Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Types of Scallops

There are three kinds of scallops that are consumed in the United States—sea scallops, bay scallops and calico scallops.

  • Sea scallops are relatively large, often 1½”-2” in diameter, and are often presented in beautifully seared platings of two or three.

  • Bay scallops are much smaller, although some aficionados find them to be sweeter than sea scallops.  Because of their small size, bay scallops are not the ideal scallop for searing but are excellent in stir-fries and even cooked as scampi to be served as a light pasta sauce.

  • Calico scallops are harvested off of the US Gulf and Southern Atlantic coasts. Unlike sea and bay scallops, their shells are tightly closed, and they must be steamed open before further preparation.  Although similar in shape, size and color to bay scallops, they are less sweet and less tender than their Northern cousins.

Characteristics of Scallops

Speaking of shape, size and color, the adductor muscle itself can range in color from pale ivory to beige.  Raw scallops are somewhat translucent and are generally round. Large sea scallops might be up to an inch thick and up to 2” in diameter, while bay and calico scallops, while shaped the same, are much smaller.

Calico-Scallops

Calico Scallops

Bay Scallops

How Are They Harvested?

Scallops are harvested in one of two ways—by trawling or by diving. Trawling is done by scraping the ocean floor and pulling up scallops (and whatever else is down there) without regard to maturity or to the damage possibly being done to the ocean floor.

A more environmentally friendly, albeit expensive, method of harvest is by diver and the scallops are known as “diver scallops.” A diver scallop is not another species of scallop, nor does it designate size.  Rather it describes the manner in which the scallops were harvested. Divers go down and choose mature scallops by hand, leaving behind immature scallops as well as leaving the ocean floor alone.  Since the ocean floor is not disturbed by the divers, diver scallops are usually less gritty than those harvested by bottom trawls.

Like shrimp, scallops are sold by count-per-pound.  Sea scallops might be marked at 10/20, meaning that between 10 and 20 scallops are in each pound. Of course, larger sea scallops tend to be the most expensive.  Another weight designation you might see is U/10 or U/15.  This means that it takes fewer than, or under, 10 (or 15) to make up a pound.  Here again, the larger the U number, the smaller the scallop.  Bay scallops, being smaller than sea scallops, generally fall in the 70/120 range.  

When purchasing scallops, make sure to buy from a reputable fishmonger and be sure to smell the scallops before purchase.  The scallops should smell clean and sweet and like the ocean.  If they have a strong fishy smell, do not buy them.

The muscles should be in one piece, so inspect them carefully.  If you see signs of the muscle fibers pulling apart, pass them by as this is a sign that the scallops are past their prime.  As mentioned before, dry pack scallops should feel slightly sticky but not be slimy.  If the rubbery side muscle has been left on the scallops, remove them.  

Sea Scallop

How To Store Fresh Scallops

Fresh scallops need to be stored at temperatures below 38F.  This is generally lower than most people keep their refrigerators, so you will have to make some adjustments.  An ideal set up for storing scallops is to have a shallow plastic container with holes in the bottom that is set in a deeper plastic container. Place ice in the shallow container and spread the scallops on the ice.  Cover everything with a damp paper towel, and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator.  Even with this care, make sure to use the scallops within a day or two.  Because they are so perishable, using them the same day you purchase them is ideal.

Cooking Scallops                                                                                                                                                                   

Scallops are a very lean protein, and as such, they can toughen very easily during cooking.  It is very important not to overcook scallops as they can go from succulent to rubber pretty quickly.  Don’t take your eyes off them when cooking and make sure that you remove them from the heat while they are still moist and plump.

Sautéing, broiling and grilling are all simple, dry heat methods by which you can cook large sea scallops to really showcase them.  Moist heat methods, including stir-fry with a sauce and simmering (as in soups, stews and risottos), are perfect for the small, sweet bay scallops.   

