Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Mozzarella

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

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

Athenian Tile

Roman Baking Tiles

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

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

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

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

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

Ridged Lasagna Noodles

Flat Sided Lasagna Noodles

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

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

If using regular noodles, boil according to package directions.

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

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

Chicken Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna

Makes 8 servings

Sauce:

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

Spinach:

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

Filling:

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

Lasagna

For the sauce:

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

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

For the spinach:

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

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

For the filling:

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

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

For the lasagna :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Low-Fat Meaty Lasagna

Serves 8

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Seafood Lasagna

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 8 servings

 

Special Occasion Lasagna with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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

Homemade lasagna noodles allow the sauce to shine through.

Pasta:

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

Sauce:

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

Filling:

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

Remaining ingredients:

  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Cooking spray

To Prepare Pasta:

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

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

To Prepare Sauce

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

To Prepare Filling:

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

Cook Pasta:

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

Assemble Lasagna and Bake:

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

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

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

About these ads

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

Menu 1

Omelet with Summer Vegetables

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Baby Greens with Oranges

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Menu 2

Linguine With Fresh Herbs

6 servings

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

4 servings
Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Menu 3

Chicken and Pepper Stew

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

Serve with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Green Salad.

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Olive-Oil Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Menu 4

Italian Bean Salad With Tuna

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

Serves 4.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.

Menu 5

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

4 Servings

Ingredients:

For the balsamic vinaigrette:

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

For the grilled steak:

2 top sirloin steaks, about 8 ounces each

For the green salad:

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

4 small whole grain crusty rolls

Directions:

For the balsamic vinaigrette:

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

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

For the grilled steak:

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

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

For the green salad:

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

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

Tropical Sherbet

Last-Minute Tropical Sherbet

Ingredients:

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

Homemade Ricotta

Cheese is one of the most consumed milk products. The iron and calcium content of the food is ideal for bone development. Cheese is essentially the preservation of milk. Its development is traced back to the nomadic herdsmen of the Middle East who stored their supply of milk on vessels that are made from the stomach of goats and sheep. Because of the lactic acid contained in the linings of the containers, wild bacteria mixes with milk, causing it to ferment and coagulate. The commonly used milk in making cheeses is milk from cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo.

Cheese Making in Ancient Rome

Romans were passionate cheese makers and eaters. Many Roman homes had a special kitchen set aside for cheese making called a caseale, where cheeses also were stored and aged. A favorite Roman cheese was smoked over applewood chips, echoing a popular modern favorite, smoked provolone. Pecorino Romano, a sharp sheep’s milk cheese, may have originated in Roman times.

Ancient egyptian production of cheese

Making Cheese in Ancient Egypt

Making your own cheese at home ensures that you have control over the ingredients that go into your cheese. For instance, you won’t have to revert to using extras like additives and preservatives used in commercial cheese. Not to mention the ‘unmentioned’ and unlisted hormones, pesticides and antibiotics that can make their way into our food. Making cheese at home also ensures that you can exercise some degree of quality control over your finished product. Of course, despite following a recipe, in reality, it may take a few tries to get your homemade cheese perfect. 

One of the easiest cheeses made with rennet to attempt at home is mozzarella and a great rennetless cheese alternative for beginners would be ricotta.
Ricki Carroll, long considered the “grandmother of American cheesemaking” at home, has many options in her book, Home Cheese Making, which details 75 cheeses and their recipes. Many of our country’s best cheese makers owe their start to this book.
Before you start, some key points to remember:

  • Always use the best quality whole milk you can find. Do not use use ultra pasteurized milk.
  • If you can, use homogenized milk. You’ll have a smoother curd using homogenized.
  • All utensils and cookware should be as clean as can be!
  • Make sure all of this cookware is either stainless steel, glass, or enamel.

Why Make Your Own Cheese?

1. It’s a rare skill.  Making your own cheese is the culinary equivalent of building log cabins.  There just aren’t that many people who know how to do it anymore. Homemade cheese will always be a hit at a party.

2. Homemade cheese contains no artificial ingredients.  Almost every commercial yellow or red cheese contains a food coloring called annatto.  Although annatto is “natural” (it’s derived from a South American tree) it has been linked to allergic reactions.

3. It’s easy!  There are a few basic steps to cheese making, and they are the same no matter what kind of cheese you want to create.  Once you have mastered those steps, you can make anything, even brie.

