Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Whole Grains

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.  

LIST OF WHOLE GRAINS

The following are examples of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours.

WHOLE WHEAT VS. WHOLE GRAIN

A question that gets asked regularly is, “What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?” The answer is in another question: “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable?”
We all know that carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots. It’s similar with whole wheat and whole grain: Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat.
If you’re reading this in Canada, be aware that Canada has a different regulation for whole wheat flour. Canada allows wheat flour to be called “whole wheat” even when up to 5% of the original kernel is missing. So in Canada you’ll hear two terms used:

  • Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains at least 95% of the original kernel
  • Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains 100% of the original kernel

“Whole grain whole wheat flour” would be redundant in the U.S.A. — whole wheat flour is always whole grain in the United States. 

Source of Essential Nutrients

The charts below list some of the nutrients that whole grains contribute to a healthy diet, and the proportion of the Daily Value for each.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a food to be a “good source” of a nutrient if a standard-size serving provides 10% of the recommended daily value; an “excellent source” provides 20% or more than the recommended daily value. We’ve noted when some nutrients in whole grains go even farther above these levels.  Note that a blank, white block does not mean that a particular grain contains none of that nutrient. Very often levels fall just short of reaching the “good source” level – but these foods can still make important contributions to your nutrient needs, in combination with other healthy foods. Whole Grains Council May 2004

A SERVING OF 100% WHOLE GRAIN FOODS

If you enjoy foods made entirely with whole grain, you can follow the suggestions in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain.

You can easily add whole grains to your meals, often using favorite recipes you’ve always enjoyed. Try some of the following:

MAKE EASY SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
  • Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.
  • Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
  • Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
  • Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
  • Add three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
  • Stir a handful of rolled oats in your yogurt, for quick crunch with no cooking necessary.

TRY NEW FOODS

  • Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or farro.
  • Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
  • Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that’s part whole-grain, part white.
  • Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
  • Look for cereals made with grains like kamut, kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Peppers, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

12 ounces whole wheat or dark spelt* spaghetti (available at some supermarkets and natural food stores)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet Italian turkey sausage link, (about 4 to 5 oz.) casing removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 bell peppers (one each red, green, orange, and yellow), cored and sliced
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
Black pepper

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook per package instructions until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling it with a spatula, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
3. Pour off any fat, then heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
4. Add the drained pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the cheese. Season with black pepper and serve.

Notes * Spelt is related to wheat, but it’s higher in protein and vitamins. Its deep, nutty flavor gives pasta and breads a rich taste.

3-Grain Salad with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup hulled barley*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup farro**
1/4 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; boil for 30 minutes. Add the farro; boil for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until both grains are tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the vinegar, onion, garlic, and remaining salt.
4. Add the grains to the vinegar mixture while still warm; toss well. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; season with black pepper to taste. Fold in the Parmesan and serve.

Notes:* With its chewy, pasta-like texture, barley is a great addition to soups and stews. It’s loaded with satisfying protein and fiber.
** A hearty grain with plenty of protein, farro is used in soups and salads. It has a distinct nutty taste.

Spicy Salmon with Olives and Lemon Quinoa

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped scallions
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup quinoa*, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons pitted, chopped black olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the scallions and red pepper with the salt and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Spray a small roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and lay the salmon in it skin side down. Cover the fish with the scallion and red pepper mixture. Roast the salmon in the top third of the oven until it is opaque at the center of the thickest part, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa; cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts, olives, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve the salmon over the quinoa.

Notes * Technically a seed, quinoa is packed with protein and magnesium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure. Light and fluffy, quinoa is perfect for salads and side dishes.

Tabbouleh with Feta and Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur*
1 packed cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
8 ounces medium cleaned, shelled, tail-on shrimp, thawed if frozen
1 large pickling cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Directions:

1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil and then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of the parsley with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, oregano, and mint.
3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cool water.
4. Place the bulgur in a serving bowl and toss with the shrimp, cucumber, tomato, scallion, feta, the remaining parsley, and the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note:* Bulgur cooks quickly and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Try it in soups, salads, and stuffings or as a substitute for rice.

Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup


Cannellini beans, fresh herbs, and amaranth, a wonderful whole grain thickener,  makes this hearty soup filling enough to be a main dish. For a thick and creamy soup, puree all of the soup rather than leaving half of the beans whole.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons. extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amaranth
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add the amaranth grains, stock, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaf from the amaranth mixture, add 1 cup of the beans, and use a handheld immersion blender to puree in the pot until smooth. (Alternatively, puree the beans in a food processor, add the amaranth mixture – working in batches if necessary – and puree again until smooth, then return to the pot.)

