Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Beef

Steak Night

How do you tell a good steak from a regular steak?

There are a few things to look for when buying a steak:

First, there is the grade. The grade speaks about the quality of the meat based on marbling and age.

The second factor is the cut. Different cuts have different qualities. Finding the right cut for what you want to cook is probably the most important part of an excellent steak.

The third factor is the diet of the steer and how it was raised.

Grade: The age of the animal and the marbling of the meat determine the grade of the meat. In the United States grades are prime, choice and select, with prime being at the top and select being the bottom. Prime grade beef makes up about 2% of all the beef produced in the United States and typically ends up exported or sold to fine restaurants. What you will normally find on the shelves at the store is choice and select. Since prime is difficult to find, your best option is to purchase a choice cut.

Marbling is an important factor in steak selection. To visually determine the marbling of a steak take a good look at the texture of the meat. If the meat is free of all fat then the cut has little or no marbling. Though, this is leaner and often more tender, it is not as flavorful. Small streaks of fat through the meat will produce a more flavorful steak. Marbling should be thin streaks of fat. Thick lines of fat means the steak contains a lot of connective tissue that will make it tough. The meat should be bright red and the fat, a creamy white, evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Cuts of steak can be broken down into three sections. Starting on the upper back and moving down to the mid-back you have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin.

The rib contains cuts, such as the Rib Roast, the Rib-eye Steak and the back ribs. This is the least tender section of the three.

The short loin produces the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin and the Porterhouse steaks.

The sirloin produces the Sirloin Steak and the Top Sirloin.

Strips steaks, like the New York Steak, is cut from the T-bone portion. The most tender cut of beef is the tenderloin. From this area you will also get cuts like Chateaubriand, filet mignon and tournedos. Though these cuts are tender they are less flavorful. Rib-eye or rib steaks are less tender but far more flavorful. The same holds true for the sirloin cuts.

Grass-Fed: There are lots of good reasons to choose grass-fed beef over conventionally raised beef – environmental, nutritional and concerns about the animals being treated well and eating what is natural to them. On all of these fronts, grass-fed beef beats feedlot beef hands down. However, over 95% of the beef sold in the U.S. is from feedlots. This means that beef from cattle which are entirely raised on pasture is more expensive and it also tastes a little different from the beef people in the U.S. are accustomed to. Additionally, the optimal cooking times, particularly for steaks, is a little different as well.

How to Prepare Steak for Cooking:

ALWAYS let your meat come to room temperature before doing anything to it.

Then, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and let it stand 60 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per side for a steak up to one inch thick. After sitting for an hour, wash the salt off the steak, dry it well with paper towels and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper. Cook immediately. TRUST ME. This method really works. I have tried any number of ways to prepare steak and always come back to this method. Any type of steak, including grass-fed steak and sirloin, prepared this way is flavorful and tender. Forget marinades and rubs – you can add the seasoning after the meat is grilled.

How to Grill Steak:

If you’re using charcoal you’ll want very hot coals. Use the 2 second rule to test them; you should be able to hold your hand a few inches over the grill for only about 2 seconds before it’s too hot. Once they are hot, move them to one side of the grill so you can have both direct and indirect heat. If you’re using a gas grill, turn all the burners to high and let it heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil.

Use tongs, extra long ones, to move your meat around, not a big fork. Puncturing your steak will only let the juices run out and cause them to be dry and tough.
Place the steaks on the hot grill to sear. Don’t move them for 2-3 minutes. If you want diagonal hatch marks, you can rotate your steak 45 degrees after a couple of minutes and then finish searing. Use the tongs again to turn the steaks and sear the other side.

If you cook the steaks at the super high heat level the entire time, the outside will be burnt by the time the center cooks. So after searing, turn the gas off on one of the burners. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of your charcoal/gas grill to finish cooking.

When it comes to steak, you can’t follow exact times because it will vary with every cut and every grill. Temperature is the most reliable guide. Remove the steaks when they are a few degrees from your desired degree of doneness and let the steaks rest for five minutes before slicing.

Medium rare steak should be warm through the middle and most of the center of the steak should be reddish pink. The sides should be well browned, the top and bottom charred to a dark brown color. This steak should have a firm surface but soft in the middle.
Internal Temperature 125 to 135 degrees F. This is the recommended level of doneness for a good steak.

Medium Rare

Medium Rare

Medium steak should have a thick band of light pink through the middle but more brown than pink. The sides should be a rich brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly (but not black). This steak should have some play through the middle but feel firm to the touch.
Internal Temperature 140 to 150 degrees F. If you are grilling for a large group of people, this is the best level of doneness that pleases the most people.

Medium

Medium

Medium well steak should have a hint of pink in the very middle of the steak. The surface should be a dark brown with good charring on the top and bottom. This steak will be very stiff but still have a little squish in the center. Internal Temperature 155 to 165 degrees F.

Medium Well

Medium Well

Well Done steak is the most difficult to cook. This steak should NOT be burnt on the outside. While there is not the faintest hint of pink in the middle, it should be browned through, not burnt through. This steak should feel solid to the touch.
Internal Temperature 170 or higher degrees F. The secret is to do it low and slow. It’s the only way to prevent burning while fully cooking it through the middle.

Well Done

Well Done

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef Steaks:

I usually use a gas grill and heat the grill to the hottest setting. Sear the steaks for about two minutes per side. Reduce one or two burners (depending on whether you have a 2 or 3 burner grill) to medium and turn off the second or third burner. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of the grill and close the cover. Finish the cooking over indirect heat and use a thermometer to determine how long to leave the steak on the grill. For charcoal, move the steaks to the side of the grill without the coals underneath. For a pan on the stove, just lower the heat.

Grass-fed steaks are best cooked rare or medium rare. Even if you usually like your steaks cooked longer, do give less cooking a try – or cook them in a sauce at a lower temperature. Cooking at a high temperature for a long time will definitely produce a tough steak. I find the best way to tell when a steak is done is to use a good instant-read thermometer (inserted from the side) and the best setting for grass-fed beef steaks is 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F.

Recipes for the Grill

Steak Night 3

Ribeye Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter and Mushrooms

Makes 4-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 beef Ribeye Steaks, boneless, cut 1 inch thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 medium Portobello mushrooms, stems removed (about 1-3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Blue Cheese Butter:

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Combine garlic, thyme and pepper. Set aside.

Place steaks on the grill and cook according to the directions above. When you move the steaks to the indirect heat, sprinkle with the garlic mixture.

Brush mushrooms with oil and after you move the steaks to indirect heat, place the mushrooms on the grill over the direct heat side. Grill about 10 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine Blue Cheese Butter ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Slice the grilled mushrooms. Arrange the steaks on a serving platter. Top each steak with a tablespoon of Blue Cheese Butter and slices of mushroom.

Steak Night 4

Strip Steak with Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce boneless beef top loin (strip) steak, cut about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 thin asparagus spears, trimmed (6 oz.)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ cup low salt beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Directions

Prepare steak as described above.

Place the asparagus in a shallow dish and drizzle with the oil.

For the sauce:

In a medium skillet stir together the broth, wine, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in mustard; keep warm.

Preheat the grill. Place steak on the grill rack and cook according to directions above. Grill until steak iscooked to your desired temperature.

Place the asparagus on the grill (gas – close the cover) for the last 2 to 3 minutes or for an uncovered grill (charcoal) the last 4 to 5 minutes of grilling. Cook asparagus until crisp-tender.

