Fennel seeds are the dried “fruit” of the fennel plant. The plant has feathery leaves, which are used as an herb and it also produces yellow flowers. When the flowers die, seeds form in clumps and are collected once they have ripened and hardened.
The seeds are oval in shape and green or greenish brown in color. They are often mistaken for anise. However, fennel seeds are slightly larger and less pungent. The seeds and leaves of the fennel plant both have a licorice flavor, although the flavor of fennel is milder and somewhat sweeter than anise.
Fennel seeds are actually a spice, although the leaves, stalks and roots of the plant are known as a herb. The bulb-like vegetable called fennel or finocchio in Italian is related to the herb fennel and is similar in taste, however, they are not the same plant. The fennel plant is native to the southern European and Mediterranean regions, although, it is now cultivated and produced in other parts of the world such as India, China and Egypt.
Fennel has been around for thousands of years and food historians say that the name has Greek origins. In 490 BC the Ancient Greeks fought with the Persians in the city of Marathon. According to the story, the battleground was actually a field of fennel and the word for fennel is derived from the Greek word for “marathon”. The Romans introduced the spice to the UK and other European countries and over time it was also transported East to Asia and China. The Puritans took the spice to the US, where they called fennel seeds “meeting seeds”, due to the fact that during long church sermons or Puritan meetings, they chewed on the seeds to fend off hunger and tiredness. Today fennel and fennel seeds are popular in Northern and Southern European cuisines, as well as in Chinese and Indian cooking, where they are often included in spice blends.
Medicinally, fennel seeds have traditionally been used to settle the stomach and digestive system. This is due to components in the seeds that are known to prevent muscle spasms and cramps. In the Indian culture, fennel seeds are often chewed after a meal in order to prevent gas or indigestion. The seeds can also be made into an after dinner digestive drink to relieve the same symptoms.
Fennel seeds can be bought from your local supermarket or spice shop. The freshest and best quality seeds will be a bright green color and these are the best seeds for cooking. As the seeds age, their color changes to a darker green and then a brownish green to grey. You can buy the seeds whole or in ground form. The whole seeds will keep longer and you can easily grind them yourself at home with a pestle and mortar or a spice mill. Store the seeds in a dark cupboard away from the sunlight in an airtight glass container. Try to use the seeds within 6 months.
The seeds can be used without any special preparation, if you are using them in a sweet dish or to flavor bread. However, if the seeds are being used for a savory recipe, they may be toasted or heated in a dry frying pan for two or three minutes before grinding or crushing, as this will accentuate their flavor and aroma. Toasting the seeds in this way actually changes the flavor of the seeds slightly, giving them a stronger and spicier flavor rather than a sweeter and milder one.
Fennel seeds have different uses in different parts of the world. In Scandinavia and central Europe, the seeds are used in baking, particularly in rye breads and sweet pastries. Fennel is extremely popular in Italy where they are added to sausage mixtures. In India fennel seeds are one of the ingredients in the common spice blend, panch phoran, which also contains mustard, fenugreek seeds and cumin that is used to flavor curry. Fennel is very versatile but is especially flavorful in rubs for meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
Below are a number of ideas on how you can use fennel seeds in your cooking:
- Use fennel seeds to make fish soup and fish stock.
- Add fennel seeds to salads, particularly cucumber salad.
- Add to soft cheese and spread on bread.
- Use the seeds when making bread or biscuits.
- Use in sausage mixtures.
- Use in any pork dishes, stews or casseroles.
- Sprinkle ground fennel seeds over fish or meat.
- Use in Italian-style pasta sauces.
- Use in pickling solutions.
- Use in a marinade for meat, fish or vegetables.
- Add to poaching or steaming liquid for fish and shellfish.
- Add to couscous, lentil, bean or bulgur wheat dishes.
- Add to homemade coleslaw or potato salad.
- Use in homemade salad dressings.
Homemade Italian Fennel Pork Sausage
Fennel seed is one of the main ingredients in Italian sausage and this recipe includes Asiago cheese for added flavor. Try making your own at home. You can use a food processor to chop up the pork and most electric mixers come with a sausage stuffer attachment. This sausage is just as good in patties as in casings.
- 2 large boneless pork shoulder roasts, cut into small chunks (remove large pieces of fat) weighing 6 pounds after trimming
- 1-1/2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 5 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
- 4 tablespoons crushed fennel seeds
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
Toast fennel seeds in a pan in a preheated 325-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Cool before using in the recipe.