4. Stir in the remaining beans, the herbs, and the salt. Warm gently just to heat through. If desired, thin the soup with additional stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Robin Asbell’s The New Whole Grains Cookbook, published by Chronicle Books, has more than 75 recipes that take advantage of the abundance of grains now available in both supermarkets and specialty stores.

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Now it’s hot. The kind of hot that forces you to sit still, preferably under a ceiling fan, sipping a cold drink. You can almost hear the grass growing taller and the air conditioner spending money. Everyone slows down. It’s so hot you don’t want to cook – not for anybody! But you still have to eat! At least with the recipes below, you won’t have to turn the oven on.

Menu 1

Omelet with Summer Vegetables

This satisfying entrée for one or two is good for any meal, from breakfast to dinner. Serve with fruit or the salad below.
1-2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil plus cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 large egg whites plus 1 large egg or you can use ¾ cups egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheese of your choice

Directions:

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add the olive oil. Add corn, zucchini and onions to the pan; sauté 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove vegetable to a bowl.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, water, pepper, egg whites, and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Return skillet to heat. Pour egg mixture into pan; cook until edges begin to set (about 2 minutes). Gently lift the edges of the omelet with a spatula, tilting pan to allow the uncooked egg mixture to come in contact with the pan. Spoon the corn mixture onto half of the omelet; sprinkle the corn mixture with cheese. Loosen the omelet with a spatula, and fold in half over the corn mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until the cheese melts. Carefully slide the omelet onto a plate.

Baby Greens with Oranges

Blood Oranges are attractive in this salad when they are available in your area.

Makes 4 (1-1/2-cup) servings.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups mesclun or other mild salad greens
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 thin slices red onion, separated into rings
  • 1 cup orange sections
  • 3 tablespoons mixed country olives or regular kalamata olives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Place greens in a large salad bowl. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, orange juice, and vinegar in a small dish. Pour dressing over greens, gently tossing to mix.
Divide mixture into servings and top with onion rings, orange sections, and olives. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Menu 2

Linguine With Fresh Herbs

6 servings

This is a lean pasta dish, filled with flavor as well as color. Serve as a main entree with the Caprese Salad (recipe below).

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from cubed Italian or French bread, including crust, coarsely ground in food processor
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, low-sodium canned
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 pound linguine

Directions:

In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toast until golden, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.

In same skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over low heat. Add red onion and saute, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until soft, about 30 seconds. Stir in chicken broth and simmer until heated. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.

Transfer mixture to a pasta bowl, and add basil, mint, parsley and thyme. Stir to combine.

Cook pasta in 6 quarts salted boiling water until al dente. Drain pasta, transfer to pasta bowl, and toss with herb mixture. Sprinkle toasted bread crumbs on top and serve.

Frugal Tip:  I keep a zip bag in the freezer and add any leftover pieces of bread I have from dinner.  When I need fresh breadcrumbs, I can pour out the amount needed and process them into crumbs.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

4 servings
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly-ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Alternate fresh mozzarella slices with sliced tomatoes, overlapping, in a circular design on a serving plate.
Tear fresh basil leaves and sprinkle liberally over the slices. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Just before serving, drizzle with top-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Menu 3

Chicken and Pepper Stew

This dish can also be cooked in your Slow-Cooker (about 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high).

Serve with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Green Salad.

Frugal Tip:  Bell peppers are in season now, so take advantage of their lower price. I buy extra peppers, slice them into thin strips and place them in freezer bags for the winter months. Frozen peppers work very well in casseroles or omelets or in sauces.

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs or legs, skinned
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds (4 large) mixed green or yellow or orange or red bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1-28-ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or fresh basil leaves sliced thin

Directions:

1. Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken pieces, in batches, on each side for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate.
2. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, until the onions begin to soften. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and sweet peppers, a bit of salt and the garlic, and cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir together until the tomatoes begin to bubble and smell fragrant, about 5 minutes.
3. Return the chicken pieces to the pan. Cover and cook 25 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring at regular intervals and turning the chicken pieces over so that the ingredients don’t scorch and the chicken cooks evenly. The peppers should be very soft and the chicken quite tender. Add  oregano, basil and freshly ground pepper; taste and adjust the salt.

Olive-Oil Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold  potatoes
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup skim milk or buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil; cook until potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Using a potato masher or fork, mash potatoes with olive oil and milk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with more olive oil before serving, if desired.