Spoon sauce on a serving plate. Cut steak in half crosswise. Serve steak halves atop sauce with asparagus on top. Makes 2 servings.

steak night 5

Grilled Grass-Fed T-Bone Steaks Florentine

2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (3/4 to 1 inch) thick T-bone grass-fed beef steaks

Directions

Blend the first 6 ingredients in a large mixing cup and set aside. Prepare steaks according to directions above and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Heat barbecue and cook steaks according to directions above.

When the steaks reach the desired temperature, remove them to a large plate with a rim.

Pour the reserved sauce over the steaks and let them rest for five minutes before slicing.

Recipes for the Stovetop

Steak Night 1

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

You may use mixed bell peppers as a substitute for the mushrooms to change theflavor ot the recipe the next time you make it.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound beef sirloin steak
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 scallions
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry using paper towels. When oil is shimmering in the pan, add steak. Cook to desired degree of doneness (4 minutes per side for medium, more or less, depending on the thickness of steak is recommended). Remove steak from the skillet and keep warm on a serving platter.

Return skillet to heat. Add tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes (if skillet begins to look too dry, add a few tablespoons of water). Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in basil and pour mixture over the steaks.

Steak Night 2

Round Steak with Lemon, Capers and Green Onions

Cuts of beef from the round or hind leg section are less tender than the loin, sirloin or rib. They can, however, offer the best combination of texture and flavor for many steak lovers. The top round comes from the inside thigh portion of the round. Because these muscles are used less than the outer ones, they are more tender than other cuts from the round.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound top round steak cut into 4 slices
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Chopped parsley and lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Mix flour, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Pound steaks thin between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Dredge each steak in the  flour mixture, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Brown steaks on each side 2 to 3 minutes, depending on desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from the pan, place on a serving platter and keep warm.

Without cleaning the pan, add green onions to the pan and cook briefly. Deglaze the  pan with the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and allow stock to reduce, about 5 minutes. Stir in capers and lemon juice and remove from heat.

Pour sauce over steaks and garnish with parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

 

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What’s for dinner tonight? How about a casserole, chili, lasagna or meatloaf made with the ultimate dinner staple – ground beef. Ground beef has long been considered a meat-stretcher, easier on the wallet than full beef cuts. Perhaps for this reason, there are a lot of inventive ways to use ground beef other than for burgers, meatloaf and meatballs, including some interesting mock gourmet recipes.

Grocery stores carry a variety of ground beef options (sometimes also labeled as hamburger beef). Most stores label ground beef either with the percentage of fat it contains, the percentage of lean meat it contains or the lean/fat ratio. For example, beef that contains 20 percent fat would be listed as 20 percent fat, 80 percent lean or 80 percent/20 percent. Ground beef with a higher amount of fat costs less, swaying consumers into thinking that it is the more budget-friendly option. However, keep in mind that ground beef with a high amount of fat results in a lot of shrinking during the cooking process and less overall meat.

So what’s the best choice? There’s no right answer, but rather a trade-off between flavor and health. People concerned about their health will want to go with leaner meat, but they’ll be sacrificing some of the flavor. The general recommendation is using ground beef that is 85 percent lean/15 percent fat, which will bring plenty of beef flavor without being overly fatty or result in shrinking during cooking.

Ground beef may also be labeled based on the cut of beef from which it originated. The three most common cuts used for ground beef, ranging from leanest to fattiest, are round, sirloin and chuck. After purchasing ground beef, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; otherwise, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

  • Generally, the higher the cooking temperature, the greater the shrinkage, so cook ground beef at a moderate temperature rather than high heat. Overcooking will result in dry, tasteless meat as the juices evaporate.
  • To avoid ground beef sticking to your hands, dip your hands in cold water before handling the meat to make burgers or meatballs. Do not overhandle the meat when making patties. Keep a light touch and do not over-compact. There is nothing wrong with digging in with clean hands to mix seasonings into ground beef, but do not overdo it. The heat from your hands and the friction of mixing can break down those bits of fat that you want to preserve for a juicy result. Overworking ground beef can turn it into flavorless mush.
  • You can substitute ground veal, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey or sausage in most recipes for a different flavor. Since poultry has a milder flavor, when substituting ground poultry for ground beef, add slightly more seasoning than a recipe using beef . Because of the difference in texture, you may also need to decrease any added liquid by one to two tablespoons when using ground poultry.

Mediterranean Meatball Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground round
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into bite-size strips
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups reduced sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 15 ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, half of the rosemary and the black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well. Shape meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Place meatballs in a foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until meatball centers register 160 degrees F. Set aside.

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots, peppers, onion and the remaining garlic; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beef stock, the water, Great Northern beans, barley and the remaining rosemary. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until barley is tender.

Add meatballs to soup mixture; heat through. Stir in spinach just before serving. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Polenta Lasagna

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Italian polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the lasagna:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef  of choice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

For the polenta:

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly whisk in polenta in a steady stream. Continue whisking until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, butter and pepper. Keep warm.

For the meat sauce:

In a deep, heavy skillet, saute mushrooms in olive oil over high heat until they release their liquid and turn golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Add the ground beef and onion to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Saute about 5 minutes, breaking up meat, until it is no longer pink. Add garlic and saute 1 additional minute. Add tomato sauce, parsley, basil, oregano and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in mushrooms.

For the lasagna:

Coat a medium baking dish with vegetable spray. Spread half of the cooked polenta over the bottom of the dish. Spoon meat mixture evenly over polenta layer and finish off with the remaining polenta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (The lasagna may be covered with foil and refrigerated up to 8 hours at this point. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cover lasagna loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and broil for 5 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Beef Stuffed Swiss Chard

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef of choice
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion chopped, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 2 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 16 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet with a cover. Add beef, half the onion, the bell pepper and 1 minced garlic clove. Saute just until meat loses it red color. Combine beef mixture with, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.

Place two chard leaves together to form 8 piles. Divide beef mixture evenly on the lower half of each set of leaves. Fold the sides of the leaves over the beef mixture and tightly roll up the chard leaves into a cylinder. Place each roll, seam-side down, in the empty skillet. Pour in broth, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chard is tender, about 15 minutes. Pour off any remaining broth and reserve for another use.

Heat remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and thickened.

Serve the chard rolls topped with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Steak Burger with Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups reduced sodium beef broth, heated
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Buttered egg noodles, for serving

Directions

Gently mix together the beef, onion, sage, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, divide meat into 4 equal portions and shape into oval patties, about 1/2 inch thick.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Brown the patties, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet and cook the mushrooms until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, scraping up any browned bits. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, then whisk in the hot beef broth and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

Return the patties and any juices from the plate to the skillet. Simmer until the patties are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over noodles.

Mini Meatball Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef of choice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound prepared Pizza Dough (whole wheat or regular)
  • 1 recipe Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • 2 cups shredded provolone cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup thin strips yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thin strips red onion

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a large (14-15 inches) pizza pan and sprinkle lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal.

In a large bowl combine egg, bread crumbs, cheese, milk, oregano, garlic, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well. Shape into 1-inch meatballs.

In a large skillet cook meatballs in hot oil over medium-high heat until no longer pink (160 degrees F), turning to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels. Cool slightly; cut in half.

Place room temperature pizza dough in the prepared pan and press the dough to the edges of the pizza pan.

Top pizza dough with the pizza sauce and then the provolone cheese; then the meatballs, followed by the bell pepper and onion.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. To serve, cut into wedges.

Pizza Sauce

Makes 3/4 cup.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot olive oil over medium heat about 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, salt and red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.


