seeds removed, diced 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or small gratin dishes.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add chard; cover the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water if the skillet begins to dry out. Remove from the heat and pour off any excess liquid.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese and half of the tomato. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared ramekins. Break an egg into each ramekin and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pile remaining tomato around the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the egg whites are  set, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner #4

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Panko-Crusted Steak Over Vegetable Ragù

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 8 oz whole baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean steak (such as filet, sirloin or top round)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut zucchini, onion, tomato and bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cut mushrooms in half.

Whisk tomato paste, water and balsamic vinegar until smooth; toss with vegetables and 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. Place vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer; bake 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove to a serving platter.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and paprika until blended. Coat both sides of the steak with the bread crumb mixture. Place steak on a second baking sheet; bake 10-12 minutes or until the temperature reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer (for medium-rare). Slice the steak and serve over the vegetable ragu..

Note: If you unable to find smoked paprika, regular paprika will work as well.

Dinner #5

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Tuna Parmesan

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 to 6 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces fresh asparagus
  • 1 – 5 ounce package mixed baby salad greens
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions

Thaw fish, if frozen. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Finely shred 2 teaspoons peel from one lemon. Squeeze juice from the lemon.

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon peel and juice, olive oil, pepper and salt; set aside. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges; set aside.

Snap off and discard woody bases from the asparagus. Place asparagus in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Bake, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the tuna dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the dressing over medium heat. Add tuna; cook for 8 to 12 minutes or until browned and the center is slightly pink.

Divide greens among serving plates; top with tuna and asparagus. Drizzle remaining dressing over all. Top with the shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.

What’s for Breakfast?

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Americans tend to eat the same thing when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with Starbucks or cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds of cereal with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat corn flakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American as strange.

In Australia –  a bowl of cold cereal

In Brazil –  ham, cheeses and bread, served with coffee and milk

In China – Dim Sum

In Cuba – cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with a tostada

In England –  eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and mushrooms.

In France – croissants and coffee

In Germany – cold meats, local cheeses and fresh-baked bread

In India – fermented black lentils and rice served with chutney and sambar

In Japan – miso soup, steamed white rice and pickles.

In Morocco – bread, jam and cheese

In Nigeria – moi moi, a ground bean paste that is wrapped in leaves and steamed

In Russia – sirniki or baked farmers cheese pancakes and hot oatmeal

In Turkey – bread, cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam or honey

In italy – a cappuccino and sweet roll or biscotti

While the benefits of eating breakfast are well-known —  it can prevent weight gain, boost short-term memory, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and even make us happier — most of those health rewards depend on choosing the right foods. You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein. Good choices include eggs, whole grains, fruit, peanut butter and yogurt.

Some Quick Fix Options

  • For a portable breakfast: Place in a ziplock bag: a cut up apple, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese cubes and ¼ cup of fiber and protein-rich walnuts.
  • Instead of dousing a whole-grain toaster waffle in syrup, cut the sugar and boost the protein and fiber by spreading it with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  • Take a slice of crusty bread, spread it with 3 tablespoons of low-fat ricotta and add sliced plum tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) and a little salt and pepper. Place under the broiler for a minute or two.
  • Slice a hard-boiled egg, then roll it in an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla with a slice of lean ham and a slice of cheese. Add a tablespoon of salsa for a shot of flavor.

Feel like trying something different for breakfast, check out these recipes:

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Mini Spinach Frittatas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 24 – 1/8 inch thick slices of fully cooked Italian chicken sausages

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Place a sausage slice in each of 24 greased miniature muffin cups. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full with the spinach mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until completely set. Carefully run a knife around the sides of the muffin cups to loosen the frittatas. Serve warm. Yield: 2 dozen.

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Fruit Crumble

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon almond meal or almond flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toppings

  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar for garnish – optional
  • 1 teaspoon slivered almonds
  • Additional fresh fruit, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the fruit and the 2 tablespoons of almond flour. Toss until well coated.

Place in a 6” oven safe bowl leaving about 1 inch at the top for the crumble topping.

Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of almond meal, butter, oats, vanilla and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Garnish with almonds, additional fresh fruit and confectioners’ sugar.

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Creamy Breakfast Polenta

If crème fraîche is unavailable, use lightly sweetened sour cream.

Makes about 6 cups; 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat (2%) milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons blackberry jam
  • Lightly sweetened  crème fraîche

Directions

In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pan over high heat, bring 3 cups water and the milk to a boil. Reduce heat so liquid is barely boiling. Stirring constantly, pour in polenta in a thin, steady stream, pausing occasionally to break up any lumps. Stir in sugar and salt.

Simmer, stirring often, until polenta is soft and creamy to the bite, about 20  minutes (if heat is too high, bubbles may “spit” hot polenta out of the pan).

Ladle polenta into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon blackberry jam and a dollop of crème fraîche.

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Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Serve with a slice of baguette for dipping.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (divided)
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

In a wide, deep skillet, heat oil on medium. Add bell pepper, onion, oregano, coriander and cayenne and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes, orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Crack 1 egg into a small bowl or cup. Gently slip the egg into the sauce without breaking the egg; repeat with the remaining eggs, leaving 1-inch between each egg. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle remaining  salt ove rthe top. Cover and simmer gently until egg whites are opaque and yolks are firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully ladle sauce and eggs into serving bowls and top with chopped parsley.

breakfast 6

Mini Pancakes with Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Makes 10-12 depending on the size of your muffin cups.

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond-milk or low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries or fruit in season, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite jam

Directions

Pre­heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place all of the batter ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.

Pour batter into greased or lined muffin cups, filling half­way.

Bake for 15 ­to 18 minutes or until puffy and brown. The pancakes will deflate when you remove them from the oven.

Place a few sliced peaches on top of the pancake. Spoon on a tablespoon of yogurt followed by a teaspoon of jam. Decorate with berry slices, if desired.

 


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