Menu 4

Italian Bean Salad With Tuna

Frugal tip:  Early in the week, grill fresh tuna fillets for dinner and include an extra half a pound to cook and save for this recipe later in the week.

Serves 4.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. fresh cooked tuna
  • 2 cans of low sodium white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 red onion finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry oregano 
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • Grilled Italian Bread slices

Directions:

In a large non metallic bowl combine all the ingredients, and mix well.

You can serve this dish right away or refrigerate for two to three hours and serve with the grilled bread.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.

Menu 5

Steak Salad with Tomatoes, Peppers, Sweet Onions and Balsamic Vinaigrette

4 Servings

Ingredients:

For the balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the grilled steak:

2 top sirloin steaks, about 8 ounces each

For the green salad:

  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
  • 1 green bell pepper stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onion

4 small whole grain crusty rolls

Directions:

For the balsamic vinaigrette:

Place the shallots and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

(This can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

For the grilled steak:

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

Grill the steaks on both sides until it is cooked as you prefer, about 5-6 minutes per side for medium and depending on the thickness of the steak. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board to rest for five minutes. (The steak can be grilled in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

For the green salad:

Slice the steaks into thin strips and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and onion slices and half of the balsamic vinaigrette.

Place the romaine lettuce in a separate salad bowl and toss it with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the steak, tomato, bell pepper and onion mixture on top. Serve with a roll.

Tropical Sherbet

Last-Minute Tropical Sherbet

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups cubed mango or 1 (12-ounce) package frozen mango chunks 
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 (6-ounce) carton lemon low-fat yogurt 
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

Summertime and the living is supposed to be easy. That’s why the secret ingredient for a perfect summer day is simplicity: Sleep in, have breakfast on the porch, go hiking or biking and pack a picnic lunch. In the afternoon the neighborhood pool offers a chance to cool off. Dinner needs to be quick—put the main course on the grill along with vegetables from the local farmer’s market or make the side dishes below that are fast, healthy and easy to prepare.

Sauteed Zucchini, Peppers and Tomatoes                                                                                       

Serve this with grilled meat or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Quarter zucchini lengthwise; cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Remove ribs and seeds from peppers; cut into 3/4-inch squares.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Citrus-Herb Grilled Vegetables                                                                                                                                     

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 small zucchini, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 small yellow squash, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut into quarters, each held together with a skewer
  • 1 small eggplant, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed

Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine oil, salt, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, pepper, lemon zest and juice. Put zucchini, squash, bell peppers and onion in a large ziplock bag and pour in half of marinade. Seal bag and shake to coat vegetables. Let stand for 3 hours at room temperature. Put eggplant and mushrooms in a separate ziplock bag, add remaining marinade, seal and shake to coat vegetables. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.  

2.To plan ahead: prepare the marinades and vegetables as described and refrigerate the bags overnight.  Follow grilling directions below.

3. Preheat grill to medium. When heated, oil grates. Place onions, bell peppers and eggplant on grill and cook for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, squash and mushrooms to grill and cook all vegetables about 15 minutes longer, turning halfway through.

4. Cut vegetables into smaller sizes for serving, if desired. Arrange on a platter and serve warm, or cover and chill to serve cold.

Salad Greens with Pears, Fennel and Walnuts                                                                                                            

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium pears, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Divide the salad greens onto 6 plates. Scatter the fennel and pear slices over the greens. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Add black pepper, to taste.

Tangy Triple-Bean Salad                                                                                                          

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (9-10 oz) frozen lima beans
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 Serrano chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped

Directions:

1. Prepare lima beans according to package directions. Transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside to cool.

2. For dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir in lima beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, carrots and the chile.. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Transfer salad to a serving bowl. Stir in basil.

Fast Italian Cucumber Salad                                                                                                                          

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes (about 1-1/2 cups chopped)

  • 1 large red onion, diced

  • 2 cucumbers, diced

    Italian Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Directions:

Whisk Italian Dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. Add vegetables and stir.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving. Can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

Tomato and Mozzarella Burger                                                                                                                            

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves picked

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 450° F.  Slice a thin piece from the bottom of each tomato so the tomatoes sit upright. Slice each in half horizontally.
2. Arrange the tomato halves, cut-side up, on a foil-lined shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.
3. Drizzle the tomatoes with the oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Scatter the garlic over the tomatoes.
4. Roast until softened and warmed through, about 15 minutes. (Under ripe tomatoes may take 5 to 15 minutes longer.)
5. Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into six ½-inch-thick slices. Using a spatula, sandwich each slice between 2 hot tomato halves. (The heat will melt the cheese slightly.)
6. Drizzle the tomatoes with any juices that collected in the roasting pan and serve with the basil.