Cooking over an open fire is the oldest cooking technique known to man and it’s still one of the most universal. This popular style of cooking, with its smoky flavors and mouth watering aromas, offers endless opportunities to create a world of satisfying and delicious beef dishes.

Basic steps for successfully grilling some special cuts of beef.

Flank Steak

This lean, flavorful cut of beef can be tough and stringy if not cooked correctly. It is often marinated and should be cooked medium-rare. Slice flank steak into thin pieces across the grain to serve. Sometimes, London Broil, a thick cut from the top round or sirloin, is also called flank steak.

To grill flank steak:

Prepare grill for direct cooking.

Sprinkle both sides of the flank steak with salt and black pepper.

Place the steak on the grill.

Grill steak, covered, over medium-hot heat 10 minutes for medium-rare or until desired doneness is reached, turning halfway through the grilling time.

Use tongs to turn the steak. Piercing with a fork will release the juices.

Use tongs to transfer steak to a carving board. Thinly slice beef across grain, holding knife at 45-degree angle to cutting board.

Skirt Steaks

This long, thin cut has always been a Latin American favorite and is the traditional cut for fajitas. Like flank steak, it is lean and full of flavor. Skirt steak should be grilled over high heat to medium-rare and cut across the grain into thin slices.

To grill skirt steaks:

Flatten skirt steaks to tenderize and insure even cooking.

Place steaks between pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with the flat side of meat mallet to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut each steak in half. Marinate steaks, if desired.

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Brush steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place steaks on preheated oiled grill.

Grill steaks,  uncovered, 6 inches from heat 3 minutes for medium-rare or until desired doneness is reached, turning once.

Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers

Made with 1 pound ground chuck, ground round or ground sirloin.

To grill hamburgers and cheeseburgers:

Prepare grill for direct cooking

Form seasoned ground beef into thick patties, about 4 inches in diameter.

Keep your burgers relatively thin so they cook evenly and quickly.

Place burgers on preheated oiled grill.

Grill burgers, covered, over medium high heat 8 to 10 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached, turning halfway through cooking time.

If you’re making cheeseburgers, place 1 slice of cheese on each burger to melt during last minute of grilling. If desired, place rolls, cut sides down, on grid to toast lightly during last 1 to 2 minutes of grilling.

Meat Loaf

Made with 2 lbs ground chuck, ground round or ground sirloin.

To grill meat loaf:

Prepare barbecue grill for direct cooking.

Shape meat loaf mixture into an oval loaf 1-1/2 inches thick, about 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Shape the meat loaf on a cutting board or cookie sheet so you can carry it out to the grill.

Place loaf on preheated oiled grill.

Grill meat loaf, covered, over medium-hot heat 10 minutes.

Carefully turn meat loaf over using 2 large spatulas.

Brush meatloaf with BBQ sauce, if desired, and continue to grill, covered, 10 to 12 minutes for medium-well or until desired doneness is reached. Using an instant-read thermometer, insert it into center of the thickest part of the meat loaf and it should register 160 degrees F for medium-well. Let meat loaf stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Steak Kabobs

 Boneless top sirloin or beef tenderloin are the best cuts for kabobs.

To grill steak kabobs:

Cut steak into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Marinate, if desired, reserving some of the marinade to use as a basting sauce.

Prepare grill for direct cooking.

Drain beef, if marinated. Alternately thread beef pieces and choice of vegetables onto skewers. Use reserved marinade to baste kabobs.

Thread beef cubes on skewers with vegetables that will cook in approximately the same amount of time.

Place kabobs on preheatedoiled grill.

Grill kabobs, covered, over medium-hot heat 5 minutes. Brush with reserved marinade, if using; turn and brush again. Discard remaining marinade.

Continue to grill kabobs, covered, 5 to 7 minutes for medium or until desired doneness is reached.

Boneless Beef Roast

Some boneless beef roasts are naturally tender. Others, such as brisket, tri-tip and chuck need extra steps (marinating or sealing in foil) to make them tender. Long, slow smoking is often recommended for brisket.

To grill boneless beef roast:

Prepare barbecue grill for indirect grilling with a rectangular metal or foil drip pan placed under the grates on the indirect side of the grill.

Insert meat thermometer into the center of thickest part of roast.

Place roast, top side down, on grill directly over drip pan.

Grill roast, covered, over medium heat 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until thermometer registers 150 degrees F. for medium-rare or until desired doneness is reached.

Two tools that help make grilling a whole roast practically foolproof are a foil drip pan and a heatproof meat thermometer.

Transfer roast to a carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Tri-Tip Roast on the Grill 

The tri-tip roast holds its own as one of the most tasty and also under-appreciated cuts of beef. The term “tri-tip” is derived from the fact that the tri-tip roast is triangular-shaped and it is the tip of the sirloin. Up until the 1950′s, this very lean cut of beef was typically made into ground beef. If not sliced thin and against the grain, it can be quite chewy, so it was just easier to grind it into burgers. Our friends out in California are credited with changing all of that when the tri-tip itself became a local specialty in Santa Maria. It was so popular that the tri-tip roast is still occasionally labeled the “Santa Maria Steak”.  Since there are only 2 tri-tips on each steer, it actually is a little harder to come by in some supermarkets or areas of the country these days. Another sign that the tri-tip has come a long way since its ground meat days.

Use a simple rub and cook slowly over an indirect heat source for best results.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tri-tip roast
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine the rub ingredients together thoroughly and then rub a generous amount over all of the surfaces of the tri-tip.

Leave the rubbed-down roast on the counter at room temperature for about 45 minutes before cooking.

Light your grill and prepare for indirect grilling. This means lighting one side of the grill on high, while leaving the other side unlit. If you are using a charcoal grill, pile the coals to one side of the grill.

Once the grill is hot and ready, place the tri-tip roast on the hot side and sear for a few minutes on each side.

After you have seared all sides of the roast and have the color you like on the outside, move the tri-tip over to the cool side of the grill and then close the lid.

Each tri-tip roast and grill is different, so you really need to use a meat thermometer to make sure the roast is cooked to perfection. To most, that means medium-rare, or around 140 degrees. Remove the roast at 140 degrees, which will allow the temperature to rise about 5 degrees while it rests.

Remove it from the grill and let it rest on a platter for 10 minutes.

Slice the roast thin and against the grain for maximum tenderness.

Rotisserie Roast Beef

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 lb rump roast
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Gravy directions below

Directions:

Combine the seasoning ingredients and rub all over the rump roast.

Thread the roast beef onto the rotisserie, right down the middle and make sure you secure it with the forks so that the spit is locked into the rump roast.

Configure your grill’s rotisserie per the owner’s manual.

Make sure you place a pan under the roast to catch drippings,

Turn on the rotisserie motor.

After about an hour, check the internal temperature of your roast with a meat thermometer. As a reference point, a 4.5 pound rump roast takes about an hour and a half on a rotisserie.

Roast the rotisserie beef until the desired doneness (medium-rare is 140 degrees.) Remember that the roast will continue to cook for a little while once removed from the heat, so take it off about 5 degrees shy of your desired temperature.

Remove the rotisserie roast beef from the grill, place on a platter and cover with aluminum foil to rest for about 15 minutes.

While the roast is resting, make a rue using 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir in the roast beef drippings and 1 cup of beef broth Stir until thickened.

Carefully remove the rotisserie spit from the roast and slice thinly, against the grain, for maximum tenderness.