4. Homemade cheese connects you to your farmer, the cows, and the land. As you begin to make cheese, you will naturally seek out the best milk for your product.  You will ask questions, talking to farmers and other cheese makers.  

5. It’s inexpensive.  Unlike other hobbies, you don’t need a lot of fancy supplies to make cheese.  A large pot, a kitchen thermometer, a couple pieces of cheesecloth and a few cultures will get you started onto the path of cheese making.

6. Children love it.  Kids love to eat cheese.  If you have children, cheese making is a great kitchen activity.  They can participate and learn along the way.

7. It’s delicious!  No matter what kind of cheese you make, your homemade cheese will be edible.  Some of the most fabulous, rare cheeses were discovered by accident.  

Benefits to Using Pasteurized Milk

It’s widely available.

Pasteurized milk can be found at any grocery store.   

Don’t use Ultra High Temperature pasteurized milk (a.k.a UHT, ultra-pasteurized). Your curd will not set.

It’s inexpensive.

In most states, organic milk is $5 or less per gallon.

It’s a blank slate, bacterially speaking.

Milk that has been pasteurized contains no bacteria, beneficial or pathogenic.

This means that whatever culture you add has no competition and can propagate freely. This can lead to a more consistently flavored cheese.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

For about 1-1/2 pounds of cheese:

Pour 3 quarts, plus 3 cups whole milk into a stainless steel pot with 1 cup heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized). If possible make them both organic.

Line a large sieve with cheesecloth or a thin towel and set it over a medium bowl.

Bring the milk and cream to a very gentle simmer, stir in 2 teaspoons salt and 1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed).

Simmer 1 or 2 minutes or until you have cloud-like clumps floating in almost clear liquid. Don’t let them cook until they are hard.

Scoop them up and into the sieve. Gently press out excess moisture so the cheese isn’t watery. Put into a storage container and chill.

Mascarpone Cheese

Ingredients:

1 pint heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon tartaric acid (cream of tartar)
1/4 teaspoon powdered sugar

Directions

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with enough water to touch the top pan, but the top should fit neatly and not “float.” Bring to a simmer.
Pour the cream into the top of a double boiler and place over simmering water.

Add the sugar and whisk constantly.
When the cream is warm add the tartaric acid. Whisk over the heat until the cream reaches a temperature of 180 degrees.


Remove from heat and allow to cool, whisking occasionally.

Pour the mixture into a bowl through a thick cheesecloth, or line a fine metal strainer with a coffee filter. Once it is cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the sieve overnight or up to 24 hours and transfer to a sealable storage container.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

If you have an hour of time and an adventurous spirit, you can easily make your own mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make and since it can be used in a variety of dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, etc., it will disappear quickly.
One of the best aspects of making mozzarella cheese is its simplicity of ingredients and equipment.  All you will need is a pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk, a slotted spoon, some clean rubber gloves, and a kitchen thermometer.  A candy thermometer is preferable to other types, as you’ll want a large enough readout in the 100 to 110 degree range.   You’ll want to hold the temperature of your mixture (once the citric acid and rennet have been added) so the curds can set, so a thermometer that’s easy to read in this range is optimal.

Fresh, Home Made Mozzarella Cheese

The only two ingredients you’ll need for your cheese that you may not be able to find in your local supermarket are rennet and citric acid, both of which you can purchase cheaply online.  If you’re lucky enough to have an extensive local grocery store or cheesemaking shop in your town, you might be able to find them locally.
Besides rennet and citric acid, the only other ingredient that you’ll need is whole milk. You’ll need to read the label carefully and make sure that the milk is not labeled “ultra pasteurized”.  Ultra pasteurized milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese.  

  • Over medium low heat, bring one gallon of whole milk up to 55 degrees and add 1.5 teaspoons of citric acid (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in thoroughly but gently.
  • When the mixture gets to 88 degrees add 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in gently for about 30 seconds.
  • Over medium heat, bring up to 105 degrees and keep it there for five minutes or until curds begin to form and separate from the side of the pot.  The whey should be almost clear, if milky white, allow to heat longer.
With a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds.  Put on some rubber (or surgical) gloves and gently squeeze out as much whey as you can with your hands forming balls of cheese.