Make it a meal: Serve the “burger” with arugula tossed with sliced fennel and radishes, toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Italian Coleslaw                                                                                                                                                                       

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 green pepper, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 red pepper, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1-16 oz. bag coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt

Directions:

In a large bowl with a fitted lid, combine onion, peppers, fennel and cabbage. Add oil, vinegar, and remaining ingredients.  Put lid on and shake until everything is evenly combined. Salt to taste. Refrigerate and serve chilled.


The modern slow cooker was developed by Rival Industries with the trademarked name Crock Pot. This name is sometimes used informally to refer to any slow cooker. Rival purchased and refined the design of a bean-pot called the Beanery from Naxon Co. of Chicago.

In the early ’70s, the Rival Company, known for its “Juice-O-Mat,” “Ice-O-Mat,” and “Can-O-Mat” convenience appliances, resurrected the idea of slow cooking. The company acquired the rights to the “Beanery,” a primitive slow cooker, and gave the appliance a much-needed makeover. The Crock-Pot slow cooker was born.

The timing couldn’t have been better. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Americans were encouraged to conserve electricity, and Crock-Pots operated at a very low wattage. In addition, many women were abandoning their traditional roles as homemakers and the Crock-Pot and its motto—”Cooks all day while the cook’s away”—fit their new lifestyle.

The slow cooker is a versatile appliance that’s just as suited to vegetarian foods as it is meat and poultry, everyday meals, and entertaining occasions. You can make hearty, healthy dishes for the whole family.  Simply add ingredients to the slow cooker, get on with your day, and come home to a kitchen filled with tempting aromas.

The slow cooker, which is essentially an electric pot with a stoneware insert, can do what no oven or stovetop burner can: cook food at consistently low and even temperatures for what might be as long as 10 or 12 hours. Dinner cooks while you’re out.

Flavor is one of the big advantages to meals you cook in the pot. You can get a deeply flavored meal at the end of an 8- or 10-hour slow simmer. Time-saving is another reason for the slow cooker’s popularity. Plus, they’re practical, since a slow cooker holds up to five quarts, you can definitely plan to have leftovers.

There is planning involved, however. The pot is perfect for cheaper cuts of meat that need long, gentle cooking to become tender: beef short ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and lamb shanks. Fish and dairy products, however, don’t fare as well; both will break down during the cooking. Chicken can get mushy, so pay strict attention to cook times for chicken recipes.

Always put vegetables in first. Vege­tables take longer to cook than meat does, so for layering purposes, start with vegetables, then meat, and finally seasonings and small amounts of liquid. To prevent overcooking, fresh dairy products, pasta, or instant rice should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, or as your recipe directs.

Judith Finlayson, author of Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes and The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes, answers some slow-cooker questions.

How do I prevent meat from drying out?

To prevent poultry from drying out, use chicken thighs—they have more fat and won’t dry out as quickly, says Finlayson. Cook thighs for about six hours and breasts for a maximum of five hours on low heat. Beef, depending on the cut, is much more forgiving, she says. For better results, use stewing beef, short ribs, or brisket as opposed to a rib steak or a sirloin.

How can I prevent flavors from becoming muddy?

“Start with a good recipe and quality ingredients and you will be a long way from having muddy flavors,” says Finlayson. For fresher flavors, add chopped herbs and vegetables with shorter cooking times about 10 minutes before the meal is ready.

How can I clean my slow cooker without lots of soaking and scrubbing?

Though the slow cooker’s insert can be heavy, cleaning shouldn’t be a problem. Slow cookers retain moisture which should prevent scorching on the bottom, says Finlayson. Difficulty cleaning may indicate a technical issue such as the heat being on too high for too long.

Can I cook frozen meats in my slow cooker?

Cooking frozen meats in the slow cooker is an absolute no, says Finlayson. Harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, flourish in moist environments at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Using frozen meat may cause food to remain at an unsafe temperature for too long.

Is it safe to leave the slow cooker on when I’m not home?

Leaving the slow cooker on is perfectly safe. In fact, it’s comparable to leaving a light bulb on while you’re out, says Finlayson.

Why does my food get overcooked, even on the low setting?