Beef Kabobs with Peppers and Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound top sirloin or beef tenderloin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

If you are using bamboo skewers, start by submerging them in water using a dish or a paper towel to hold them underwater. Let them soak for 30 minutes. Use double skewers as it makes it easier to turn without having the ingredients spin on the skewer. You can use two bamboo skewers or double prong skewers.

Marinade

In a stainless or glass bowl large enough to hold the meat, add the wine, salt, sugar, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Mix the marinade. Optionally, you can marinate the veggies in Italian dressing. Cut the steak into 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Add the cubes to the marinade bowl. Let it rest for 2 hours in the refrigerator Then remove it from the refrigerator and let it come back to room temperature and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Skewer Kabobs

Cut the onion in half and then cut each half into quarters. Cut the peppers open and clean out the seeds. Cut them into 1 inch squares (or close to square as you can).

Alternate meat between onions and peppers, as they add great flavor to the meat while cooking. After assembling the kabobs, brush some oil on the skewered meat and veggies at this point, to keep them from sticking.

Prepare the grill

If using gas, heat the grill on high for 10 minutes prior to cooking. If cooking on coals, it is best to use natural hardwood charcoal. Add enough coals to cook over a high heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Grilling

Place the kabobs on the hot grill directly over the flame or coals. Keep the lid open. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating 90 degrees every 4 minutes, until the meat is cooked to desired level of doneness. Remove the kabobs from the grill and let them rest for 3 or 4 minutes before serving.

Yogurt and Rosemary Marinated Grilled Beef

Serves 8

Marinade:

  • 1 6-ounce container fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds sirloin or round steak

Directions:

In a bowl, mix yogurt, buttermilk, garlic, rosemary, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Place steak into a large zip-close plastic bag. Pour marinade into bag and make sure it covers all the surfaces. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator 24 to 48 hours, turning the bag over from time to time.

Heat grill to high. Take the beef out of the refrigerator and remove from the marinade. Scrape the marinade off the roast and discard. Let the steak rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then grill over high heat about 5 minutes each side. Lower heat and continue cooking, turning from time to time, until beef reaches desired degree of doneness. Let beef rest about 10 minutes, covered with foil. Slice across the grain and serve.

Barbecued Meat Loaf

Serves: 8 to 10

MEAT LOAF

  • 1¼ pounds ground beef (80% lean)
  • 1¼ pounds ground beef (93% lean)
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SAUCE

1/2 cup bottled or homemade barbecue sauce or make one of my recipes from the post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/14/a-bbq-sauce-for-every-occasion/

1/4 cup ketchup

Directions:

In a large bowl using your hands, gently combine the meat loaf ingredients.

Divide the meat loaf mixture in half and form into two loaves, each about 4 inches wide and 6 to 7 inches long. Place the loaves on a sheet pan.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium-low heat (about 350°F).

In a small bowl mix the sauce ingredients. Set aside half of the sauce to serve with the meat loaf. Top each meat loaf with 3 tablespoons of the remaining sauce and coat thoroughly.

Brush the cooking grates clean and oil them.

Using a metal spatula, gently pick up each loaf from the sheet pan and place directly on the cooking grate.

Grill the meat loaves over indirect medium-low heat, with the lid closed, until a thermometer inserted horizontally through the top of each loaf registers 155°F, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove the loaves from the grill and let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Once removed from the grill, the loaves will continue to cook, allowing them to reach the recommended 165°F for ground beef.

Cut the loaves into thick slices and serve with the reserved sauce.

 


Best Beef Steaks For The Grill

Choosing the correct cut of meat is very important when grilling. Some of the best steaks for grilling are the premium cuts. Thickness of the steak is very important. Each cut should be between 1 inch and 1 1/2 inches thick. The strip steaks and top sirloin should be a little less expensive than the filet mignon, t-bone, porterhouse and rib eye.

Filet Mignon is a cut taken from the center of the beef tenderloin that has outstanding taste as well as texture. They’re the most tender steaks you can buy, though not the most beef flavor.

Also known as:

Tenderloin

Tournedos

Chateaubriand

Beef Medallion

New York Strip is an excellent cut for grilling. This is the steak that many grilling experts prefer.

Also know as:

Strip Loin

Shell Steak

Kansas City Strip

New York Strip Steak

Rib Eye is another classic cut that has marbling throughout the meat – making it one of the juiciest cuts as well as very tender.

Also know as:

Scotch Fillet

Delmonico Steak

Porterhouse is a very large steak that is actually a combination of two steaks: the New York strip on one side and a tender filet on the other. Many believe these to be the best of all steaks.

Also know as:

T-Bone

Short Loin

 

T-Bone is named for its distinguishing T-shaped bone. This choice cut is almost identical to a Porterhouse steak, only it doesn’t have as much of the tenderloin muscle in it. It is both a strip sirloin (with the bone) and a tender filet mignon.

Also known as:

Short Loin

Porterhouse

Club Steak

 

Top Sirloin is near the rump, so the meat’s a bit tougher than cuts from the loin or the rib. The top sirloin is a juicy cut taken from the center of the sirloin – the most tender part and is a great cut for grilling.

 

Flank steak has great beef flavor at a low price. However, it can be a little tricky to grill, because it is easy to overcook. Due to its low fat content and pronounced grain, it becomes tough and nearly inedible, if cooked past medium rare. First of all, make sure the meat is at room temperature. Placing cold meat on a hot grill will make it seize up, toughening it. Also, it will be more difficult to get the steak to cook evenly if the meat is cold in the center. Also, make sure the grill is hot – very hot. The key to keeping flank steak tender is to sear it quickly over high heat.

Rub flank steaks with a little olive oil, then salt and pepper both sides heavily. The salt will bring some of the meat’s juices to the surface and help to form the brown crust that is the hallmark of good grilling. You can also use a marinade.

Place the meat on the grill and do not move it for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes are up, turn the meat over and cook for an additional 3 minutes on the second side, again without moving the meat. Provided that your grill was hot enough, this should give you medium rare on the ends and rare in the middle. If you prefer it a little more done, increase the cooking time on each side to 4 minutes. Do not cook past medium rare, or the steak will be tough.

The last step is actually the most critical. When the meat is done, remove it from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. When the meat has rested, determine the direction of the grain – in flank steak, the fibers run along the length of the steak, and you will want to cut across the grain, in thin slices. Cutting thinly across the grain gives you short fibers in each slice, resulting in more tender meat.

Cooking Perfect Steak: on the stove, in the oven or on the grill.

Pan-Searing Steaks:

In a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Sear the steaks, moving them with tongs a little so they don’t stick to the bottom, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Using this Pan-Searing technique, proceed to cook your steak to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness:

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During this time the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and the juices redistribute (add juices that accumulate from resting steaks to any sauce you are making).

Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto individual serving plates.

Sear-Roasting Steaks:

Preheat oven to 500°F (a very hot oven produces a juicy interior). Place a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof skillet or cast-iron skillet and place on range over high heat (the pan and the handle will be extremely hot – be careful).

Immediately place steaks in the middle of a hot, dry pan (if cooking more than one piece of meat, add the pieces carefully, so that they are not touching each other). Cook 1 to 2 minutes without moving; turn with tongs and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and put the cast iron skillet with the steaks in it into the oven. Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of steaks and degree of doneness you like. Using the Sear-Roasting technique, proceed to cook your steak to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness:

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During this time the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and the juices redistribute (add juices that accumulate from resting steaks to your wine sauce). Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto individual serving plates.