In a large bowl, combine pork, salt, pepper red pepper, parsley, Asiago cheese, fennel seeds and garlic. Thoroughly blend with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend.
Put seasoned pork chunks through the medium plate of a food chopper. Place in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute seasonings.
All sausages can be prepared as patties (the easiest) or run through a sausage-stuffer into hog casings by following the instructions of the appliance. Sausages freeze well.
Patties can be sauteed in a little olive oil and served with tomato sauce.
Yield: about 6 pounds.
Braided Fennel Seed Twists
Taralli are the famous hard country biscuits from Molise and Campania. They look like bagels and can be made large or small. They appear at every meal and are addictive. They are flavored with fennel seeds, black pepper and peperoncino (crushed red pepper). Try using all these flavorings in the dough or just one, depending on your taste. When taralli are braided they are called treccine (little braids).
- 1 cup warm water (110-115F)
- 2 teaspoons active dried yeast
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Pour the water into a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and pulse to dissolve it. Pour the olive oil into the feed tube.
In a large measuring cup mix the flour with the salt and pour through the feed tube with the motor running. Stop the machine.
Grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder until coarse. Add them through the feed tube along with the black pepper. Pulse the machine to blend the ingredients. The dough should be soft,
but not sticky.
When the dough forms a ball, stop the machine and transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Punch down the dough and transfer it to a work surface. Only use flour on the surface if the dough is sticky, but it should be fine without it.
Roll the dough out into a 36-inch log. Cut 36 1-inch pieces.
Roll two pieces into an 8 inch rope, then twist the pieces together to form a braid. Pinch the ends together to form a circle.
Allow the biscuits to rise on lightly greased baking sheets for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake the biscuits about 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn off the oven and allow the them to really dry out in the oven. They should be the consistency of a hard cracker. Cool.
Serve at room temperature with cheese and olives and a glass of wine.
To freeze, wrap the biscuits individually in plastic wrap and then in a large zip lock bag. They will keep for about 3 months
Chicken and Escarole Soup with Fennel
6 main-course servings
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 14-to 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
- 8 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1 head of escarole, cut into wide strips
- Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Mix in onions, celery, garlic and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until vegetables and chicken are tender, about 15 minutes. Add escarole; simmer until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Serve, passing cheese separately.
Fennel Crusted Tuna Steaks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
- 2 tuna steaks (5 to 6 ounces, 2 to 3 inches thick)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Place a medium-sized skillet on medium-high heat and add oil to the pan.
Using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, crush fennel seeds into a powder. Place in a shallow bowl, add crushed pepper and mix until well incorporated.
Pat tuna steaks dry with paper towel. Season steaks liberally on both sides with salt.
Press fennel-pepper mix onto tuna steaks on both sides.
Carefully place tuna steak into the heated pan.
Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes until pink in the middle or until done to your liking.
Grilled Spareribs with Fennel Seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
- 2 racks (2 1/2 lbs. each) pork spare ribs trimmed St. Louis-style, membrane removed, cut into 8- portions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine all ingredients except the ribs and olive oil in a bowl. Rub ribs all over with the oil and spread with seasoning mixture, putting most on the meaty side of the ribs. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours; let stand at room temperature for one hour before cooking hour.
Meanwhile, scrunch 5 (1 1/2 ft.) sheets of foil each into a log about 9 in. long; set aside.
Prepare a grill for low (250° to 300°) indirect heat and put a 9-by 13-in. drip pan in place ( check note below).
Set ribs with bone tips upright over the drip pan area, arranging foil logs between ribs to hold them up. Grill, covered, until meat is very tender when pierced and shrinks back 1/2 inch from the tips of the bones, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours.
Transfer ribs to a rimmed baking sheet and cover with foil. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.
Note: If using gas, put a drip pan in place under one area of the cooking grate (the indirect-heat area), then light only the burner or burners on the rest of the grill (the direct-heat area).
If using charcoal, ignite 50 briquets in a chimney, then bank coals on opposite sides of the grill, leaving a cleared area in the middle. Set a drip pan in the cleared area. Let coals burn down to the temperature specified in the recipe. To maintain the temperature during cooking, add 5 briquets to each mound of coals about every 30 minutes, starting when ribs go on the grill; if the fire gets too hot, partially close vents under grill and on the lid.