Slow cookers are all manufactured differently and they don’t all cook at the same pace, says Finlayson: “Know your slow cooker. Use quality recipes, and if you are consistently cooking faster or slower, adjust your time accordingly.” Keep in mind: There are no precise guidelines, and it may take a bit of trial and error to fix the issue.

Can I cut a slow cooker recipe in half?

If cutting a recipe in half, you should also reduce the size of your slow cooker so that the heat distributes evenly, says Finlayson. If you only own one slow cooker, make the whole recipe and freeze the leftovers or stick to soups and stews, since the size of the slow cooker isn’t as important as it is when cooking grains.

Chicken Cacciatore

Makes: 6 servings

Cook: 6 hrs to 7 hrs (low) or 3 to 3 1/2 hours (high)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 to4 pounds of meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fresh cremini and/or button mushrooms
  • 1- 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Pasta, cooked, optional

Directions

Place flour in a plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, a few at a time, shaking to coat. In an extra-large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, half at a time if necessary, in hot oil about 12 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Transfer chicken to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add mushrooms to skillet; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to cooker. Add drained tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, carrots, wine, salt and pepper to mixture in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Before serving, stir in basil, parsley and thyme.
Serve over pasta with salad on the side or skip the pasta and serve with Italian bread.
       

spinach-ricatta-lasagna_300                                                           

Slow-Cooker Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna With Romaine Salad  

Serves 6

Total Time: 4hr 15m

Ingredients

  • 2-10-ounce packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
  • 3 cups marinara sauce, see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 6 regular lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (6 ounces)

Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into strips (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, and ½ cup of the Parmesan. In a second bowl, mix together the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup water.

Spread 3/4 cup of the marinara mixture in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Top with 2 noodles (breaking to fit), 3/4 cup of the remaining marinara mixture, half the spinach mixture, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella; repeat.

Top with the remaining noodles, marinara mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low until the noodles are tender, 3 ½ to 4 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the lettuce, cucumber, and onion. Toss to combine and serve with the lasagna.

Tip:  If your slow-cooker insert is broiler-safe, broil the cooked lasagna until the cheese is golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Italian Meatball Stew                                                                                                                                                              

Total Time: 5 hrs 10 mins

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil, crushed
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen Italian style vegetables, defrosted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic. Form into 2 inch balls. Place meatballs in bottom of crock pot.

Combine tomato paste, broth, seasoned salt, oregano and basil.  Pour mixture over meat. Cover.

Cook on low 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Stir in vegetables. Cover and cook on high 10-15 mins until mixture is hot.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup                                                                                                                        Hearty Bean and Barley Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, optional
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Put beans, water, tomatoes and their juices, garlic, celery, carrots, onion, barley, bay leaf, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, herb blend, pepper, and Porcini mushrooms (if using) in a slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

Stir in the spinach, cheese, and vinegar, cover, and let the soup cook until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with olive oil.

Italian Smothered Steak

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. boneless beef round steak
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce or homemade marinara sauce, see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into slices (about 1 cup)

Directions

Cut beef into 6 serving-size pieces; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, layer beef and onion. Pour pasta sauce over top.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, stir in tortellini and zucchini. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tortellini are tender.


When I think back to when I was growing up, I remember that we did not eat any differently during  the summer months than we did during the winter months.  When it was hot and my mother did not like the heat, she often fixed the meal ingredients as much as she could in the morning.  Still, there was the cooking to do to put it all together during those hot evenings.  The meals were not lighter, nor did they vary in content. It was never too hot for Sunday’s pasta dinner or veal scaloppine with mashed potatoes during the week.  Salad was always served along side the dinner entree.  Occasionally my father would grill steaks or sausage on a hot summer night because that was the time of year one could grill in NJ. Many a time, though, I did not feel like eating those meals in the heat.

As times have changed and society has gotten away from big, formal dinners due to hectic lifestyles and the growth of a multitude of convenience foods, meals of the present generation are more spur of the moment. The old conventions of what constitutes a meal has also relaxed, and if, we want a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad for dinner, we just do it. When it is hot, as it has been much earlier than usual this year, salad for dinner seems just right. I have put together a collection of some salad recipes than can be a great dinner meal on their own or paired with a grilled protein of your choice.

Avocado, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad                                                                     

Add grilled shrimp for a complete meal.

4 servings

  • 4 small plum tomatoes, halved

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

  • 6 oz small buffalo mozzarella balls, torn in half

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

  • Basil leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, skinned, and quartered

Directions

Position a rack 5-6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the garlic and scallions. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes.