Grilling Steaks: 

Using dry heat from a grill is another great way to cook quality steaks. Remove steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and wipe any excess marinade (if used) off the steaks.

When you are ready to grill, preheat the grill and coat the grates with oil or non-stick kitchen spray to keep the steaks from sticking to the grill. Place steaks on a hot grill. Only turn the steak once. Let it cook on one side, then let it finish on the other side.

Grill to the desired degree of doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness.

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the grill and let sit 15 minutes before serving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven).

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Fennel Sauce

A great way of presenting the meat to be served is to cut out the bone, slice both sides of the steak and then reassemble the steak on the plate in its original form.

3 to 4 servings

Fennel Sauce

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 (1/4-inch-thick) slice of lemon
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Grilled Vegetables

  • 3 bell peppers, red, orange, yellow or a mix, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large head radicchio, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges, keeping root ends intact
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges, keeping root ends intact
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Fine sea salt

Steak

  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) Porterhouse steak (2 inches thick), at room temperature.

Directions:

FOR SAUCE: Cook fennel and lemon in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water; discard lemon. Transfer fennel to the bowl of a food processor; add 5 tablespoons of the cooking water, oil, chives, mustard and generous pinch salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer sauce to a serving bowl.

FOR VEGETABLES AND STEAK: Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium-high heat for gas. Grill vegetables, turning as needed, until slightly charred and tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a large platter and season with salt.

Grill steak, shifting meat every 30 seconds or so to avoid flare-ups and brown evenly, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and repeat procedure on second side. Using tongs, prop steak up and grill edges until browned. Grill sides of steak again, until meat is cooked to rare (about 120° on an instant-read thermometer inserted 1 1/2 inches into steak; meat will be cooler near the bone). Total cooking time will be 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice steak; serve with vegetables and sauce.

Steak with Herb Sauce

Sauce:

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
  • 2 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons. packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon. packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh tarragon leaves

Steak:

  • Four (6- to 8-ounce) New York strip, porterhouse or T-bone steaks (about 1-inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Prepare Herb Sauce: Place garlic and next 7 ingredients (garlic through lemon juice) in a blender and pulse until emulsified. Add herbs a little at a time and blend until they are incorporated. Scrape down sides of blender jar as needed. The sauce should be thick and very green with the texture of pesto.

Prepare the grill and heat to medium high.

Prepare steak: Remove steak from refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 1 hour). Pat dry with paper towels. Just before grilling, brush both sides of steaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place meat directly on the grill grate and cook over medium-high direct heat about 5 minutes. Turn and continue cooking 5 minutes for medium rare. Cook longer for medium. Remove from grill to a clean platter and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Herb Sauce.

Grilled Mediterranean Steak

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb boneless beef top sirloin or rib eye, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed, chopped, fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (1 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Grease grill grates.

Rub both sides of each piece of beef with garlic; sprinkle with lemon-pepper seasoning.

Place beef on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 9 to 11 minutes, turning once, until beef is medium rare.

In small bowl, mix together spinach, feta and olives. Spoon over beef. Serve with sliced tomatoes on the side.

Sirloin Steaks with Barbaresco Glaze

You defrosted the steak and it is raining! Make this dish instead.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups Barbaresco wine
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 sage sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • Four 1/2-pound sirloin steaks
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

In a 1-quart pot, bring Barbaresco wine to a boil with shallots, sage and rosemary. Reduce by half, about 15 minutes over medium heat; strain and discard the shallots, sage and rosemary.

Dredge sirloin steaks in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a 14″ skillet. Cook the steaks 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes. Add the Barbaresco reduction. Cook 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Remove the steaks to a platter; keep warm. Reduce the cooking juices until thickened to a glaze, about 4 minutes. Pour the glaze over the steaks and serve immediately.

Grilled Flank Steak with Zucchini and Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Steak

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak (3/4 inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Zucchini Tortini

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2/3 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

FOR THE STEAK: Combine fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt in a mortar and pestle or small processor. Grind to a fine powder. Place steak in a baking dish; rub on all sides with ground spices and oil. Marinate, chilled, 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

FOR THE SAUCE: In a large saucepan combine bell pepper, tomato, onion, oil and pinch salt. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, 1 minute more. Process sauce with an immersion blender or in a processor, then transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium-high heat for gas. Remove marinated steak from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while you prepare zucchini.

FOR THE TORTINI: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 375  degrees F. and set rack in middle of the oven.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, garlic, parsley and a pinch salt; toss together to combine. Cook until zucchini is tender, about 3 minutes; remove from heat.

On prepared baking sheet, overlap enough of the zucchini to form 4 single-layered, 3-inch rounds. Sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon cheese. Repeat with remaining zucchini and cheese to form 4 (4-layered) tortini.

Grill steak 4 1/2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to a cutting board to rest. While steak is resting, bake tortini until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Transfer tortini to serving plates. Slice steak. Serve with tortini and sauce.


Now that the holiday dinners and festivities are over, it is time to get back to the normal routine. After all the rich food, it is time to eat more simply and more healthfully. After the hectic pace of the holiday season, it is time to move at a slower pace.

Now what about all those leftovers from the holidays in your refrigerator or freezer? What can you do with them that won’t be tons of work and, at the same time, healthy?

Instead of tossing those holiday leftovers to avoid more over-indulging, use them to your advantage. Here are some practical tips and recipes to help you reduce food waste and space out the calories.

Most foods will stay fresh for up to seven days, but if it looks or smells even a little funky, throw it out!

Leftover Tips:

Serve small portions of leftover turkey, roast beef or ham along with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sandwiches, salads, wraps or a light main course.

Mix leftover veggies and seafood with small portions of pasta or brown rice.

Reduce portions of high calorie favorites by adding fresh or frozen vegetables to creamy soups, rich pastas or leftover mashed potatoes.

Combine herbs and roasted root vegetables along with a pinch of low fat cheese to make quesadillas, minis pizzas or omelets.

Toss leftover cookies in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse those gingerbread folks and sugary stars into tiny crumbs. Put them in ziplock bags and freeze for up to two months. Use the sugary mixtures to make a pie crusts, a base for bar cookies or toppings for cobblers.

You can pulverize candy canes and use the bits and peppermint dust to flavor ice cream treats for months to come. Sprinkle the candy mixture on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Cut the holiday ham or pork roast into small pieces or cubes and use to make quick frittatas or stir-fries. If a turkey or a beef roast was the centerpiece at your Christmas table, shred the leftover meat and add to your favorite chili mixture. Freeze in containers that hold from 4 to 6 cups, and you’ll have a quickie dinner to thaw and serve in January.

 

Recipes for Leftover Ham 

 Glazed Pineapple Baked Ham Recipe

Ham and Bean Soup

Serve with good rye bread and a salad for a quick weeknight meal.                                                                                                                                  

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound fully cooked ham; cubed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 16-oz cans Great Northern Beans; rinsed and; drained
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup potatoes; peeled, diced
  • 3/4 cup carrots; diced
  • 3/4 cup celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley; minced

Directions:

In a 3 quart saucepan, saute ham, onion and garlic in oil until onion is tender.

Add the next seven ingredients; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Add parsley and serve.

Ham-Stuffed Jumbo Shells

8 Servings

1 Serving equals 3 stuffed shells (274 calories)                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 cups cubed fully cooked lean ham
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine flour and milk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Reduce heat; add the ham, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Remove from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved sauce. Drain pasta; stuff each shell with about 3 tablespoons of filing.

Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 350° F. for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, paprika and remaining Swiss cheese.