  • Place the cheese balls in the microwave (this is the faster method) for 30 seconds and then knead it, just like you would bread, squeezing out whey as you go.  Microwave again for 15 – 20 seconds and pour more whey off.  As you are gently squeezing the whey out,  work it into a ball.  Repeat this step several times, until the cheese has a slightly glossy sheen to it and can be pulled like taffy.  Add salt (about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Kosher salt depending on taste) after the second kneading.

Once you’ve tasted the cheese you can make in your own kitchen, you may be hooked.  Once you’ve made your own cheese, you’re part of an ancient tradition of turning milk into cheese, and you’re part of a select group of people who’ve made homemade cheese.



With a nod to good health and great taste, consider some out-of-the-ordinary vegetarian entrée options for grilling this summer. There’s more to vegetable grilling than just throwing some sliced vegetables onto the grill. With the right recipes, you can create tasty meat-free menu items that are substantial enough to take center plate at your cookout. They’ll be just as hearty as the meat options you’re serving, and full of fantastic flavor, thanks to time spent on the grill.
Don’t be surprised if the meat-eating guests take to these dishes as much as the vegetarians do. And if the attending carnivores want further motivation besides great taste, here it is: Research has shown that reducing the amount meat in your diet can cut your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

At backyard barbecues around the country, a vegetarian can often feel like the odd person out — forced to bring his own entrees or to pick around the edges. Fortunately grilling season kicks into high gear just as vegetable produce peaks. Not only are gardeners growing veggies by the bagful, but supermarket prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are also low. This is a chance for hard-core grillers to bring their talents of outdoor cookery to dishes for the meatless crowd.

In addition to providing the smoky flavor that emanates from the coals, grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables and makes them taste extra sweet. Just about anything that sprouts from the ground or grows on a tree can be suspended over coals, including corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, onions, pineapples, mangoes, and mushrooms. Most vegetarian foods are more delicate than meat and have less fat. So to keep food from sticking to the grill and falling apart, it’s important to keep the grill clean and well-oiled.

Once the grill is hot, scrape it well with a grill brush to remove burned-on bits of food. Then fold a paper towel into a small square, soak it with vegetable oil. Grab it with your long-handled tongs and rub down the grill thoroughly.

For sandwiches, cut veggies like zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into thin slices–or into thick rings, in the case of onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Round out the meal by serving grilled veggies over pasta, rice, or polenta. Asparagus is one of the best and simplest vegetables to grill and is terrific in pastas and rice dishes. Leave the spears whole and simply lay them perpendicular across the grill grates!

No Fake Meat And No Tofu Recipes:


How To Make Pizza On the Grill

Grilled pizzas are a specific style of pie: typically thin-crusted, they’re lightly sauced (too much liquid means a soggy crust) with minimal toppings. They also cook very fast.

Make the Dough

Use your favorite crust recipe or see recipe below. Divide the dough into two or more pieces and shape into balls for individual-sized pizzas. Set the dough aside to proof while you prepare your toppings.
Tip: if you have a heavy-duty mixer or bread machine, double the recipe. Divide and shape the dough, and freeze each portion in a plastic freezer bag greased with about a tablespoon of olive oil for another dinner.

Assemble Your Toppings

With grilled pizza, the crust is the star. Choose a few simple ingredients that can showcase the smoky flavor and crispy crust. Or go for minimalism: top the grilled bread with a brushing of good olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse salt, and bit of chopped fresh herbs.
Suggested bases: marinara, pesto, flavored olive oil, salsa verde.
Suggested cheeses: mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta cheese, Parmesan, Gorgonzola.
Ideas for toppings: grilled vegetables, fresh figs, fresh herbs, fresh arugula, toasted pine nuts, olives or capers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic.

Grill the Crust

Prepare the grill for high heat.

Shape the dough into rounds, either stretching it by hand or using a rolling pin. Each round should be no more than ¼ inch thick. You can stack the rounds by layering waxed paper, parchment, or a clean well-floured kitchen towel in between the individual crusts. When the coals are hot, have all of your toppings ready near the grill.

The easiest method for grilling pizza is to par-bake the crust: grill one side just long enough to firm up the crust so you can move it easily. By taking it off the heat, you can take your time arranging the toppings and are less likely to burn the bottom of the pizza.

Begin by placing one or two dough rounds on the grill.

