Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Many seafood sellers are working to raise awareness about the need for sustainable, eco-friendly fishing and the importance of not purchasing seafood on the endangered list. However, it does have one downside: a glut of eco-labels that can make for confusion at the seafood counter. When you’re grocery shopping and you’ve forgotten your Monterey Bay Guide, look for these two labels: Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea. Fish and seafood with these labels came from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s standards for sustainable fishing meet the world’s toughest best practice guidelines. With their practices and diligent efforts, they are transforming the way seafood is sourced—and helping you get the best produce for you and the Earth.

Friend of the Sea is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve marine habitats. Products stamped with the Friend of the Sea logo come from sustainable seafood fisheries and aquaculture where the harvesting of seafood leaves no lasting impact or damage to the surrounding environment.

Types of Fish

1. Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna.

2. White, lean and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish.

3. Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna.

4. White, lean and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting.

5. White, firm and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon.

Whole-Foods-

Budget-conscious families can eat fish. The key is strategic shopping.

Your seafood seller can point you to budget buys or specials. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now and freeze some for later.

For top quality, look for “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS)―fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a good alternative when fresh wild salmon are out of season. Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which are often defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.

Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood. Look for meaty heads, tails and trimmings of larger fish, like salmon, cod and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat and add to chowder and casseroles. (Don’t forget the cheek meat under the gills). Heads and trimmings are essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that ready-made varieties. Use homemade fish stock in place of water or clam juice in your recipes.

If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on fillets. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish, like salmon, cod and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.

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How To make Good Seafood Choices

Choose a fish market with knowledgeable salespeople. Fish should be displayed attractively and surrounded by plenty of clean crushed ice.

The best approach to buying and eating fish is to aim for variety. Let freshness be your guide. It’s easy to substitute one fish for another, so if the mahimahi looks and smells fresher than the pompano, buy it instead.

When shopping, ask for your fish to be packed with a separate bag of crushed ice to keep it cold. Refrigerate whole fish up to two days; fillets and steaks one to two days. Place the fish in a plastic bag, then top with a zip-top plastic bag filled with ice. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

Farmed seafood, also called aquaculture, can provide high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly and can be a way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish.

Ways to Save

When local fish are in season, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Here is a simple guide to what is generally in season but you can also check your State Fish and Game website for additional information on fish from your region.

http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/afreshapproach/whats-in-season.aspx

Try fish that you have not eaten before. If you live in the East, try Atlantic black sea bass and weakfish; in the Gulf states try amberjack and black drum; in the Great Lakes region try walleye and smelts and on the West Coast try Pacific sardines and sablefish (black cod).

Whole fish shrink less than fillets when cooking, giving you more value for your per-pound price. Whiting, croaker, porgy and Pacific rockfish can be great values. Also, consider summer flounder (sometimes called fluke), red snapper and farmed striped bass and Arctic char.

Canned fish is an excellent budget-friendly option. It can also be a nutritious one, particularly varieties like canned tuna and salmon that are low in sodium and rich in omega-3s. Keep them―along with flavorful sardines and anchovies―on hand for fish cakes and salads.

Save extra fish from the previous night’s dinner. Leftover fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches and wraps. Add leftovers to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Panko-Crusted-Fish-Sticks

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks

Panko crumbs, or Japanese bread crumbs, are flake-like, coarsely ground bread crumbs used to make crisp, light fried foods and crumb toppings for casseroles. Here is a very simple and inexpensive way to make your own. FYI, these crumbs are also gluten-free.

  • 3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional seasonings, as desired

Place the Rice Chex cereal in a plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush the cereal into coarse flakes. You can also pulse the cereal in a processor until it is the right consistency. Don’t overprocess. Season with salt and pepper and any herb blend that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until foamy. Place the panko in a second shallow bowl and add the Italian seasoning.

Cut the fish pieces crosswise into finger size pieces. Dip each piece of fish in the egg mixture then coat in the panko crumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere; transfer to the baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

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Tilapia Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Directions

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot; stir in tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and flour in a large shallow dish. Dredge fish in the flour mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to the skillet; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is lightly browned. Remove fish from the pan; keep warm.

Add wine, juice and capers to the skillet; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with the orzo.

cod chowder

Cod Chowder

Great dinner for a cold, rainy night.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pork or turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice or 1 cup homemade fish stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound frozen cod, defrosted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender yet still firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

Return chowder to low heat and stir in the warmed half and half, gently to avoid breaking the fish into small pieces. Bring chowder to serving temperature over gentle heat, uncovered. Sprinkle reserved crisped bacon and parsley on top and serve with a side salad and cornbread.

Lemon & herb fish kebabs.

Fish Kebabs

Stretch your fish dollars with kebabs. Add several vegetables to make this dish even more economical. Zucchini and different colored peppers are good additions.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut or any fish fillet that is on sale, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Weather permitting, you can grill the kebabs on an outdoor grill.

Place fish and bell pepper in a shallow dish. Combine the pesto with the vinegar and drizzle over the fish and vegetables; toss to coat. Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Thread fish, onion and pepper alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; sprinkle evenly with salt. Place skewers on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

baked trout

Baked Trout Fillets

Trout is a fish that you’ll be able to buy at many markets without hurting your wallet. The flavor of trout is outstanding.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound trout fillets
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedges 

Directions

Place fish in a greased shallow 3-qqart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cheese, lemon juice, onion and salt; spread over fish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

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What goes great with pasta? Fish! Pasta makes an excellent companion for seafood for many reasons. Percatelli, a thick spaghetti, goes especially well with a spicy tomato sauce made with clams, mussels and shrimp. Fettuccine is superb served in the classic Southern Italian-style, topped with little neck clams in a red sauce flavored with hot crushed peppers. Thin spaghettini is delicious with a garlic sauce made with mussels, parsley and white wine. All these are easy supper dishes for chilly winter nights. They are substantial and restorative, yet easy on the digestion, because they are high in carbohydrates.

Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it and then boiled it to go with meat. Today’s diners welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists now recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy diets. A healthy pasta meal features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta and how much pasta you put on your plate. Pay attention to serving portions in healthy pasta recipes, as a guideline to how much you should eat.

Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy ingredients such as vegetables, beans, herbs, fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil and pasta’s versatility allows for almost endless preparations. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean way of eating reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s generally accepted that in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, people live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods.