 

Scallop Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and White Wine Vinaigrette

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds calico or bay scallops
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 8 leaves Boston Bibb lettuce

Directions:

Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet and saute scallops for 2 to 3 minutes or until the scallops have a nice sear on each side. Add garlic to the pan and cook an additional 30 seconds. Remove the scallops and garlic from the pan, and place in a large, heat-resistant bowl. Toss tomato halves and cucumber with the warm scallops.

In a small bowl combine the extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and the shallots. Whisk until well blended. Pour dressing over warm scallop mixture, tossing to coat. Adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle chopped oregano and parsley over the salad, and toss to coat.
Arrange two lettuce leaves on each salad plate. Divide the scallop salad among the 4 plates, on top of the lettuce. 

   

  

Parmesan Breaded Scallops With Lemon Garnish

Ingredients

  • 20 large sea scallops (about 1 1/4 lbs) 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

Coating:

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/3 cup  freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Garnish:

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest 
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

Directions:
Combine the coating ingredients on a plate & mix with your fingers.
Wash scallops & remove the small, tough side muscle.

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels & place this in a small bowl.
Add the olive oil & mix to coat.

Dip the scallops in the coating, turning to cover evenly.
Gently press the crumbs onto the scallops.
Place the scallops in a single layer on a clean plate.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the crumbs.

Garnish:
Finely chop the parsley and lemon zest and mix together.
Add the olive oil and lemon juice.

Grease a grill tray that fits over the grill grates generously with oil.
Place the scallops on the grill tray 1-2 inches apart and grill over direct medium heat until just opaque in the center, about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time.
Treat them carefully when turning.
Remove from the grill, place a little of the garnish onto each scallop and serve warm.

Spaghetti with Scallops, Fresh Tomatoes, and Basil

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • 12 fresh basil leaves

Directions:

1. Fill a pot to cook the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.
2. Peel the tomatoes and coarsely chop them. Peel the garlic clove and finely chop it.
3. Put the garlic, hot red pepper flakes, and the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet and place over medium-high heat. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes. Season with salt and cook   until the liquid the tomatoes release has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.
4. While the tomatoes are cooking, cut the scallops into ¼-inch dice.
5. When the tomatoes are ready, add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the spaghetti, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente.
6. Shred the basil leaves and add them to the pan with the tomatoes. Raise the heat to high and add the scallops. Cook until the scallops are done, 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
7. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce, and serve. 

Bay Scallops with Mushrooms, Peppers, and Grilled Italian Sausage

Bay Scallops with Mushrooms, Peppers, and Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive  oil, divided
  • 3 sweet Italian sausages
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into l-inch cubes
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into l-inch cubes
  • 18 white button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 pounds fresh bay scallops
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

  1. Pour 1 teaspoon oil into a small saute pan, heat and spread oil, add the sausages, and cook until they are lightly browned and cooked through. Drain the sausages on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm.  Slice each sausage on the bias into 1/2-inch slices.
  2. To the pan add 1 teaspoon oil and add the peppers and mushrooms. Saute quickly for several minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Remove from the pan and add to sausage.
  3. In the same pan, add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil  and heat on high. Saute the scallops for several minutes until just lightly browned. Do not overcook. Add the remaining garlic and the sausage, peppers and mushrooms, and continue cooking for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice, remove from heat, and add the butter and parsley.  Serve with crusty bread.

Grilled Scallops with Lemon Risotto                                                                                                                                   

Serves 4
Herb-Rubbed Grilled Scallops
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 large sea scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh lemon wedges, for garnish
  • 4 Skewers

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the tarragon, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, pepper and oil. Add the scallops and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 to 10 hours.
Oil a ridged stove-top griddle or outdoor grill and preheat it. Season the scallops lightly with salt and thread 3 on each skewer, and grill about 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until slightly firm. Remove and set aside.

Lemon Risotto

  • 1 large leek, white part only, well washed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 cups low-sodium broth, chicken or vegetable
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Sweat the leek in 2 teaspoons of butter over low heat in a tightly covered straight-sided saute pan for 6 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  2. Add the rice and raise the heat to medium, stirring often for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of stock, season lightly with salt and pepper, and stir until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Add the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition. When all of the liquid is absorbed, add the zest and continue to cook for about 10 minutes more, until the rice is al dente.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper, add the chives, stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter until it melts, and serve hot.