  • You can oil the grill grates, but it’s not necessary; once the crust has set, after about three minutes, it should be easy to pull off the heat with tongs, a spatula, or your fingers.
  • Don’t worry if it droops a little through the grate–it’ll firm up fast.
  • After two to three minutes, give it a little tug–it should move easily. If it sticks, give it another minute or so.
  • When the crust is set, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a plate or peel; flip it over so the “done” side is up, and add the toppings.
 

Grill the topped pizzas until the cheese melts and the toppings are heated through. Depending upon the heat of the grill and the size of your pies, this can take two to 10 minutes (if your grill has cooled dramatically, you might need to cover it with a lid to finish the cooking).

Grilled Veggie Pizza

4 pizzas

Ingredients:

Dough:
5 cups all-purpose flour ( or half whole wheat and half white flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or active dry yeast, dissolved)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups room temperature water

Directions:
Combine  ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook and knead for six minutes. Let rise until doubled. Divide into 4 balls of dough and keep covered.

Toppings: (Enough for 4 pies)

  • 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups sweet corn
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • Fresh oregano or basil

Directions:
Place ingredients in small bowls near the grill for easy access.

Simple sauce:

  • 2 cups tomato sauce (depending on how saucy you like your pies)
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Big pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
Stir together sauce ingredients and place near grill.

Appetizers

Eggplant Caponata Crostini

Serves 8                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar or Truvia sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8- 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices Italian bread
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat a  BBQ grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with oil. Grill 6 minutes on each side. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Start sauce while eggplant grills. Don’t turn off grill.
  3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste, cocoa powder, and sugar; cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant, vinegar, and 1/3 cup water.
  5. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and more sugar (up to 1 tablespoon), as desired.
  6. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Grill, turning once, until toasted and grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.
  7. Top grilled bread with caponata; garnish with basil leaves. Caponata can be refrigerated up to 5 days in an airtight container; let cool completely before storing.

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches

4 Sandwiches                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices round narrow Italian bread
  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices (6 oz.) fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (8 slices)
  • Pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Rub a side of each slice of bread with a cut side of garlic and brush with oil. Spread the plain side of half the bread slices with a thin layer of pesto.

Layer cheese and tomatoes on top of the pesto.  Sprinkle with black pepper. Top with remaining bread, garlic side up. Grill sandwiches until grill marks appear and cheese is beginning to melt, 6 minutes, turning once.

Main Dishes

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

4 servings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in. shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.
In a skillet, saute pulp and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add bread crumbs; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, oregano and salt.
Spoon into zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Cannellini and Couscous

Serves: 6

After the initial assembly, this dish takes care of itself. If you like, you can prepare and grill the tomatoes well ahead of serving. The flavors will get even better.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • ½ cup couscous
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin), divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 6 large ripe but firm tomatoes (10 ounces each; about 4 3/4 pounds total)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Directions:

Preheat the grill. Coat a 9″ x 6″ disposable foil pan with cooking spray.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, or until the onion is softened.

Meanwhile, cut 1/4″ slices from the tomato tops. Discard the tops. With a serrated knife or spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh, leaving 1/4″-thick walls. Set aside. Finely chop the tomato flesh. Add to the onion along with the beans, parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, vegetable broth and the couscous. Stir to combine. Spoon into the reserved tomato shells, mounding slightly. Spoon any extra stuffing into the base of the pan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Cover with aluminum foil.

Place on the grill away from direct heat. Grill, rotating the pan occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender and the tops are golden.  Allow to stand for 20 minutes.

Grilled Stuffed Eggplant 

Serves: 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 3 small eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 3 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
Preheat a covered grill to medium-high.
With a small, sharp knife, scoop out the flesh of each eggplant leaving 1/4-inch thick shells  and place in a medium bowl. Add the cheese, bread crumbs, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix. Stuff the mixture tightly into each eggplant half. Drizzle with the oil.
Place the eggplant halves in a disposable aluminum foil pan. Set on the grill. Cover and grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and the top is golden and crisp.

Portobello Burgers with Roasted Peppers, Mozzarella, and Caramelized Onions

Serves: 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

This grilled “burger” with all the trimmings will satisfy even devoted beef fans. Serve some oven sweet potato fries on the side.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, about 3 1/2-4 ounces each
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, about 2 ounces
  • 4 (100-calorie) light multi-grain english muffins or hamburger buns
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips

Directions:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Preheat the grill.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the vinegar in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the mushroom caps and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Grill, covered, turning occasionally, until tender, 9 to 11 minutes. Top each with 1 slice of the cheese and grill until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Toast the muffins or rolls. Place the bottom half of each muffin on a plate and top with 1 portobello cap, one-fourth of the roasted peppers, and one-fourth of the onion. Top with the remaining muffin halves.