Some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the world—from spaghetti with mussels to tagliolini with shrimp and radicchio—can be found in Italy. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine.

It is well known that eating fresh fish is one of the healthiest ways to make sure you and your family are getting your daily supply of proteins and minerals; so serving fish and fish-based pastas are always a wise choice. Fish is relatively economical—especially when part of a pasta dish. Many fish pasta dishes are delicious, visually appealing and, yet, very easy and quick to prepare.

The secret to a perfect plate of pasta is often in its simplicity and in using a very small number of ingredients. Combine just a few really good—meaning fresh, locally produced ingredients, cook them quickly and you’ll always get great results. The few basic ingredients for some of the best Italian recipes are extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, tomatoes and often dry white wine and chili peppers. When these essentials of Italian cuisine are combined with beautiful fresh fish, you can be sure that a delicious dinner is waiting for you.

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Fettuccine with Artichokes and Shrimp

4 servings

Ingredients

Shrimp Broth

  • 3 cups water
  • Shells from 1 pound of shrimp
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 slice lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta

  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain fettuccine
  • 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Shrimp Broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 slices Italian country loaf bread or other hearty bread, toasted
  • Lemon halves, and or wedges

Directions

Shrimp Broth

In a large saucepan, combine water, the reserved shells from the 1 pound of shrimp, parsley, lemon and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside until serving time.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add artichokes to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp and wine to the skillet. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper, shrimp broth, lemon peel, salt, nutmeg and cooked pasta; heat through. Mix in the parsley.

To serve, place bread slices in 4 shallow soup bowls. Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Add additional shrimp broth, as desired. Squeeze lemon over pasta mixture.

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Salmon with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) skinless salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red sweet bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil

Directions

Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a 15x10x1-inch baking pan combine pepper pieces and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the rosemary, the salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.

Remove baking pan from oven. Combine wine and balsamic vinegar and stir into vegetable mixture. Add salmon pieces to the baking pan and turn to coat in the wine mixture. Return to the oven and bake about 10-15 minutes more or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To serve, divide pasta among four plates. Top pasta with vegetable mixture and sprinkle with basil. Place salmon on vegetables and sprinkle with remaining rosemary.

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Tuna Puttanesca

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat or whole grain penne
  • 5 to 6 oz. can Italian tuna packed in oil, not drained
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black and/or green olives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • Small bunch fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Pour tuna oil from the can into a saucepan and heat. Flake tuna and set aside.

Add garlic and onion to heated oil; saute until onion is soft. Add tuna, capers, olives, crushed red pepper and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and heat to a simmer; adjust salt to taste.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tuna mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with basil.

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Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz whole wheat linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 4 (6 oz.) cans chopped clams, undrained
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander.

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in red wine and boil until syrupy, about 4 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce and clams with their juice and heat until simmering, about 10 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and parsley to clam sauce in skillet. Toss to coat pasta thoroughly.

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Scallops and Pasta in Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 large scallops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces whole grain thin spaghetti

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove scallops from the pan; keep warm.

Add the remaining olive oil, garlic and shallots to the skillet; cook 15 seconds. Add wine and the next 3 ingredients to the pan. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Add parsley and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss. Place pasta in serving bowls and top with scallops.

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Fish has a high level of protein, is easy to digest and is considered an important part of a healthy diet. Some fish have an added bonus because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids – docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) – occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

Two newly published articles in the March 2013 science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe how the researchers analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids at a systemic level and they also described their underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time. The teams working at Jena University Hospital in Germany and at the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the cardiovascular system and were able to show, for the first time, that DHA directly influences blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms and, in children, may improve learning ability. Eating two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and, therefore, offer the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than do fatty saltwater fish. However, some varieties of freshwater trout have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Look for seafood rich in omega-3s, such as:

  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Tuna (fresh)

Only buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. When buying frozen fish, avoid packages placed above the frost line or top of the freezer case. If the package is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. These could mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen — in which case, choose another package.

Healthy Ways to Cook Fish

Baked Fish

Baking fish allows you to get the satisfying crunch of fried fish without all the fat. Just because it’s baked, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy: Watch the amount of butter, oil, mayonnaise, or cheese called for in the recipe.

It’s easy and delicious to cook fish fillets in packets of parchment paper, a technique called “en papillote”. The fish is cooked by the trapped steam. If you don’t have parchment paper on hand, use aluminum foil to make the packets. The fish needs to bake for only 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Broiled Fish

When the weather’s not right for grilling, try broiling instead. Broiling is great when you want a fast, simple, hassle-free preparation with delicious results.

It gives fish a nicely browned exterior with the convenience of a temperature-controlled heat source.  For easy cleanup, line the broiler pan with a piece of greased foil.

Poached Fish

This gentle cooking method is perfect for seafood. Poaching keeps fish moist and won’t mask the delicate flavor of the fish.

To poach fish: use vegetable or chicken stock or a homemade broth of aromatic herbs and spices.

Use a pan big enough to lay each piece of fish down flat.

Pour in enough liquid to just barely cover the fish.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and keep it there.

If you see any bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot–the liquid should “shimmer” rather than bubble. The ideal poaching liquid temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F (74 to 82 degrees C).

Steamed Fish

Steaming is another gentle cooking method. It produces a mild-tasting fish that is often paired with a flavorful sauce.

Rub the fish with spices, chopped herbs, ginger, garlic and chile peppers to infuse flavor while it cooks.

Use a bamboo steamer or a folding steamer basket with enough room for each piece of fish to lie flat.

Pour about 1½ inches of water into the pan.

Place the steamer over the water, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.

Begin checking the fish for doneness after 10 minutes.

Grilled Fish

When you’re grilling fish, keep a close watch. Fish only takes a few minutes per side to cook. If the fillets are an even thickness, they may not even require turning–they can be cooked through by grilling on one side only.

Brush the fish lightly with oil and spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray.

Place fish near the edge of the grill, away from the hottest part of the fire. (Don’t try to lift up the fish right away; it will be stuck to the grill).

Start checking for color and doneness after a few minutes once the fish starts to release some of its juices.

Turn the fish over when you see light grill marks forming.

Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can determine whether fish is properly cooked by slipping the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pulling it aside. The flesh should be opaque and separate easily.

White Wine and Garlic Steamed Clams

This dish makes a great appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds manila or littleneck clams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large slices sourdough or country bread, each about ½-inch thick

Directions

Scrub the clams and rinse them in four rounds of cold water to remove any sand and grit.

Heat a 12-inch skillet with a cover over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the clams and cook covered until the clams open wide, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter, the parsley and season with pepper. Toast the bread on a stovetop grill or in the broiler about 1 minute, turning once.

Discard any unopened clams and serve right away in bowls with the bread and pan juices.

 

Shrimp with Oregano and Lemon

This is another great appetizer. You can turn it into an main dish by serving the shrimp and sauce over rice or pasta.

The sauce is also delicious spooned over grilled swordfish or any other meaty fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted capers—rinsed, soaked for 1 hour and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Directions

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the oregano and garlic. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Heat a stove top grill.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill shrimp, turning once, until the shrimp show grill marks and are cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp to a platter.

Spoon some the sauce on top and serve. Pass the remaining sauce with the shrimp platter.

MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve with crusty bread.

Red Snapper Livornese

Serve with rice or couscous and a salad or steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound red snapper fillets

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce, wine, capers, black olives, red pepper flakes and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in an 11×7 inch baking dish and arrange the snapper fillets in a single layer in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over all.

Bake for 15 minutes for 1/2 inch thick fillets or 30 minutes for 1 inch thick fillets. Baste once with the sauce while baking. Snapper is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Salmon Rolls

4 servings

Ingredients

1 ¼ pounds center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut lengthwise into 4 strips

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Working with one piece of salmon at a time, spread about 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumb mixture over the salmon.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go. Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the rolls from unrolling.

Place in the prepared dish and repeat with the remaining salmon strips.

Bake the rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Italian Style Paella

Fregola, the pearl-sized pasta that is similar to couscous, makes an excellent substitute for rice in this paella-style dish; it soaks up a lot of the cooking liquid from the dish and still stays chewy.

12 Servings

Ingredients

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 6 ½ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fregola (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 pounds red snapper, cod or monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the fregola and sausage and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, saffron and its soaking liquid and the remaining 6 cups of warm water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil.

Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, cover and cook over low heat until the fregola is very chewy and soupy, about 10 minutes.

Season the shrimp and red snapper with salt and pepper and add them to the pan along with the mussels, nestling them into the fregola. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the fregola is al dente, the fish is just cooked through and the mussels have opened, about 12 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella stand for 5 minutes; the fregola will absorb a bit more of the liquid, but the dish should still be brothy. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle the fregola with the chopped parsley and serve.

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Most people think of meat when they think of barbecue. But you might be surprised to learn that one of the first recorded barbecue recipes — found in a third century Greek food manifesto called, The Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus, (Dinner Table Philosophers) — featured bonito wrapped in grape leaves and grilled directly in the embers.

Fish is meant to be grilled. The direct heat cooks fish fast, easy and without removing moisture. Grilled fish is quite flavorful and juicy, just make sure it doesn’t stick. You can literally get fish off the grill in a matter of minutes, thus making fish the perfect after work meal. Fish is also great for dinner parties. Before dinner you can place the fish in a marinade or season it and light the grill a few minutes before everyone wants to eat.

The hardest part of grilling fish is knowing when it’s done. This is generally the trickiest part of grilling, but don’t worry. When fish is cooked the meat will flake easily with a fork and will appear opaque all the way through. If any part of the meat is still glossy and partially translucent then it’s not done. Most fish cooks quickly, so watch closely. Fish on the bone is more tolerant, requiring at least 10 minutes on each side for a whole two-pound fish. Thick fillets or steaks should be turned after five minutes.

Fillets are also good candidates for grilling, but have a greater tendency to dry out or to stick to the grill grate or break apart when you attempt to turn them.

To make this easier, always start out with a fish steak or fillet that is evenly cut. If one part is much thicker than another, it will be difficult to get the thick part cooked before the thin part dries out. If you have a fillet that is uneven consider cutting it in two. Put the thick half on first and when it’s about halfway done, put the thin half on. This way you will get the fish cooked to perfection without burning anything.

Uneven salmon fillets

The grill should be very hot and oiled, too (more on this later). Using direct heat will give the fish handsome grill marks. Once you have seasoned the fish, whether with a dry rub, a marinade or herbs, brush it with oil.

After oiling the grates put the fish on the grill and leave it until you are ready to turn it. Turn gently and leave it there until it is ready to leave the grill. With fillets you can tell they are ready to turn because the edges are flaky and opaque. Steaks and whole fish hold together better but take longer to grill. If you are grilling a whole fish stuff it with herbs and lemon slices. This not only adds to the flavor but creates a space to let the heat through. Also keep some fresh lemon juice mixed with olive oil handy while you are grilling. You can brush this on as you grill to add flavor and keep the fish moist.

The very best advice I can give you is this: buy two of the largest spatulas you can find.

I prefer metal spatulas because they are sturdier. They should be broad, at least eight inches across, and the blade should taper to a sharp edge. If possible, buy spatulas with long handles; more than 12 inches is good.

For fish steaks or compact fillets, gently place one spatula on top of the fish to secure it. Firmly but gently ease the second spatula under the fish to separate it from the grilling surface. Turn the steak or fillet sandwiched between the two, then gently slide them out.

Some other suggestions: 

Another easy way to turn a large fillet is to cover it with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil, slide a spatula under the fish, turn it over onto the foil, then lift the fillet a bit to slide the foil out.

A whole fish can simply be rolled over: making sure you have room on the grill to achieve this.

The first step, before you even light the grill, is to clean it thoroughly.

Scrub the grates with a wire brush. Then, once they are hot, brush them with oil.

Hold a thick wad of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil with long-handled tongs. Avoid using a long-handled basting brush for this job because the bristles might melt from the heat. Silicone brushes can melt at temperatures over about 650 degrees, and the grates can — and should — get hotter than that.

Here are some techniques to add to your cooking:

Plan ahead. Marinate fish before grilling or spray it with wine or another flavorful liquid as it cooks to prevent it from drying out.

Preheat the grill for 10 minutes to get the grates very hot.

Grill in a pouch. Enclose fish in edible leaves (banana, grape, or even cabbage) and grill until the fish flakes easily with a finger.