Vegetable and Ham Casserole                                                                                                     

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1-1/4 cups 1% milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 2-1/4 cups frozen cauliflowerets, thawed
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray

Directions

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add cheeses; stir until melted.

Place vegetables in a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with ham. Pour sauce over ham. Place bread crumbs in a small bowl; spray with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle around the edge of casserole.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Yield: 5 servings. 1 serving equals 227 calories

Recipes for Leftover Beef 

 Roast Beef Tenderloin with Port Sauce

Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound leftover beef roast, tenderloin or steak                                                                                                                                                                                          
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour, divided
  • ½ cup reduced sour cream
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Cooked egg noodles or rice, for serving

Directions:

Cut the meat in slices about 1/3 inch thick, then the slices into strips 2 1/4 inches long. You should have about 4 cups. Set aside.

Heat the broth in a small saucepan until hot.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not brown, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms become tender and start to release their juices, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper and stir. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Do not brown. Add the hot broth and stir until smooth.

Add the beef to the pan, stir well, and warm just to a simmer, about 3 minutes. Stir the remaining 1 teaspoon of flour into the sour cream, add to the pan and season with salt to taste. Warm gently over low heat until hot, about 7 minutes. The sauce will thin a little; do not boil or the sour cream will break up. Spoon over the noodles. Serve with a green vegetable.

Leftover Roast Beef Italian Stew                                                                                                           

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Leftover roast beef, diced or shredded
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 -24 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 cup bottled whole mushrooms
  • 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • 6 ounces pre-prepared sliced carrots (about 2 medium)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Remove leftover roast and trimmings from refrigerator. Skim off all the visible saturated fat (hard white fat that rises to the top when chilled). Place roast beef on cutting board. Using a sieve, strain the liquids into a bowl, removing any solids and additional fat solids.

Chop onion and green pepper into 3/4-inch pieces. Dice beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces or shred the roast beef . Quarter the potatoes and slice carrots. In a dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, saute onions in olive oil for 3 minutes, then add green pepper and saute for 3 minutes more.

Add beef, strained beef stock, diced tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, oregano, basil, celery salt, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if desired. Add whole mushrooms just long enough to heat through. Serve hot.

Note: If you have leftover potatoes, green beans, peas, or carrots, feel free to use those. Since they are already cooked, add those with the mushrooms just long enough to reheat.

Potato Beef Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups finely diced leftover roast beef                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 to 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

Directions:

Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Heat oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add beef and sauté for about 1 minute longer. Stir in the flour until blended. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and peas and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the prepared baking dish. If using leftover mashed potatoes, warm them in a saucepan with a little milk until softened. Spoon potatoes evenly over the beef layer and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbly. If desired, turn on the broiler to brown the top for just a minute or two, but watch carefully to prevent burning.

Recipes for Leftover Turkey

Turkey and Mushroom Risotto

4-6 Servings

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup shredded leftover turkey meat
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, and any liquid released has evaporated, 5-7 minutes.

Add rice; stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup warm broth and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock by 1/2-cupfuls, stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Add leftover turkey meat, stir to combine and to warm through, adding a little stock or water if necessary to keep mixture creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir Parmesan into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 4.

Turkey Pasta Salad                                                                                                                                       

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 can (3.8 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat salad dressing

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a serving bowl, combine the pasta, turkey, olives, peppers and feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving

Pesto Turkey Club                                                                                                                             

1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 1 ounce sliced turkey
  • 1 slice turkey bacon, cooked
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions:

Spread pesto on bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and remaining bread slice.

 


Christmas Lights in Saint Mark’s Square

Christmas is by far the most important holiday of the year in Italy—the festivities last from December 24th. through January 6th. Family gatherings are the most important part of the holiday. This is the time of year when families reunite from whatever corners of the world they may have scattered and it is around the table or, a tavola, that Italian families come together. These holidays allow parents and children, siblings and in-laws, friends and sweethearts—and sometimes a grandfather (nonno) or grandmother (nonna), or an old beloved aunt (zia)—the opportunity to see one another after long separations, spending significant time together over splendid food and drink.

Italian children write letters to Santa Claus or Father Christmas asking for presents and in Italy the main day for gift giving is the Epiphany. These presents are brought by La Befana, a kindly old witch, who fill children’s stockings in the night with sweets, “i dolciumi” if they have been good or with coal, “il carbone” if they have been bad. Santa Lucia brings the gifts in Venice and Mantova, while in other regions, it is the Baby Jesus or Gesu’ Bambino who brings the presents. The children also write to their parents to let know how much they love them. This letter is placed under their father’s plate and he reads it at the end of dinner.

Christmas Time, Little Italy, New York City

Among the traditions, customs and other rituals typical of the Christmas season are:

  • The main focus of decorations is the presepe, Nativity scene or creche. The churches have a presepe outdoors and traditional bonfires are assembled in the main square of town.
  • Ceppo known, as The Tree of Light, is a wooden frame with a pyramid shape; it is several feet high and supports many shelves or tiers. The ceppo has on the bottom a manger scene and on the shelves above are placed small gifts of fruit, candy and presents. It is also decorated with gilt pine cones, colored paper, little candles and pennants. At the top is placed a star or a small doll.
  • Urn of Fate: they are wrapped presents for each family member. If you get a present with your name on it, you keep it; otherwise, you try again.
  • Zampognari and Pifferai: Bagpipers and flute players dressed with traditional costumes entertain the people at religious shrines.
  • In the Vatican City, the people go to the square at noon on Christmas day to receive the Pope’s blessing; he appears at his balcony.
  • Another tradition is the burning of the Yule log, which must stay lit until New Year’s Day.
  • The cribs are usually handed down from generation to generation.

Christmas Dinner In Italy

Again it will almost certainly start with a selection of antipasti – perhaps including salami and Parma ham, and a glass or two of sparkling Prosecco. Then there will be a hearty filled pasta dish, such as agnolotti, ravioli or tortellini. Most families will follow this with a roast – often poultry, served with vegetables; others might have a local meaty speciality, such as a stuffed pig’s trotter. Although Italians don’t usually indulge much in desserts, at Christmas, most people will make an exception and follow the meat course with some panettone – a light but buttery sponge cake or other sweets. In some regions people might also have some pandolce, a heavy fruit cake with pine nuts.

The most significant meal of the Christmas Day is the lunch or il pranzo. In Italy the following  dishes are often served:

  • Lo zampone – the skin of the lower pig leg, including the toe little bones, filled with minced meat and sausages                                                                 
  • Il cotechino – pig’s foot stuffed with spiced minced meat 
  • Sausages
  • Turkey stuffed with chestnuts
  • Lamb is also enjoyed with mashed potatoes and lentils
  • Tortellini in chicken stock
  • Crostini with liver pâté

Desserts such as:

  • Torrone – Nougat
  • Il panettone – the Milanese fruit cake filled with candied fruit
  • Gold bread – the traditional cake
  • Il pandoro – similar to il panettone, only without fruits or raisins
  • Il panforte – Gingerbread with hazelnuts, honey and almonds

The traditional drinks are:                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  • Vin brule – mulled wine
  • Bombardino – Italian version of eggnog
  • Punch of rum, mandarin and orange flavors

 Christmas Dinner Memories

When I was a child, Christmas was a very special time in our house. We all looked forward to this season: my parents, my grandparents, my maternal aunts and my siblings. It was a busy time shopping, wrapping presents, baking and decorating the house and the tree.