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

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

Avocado, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad                                                                     

Add grilled shrimp for a complete meal.
4 servings

  • 4 small plum tomatoes, halved

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

  • 6 oz small buffalo mozzarella balls, torn in half

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

  • Basil leaves, roughly chopped

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

Position a rack 5-6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the garlic and scallions. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes.
Broil the tomatoes for 4–5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften and the garlic is golden brown.
Place the hot tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and all cooking juices in a bowl.  Add the mozzarella, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, capers, and basil and toss gently.

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

Penne and Vegetable Salad

4–6 servings

  • 1 lb. penne

  • 3 cups broccoli florets

  • 2 cups asparagus tips

  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed

  • 2 large carrots, cut into julienne

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil or oregano

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to the package instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, steam or microwave the broccoli and asparagus for 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and carrots and steam about 3 minutes more, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl. Toss in the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad

Add grilled chicken breast for a complete meal.
Serves 4

  • 8 zucchini, halved lengthwise

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped

  • About 2/3 cup croutons, see recipe below

  • About ½ cup toasted almonds

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 3 lemons

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

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

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

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


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

Shellfish Salad with Oranges and Fennel

Serves 8
Orange paired with anise-scented fennel is a traditional Sicilian flavor combination. This recipe adds shrimp and scallops, but you can use any fish you like in this recipe. Thinly sliced celery is a nice alternative if your market does not have fennel.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper

  • Salt

  • 3 navel oranges

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

  • 2 cups dry white wine

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

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

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

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

Place the fennel in a bowl, add half of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat evenly. Divide the fennel evenly among 8 salad plates, forming a bed on each one, or arrange the fennel in a bed on a large platter.
In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook gently until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Add the scallops to the pan and simmer gently until just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the bowl holding the shrimp. Drizzle about one-third of the remaining vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat evenly.
Place the orange segments evenly over the fennel. Then distribute the warm seafood evenly over the oranges. Add the orange juice from the bowl to the remaining vinaigrette and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Artichoke Salad

Makes 4 servings
Add grilled salmon fillets for a complete meal.

  • 1 lemon

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

  • 1 large bunch of arugula

  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Add the juice and rind of the lemon to a small saucepan and place the artichoke hearts in the pan with enough cold water to just cover the artichoke hearts.
Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the artichokes for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool.
Divide the arugula and artichokes among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives, and Fontina, Piedmont Style

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

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

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  • Salt

  • Freshly milled white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons sliced, pitted imported green olives

  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long, thin strips

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, or 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly. Set aside to cool.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the smoky flavor.) 
Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives, and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

Cannellini Beans and Tuna                                                                                                  

Serves 8 or more

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

  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved

  • 2 whole cloves

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig fresh sage

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

  • ¼ cup olive oil

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

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Rinse the beans and place in a bowl of cold water to cover. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Drain the beans and place them in an ovenproof casserole. Stud the onion halves with the whole cloves and bury them in the casserole with the garlic, thyme, and sage. Add enough cold water to cover by ½ inch and cover the casserole. Place casserole over low heat and bring contents to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in oven. Bake until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes to be sure that the liquid is simmering and is still above the level of the beans, adding boiling water if necessary.) Season with the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Set aside, uncovered, until cooled. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to serve, remove the onion, garlic, and herbs. Fold in the oil and drained tuna. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.


Children can be picky about their food choices. Today they might like a particular food and tomorrow, they hate it!  Sometimes a new presentation or a new ingredient can spark their interest.  While french fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner might be what they want, getting children to select healthy options might not be that difficult. Kids are very proud of their accomplishments, so if they’ve helped make the dinner, they are more likely to eat it.

Hopefully some of these recipes will work in your house.

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Number of Servings: 8

If broccoli isn’t a family favorite, you can substitute a 10 oz. package of defrosted frozen peas.