Serve with cooked spinach

scallops


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Cauliflower, which literally means cabbage flower –  is not the flower of the cabbage. The history of cauliflower is traced to the origin of wild cabbage. This wild plant used to have a similar look to kale and is believed to have originated in the ancient times in Asia Minor. After a lot of transformations, the vegetable, as we know it, developed in the Mediterranean region around 600 BC.  It has been widely accepted in Turkish and Italian cuisines.

Described by Arab botanists and known to the Romans, the cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Today, food writers are extremely fond of quoting Mark Twain’s contention that  “Training is everything,” he wrote, “A peach was once a bitter almond; a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.”  Twain could be saying that a cauliflower is just a cabbage that resembles a brain (which, indeed, it does); the absence of many other quotes about this vegetable, however, speak clearly to the cauliflower’s humble status in the food world.

Though cauliflower has a bland taste of its own, it is highly regarded by vegetarians, however, in Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with sausage in pasta dishes or other meats. Cauliflower tends to absorb flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing cauliflower recipes. As a vegetable, it is often used in stews, casseroles and even in salads. Usually, cauliflower is eaten as a cooked vegetable that can be boiled, steamed or fried before adding to any dish. Baked cauliflower dishes are quite popular in Western cuisine. Cauliflower, like broccoli and cabbage, belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables which has been shown to be effective in fighting certain forms of cancer, however, these vegetables also contain sulfur compounds that can smell unpleasant. 

PREPARATION:

Remove the green leaves. Core out the stem. Then cut the cauliflower in florets.

The florets can be steamed, which takes between 12 and 15 minutes, or microwaved, which takes 8 to 10 minutes. Remember, shorter cooking is better for retaining nutrients and reducing the smell in your kitchen.

The best way to prevent these compounds from turning your kitchen into a chemistry lab is to minimally cook the cauliflower. For stir-frys and in salads, cook the cauliflower about halfway, then refresh in cold water.

A majority of recipes cover cauliflower in cheese sauces. A healthier option is lemon butter with chives. In addition to putting florets in omelets, try them in quiches.

In addition to the smell, overcooking also diminishes the nutrients significantly. In fact, you can reduce the levels of some vitamins in vegetables by cooking them with one method over another. A while back, food writer Mark Bittman quoted a Cornell University study in a New York Times article, that stated that 100 grams of cauliflower had 55 mg of vitamin C after boiling, 70 after steaming, and 82 after being cooked in the microwave oven.

Unfried Cauliflower Italian Style

This recipe is an adaption of my mother’s Italian Breaded Parmesan Cauliflower  recipe which she fried. The trick with baking them is to make sure they don’t overcook or undercook. The recipe  features an egg dipped cauliflower with a simple coating of flour, spices and cheese. No breadcrumbs needed, and while being lower in fat than the fried version, it tastes just as good.


Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower broken into small pieces

  • 3 eggs or ¾ cups egg substitute

  • 2 cups flour

  • 3 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


Directions

Cut apart the Cauliflower into small pieces.

Rinse them off and drain them.

Grease 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl beat the eggs with a fork or fill with egg substitute, and then fill another bowl with the flour, cheese, and spices that will be used for the coating.

Dip each piece of cauliflower first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

Put them on the greased baking dish, and bake for a half hour, flipping them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. You can also add more oil to the baking dish if it gets too dry.

Cauliflower  Fritatta

Serves 4

5 whole eggs plus 3/4 cups egg substitute

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper taste

3 cups steamed  or microwaved cauliflower florets

2 teaspoons butter

Combine eggs, cheese and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Mix well and stir in cauliflower. Turn oven to broil.

Put butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until hot – when it stops sizzling. Add egg mixture and reduce heat to as low as possible. When the eggs are set on the bottom but the top is still slightly runny, put the pan under the broiler at least six inches from the flame. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just set. Be careful not to overcook. Turn the pan to cook evenly. When done, remove from the broiler and slide onto a plate. Let cool until warm or room temperature and cut into 4 wedges.


Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 – 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower, garlic and chickpeas with the olive oil along with the salt and red pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast in a single layer, turning once during cooking, until chickpeas are golden and starting to turn crunchy, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Roasted Peppers and Cauliflower

Directions
Place the cauliflower, red peppers and onions in a shallow roasting pan. Add the oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 20 minutes. Stir; bake 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a serving bowl; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Yield: 6 servings.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Cauliflower and Rosemary

Serves 4
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound whole wheat penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 links Italian sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-28oz. container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of water and the salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot and shimmering, add the onions and sausage and stir briefly. Leave the sausage alone to brown for 2 minutes. Stir it again then add the rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn soft, another 2 minutes.

3. Add the cauliflower and season it with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and a splash of the pasta water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender, 6 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta and toss it with sauce, adding more pasta water if it looks too dry. (There should be just enough liquid in the pan to coat the pasta.) Stir in the parmesan.

 

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Onions

Serves 4

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1⁄2 lb), cored and sliced 1⁄2-in. thick
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1⁄2-in.-thick wedges
  • cup fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • ½  cup golden raisins
  • 12 ounces whole-grain penne
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  1. Heat oven to 425ºF. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower, onion, sage, oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper; roast for 15 minutes. Add the raisins and toss to incorporate. Continue roasting until the vegetables are golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  3. Add the vegetable mixture, pasta water and Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.



Meatballs and sausage are just about the most favorite accompaniment to spaghetti or other pasta for most folks.  As I was growing up, I think meatballs were my very favorite. I did not have an appreciation for sausage until later in life.  As I recall,  pork sausage could be chewy and contain large pieces of fat. Not the healthiest of foods. Today there are numerous types of sausages besides pork, such as turkey, chicken and vegetarian. However, if you want an authentic taste then Italian pork sausages are the way to go.  About 10 years ago I discovered Fortuna ‘s Sausage Company located in Rhode Island and was very pleased with their product.  The sausage is made with all natural , hand trimmed pork and comes from small farms across the region.  The sausage comes in a number of flavors and is not fatty.  I have included a link below, if you would like to see the products they sell.

When it comes to cooking meatballs or sausage, my method is different from my mother. She would mix the meatball ingredients, form the meatballs and fry them in oil before adding them to the tomato sauce.  In fact some of my relatives prepared the meat in the same pan that they later cooked the tomato sauce in, leaving all the fat that came from the meat in the pan and then into the sauce.  Even frying the meat in a skillet, as my mother did, added fat to this dish. So to avoid this added fat, I bake the meatballs and sausage in a hot oven and then add them to the sauce.  I like to think that my method is much healthier.

My usual preparation is to spray two 9″ x 13″ glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In one dish I place 1 lb. of Italian sausage cut into 3 inch links. The second dish will hold the meatballs and the recipe is as follows:

Italian Meatballs

2 lbs. lean ground meat (beef and pork) or you can use all beef (usually ground round) or ground turkey breast

1/2 cup onion chopped fine

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs or 1/2 cup of egg substitute, such as, Egg Beaters

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups of Progresso Italian bread crumbs

1 cup warm water

In a large mixing bowl place the bread crumbs and warm water. Mix and let rest for about 10  minutes. Add the all the remaining ingredients except the meat and mix well.  Add the meat and mix with your hands just until combined.  Over mixing causes the meat to toughen.

Wet your hands and form the meatballs. A traditional size is 2-3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. I usually get about 16 meatballs. Place them in the greased baking dish.

Bake the sausage and the meatballs until brown for about 40 minutes, turning them half way through the baking time. Remove the meat to a tray lined with paper towels to drain.

Add the meat to the tomato sauce during the second hour and let them simmer in the sauce for an hour. The recipe for the sauce was in yesterday’s post.

Image

Meatballs and sausage to serve with cooked spaghetti.

http://www.fortunasausagecom                       Fortuna's sausage



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