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The history of fennel goes back to ancient times as it was easily accessible throughout the Mediterranean Basin. Roman warriors are said to have consumed fennel to make them strong. It was also thought to have the power to help people keep thin. Its Greek name marathon, which means “grow thin”, reflects the belief in its ability to suppress appetite. Greek myths also hold that knowledge was delivered to man by the gods at Olympus in a fennel stalk filled with coal. Fennel was revered by the Greeks and the Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties.
Today, the United States, France, India and Russia are among the leading cultivators of fennel. Most fennel available in American markets is grown in California. The type you’ll find, Florence or bulb fennel (sometimes labeled “fresh anise”), has a bulbous base, stalks like celery, and feathery leaves that resemble Queen Anne’s lace. Like celery, the entire plant is edible. The crisp and slightly sweet bulb is especially delicious served raw in salads. Whether braised, sautéed, roasted, or grilled, the bulb mellows and softens with cooking.
Look for small, heavy, white bulbs that are firm and free of cracks, browning, or moist areas. The stalks should be crisp, with feathery, bright-green fronds. Wrapped in plastic, fennel keeps for just a few days in the refrigerator; the flavor fades as it dries out.
• Fennel seeds don’t come from bulb fennel but from common, or wild, fennel. The seeds are slightly nutty, with the expected licorice flavor, and are widely used in sausages, stews, soups, and curries.
• Fennel stalks can take the place of celery in soups and stews, and can be used as a “bed” for roasted chicken and meats.
• Use fronds as a garnish, or chop them and use as you would other herbs, like dill or parsley. Chopped fennel works especially well in Italian tomato sauces, but add it late in the cooking process so the flavor isn’t diluted.
Cooking fennel can be somewhat similar to cooking an onion. When fennel is roasted or sauteed, the sugar in it caramelizes. When sugar is heated until it browns, that is called caramelization. Caramelized fennel has a sweeter flavor with a lighter, more tempered flavor than raw fennel.
What Flavors Go With Fennel?
Fresh fennel accents the natural flavors of fish and goes particularly well with fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Braise or roast a whole fennel bulb and slice or chop it as a side dish for a grilled salmon dinner.
Italians enjoy fresh slices of fennel bulb simply dressed with lemon juice, salt and olive oil as the first course of a meal. Add an interesting taste to a mixed green salad with chunks of fresh fennel, which has a hint of celery flavor and has a crunchy. Fresh chunks of fennel taste good with a variety of cheeses, and you can decorate the cheese platter with aromatic, feathery fennel fronds.
The best-tasting Italian sausages contain fennel seeds. The slightly sweet anise flavor of the seeds complements the hot spices in the sausage, mellows out their pungency and brings out the best tastes of the garlic in the meat mixture. Small amounts of fennel seeds give savory breads a slight anise flavor and delicate aroma.
Instead of adding a lemon halves or garlic to the cavity of a roast chicken to give it added flavor, cut a fennel bulb into chunks and stuff it into the bird along with the fronds and stems of the plant to season the poultry.
Pan-roasted Fennel with Grana Padano Cheese
- 3 medium bulbs fennel, trimmed, leaving root end intact
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 ounces Grana Padano, grated on the large holes of a box grater (1/2 cup)
Cut fennel lengthwise into eighths and arrange in a single layer in a wide heavy pot with lid. Add butter, olive oil, shallot, parsley and salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, turning fennel occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle fennel with cheese and continue cooking, covered, until cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes more. Serve warm, garnished with parsley.
Slow Roasted Salmon With Fennel Orange Salsa
- 4 – 6-to 8-ounce boneless salmon fillets, skin on
- salt, pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons fresh herbs (chives, rosemary, or thyme).
For the salsa:
- 1 fennel bulb finely diced, plus 1 tablespoon minced fennel leaves
- 1/2 cup finely diced oranges
- 10 green olives pitted and minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the fennel bulb and leaves, the diced orange, the olives, the citrus juices, and salt and pepper to taste.
Place salmon skin side down on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil. Brush fish lightly with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and press the herbs into the top of the salmon. Set aside.
When the oven is hot, “slow-roast” the salmon for 25-30 minutes.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S DONE?