Ingredients

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or turkey breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 1/2 cups carrots, 1/4 inch slices
1 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
3 small cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra works well for sauces)
2 2/3 cups nonfat milk
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1 package ( 12-14 oz.) cooked whole grain rotini or penne pasta

Directions

In a large, deep skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add chicken breast cubes. Saute until cooked through and lightly browned. Move chicken to pasta serving bowl; set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining olive oil and add garlic, Italian seasoning and vegetables. Saute until cooked, but not limp. Add vegetables to bowl with chicken.  Stir milk and Wondra flour together and pour into skillet. Cook 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in cream cheese, cook 2 minutes. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until it melts.
Add hot cooked pasta, chicken and vegetables and toss well to coat. Pour into pasta serving bowl and top with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a green salad.

Parmesan Zucchini Cakes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium, about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cups Progresso Italian bread crumbs, divided
  • Marinara Sauce, warmed, see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Use the large-holed side of a box grater to shred the zucchini. Place shredded squash in the center of a clean kitchen towel; gather up the ends and twist to squeeze out any liquid
  3. Mix together the egg substitute, onion, parsley, zucchini, cheese, ¼ cup bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl..
  4. With floured hands, shape zucchini mixture into smallish balls (about two tablespoons each) and roll in remaining bread crumbs and flatten slightly on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each cake over and bake for another 10-15 minutes until browned.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

For Snack Time

Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip

1 -15-ounce can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained or 2 cups cooked dried beans

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, peeled

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper

Carrot and Celery Sticks

Puree first 5 ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Add salt and pepper. Transfer dip to serving  bowl with carrot and celery sticks.

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Turkey Pizza Burger Sliders

Makes 8 sliders

1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey breast
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil, for brushing sliders
8 small slices fresh mozzarella
Marinara Sauce

Whole Wheat Potato Rolls

Place turkey, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, basil 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Gently combine, without over mixing, until evenly incorporated.
Mix all the burger ingredients well and form into 2.5 ounce balls. Flatten into patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with olive oil.
To grill the turkey burgers, preheat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the patties, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes total.
Place burgers on a whole wheat potato roll. Top sliders with a tablespoon of marinara sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese.

Martin’s makes the best tasting whole wheat rolls. Your kids will love them.

Codfish Cakes

Codfish cakes are made in many countries throughout the world. In Italy the recipe calls for dried salt cod,  Baccala, but you can use any leftover (or even fresh) white-fleshed fish. Salt cod is often found in stores around the winter holidays because it’s almost a sacred food in many cultures — definitely so in Italian and Portuguese cuisines, for example.

My mother made these fish cakes when she had leftover baccala during the Christmas season but you have to soak the baccala overnight and it is still salty. Here’s a variation using fresh cod instead and children love them (its the mashed potatoes part that does that).

Ingredients
1 pound of cod fillets
2 medium-sized baking potatoes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute
3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed and processed into crumbs (about 1 cup)

Directions

Boil and mash the potatoes, set them aside.
Poach the codfish until it flakes easily. Drain and add the fish to the potatoes. Mash together.
Mix the fish, the potatoes and the next 7 ingredients together.
Form the mixture into 3 inch patties and lightly dredge in bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a baking sheet well with olive oil cooking spray.
Place patties on prepared baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip patties, carefully, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 fish cakes. Serves 4-6.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

Oven baked sweet potatoes are a healthy choice, but there is a problem, they don’t get crispy.  They get brown, but not crisp.
I have found a method that really works.

Cut 2 large sweet potatoes into finger size thicknesses.

Let potatoes soak in cold water for an hour.  Drain but don’t dry on towels.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place two tablespoons of cornstarch into a plastic bag.

Add sweet potatoes to the bag with the cornstarch.  Twist the top of the bag so it forms a balloon with some air inside and shake the fries around until they’re lightly coated with the cornstarch.

                                                                                            

Put the coated fries on a non stick baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the fries.
Using your hands, toss the potatoes to make sure the fries are well coated. Rearrange them on the sheet again, so that they have space between each fry.

The less fries on the pan the better because, if the potatoes are crowded, they will not get crispy.  They’ll just steam.  You might want to use 2 baking sheets. if you do not have a large enough pan.

Bake the fries in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.