When Christmas arrived, we were up by 5 A.M. to open presents. After we had time with our new gifts, my father would take us to visit his relatives in Little Italy, while my mother started dinner preparations. My father had a large family so this took awhile. By the time we had wished my grandmother and all my father’s brothers and sisters, a Merry Christmas, it was time to head home. My mother never needed to make dessert for Christmas dinner, because after the rounds of visiting the relatives, we went home with a number of special homemade Christmas treats.

Struffoli

Zeppole

Anise Cookies

In fact, before the day was done we had more sweets than we could eat in a week. My mother’s father would come for dinner and he would always bring Italian pastries, ice cream and Hershey bars. What a day!

Dinner was held early in the afternoon and began with a typical antipasto of Italian meats, cheeses, olives and vegetables.

The next course was always Lasagna with little meatballs in the sauce. This was followed by a pork roast with roasted potatoes and a green salad. Lots to eat – and don’t forget those desserts!

Christmas Dinner At My House

Because several members of my family are vegetarians, I often serve vegetarian dishes alongside the non-vegetarian dishes.

Onion Soup

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pounds sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1-26-ounce container Pomi tomatoes
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 slices of thick crusty bread
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese

 Directions:

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil and set on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and let sizzle for about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn. Add the onion slices and sprinkle with the salt. Stir into the olive oil with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and slowly cook them for about 15 minutes – stirring frequently. The onions will reduce in size and begin to develop a light browned color.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and 4 cups of water. Stir in the onions. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes, letting the soup thicken a bit.

When ready to serve, toast or grill the bread and immediately top with the provolone cheese to melt a bit. Alternatively, you could toast the bread quickly under the broiler, then add the cheese and brown and melt the a bit. Add bread with cheese to the bottom of a serving bowl. Ladle the soup mixture over the bread

 

Beef Tenderloin

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Combine garlic, mustard and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in oil and process until the ingrdients are very finely chopped. Rub mixture over beef and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Transfer beef to baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 135 F. for medium-rare. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

 

 

Gnocchi with Creamy Pesto

(dilute pesto sauce with a little half and half)

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

 

 

Spinach Casserole

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 16 ounces organic baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups Sargento Italian six cheese blend

 Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 11-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach (it may be necessary to do this in batches) and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach wilts. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a large bowl. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, dill, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add the spinach mixture and the Italian cheese, and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and bake until the top has browned and set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Roasted Squash and Cauliflower

Dessert

Italian Cookies see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/14/my-childrens-favorite-christmas-cookies-part-2/


What, you may ask, is Steak Pizzaiola? What does this dish have to do with Pizza? It does share its tomato base with the pie but that’s about all. It’s a sauce that combines onions and garlic and sometimes pepperoncini—the pickled pepper of Italy or bell peppers. Then too, there’s the matter of geography. Pizza itself originated in Naples and was invented there in the late 1800’s. However, the creation of the recipe for Pizzaiola is claimed in several different regions depending on whose legend you are reading. It was probably developed in the Campania (Naples) region based on the use of the sauce. Pizzaiola was invented to tenderize tougher and less expensive cuts of beef. The meat is seared and then braised until tender. It is easy to make and is perfect for a weeknight.

Pizzaiola has probably been eaten in many Italian households without knowing what is was called.. While the basic sauce recipe calls for tomato and onion, in the true sense of Italian cooking, the recipe depends on what was in the refrigerator at the time. There is no one recipe for pizzaiola. My research finds that there are two different ways to approach this dish: braising a less tender cut of beef in the sauce or grilling a tender beef cut and adding the pizzaiola sauce.

During the 70s and 80s, many Italian-inspired regional dishes became popular in America and Steak Pizzaiola was one of them.

Braised Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Tips:

Any cut of beef that requires braising can be used. You can also braise the dish on top of the stove.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound thinly sliced top round beef, cut into 4 pieces
  • 28 oz.contained Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 6 ounces water
  • ½ cup chopped sweet onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season meat with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add meat to pan and brown quickly on each side 3-5 minutes; do not crowd meat in pan. Remove meat from pan as it is browned and place in baking dish.

Add onions to the pan and cook until lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes, Pour onions on top of steak pieces in the baking dish.

Add tomatoes and water to the skillet stirring quickly reduce heat to low, add oregano and basil. Cook tomatoes for about 3 minutes. Pour over meat and onions. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove foil or pan covering and cook an additional 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are cooked down. Good with angel hair pasta as a side.

Grilled Steak Pizzaiola

Tender cuts of beef.

You can also pan sear the steak in a heavy skillet.

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into ½-inch strips
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5) can diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (1-pound) rib-eye, NY strip or T-Bone steaks on the bone, about 1-inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large skillet and let it heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, adding a bit more wine if the sauce gets too thick. Remove from the heat. (The sauce can be made up to 2 hours ahead and reheated.)

 For the steak:

Preheat an outdoor grill for direct cooking over high heat (550ºF).

Season the steaks with the salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature while heating the grill.

Grill over high heat to medium or to your preferred level, turning only once. Remove from heat and rest rest five minutes. Slice steak into one inch slices and place steaks in the sauce and allow them to heat for a few minutes.

Alternately pour sauce over cooked steaks and slice into serving portions.


While the history of the origin of a particular food can be very contradictory, there are usually some true facts in the different versions of how a food originated in a particular country. Lasagna has one of those conflicted origins, however the description, if not the origin, included here, is one commonly found in the culinary history books.

The history of the name of these noodles is actually quite interesting. “Lasagna” is derived from the Greek lasanon, which means “chamber pot.” The Romans borrowed the word to refer to cooking pots of a similar shape, and eventually the word came to be used to refer to the noodles which were traditionally layered in a lasanum, a Roman lasagna dish.

Athenian Tile

Roman Baking Tiles

With the expansion of the Roman empire, this new “lasagnum” dish spread all across Europe, eventually reaching Britain, where it was published in a cookbook, The Forme of Cury, in the late 14th. century, which led to Britain claiming the origin of the dish was within their country. Documented  historical accounts, tell us that the first printed recipe with tomatoes appeared in 1692. If lasagna includes tomatoes, then it would have not been known, in its present form, until somewhere around 1700. Most likely present day lasagna may have no ancient roots, but may very well be a dish that was re-invented at a much later date.

Title page of The Forme of Cury (18th century ed.)

The early Italians changed the name from “lasagnum,” to “lasagna or in Italian, lasagne,” which is the current form. Over the years, the word “lasagna” began to change definitions; the word previously referred to the serving dish it was baked in, but later began to simply mean a pasta meal in the dish itself. In modern cooking terms, it now means layers of thin pasta, with meat, cheese and tomato sauce layered in between.

It seems that lasagna takes a different form not only in the various provinces of Italy but also from the diversity of every home. Some lasagna recipes are meat based, others are made from vegetables, such as spinach or artichokes. Some folks add hard boiled eggs and peas; others do not. In the end, what goes between the layers of noodles is as variable as the things you can find to put between them.

With lasagna, it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients, especially the cheese. Some lasagna recipes have multiple cheeses, but most often you’ll find ricotta and mozzarella, especially in southern Italy.  Some typical Italian lasagna specialties include Lasagna Alla Bolognese, which uses a tomato meat/white sauce and Lasagna Verdi, which includes spinach and cheese. Outside of Italy, there are many different types of lasagna, especially in the United States. From vegetable lasagna to spicy chipotle (Mexican) lasagna to everything in between. 