Another option is to grill the fish in foil packets, however, when you bundle the fish in foil it will not get any smoke or char from the grill, which means the fish effectively steams in the packet. It’s a healthy option, so many people might find it appealing. (Be cautious when opening the package as steam will escape.)

Grill on a plank. Season the fish on both sides, set up your grill for indirect grilling, then cook the fish directly on a water-soaked cedar (should be soaked for 1 hour) or alder wood plank (available from most cookware stores). No turning is necessary and the drama factor is impressive.

Grill in a basket. Invest in a wire mesh basket designed specifically for grilling fish. You can also use a cast iron pan on the grill.

If your grill has very widely spaced grates and you don’t want to buy a grilling pan or grilling basket, you can go the frugal route and grill on aluminum foil. (You can now even find nonstick coated foil for grilling.) Though you may not get the nice char marks, you will definitely have an easier time grilling the fish. I have found that if you make a few holes in the foil with a cake tester or fork and oil the foil, the fish will brown nicely even when cooked on top of the foil. After the fish is cooked, you can just slide the foil onto a serving plate. Easy.

Many chefs use the technique of grilling on herbs to infuse fish (as well as meat and poultry) with flavor. All you do is lay a thick bunch of herbs onto your grill grates or in a grill basket. Then simply grill the fish on top of the herbs and turn as usual. Use hardy herbs such as rosemary or thyme or even fennel fronds. It’s a good idea to toss the herbs in the same marinade as your fish (or spray with oil) to get them lubricated, so they don’t burn immediately on the grill.

Flat Skewers

Grill on skewers. Skewer chunks of fish or even a whole fish and suspend the skewers between bricks positioned opposite each other on the grill grate.

Support the skewers on foil covered bricks.

One of my favorite meals in the summer is grilled local line caught swordfish sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little panko bread crumbs; finished with lemon juice, capers and olive oil. It is delicious.This method works with any so-called “steak” fish including tuna, halibut, monkfish, grouper or salmon.

Marinated Tuna Skewers

4 servings

A simple marinade adds a lot of flavor to tuna skewers. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/3 pound (1-inch-thick) tuna steak, cut into 32 (1-inch) cubes
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Olive oil for grill

Directions:

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, basil, soy sauce and mustard. Add tuna and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, then thread tuna onto 8 skewers.

Season skewers with salt and pepper. Grill on oiled grill rack, turning frequently, until fish is cooked to your liking, 6 to 10 minutes.

Blackened Grouper on the Grill

You may be asking “can’t I just do it on the stove?”. The answer is yes, but you will fill your house with smoke and realize outside is a much better idea.

Ingredients:

Cast iron or nonstick pan (all metal, no plastic handles)

2 Grouper fillets, skin removed

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Blackening Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper (make it a full tablespoon if you like a lot of heat)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Place the pan on the grill and light the grill to high heat. The pan needs to heat up on the grill for at least 10 minutes.

Dry the grouper fillets very well.

Mix all of the rub ingredients together well and then spread the rub out on a plate.

Melt the butter in a separate shallow dish, large enough to fit the fillets. Place both dishes on a tray and carry out to the grill.

Dip each fillet in the butter, covering both sides and then transfer to the plate with the rub and coat each side of the fish with the blackening rub.

Immediately place the fish into the very hot pan on the grill.

Cook, with the lid open, for 2 – 3 minutes, lifting the bottom of the fish carefully to check on the crust. You want a nice, blackened crust without burning. If the grill pan is very hot, this should only take around 3 minutes.

Turn the blackened grouper and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate.

Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • 4 tender celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
  • Six 6-ounce skinless mahimahi or any firm fish of choice

Directions:

In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until just softened, 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, artichokes, olives, pine nuts, sweetner and capers and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, 8 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and let cool.

Heat a grill. Rub the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 9 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates, top with the caponata and serve.

MAKE AHEAD  The artichoke caponata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Breaded and Grilled Shrimp and Scallops

I’m fortunate enough to live on the Gulf of Mexico, so that means we have access to fresh seafood and the grill all year long. There is nothing better than our Gulf shrimp, so I am always looking for a new recipe or technique for grilling these shrimp. You must be sure to oil the grates for this recipe or you will have bread crumbs stuck to the grill.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Shrimp
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Sea Scallops

Directions:

Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the tail as well.

Mix the lemon juice, zest, olive oil and garlic together in a glass bowl.

Place the shrimp and the scallops in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes (no longer or the lemon juice will cook the seafood).

Remove the shrimp and scallops from the marinade and place them on skewers. Use double skewers to prevent the shrimp and scallops from rotating when you move them around the grill.

Cover the bottom of a plate with the breadcrumbs and then roll each skewer into the crumbs, covering all sides with the breadcrumbs while pushing them into the seafood to make them stick.

Let the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers sit in the refrigerator for about 20 more minutes while the grill heats. (This aids in the crumbs adhering to the shrimp and scallops).

Heat the grill to high heat and oil the grates The best way is to use a folded paper towel dipped in oil and then use tongs to rub down the grates.

Place the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers on the grill and grill for about 3 – 4 minutes. Don’t move the skewers once they are on the grill or you will lose a lot of breadcrumbs.

Flip the skewers over and continue to grill for another 3 minutes and then remove the skewers from the grill to a serving platter.

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Onions and Red Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, with skin
  • 2 small sweet onions, halved crosswise but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers—stemmed, cored and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram

Directions:

In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce and brown sugar with the 2 tablespoons of oil; add the salmon and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Light a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill. When hot turn off one burner or leave an area of a charcoal grill without direct heat.

Drizzle the cut sides of the onions with oil and grill over moderately high heat, cut side down, until nicely charred and starting to soften, about 15 minutes. Turn the onions and cook until tender, about 15 minutes longer. Push the onions to the cool side of the grill.

Oil the peppers and grill them, skin side down, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Turn and grill for 5 minutes. (Remove the charred skin if desired.) Push them over to the onions.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and grill, skin side down, for 8 minutes. Turn and grill until the salmon is just cooked through, 4 minutes longer.

Transfer the salmon, peppers and onions to plates and sprinkle with the marjoram. Drizzle the onions and peppers with the oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme.