Mason Disick Eating

Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Years ago, Italians often took three hour lunch breaks and ate mutli-course meals.  As times have changed, it is more rare for Italian families to gather at the table during lunch and have a full home-made meal. Italy’s economical situation is such that many mothers have had to take on full-time jobs, children are in school until mid-afternoon and most people do not have time to go home during lunch time.  Typically, people working in offices have a 1-hour break and eat lunch at a bar or pasticceria, that offers foods to go, such as fresh made sandwiches, prepared salads, or square slices of pizza or stuffed focaccia.    Italian sandwiches aren’t multi-layered, American style sandwiches but, usually,  just  simple focaccia bread with a few lean slices of prosciutto, some sliced tomatoes with mozzarella or pecorino cheese.  Italian pizzas are very thin. have limited toppings and are usually vegetarian.   Bread without butter and salads are also very common at lunch. Pastas are also popular and usually full of vegetables.  One exception is on Sundays, many families will have a large, 2-3 hour lunch and often eat this meal out in a restaurant.

As a child growing up in an Italian-American home, I remember Sundays were pretty much reserved for family. My father would take us to visit our grandparents or other relatives while my mother prepared the Sunday meal.  Sunday lunch was really dinner but held early in the afternoon. After my grandmother died, when I was quite young, my grandfather would often join us for Sunday dinner. As my children were growing up. I tried to make meals an important time to be together and we kept some of the traditions built around meals. Lunch, however, was lunch – a quick meal. Through the years I have gravitated toward lighter and healthy selections for lunch.

Antipasto

My favorite food for lunch is soup, so I keep a number of containers in the freezer to pull out when I feel like soup for lunch.  Salads or typical items found on an antipasto tray are also a favorite.

Below are two soup recipes that are substantial enough for lunch and two salad recipes that I hope you will enjoy.

        Tortellini Soup with Escarole

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-32 oz. cartons low sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 bunch escarole (or 8 cups spinach) washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1-9 oz. pkg. fresh tortellini
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

Escarole is a leafy green vegetable and member of the chicory family, along with frisée, endive and Belgian endive. You can find it in the lettuce department of your supermarket.

Directions

In soup pot, heat oil and saute shallots for two minutes.

Add both containers of chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Add tortellini, return to boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer about 5 minutes.

Add the escarole and simmer until the greens are wilted.

Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve soup with shaved Parmesan cheese strips.

Lentils are a small but nutritional member of the legume family and are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Lentil colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black

Lentil Soup

  • 1 lb. dried brown lentils ( about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup medium pearl barley
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1-16 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cover the lentils with water in a large bowl.  Let soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.

Heat oil in a large soup pot and add garlic, onion, celery, carrots and potato.

Cook, stirring several times, for 10 minutes.

Add water, chicken broth, lentils and barley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Check the lentils and barley, to see if they are tender, after 45 minutes.

Add tomatoes, oregano salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Salads

My favorite salad is made of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

4 servings

  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick

    Tomato Mozzarella Salad

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly-ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Alternate fresh mozzarella slices with sliced tomatoes, overlapping, in a circular design on a serving plate.  (See photo)

Tear fresh basil leaves and sprinkle liberally over the slices. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Just before serving, drizzle with top-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Chickpea Salad

4 servings

  • 1/4 cup slivered red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1- 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 8 ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Chickpeas are a legume used in many Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Round and tan colored, chickpeas have a mild, nutty flavor. They are also known as garbanzo beans.

Whisk olive oil and lemon in a salad bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill.

Serve over tender lettuce leaves (such as, Bibb).

I like to top this salad with leftover shrimp or grilled tuna.  Roasted red peppers are also a good addition


I have read that Italian breakfasts are very light, usually consisting of coffee (espresso) or cappuccino and some kind of pastry or bread.  Biscotti are also favorites for an Italian breakfast. Biscotti are a, not too sweet cookie, that is baked, cut, then baked again to form slices of hard biscuits that are often dunked in coffee . Egg dishes, such as frittatas, are usually eaten at lunch or dinner, never for breakfast.

I can remember going to my grandparents’  home around breakfast time and my grandfather would be having a cup of coffee and eating the heel end from a loaf of Italian bread.  This was pretty much his usual breakfast.  I am not sure when Italian-Americans began eating specialty pastries from a bakery, but I can remember Italian bakeries were numerous where I grew up in New Jersey.  I think  the tradition of going to the Italian bakery came about when folks who had just come from church services wanted a special breakfast on Sunday.  I can remember long lines at the bakery counter, didn’t like standing there, but liked those pastries. My grandfather even got into the habit and would bring us pastries when he visited us on Sundays.  He continued the tradition when my children were little and brought us pastries up until the time that he died.  Some of those delicious pastries (just wanted to make you drool) are pictured below. Of course you know they are not a healthy choice.