The fat between the layers of fish will just begin to turn opaque, a small amount of liquid will collect under the fillets, and the fish will flake slightly when nudged with your finger. Pick up a piece and it should easily break apart between the layers rather than holding firmly together. It might appear to be underdone because the color will be vivid, but it will be fully cooked.
Serve salmon with the salsa on the side.
Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onion, and Olives
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2/3 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray
- 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 4 small bulbs)
- 2 cups thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves, optional
To Prepare Dough
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour and salt, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; knead 5 times, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Place dough on a (12-inch) pizza pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim.
To Prepare the Topping
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and the next 5 ingredients (fennel through black pepper), and cook for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Spread marinara sauce over crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border; sprinkle with fennel mixture, cheese and olives. Bake at 450° F for 18 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with basil leaves just before serving, if desired.
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Italy is water-bound, with thousands of miles of beaches, bays, and inlets. Almost everything that lives in the sea, from swordfish, which the fishermen still harpoon from the bows of their boats in the Straights of Messina, to arselle, little clams that live in the sand just beyond the shore and gathered with strainers, finds its way to the table.
The role of fish in the Italian diet was, in the past, even more important than it is now. Up until the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church required that their followers eat fish on Fridays and days of penitence. All large cities had fishmongers to meet the demand, as well as, traveling fishmongers who made the rounds of the towns too small to support a specialized store.
Each of Italy’s main regions are known for specific types of fish and the ways of preparing it. When Italians emigrated to America, they first settled along the coastal areas and brought with them their style of preparing fish. Vegetables are often used to create sauces in fish dishes in traditional Italian cooking. The following recipes are examples of this cuisine.
Tuna Steaks Simmered With Fennel
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered, cored and cut across the grain into thin slices
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 pounds tuna steaks
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until leeks are limp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the fennel and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust seasonings. The mixture should be very soft. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper and heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the tuna steaks for 1 minute on each side and remove to a plate.
3. Return the fennel mixture to the skillet and place the tuna on top of the mixture. Cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through or cooked the way you like it.
4. Sprinkle on the parsley and serve, laying the fish on top of the fennel, with lemon wedges on the side.
Yield: 4 servings.
Advance preparation: You can cook the fennel up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate. Bring back to a simmer in the skillet, add the tuna fillets and proceed with the recipe.
Fast Italian Fish
- 4 small zucchini
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 4 skinless white fish fillets (5-6 ounces each)
- 4 tablespoons fresh basil pesto, see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/
- olive oil
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Basil Leaves for garnish
Heat oven to 425°F. Trim ends off the zucchini and cut lengthwise into quarters.
Put on nonstick baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, wrap 1 slice prosciutto around each fish fillet.
Remove pan from oven, turn zucchini over and push to one side, and put fish on pan. Roast until fish is cooked and flakes easily and zucchini are tender, about 8 minutes. Top each fillet with 1 tablespoon pesto and garnish with basil leaves.
Pasta With Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers
Nutritionist and author, Jonny Bowden of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” has created a list of healthy foods people should be eating but aren’t. Sardines is one of them. They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins. Choose sardines packed in olive oil.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
- 1 onion, chopped and garlic
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound long pasta with a hole through the center, like perciatelli
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers, crushed red pepper and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Swordfish – a staple in Italian cuisine.
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t swordfish endangered? No. Or at least it’s not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.
If you’ve never worked with swordfish, it is dense and meaty. It also has an inedible rubbery skin around the outside that must be removed. When shopping for swordfish, pay attention to the bloodline, that red patch of meat in the steak. It should be red. If it is brown, the fish is old.
Good alternatives to swordfish, if you can’t find it, are yellowfin tuna or mahi mahi.
Yield: Serves 4
Use a light hand when pounding the fish; it should be thin enough to roll around the simple bread-crumb-and-cheese filling, but not so thin that it rips.
- Juice of 2 lemons, strained of seeds
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon drained, chopped capers
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Four 6-ounce pieces swordfish, cut long and thin so each is 4 or 5 inches long
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup minced yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup fresh or dried bread crumbs
- ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon drained capers, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 ounces provolone, thinly sliced or grated
1. To make the sauce: Put the lemon juice in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Stir in the parsley, basil, capers, and rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
2. To make the fish: Lay the swordfish between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy skillet, lightly pound the fish until it is about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the fish to a plate, season with salt and black pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
4. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the bread crumbs and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, thyme, capers, and red pepper. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.
5. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the fish. Cover with the provolone and roll each piece of fish into a cylinder. Hold the rolls closed with toothpicks.
6. In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the swordfish rolls until golden brown on all sides. Turn them carefully with tongs or a wooden spoon. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, just until they are still moist in the center. Do not overcook.
7. Put each swordfish roll on a plate. Whisk the vinaigrette and spoon a little over each roll.
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When I think back to when I was growing up, I remember that we did not eat any differently during the summer months than we did during the winter months. When it was hot and my mother did not like the heat, she often fixed the meal ingredients as much as she could in the morning. Still, there was the cooking to do to put it all together during those hot evenings. The meals were not lighter, nor did they vary in content. It was never too hot for Sunday’s pasta dinner or veal scaloppine with mashed potatoes during the week. Salad was always served along side the dinner entree. Occasionally my father would grill steaks or sausage on a hot summer night because that was the time of year one could grill in NJ. Many a time, though, I did not feel like eating those meals in the heat.
As times have changed and society has gotten away from big, formal dinners due to hectic lifestyles and the growth of a multitude of convenience foods, meals of the present generation are more spur of the moment. The old conventions of what constitutes a meal has also relaxed, and if, we want a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad for dinner, we just do it. When it is hot, as it has been much earlier than usual this year, salad for dinner seems just right. I have put together a collection of some salad recipes than can be a great dinner meal on their own or paired with a grilled protein of your choice.
Avocado, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad
Add grilled shrimp for a complete meal.
4 small plum tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
6 oz small buffalo mozzarella balls, torn in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
Basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, skinned, and quartered
Position a rack 5-6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the garlic and scallions. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes.
Broil the tomatoes for 4–5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften and the garlic is golden brown.
Place the hot tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and all cooking juices in a bowl. Add the mozzarella, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, capers, and basil and toss gently.
Place 2 avocado quarters on each of 4 plates. Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the avocados and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Penne and Vegetable Salad
1 lb. penne
3 cups broccoli florets
2 cups asparagus tips
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 large carrots, cut into julienne
2 tablespoons chopped basil or oregano
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to the package instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, steam or microwave the broccoli and asparagus for 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and carrots and steam about 3 minutes more, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl. Toss in the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad
Add grilled chicken breast for a complete meal.
8 zucchini, halved lengthwise
4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped
About 2/3 cup croutons, see recipe below
About ½ cup toasted almonds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Lay the zucchini on a baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for about 8 minutes, or until the zucchini are golden brown on the flat, fleshy side. Let the zucchini cool slightly and then slice into half moons. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and make croutons.
In a bowl, mix the zucchini, mint sprigs, croutons, and almonds. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, toss, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 oz. (about 2 cups) bread cubes; (Italian or French bread), diced into 3/4-inch cubes.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Toss bread cubes with garlic and olive oil to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, give the pan a shake to make sure the croutons toast evenly. Remove from oven and completely cool croutons. Store in an airtight container.
Shellfish Salad with Oranges and Fennel
Orange paired with anise-scented fennel is a traditional Sicilian flavor combination. This recipe adds shrimp and scallops, but you can use any fish you like in this recipe. Thinly sliced celery is a nice alternative if your market does not have fennel.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper
3 navel oranges
2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed, and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 cups dry white wine
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. sea scallops, foot muscle remove and cut in half
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or fennel leaves for garnish
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the citrus juices. Whisk in the pepper and the salt to taste, Set aside.
Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom to reveal the flesh, Stand the orange upright and remove the peel in wide strips, cutting downward and following the contour of the fruit. Holding the orange, cut along both sides of each segment to release the segments from the membrane. Using the knife tip, pry out any seeds from the segments. Squeeze the membrane over the bowl to collect extra juice that you can add it to the vinaigrette at serving time.
Place the fennel in a bowl, add half of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat evenly. Divide the fennel evenly among 8 salad plates, forming a bed on each one, or arrange the fennel in a bed on a large platter.
In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook gently until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Add the scallops to the pan and simmer gently until just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the bowl holding the shrimp. Drizzle about one-third of the remaining vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat evenly.
Place the orange segments evenly over the fennel. Then distribute the warm seafood evenly over the oranges. Add the orange juice from the bowl to the remaining vinaigrette and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4 servings
Add grilled salmon fillets for a complete meal.