Ancona is Italy’s largest ferry port on the mid-Adriatic

The Marche region (also known as the Marches in English) forms the eastern seaboard of central Italy with the regions of Emilia-Romagna to the north and Abruzzo to the south. From the narrow coastal plains the land rises sharply to the peaks of the Appennines, which form a natural boundary with Umbria and Tuscany to the west. While the coastal areas are heavily populated, the beautiful inland countryside is sparsely inhabited . The inland mountainous zones are mostly limestone and are noted for bare peaks, rushing torrents, dramatic gorges and many caves. In contrast, the areas nearer the coastal plain are known for their fertile rounded hills topped by ancient fortified towns. The highest point is Monte Vettore in the Sibillini mountains. The coast itself boasts long sandy areas and, apart from the limestone Conero peninsula, the land is virtually all flat. Economically, the region is mostly reliant on medium and small scale industries, often family run. Shoes, clothing and furniture manufacturing are some of the most successful businesses. The relatively poor soil and the general movement away from the land has meant that agriculture now plays a minor role, apart from the production of Verdicchio, the Marche’s famous white wine. By the coast, fishing remains an important activity.

Ancona is on the top of a cliff and has a city center rich in history, monuments and well preserved semi-urban parks. The historical districts overlook the port arch, as if they were surrounding a stage. From its port every year, about one million travelers sail to Greece and Croatia. The weather in Ancona is typically mild throughout the year, with summer temperatures in the high seventies and winters that rarely dip below thirty-five. The city of Ancona stands on an elbow shaped promontory, protecting the widest natural port of the middle Adriatic Sea. The name of the town means its geographical position: Αγκων, in Greek means “elbow”, and this is what the Greek people called it when they settled in the area in 387 B.C.

In Roman times it kept its own coinage and continued the use of the Greek language. When it became a Roman colony is not exactly known but Ancona was occupied as a naval station during the Illyrian War. Julius Caesar took possession of it immediately after crossing the Rubicon and the harbor was considered an important defensive location for the Romans. After the fall of the Roman empire, Ancona was attacked by the Goths, Lombards and Saracens. In 1532 it lost its freedom and came under the control of Pope Clement VII. After the French took over in 1797, Ancona’s harbor frequently appears in history as an important fortress.

The Italian Jewish Community

The Jewish community of Ancona dates back to around 1300. In 1427 the Franciscan friars tried to force the Jews of Ancona to wear a badge and live on a single street, but apparently this attempt was unsuccessful. After the expulsion of the Jews from the Spanish dominions in 1492, refugees began to arrive in Ancona, to be joined later by others from the Kingdom of Naples.

As Ancona was about to be declared a free port, Pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle in Ancona regardless of their religion. (The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Turkey’s Hatay Province and some regions of Iraq or the Sinai Peninsula.) Promising protection against the Inquisition, he encouraged the settlement of Jews. Many Jewish merchants took advantage of the harbor facilities and settled in town to trade with the Levant. The size of the community and its widespread connections attracted many noted rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries, including Judah Messer Leon (15th century), Amatus Lusitanus, Moses Basola (16th century), Mahalalel Hallelyja of Civitanova, Hezekiah Manoach Provenzal, Joseph Fermi (17th century), Samson Morpurgo, Joseph Fiammetta (18th century), Jacob Shabbetai Sinigaglia, Isaiah Raphael Azulai, David Abraham Vivanti, Isaac Raphael Tedeschi (19th century), and H. Rosenberg who published several monographs on local history.

During World War II, the Germans and the Italian Fascists demanded tributes to allow the Jews to live there. After the war, 400 Jews were left in town, and by 1969 the number dropped to 300. There are two synagogues, a Mikveh and two Jewish cemeteries: Monte Cardeto, the old one, and Tavernelle, the new cemetery.

In his book, La Cucina Veneziana, Giuseppe Maffioli writes that Jewish cooking had a great impact on the local cuisine and, despite their forbidden foods, the Jews had a more varied diet than the Christians. He cites that among the Jewish dishes adopted in Italy there were many vegetables ‘alla giudia’, meaning Jewish style, salt cod dishes, almond pastries, and puff pastry.

Precipizi, an Italian Jewish Hanukkah treat

Precipizi, an Italian Jewish Hanukkah treat

Today, most Italian Jews live in the large cities of Rome, Milan, and Turin. Many of the old historic communities that were once scattered throughout Italy have disappeared or have lost their identity, but the old Jewish recipes remain as a testimony to their existence. Looking at the alphabetical index of recipes in a book entitled, La Cucina Nella Tradizione Ebraica, a collection of recipes from members of the Jewish women’s ADEI WIZO organization: there are arancini canditi di Padova, baccald e spinaci all’uso fiorentino, biscotti di Ancona, biscotti senza burro; brassadel di Purim; buricchi di pasta frolla, budino di zucca gialla Veneto; cacciucco alla livornese and cuscusszi livornese; cefali in umido di Modena. Such recipes are a witness to once famous and thriving Jewish communities in Italy.

Carciofa alla Romana at Ba"Ghetto

Artichoke Hearts, Jewish style

What was it that made a dish Jewish?

Adaptations of local produce and recipes to comply with religious dietary laws meant that oil or goose fat were used instead of butter or pork fat for cooking. For the same reason, many dairy and vegetable dishes were developed to provide substantial meatless meals. The need to find substitutes for forbidden foods like pork and seafood resulted in the creation of such specialties as, goose prosciutto and salami and a white-fish soup. In the days when cooking revolved around the Sabbath and religious holidays, dishes that were chosen to celebrate these occasions acquired embellishments, such as coloring with saffron or sprinkling with raisins and pine nuts. The laws of the Sabbath, which prohibit any work on that day, gave rise to complex meals in one-pot to be prepared on Friday afternoon and left to cook overnight for Saturday. An example is the hamin toscano or polpettone difagioli—a veal loaf cooked with white beans, beef sausages, hard boiled eggs, and tomatoes. Centuries before Americans popularized pasta salads, Jews were the only Italians to eat cold pasta.

For Passover, ground almonds, potato flour, matzo meal, and matzos were used to make all kinds of pizzas, cakes, pies, dumplings, pancakes, and fritters. Numerous desserts are found in the Jewish Italian cuisine, like amaretti, marzapane, moscardini, mucchietti, scodelline, zuccherini, ciambellette, mustaccioni—to name a few. Certain foods became symbolic dishes to celebrate festivals, like Pollo Fritto, chicken dipped in batter and fried in oil, for Hanukkah.