Ridged Lasagna Noodles

Flat Sided Lasagna Noodles

In Italy, lasagna noodles are totally flat, while American lasagna tends to be ruffled along the edges to help trap sauces. The best noodles are made from durum wheat, a particularly hard wheat which stands up to extended cooking, remaining chewy and resilient even after boiling and baking. Some cooks prefer to use no-boil lasagna noodles, which are layered into a lasagna pan without being boiled in water. The moisture in the lasagna and the heat of the oven cook these noodles so that they become soft by the time the dish has finished baking. In using no boil noodles, I have found that the noodles taste better if soaked in hot water for 15 minutes before layering in the baking dish.

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. eggplant (peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs.skim ricotta cheese
  • 1  1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan (cheese about 3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup shallots (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 4 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce, see post for recipe: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 9 lasagna noodles (boiled or no boil or homemade)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese ( thinly sliced)
  • Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place eggplant pieces on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt; let stand 20 minutes. Transfer eggplant to prepared sheet. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Roast eggplant until tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Maintain oven temperature.

Mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shallots and rosemary in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

If using no boil noodles: Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

If using regular noodles, boil according to package directions.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles crosswise in a single layer in dish. Spread half of ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange half of eggplant over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon a generous 1 cup marinara sauce over. Arrange half of the mozzarella slices over sauce. Repeat layering 1 more time. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup Parmesan. Cover tightly with lightly oiled foil. (Can be made 1 day ahead; chill.)

Bake until noodles are tender and lasagna is heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover; bake until cheese begins to brown and sauce is bubbling slightly at edges, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 7 ounces each)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic , finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms , brushed clean and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low fat milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package (8 -9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken breasts, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water to cover chicken. Bring to a boil; skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let chicken cool in cooking liquid. Remove chicken and shred or chop into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushroom liquid evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in sage and cook 1 minute. Return mushroom mixture to skillet and stir to combine; set aside.

Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Over medium heat, cook, stirring frequently, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta and mozzarella cheeses; stir well.

Reserve 1 cup sauce for top layer. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of prepared dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over sauce, overlapping noodles slightly to fit. Spread with 1/2 cup ricotta mixture. Spoon on half of mushroom mixture. Top with half of chicken. Pour half of remaining sauce over chicken. Repeat layering. Top with remaining lasagna noodles and spread with reserved 1 cup sauce.

Coat a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish. Bake lasagna 35 minutes. Uncover dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes.

     

Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna

Makes 8 servings

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (Wondra)
  • 2 1/2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Spinach:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or sweet Vidalia onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Filling:

  • 2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Lasagna

For the sauce:

In heavy large saucepan combine Wondra flour,  milk, wine and butter. Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and comes to boil, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and white pepper.

DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the spinach:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook about 2 minutes. Remove spinach from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups sauce. Season spinach with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Spinach can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the filling:

Mix ricotta, Parmesan, salt, pepper and lemon peel in medium bowl.

DO AHEAD: Filling can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the lasagna :

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13 x 9 x 2- inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce thinly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with 3 noodles, arranged side by side and covering most of bottom of dish. Spread half of spinach mixture over.

Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Fontina. Top with 3 noodles and half of ricotta mixture Drop half of pesto over the ricotta by teaspoonfuls, spacing evenly apart.

Continue layering with 3 noodles, remaining spinach mixture, 1/3 cup Fontina, 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, then remaining pesto. Top with last 3 noodles. Spread remaining sauce over; sprinkle with remaining Fontina. Cover dish with foil coated with cooking spray.

Bake lasagna until heated through and bubbling at edges, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove foil from dish.

Preheat broiler. Broil the lasagna casserole until top is browned in spots, turning dish occasionally for even browning, about 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

 

Low-Fat Meaty Lasagna

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 small carrot , cut into chunks
  • 1 pound mushrooms (cremini or white)
  • 6 cloves garlic , peeled
  • 2 (28 ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 pounds very lean ground beef
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra flour is good for making white sauces)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

Pulse carrot, mushrooms, and garlic in food processor until finely chopped; transfer to bowl.

In Dutch oven heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and brown ground beef. Remove to a paper towel lined bowl and wipe out pan with additional paper towels.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to pan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrot, mushrooms, and garlic and cook, uncovered, until mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 7 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook until paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in browned beef and 1 cup milk, using a wooden spoon to break up any large chunks, and cook until most of the milk has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, 1 cup broth, crushed red pepper and bay leaf; bring to simmer and cook until sauce has thickened and most of liquid has evaporated, 45 to 60 minutes. Off heat, remove bay leaf, stir in basil, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 cup milk, remaining 1 cup broth, and Wondra flour together in medium saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1 teaspoon butter, nutmeg and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. and spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.

Spread 2 cups meat sauce in prepared baking pan. Lay 3 noodles over sauce, leaving space between them. Repeat with 3 more layers, sauce and noodles. Spread white sauce evenly over top layer of noodles, leaving 1-inch border around edge. Bake until lasagna is bubbling around edges and top begins to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack 20 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: You can make both the meat sauce and the white sauce up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate them until ready to use. Gently reheat the sauces separately before proceeding with the recipe.

Creamy Seafood Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra)
  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fat free half-and-half
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 container (15 oz) skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 lb. crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, cut in half
  • 1/2 lb. bay scallops
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles as directed on package. Drain noodles.

Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender. Stir in flour; cook and stir until bubbly. Gradually stir in half-and-half, broth, sherry, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

In medium bowl, mix Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup parsley; set aside.

Spray a 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Top with 3 noodles.

Spread half of the crabmeat and half of the shrimp and half of the scallops over the noodles.

Spread with 3/4 cup of the sauce over the seafood. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 3 noodles.

Spread ricotta mixture over noodles and spread the remaining seafood over the ricotta.

Top with 3 noodles, spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes or until cheese is light golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

Makes 8 servings

 

Special Occasion Lasagna with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This spicy sauce was developed in the town of Amatrice in central Italy and typically combines chilies, pancetta and tomatoes.

Homemade lasagna noodles allow the sauce to shine through.

Pasta:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or 00 Italian pasta flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup semolina flour (about 6 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs

Sauce:

  • 2 pancetta slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces and dice
  • 4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Filling:

  • 2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Remaining ingredients:

  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Cooking spray

To Prepare Pasta:

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours in a food processor; process 30 seconds. Combine 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, and eggs in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. With processor running, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing just until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Shape dough into a disk. Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), press dough portion into a flat narrow rectangle. Roll the dough through the settings of a pasta machine into a rectangle the width of the roller, dusting with flour as necessary. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the next to last setting. Lay pasta sheet flat on a kitchen towel; cover. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions. Cut pasta into lasagna length sheets that fit the lasagna dish you are using.

To Prepare Sauce

Cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, 1 tablespoon oil, and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 cup water and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally.

To Prepare Filling:

Combine  ricotta cheese, salt, ground pepper, chopped fresh parsley and  ground nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Cook Pasta:

Bring 6 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Slowly lower 1-2 pasta sheets into the boiling water; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until done. Carefully remove pasta from water with a slotted spoon; lay pasta flat on a damp kitchen towels and cover with another damp kitchen towel. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta sheets.

Assemble Lasagna and Bake:

Preheat oven to 350°F and coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce in the prepared pan. Layer 3 noodles on top. Spread another 1 cup sauce over the noodles. Dot about 2/3 cup ricotta mixture over the sauce, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Continue layering the noodles, sauce and cheeses, finishing with the sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the lasagna until the sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.


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

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.



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