1-10 oz.package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
1 large bunch of arugula
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Add the juice and rind of the lemon to a small saucepan and place the artichoke hearts in the pan with enough cold water to just cover the artichoke hearts.
Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the artichokes for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool.
Divide the arugula and artichokes among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina – Piedmont Style
The cuisine of Piedmont includes numerous, interesting cooked vegetable salads that are served as appetizers. This dish is often served as a first course, but you can add a grilled beef tenderloin steak or sirloin steak to complete the meal.
1 each large, yellow, red and orange bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Freshly milled white pepper
2 tablespoons sliced, pitted imported green olives
¼ pound fontina, cut into long, thin strips
Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, or 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly. Set aside to cool.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the smoky flavor.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives, and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.
Cannellini Beans and Tuna
Serves 8 or more
2 cups (1 pound) dried cannellini (white kidney) or Great Northern beans
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 whole cloves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
¼ cup olive oil
1 (6-ounce) can Italian-style tuna fish packed in oil, drained and flaked
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Rinse the beans and place in a bowl of cold water to cover. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Drain the beans and place them in an ovenproof casserole. Stud the onion halves with the whole cloves and bury them in the casserole with the garlic, thyme, and sage. Add enough cold water to cover by ½ inch and cover the casserole.
Place casserole over low heat and bring contents to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in oven. Bake until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes to be sure that the liquid is simmering and is still above the level of the beans, adding boiling water if necessary.) Season with the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Set aside, uncovered, until cooled.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to serve, remove the onion, garlic, and herbs. Fold in the oil and drained tuna. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.
- Roasted Mini Pepper and Fresh Basil Relish over Grilled Salmon (karistaskitchen.com)
- Grilled Vegetable Garden Salad (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Garden Couscous Salad (yesiwantcake.com)
- Jazz Up Your Salads (healthfoodienut.wordpress.com)
- Salad Dressing And Sauce (thevreelandclinic.wordpress.com)
- Salad Days: Three easy salads and a Salad Dressing Masterclass (3outof3.wordpress.com)
- Boston Lettuce, Snap Pea, and Radish Salad with Green Garlic and Buttermilk Dressing, and Goodbye Dan Melia! (brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot.com)
- Is your salad as healthy as it seems? (dynamicfitnessuk.wordpress.com)
- How to Eat Hass Avocados (avocadocentral.com)
Authentic Italian cooking is not just pasta, as many people think, here in the States. In Italy, portion sizes are much smaller and pasta is generally served as a first course, separate from the main entree. Family meals are important events and diners are encouraged to savor their food. Italian cuisine places emphasis on the quality and freshness of ingredients and most Italian cuisine originates from frugality. Locally grown and regional products are the basis for meals. Vegetables and fruits are used to enhance and accompany the flavors of the main course. Vegetables, such as, eggplant, asparagus, artichokes, peppers, fennel, spinach, beans and escarole are most commonly used.
The dish featured here, will demonstrate how vegetables flavor and support the main dish protein. This dish features fennel, which is a vegetable that is not well know, but is showing up more and more in food magazines and on cooking shows. Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, frond top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads or to dress a serving plate, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It’s very firm and crunchy and it tastes a bit like anise. It has a fresh taste and is excellent for salads or slaws. It can also be grilled or braised until it becomes tender and sweet, mild and delicious.
Fish Braised With Fennel, Artichokes and Lemons
In this recipe you can use any firm white fish fillets that are found in your region, such as, halibut, cod, grouper or bass. I also prefer fresh or frozen artichoke hearts to bottled types because I think the frozen taste much fresher. This is a typical Italian preparation for fish fillets and includes many mediterranean flavors. Give this recipe a try for your next meal.
You will need:
- 2 lemons
- 1-9oz. package frozen artichokes, defrosted and cut in half
- 1/2 large onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, core removed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flour for dredging
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 fillets (each weighing about 6 ounces and 1 inch thick)
- Fennel fronds
Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon into very thin slices.
Put onion, fennel, artichoke hearts, oregano, lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan. Cover pan.
Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.
Season both sides of the fish fillets with salt, pepper and a light coating of flour.
In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook fillets, without moving them, until bottoms are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn; cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm for a minute or two. Spoon 1/2 cup artichoke mixture over each fillet. Garnish with fennel fronds.