Some of the Sites in Ancona

The marble Arch of Trajan, at the entrance to the causeway atop the harbor wall, in honor of the emperor who had built the harbor, is one of the finest Roman historical monuments in the Marche. However, most of its original bronze decorations have disappeared. It stands on a high podium with wide, steep steps and is flanked by pairs of fluted Corinthian columns on pedestals. It is a replica of the Arch of Titus in Rome, but taller, so that the bronze figures, Trajan, his wife Plotina and his sister Marciana, stand out as a landmark for ships approaching this Adriatic port.

The Lazzaretto (Laemocomium or “Mole Vanvitelliana”), planned by architect Luigi Vanvitelli in 1732, is a pentagonal building, built to protect the military defensive authorities from the risk of contagious diseases by incoming ships. Later it was used as a military hospital, then as a barracks. It is currently used for cultural exhibits.

The Food of Ancona

lts style of cooking is defined by fish and seafood along the coast, and vegetables, chicken, rabbit, snails, and truffles and other wild fungi in the hills and mountains. The coastal brodetto, or seafood stew, is seasoned with saffron and traditionally made with thirteen kinds of fish. 

Ancona is one of the biggest stockfish (dried salt cod) importers and Stoccafisso all’ Anconetana has a special place in the heart of Ancona people and in the history and tradition of this town.

This traditional Le Marche recipe involves soaking the fish for at least 24 hours and cooking it over bamboo canes to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan.

Seafood dishes are prominent in Ancona cuisine.

Creamy sauces made from chicken giblets are used liberally in Marche cooking. Pork recipes rely on generous chunks instead of the traditional thin prosciutto style servings. Since pork is so readily available, there are many types of sausages made in the Marche region. A hearty favorite local smoked sausage is ciauscolo, made with half pork, half pork fat and well seasoned with salt, pepper, orange peel and fennel seed. Olives grow well in this region and are served both on their own or stuffed with savory meat fillings. Grapes, grains, mushrooms and a wide variety of vegetables are found throughout the region.

Cheese-wise, Marche holds its own in the steep competition for great Italian dairy products. Casciotta d’Urbino is a sheep and cow milk cheese, hand-pressed into rounds that are then salted and cured in a moist environment, producing a velvety texture. Ambra di Talamello is made from goat or sheep or cow’s milk and is cured in a pit lined with straw, resulting in an earthy flavor. Cacio La Forma di Limone is a sheep’s milk cheese made with lemons, then formed into small balls (that look a bit like lemons). It is rubbed with a salt and lemon mixture and has a light lemon tang. Some excellent Pecorino cheeses can be found in the region as well.

Pasta in the Marche region is rich with eggs, with wide noodles being the most popular, such as, lasagna and pappardelle. The region’s signature dish, a pasta casserole with meat sauce, showcases flat pastas and savory meats. Other pastas like spaghetti alla chitarra, spaghettini, tagliatelle and maccheroncini have also found their way into Marche dishes.

Brodetto all’anconetana (Fish Soup Ancona Style)

Regional Specialties

Olive all’ascolana, green olives stuffed with ground meat, breaded, and fried until golden and crisp.

Ciauscolo, a rich, soft smoked salami, meant to be spread, not sliced.

Vincisgrassi, lasagna layered with prosciutto, chicken livers, sweetbreads, and white sauce.

Rabbit, cooked porchetta style (roasted in the style of porchetta) with fennel and salt.

Frustingolo, a dense fruit cake made with nuts and dried figs.

One of the most famous dishes from the La Marche region of Italy, Vincisgrassi, a type of lasagna, is very rich – some versions being even richer with the addition of sweetbreads and a pasta dough made with vin santo or marsala.

Make Some Ancona Inspired Recipes At Home

First Course

Tagliatelle with Shrimp

Servings 4

 Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb fresh tagliatelle
  • 1/2 onion, finely choped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

Directions:

Soften the onion over low heat in the olive oil and then add the finely chopped garlic without letting it brown.

Pour in the white wine and allow to evaporate. Blend in the marinara sauce.

Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 3 minutes.

Cook the tagliatelle al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and add to the shrimp mixture. Stir in pasta water and combine. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Second Course

Wine & Tomato Braised Italian Chicken

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 –  3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 cups diced white onion
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups peeled, seeded, diced plum tomatoes or equivalent canned
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

In a heavy ovenproof pan with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until hot.

Pat the chicken dry and add 2 pieces to the pan. Do not crowd the chicken. Cook until the chicken has browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Repeat with another tablespoon of olive oil and the remainder of the chicken.

Add the onions to the same pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, marjoram, and sage and stir. Add the wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. When tender, transfer the chicken to a warm platter, cover with foil, and set aside.

Skim off the excess fat from the braising liquid and reduce the sauce over high heat to a sauce-like consistency.

Taste and correct the seasoning, if necessary. Serve the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the parsley.

Dessert Course

Orange Cake, Ancona Style

Ouzo is an anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus, and a symbol of Greek culture.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons flour, plus flour for dusting the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oranges and the peels, grated (no pith)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar or sugar alternative
  • 2 tablespoons ouzo
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups orange juice, mixed with 3 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a tube pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.

Put flour, eggs, grated orange peel, butter, sugar and ouzo in a food processor and process until all ingredients are incorporated.

Add milk and baking powder and process again to incorporate.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and place in upper, middle level of the preheated oven.

Bake for at least 45 minutes and the top of cake is golden.

Place pan over a wine bottle or other receptacle to cool slightly.

Loosen the edges of the cake with a sharp knife.

Invert onto a plate.

While cake is still warm, poke holes into it, using the end of a wooden spoon or similar implement.

Pour the sweetened orange juice into the holes, filling them to the brim.

Within an hour, the cake will have absorbed the juice.

Serve at room temperature.

Note: The cake will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, fully covered by plastic wrap.


Tuscan Hearth

According to Wikipedia, kabobs or kebabs, originated in Persia but were later embraced by most of the Middle East. There are many variations of kebabs around the world and the term shish kebab comes from the Turkish language literally meaning roasted meat skewers.  The kabob was a true to life solution for nomadic tribes who marinated unusual meats to tenderize them and remove their gaminess. The meat was then threaded onto skewers and roasted over a fire.