Broil the tomatoes for 4–5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften and the garlic is golden brown.
Place the hot tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and all cooking juices in a bowl.  Add the mozzarella, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, capers, and basil and toss gently.

Place 2 avocado quarters on each of 4 plates. Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the avocados and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Penne and Vegetable Salad

4–6 servings

  • 1 lb. penne

  • 3 cups broccoli florets

  • 2 cups asparagus tips

  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed

  • 2 large carrots, cut into julienne

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil or oregano

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to the package instructions, until al dente.

Meanwhile, steam or microwave the broccoli and asparagus for 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and carrots and steam about 3 minutes more, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl. Toss in the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad

Add grilled chicken breast for a complete meal.

Serves 4

  • 8 zucchini, halved lengthwise

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped

  • About 2/3 cup croutons, see recipe below

  • About ½ cup toasted almonds

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 3 lemons

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Lay the zucchini on a baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for about 8 minutes, or until the zucchini are golden brown on the flat, fleshy side. Let the zucchini cool slightly and then slice into half moons. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and make croutons.

In a bowl, mix the zucchini, mint sprigs, croutons, and almonds. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, toss, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Homemade Croutons                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 oz. (about 2 cups) bread cubes; (Italian or French bread), diced into 3/4-inch cubes.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Toss bread cubes with garlic and olive oil to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, give the pan a shake to make sure the croutons toast evenly. Remove from oven and completely cool croutons. Store in an airtight container.

Shellfish Salad with Oranges and Fennel

Serves 8

Orange paired with anise-scented fennel is a traditional Sicilian flavor combination. This recipe adds shrimp and scallops, but you can use any fish you like in this recipe. Thinly sliced celery is a nice alternative if your market does not have fennel.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper

  • Salt

  • 3 navel oranges

  • 2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed, and thinly sliced lengthwise

  • 2 cups dry white wine

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 lb. sea scallops, foot muscle remove and cut in half

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or fennel leaves for garnish

Directions

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the citrus juices. Whisk in the pepper and the salt to taste, Set aside.

Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom to reveal the flesh, Stand the orange upright and remove the peel in wide strips, cutting downward and following the contour of the fruit. Holding the orange, cut along both sides of each segment to release the segments from the membrane. Using the knife tip, pry out any seeds from the segments. Squeeze the membrane over the bowl to collect extra juice that you can add it to the vinaigrette at serving time.

Place the fennel in a bowl, add half of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat evenly. Divide the fennel evenly among 8 salad plates, forming a bed on each one, or arrange the fennel in a bed on a large platter.

In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook gently until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Add the scallops to the pan and simmer gently until just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the bowl holding the shrimp. Drizzle about one-third of the remaining vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat evenly.

Place the orange segments evenly over the fennel. Then distribute the warm seafood evenly over the oranges. Add the orange juice from the bowl to the remaining vinaigrette and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Artichoke Salad

Makes 4 servings

 Add grilled salmon fillets for a complete meal.

  • 1 lemon

  • 1-10 oz.package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted

  • 1 large bunch of arugula

  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Add the juice and rind of the lemon to a small saucepan and place the artichoke hearts in the pan with enough cold water to just cover the artichoke hearts.
Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the artichokes for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool.

Divide the arugula and artichokes among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina – Piedmont Style

4 Servings

The cuisine of Piedmont includes numerous, interesting cooked vegetable salads that are served as appetizers.  This dish is often served as a first course, but you can add a grilled beef tenderloin steak or sirloin steak to complete the meal.

  • 1 each large, yellow, red and orange bell peppers

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  • Salt

  • Freshly milled white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons sliced, pitted imported green olives

  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long, thin strips

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, or 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the smoky flavor.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives, and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

Cannellini Beans and Tuna                                                                                                  

Serves 8 or more

  • 2 cups (1 pound) dried cannellini (white kidney) or Great Northern beans

  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved

  • 2 whole cloves

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig fresh sage

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 1 (6-ounce) can Italian-style tuna fish packed in oil, drained and flaked

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Rinse the beans and place in a bowl of cold water to cover. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Drain the beans and place them in an ovenproof casserole. Stud the onion halves with the whole cloves and bury them in the casserole with the garlic, thyme, and sage. Add enough cold water to cover by ½ inch and cover the casserole.

Place casserole over low heat and bring contents to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in oven. Bake until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes to be sure that the liquid is simmering and is still above the level of the beans, adding boiling water if necessary.) Season with the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Set aside, uncovered, until cooled.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to serve, remove the onion, garlic, and herbs. Fold in the oil and drained tuna. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.



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