While the Turks created this delicious dish, their recipe spread across cultures in one form or another. Southeast Asian cultures have satay, Japanese call it yakitori, the French say brochettes and in Italy it is spiedini.

Italian grilling is for the most part fairly simple. Top-quality meats, with a light marinade, are grilled over hardwood coals. Grill several kinds of meat at one time, and you have a grigliata mista, or mixed grilled meats. It’s hard to beat, and that is why many Italians have a hearth in the cantinetta, the combination den and dining room where they entertain guests.

The concept behind spiedini, threading foods on a skewer and setting them over the coals or into the oven, is obvious, easy, and almost infinitely variable. In Italy they were originally made with sausage, chicken, beef or pork separated by pieces of bread and they were often prepared and sold that way by a butcher.  The one thing they lacked were vegetables but today spiedini or kabobs often include vegetables in the Italian preparation.

spiedini-pesce-spada

 

Fish Spiedini with Herbs – Spiedini di Pesce alle Erbe

Serves 4

The combination of salmon and monkfish works very well in these garlic and herb infused fish kebabsGrouper, red snapper, black cod (sablefish), striped bass, tilefish, turbot, orange roughy, Alaskan Pollock, sturgeon, hake (whiting) can also replace monkfish in a variety of recipes because they utilize the same cooking techniques.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound skinless salmon fillet
  • 1/2 pound boned monkfish fillet
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Long skewers
  • Lemon for garnish

Directions:

Cut the fish into 1-inch cubes. Put the fish in a glass bowl, pour the orange juice over it, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for an hour in the refrigerator, giving the bowl a shake every now and again.

While the fish is marinating, heat your grill.

Chop the herbs and the garlic. Put them in a small serving bowl with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Drain the fish and put the pieces on the skewers, alternating salmon and monkfish. Brush the kabobs with some of the oil mixture and reserve the rest for serving with the cooked kabobs.

Grill the kebabs for about 10 minutes, turning them often. Serve the fish kebabs with the herbed oil, lemon and a white wine, for example, an Alcamo from Sicily.

Chicken Spiedini

Spicy Chicken Spiedini Recipe – Spiedini di Pollo Piccanti

These Chicken Spiedini are also excellent to add to an antipasto platter.

18 Spicy Chicken Spiedini

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds  skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise to obtain 18 pieces of chicken breast, about 3/4 inch wide and as long as possible
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Juice of a lime
  • 1 teaspoon fine grained sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, ideally freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 18 skewers, each long enough to accommodate one piece of chicken

Directions:

If the skewers are made of wood, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Put the sliced chicken breasts in a glass bowl large enough to hold them comfortably.

Gently heat the oil and the garlic in a saucepan for about 2 minutes; you want to heat the oil but not cook it. Remove and discard the garlic.

Mix the remaining ingredients into the oil and pour it over the chicken. Mix well and marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.

Thread one piece of chicken on each  skewer. Heat coals or a gas grill or a broiler, and cook the spiedini over high heat, turning them once or twice; about 5-7 minutes.

 

Bell Pepper and Pork Spiedini Recipe – Spiedini di Maiale e Peperone

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds boned lean pork loin
  • 2 bell peppers of the colors you prefer, e.g. yellow and red
  • 1 large onion (sweet, such as Vidalia)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Skewers, 8-10 inches long

Directions:

If the skewers are made of wood, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Cut the pork  into 3/4 inch cubes. Peel and cut the onion into 1 inch squares. Seed the peppers and cut them into 1 inch squares.

Skewer the meat and the vegetables, alternating between pork and vegetables.. While you’re doing this, heat your grill or broiler.

Whisk the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and brush the spiedini with the mixture. Cook them for 10-15 minutes or until done, turning them occasionally.

Serve with a light, zesty red along the lines of a Sangiovese di Romagna.

sausage kabobs

Sausage And Shallot Spiedini – Spiedini alla Salsiccia

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds fairly thin fresh Italian sausage (e.g. Luganega)
  • 1/2 pound peeled shallots or onions (they should be about the same diameter as the sausage)
  • 12 – 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, if you cannot find fresh bay leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 skewers

Directions:

Combine the wine and oregano in a bowl. Cut the sausages into 1 1/4-inch lengths and steep them in the wine and oregano for about an hour.

Boil the shallots for 5 minutes in lightly salted water. Drain them and let them cool.

Heat your grill.

Drain the sausage pieces and skewer them, alternating with shallots and cherry tomatoes, and putting pieces of basil between the sausage and vegetables.

Brush the kebabs with the olive oil, paying special attention to the shallots and tomatoes (the sausages will be self-basting), and grill them for 15 minutes, turning them often and brushing the vegetables again if need be. Serve them hot.

surf and turf

Surf and Turf Spiedini – Spiedini Con Manzo e Gamberoni

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of beef fillet weighing about 6 ounces each
  • 12 jumbo shrimp 
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 skewers

Directions:

Cut each piece of beef fillet into 4 equal pieces and put them in a bowl.

Shell the shrimp, leaving the tails on because having the tails will make them easier to eat and also makes for an attractive presentation.

Heat your grill.

Combine the lemon juice, wine, and olive oil and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and marinate the meat for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp, mix well, and marinate everything for another 5 minutes.

Remove the meat and shrimp from the marinade, reserving the liquid. Skewer the meat and the shrimp, alternating pieces of meat with pieces of shrimp.

Grill the kebabs over hot coals for 5-10 minutes (depending upon how well done you like your meat and shrimp), turning them often and basing them repeatedly with the marinade.

Serve with a rosé, for example, Bardolino Chiaretto.

vegetable spiedini

Italian Vegetable Spiedini

While Italians do not generally add vegetables to their spiedini, you could grill a few skewers of just vegetables to accompany the meat or fish spiedini as a healthier approach.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 small zucchini, sliced 1” thick
  • 2 small yellow squash, sliced 1” thick
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced into 1” pieces
  • 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, sliced into 1” pieces
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1”  cubes, skin on
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 head garlic (prepare as directed below)
  • 8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms (also called crimini)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over garlic 
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning mix, see post:http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/06/25/homemade-italian-sauces-marinades-and-seasoning-mixes/
  • Shredded fresh basil for garnish

Directions:

Soak wooden skewers in water prior to using or use metal skewers.

Wash vegetables and cut as directed. Skewer vegetables with similar cooking times together. Skewer potatoes by themselves. Skewer red peppers and onions together. Skewer squash and mushrooms together.

Whisk vinegar and 4 tablespoons olive oil together until emulsified and add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Trim a thin slice off the top of garlic, set on a piece of foil large enough to enclose the garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly and set on grill until garlic is soft.

Place skewers on grill. Baste with vinaigrette mixture. When veggies on the bottom side of skewer get dark grill marks, turn 90 degrees, and baste again, repeating until skewer is fully cooked.

Remove all vegetables and toss on large platter. Squeeze grill roasted garlic from head and toss with grilled vegetables.


We live in busy times. The demands of work and family and personal activities can leave one with little room to pay attention to a healthy diet. When it comes to food, a person on the go doesn’t always make the best choices. When you’re hungry, a fast food meal that takes a couple of minutes to order at a drive through window can be so much more appealing than one that takes much more time to plan and prepare. Fast food, also known as “junk food” is fine occasionally, but when it becomes a habit, it can lead to weight gain and health problems down the road. This food is often low in fiber, high in fat, sugar and calories. The draw of fast food is it is both quick and tasty, but unfortunately, it isn’t that great for your overall well being.

It may seem difficult to find quick healthy meals when you’re on the run,  but with a little thinking ahead, you can be well on your way to a healthier diet. If you are flustered just by the thought of cooking, you might start off by making healthier choices when you’re grabbing food to go. The Mayo Clinic outlines several tips for takeout food. They suggest keeping the calories down by watching the portion size, choosing the healthiest side dish available to you, going for fresh greens whenever possible, opting for grilled foods over fried items, asking for healthful substitutions such as low fat mayonnaise or dressing, and foregoing the sugary drink that often accompanies a fast food meal.


Of course, the best option is to think ahead. Become a meal planner. Choose quick healthy recipes that you can take with you and eat on the run. When you plan ahead you have the advantage of knowing exactly what you are eating. You have more control over your choices, and you can choose anything: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, even an extra treat from time to time. Instead of feeling the frustration of having to pick from a menu of unhealthy items, you truly get to have it your way. Planning meals can be fun, and there are plenty of fast healthy recipes available; you can find great resources for these online or by shopping in the cookbook aisle of your local bookstore. You can try the recipes for 5 weeknights below to get you started.

Garlic-Basil Halibut

Serve with sauteed zucchini and quick cooking brown rice.

Makes: 4 servings
Serving size: 5 ounces cooked fish

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh halibut or other white fish fillets (about 1-inch thick)
  • 4 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 serving size pieces.

In a small bowl combine basil, melted butter, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Brush mixture over both sides of fish.

Place fish on the unheated rack of broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork, turning once.

An stove top grill can also be used to cook the fish.

Pasta with Zucchini and Toasted Almonds

Serve with a green salad and bread sticks.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated linguine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini (about 1 pound)
  • 3/4 cup less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil , divided
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 2 teaspoons oil, tossing to coat. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain well.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds.

Add zucchini; sauté 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta and 1 1/2 tablespoons basil; toss well.

Remove from heat; stir in tomato mixture. Place 1 1/2 cups pasta mixture in each of 4 bowls; top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons basil.

Sprinkle each serving with 4 teaspoons cheese and 2 teaspoons almonds.

Pork with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Serve pork with orzo and green beans.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chop and 1 tablespoon sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or instant flour, such as Wondra)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Progresso Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten or 3 tablespoons egg substitute
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained

Directions

Combine flour and salt in a shallow dish. Place breadcrumbs, cheese, and pepper in a shallow dish; place egg white in another shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, dip in egg white, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Coat pork with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add broth and remaining ingredients to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 2 minutes).  Serve with pork.

Quick Italian Chicken with Roasted Peppers

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 green bell peppers and 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1 inch strips
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 16-oz. can no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup low fat reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in large skillet. Brown chicken breasts on each side and remove to a plate.

Sauté garlic and red pepper flakes for about 1 minute. Add onion and peppers and continue cooking until tender and soft, about 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt and pepper, and broth.

Add chicken breasts to skillet. Increase heat to medium and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn chicken breasts and continue simmering for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is reduced by about half and chicken is cooked through. (Meat thermometer should read 170 degrees when inserted into center of breasts..)

Serve with mashed potatoes and ladle sauce over chicken and potatoes.

Soup and Sandwich Night

Make a quick soup and while it simmers, make the sandwiches.

Escarole and White Bean Soup

Cook 3 chopped garlic cloves and some red pepper flakes in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 3 cups chicken broth, 1 head chopped escarole and simmer 15 minutes. Add 1 can low sodium white beans, parmesan and salt to taste.

Prosciutto, Fontina Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Piadina Sandwiches

An alternative to a classic panini is a piadina. Piadine are flat, almost tortilla-like bread that is from the Emilia Romagna region in Italy.   They are almost always grilled. Most of the same ingredients in a normal panini can be put in a piadina; just the bread changes.   Turkey or ham or grilled vegetables can be used in place of any of the ingredients below.  You can cook these sandwiches on a Panini Press or a grill.

4 Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 oz. baby spinach (about 6 lightly packed cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups grated fontina cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Two large pita breads, each split into two rounds
  • 8 very thin slices prosciutto, preferably imported

Directions

Heat the oven to 250°F. Heat the oil and garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle steadily and browns in places, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until just wilted, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the spinach to a colander. Let cool a couple of minutes, discard the garlic, and gently squeeze out the excess liquid from the spinach.

In a medium bowl, toss the spinach with the fontina, parmigiano, sun-dried tomatoes, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the 4 pita halves on a work space and top each with 2 slices of prosciutto on one side of the bread. Top each evenly with the spinach mixture and fold in half. You will have four piadinas.

Brush sandwich very lightly with olive oil and place in your panini maker.  Follow directions for your maker. You can also grill the sandwich on a stove top grill pressing down on the sandwich with a large spatula.  Grill until lightly toasted. Turn sandwich and press.  Grill until toasted.  

Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Cook the remaining sandwiches in the same manner.

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