Sfogliatelle feature luscious mandarin flavored ricotta filling encased in a crispy shell shaped pastry.

Pasticiotti are tender pastry cups filled with either ricotta cheese, vanilla cream or chocolate cream

Frittatas

I recall that most of my breakfasts growing up were the usual cereal and scrambled eggs. Very American.  My mother, however, often made traditional Italian style egg dishes, such as potatoes and eggs, or peppers and eggs or spinach frittata and I will share those recipes with you.  My children weren’t so fond of fritattas when they were growing up, but they like them now as adults, so I like to make frittatas for breakfast when they visit.

A frittata is a healthy and economical dish that you can eat for any meal of the day. It is a dish similar to a French quiche,  an American omelette,  or a Spanish tortilla.  Frittatas generally consist of eggs,  vegetables, cheese, and herbs.

In my house, the contents of a frittata usually consist of whatever leftovers I have in the refrigerator that day. Italians are frugal and know how to use leftovers creatively.

You will want to pick items that have a natural affinity for each other. Think of things that you might find on a plate together anyway, or on a pizza and cheese is a key ingredient in any frittata. Making this dish is very simple as long as you have an ovenproof skillet.  Sauté whatever veggies you are putting into the dish and heat through any cooked meat leftovers.

Here are some ideas:

  • 1 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and sauteed until soft, 2 diced plum tomatoes and 4 ounces of diced or shredded Fontina.
  • A bag of cleaned spinach cooked in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1/4 pound sliced Prosciutto, some grated Parmesan cheese and some shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • I prefer to use reduced- fat shredded cheeses from Kraft or Sargento and substitute half of the eggs with egg substitute to save on calories.

General techniques include

  1. Turn on the broiler.  Place a non-stick skillet with an oven safe handle on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Heat the pan and add 1 tablespoons olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the frittata vegetables, stirring until warm, and then pour the eggs beaten with the egg substitute over the vegetables.
  3. Slowly cook the frittata until the edges start to firm up. When the frittata is cooked about three-quarters of the way through, scatter the top with shredded cheese and move it to the heated broiler.
  4. Set the frittata about 6-inches below the broiler.
  5. When it is just golden brown and puffed up, remove the skillet to your stove top.
  6.  BE SURE TO PROTECT THE HOT HANDLE WITH A HOT PAD SO YOU DO NOT BURN YOUR HANDS!

Spinach Frittata

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

5 eggs and 1 1/4 cups egg substitute

8 ounces chopped raw spinach (or 1-10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oil  in a 10 or 12 inch skillet with a heat-resistant handle over medium heat.   Saute onion in the oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the mozzarella cheese. Whisk until well blended. Pour egg mixture into skillet with onions and spinach. Return to low heat and cook 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler. Remove when the top is golden brown and cut into wedges.

Some Traditional Italian Style Egg Dishes

Peppers and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute (such as, Egg Beaters)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden.
Add the peppers, cook 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften.
Cover skillet and cook 5 more minutes until they are tender.

Mix the eggs, oregano, salt and pepper together and por over the peppers in the skillet.
Stir fry the eggs and peppers to allow the uncooked portions to reach the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat when the eggs are done to your liking.

Potatoes and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Cooking Directions

Heat the oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the potatoes until tender and golden brown. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture to the potatoes and onions. Stir fry the mixture turning the ingredients with a spatula over and under until the eggs look cooked to your liking.

Completing the Breakfast Menu

The best accompaniments to the egg dishes featured here are bread and fruit, such as, melon or berries. Certainly a loaf of  Italian bread would be good, but I like to serve Focaccia.

Focaccia  is a flat oven-baked Italian bread which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients.
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese, meat, or vegetables.
Focaccia dough is similar in style and texture to pizza dough but is usually baked in a deep dish pan. The bread bakes up thicker than pizza and can be used for sandwiches.

In Ancient Rome, foccacia, was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace. The word is derived from the Latin word meaning “centre” and also “fireplace” – the fireplace being in the centre of the house.  As the tradition spread, the diverse regions and the different local ingredients resulted in a large variety of breads.  The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine, a coastal region of north-western Italy.  In America, it is referred to as focaccia bread.

Here is a recipe I have adapted from King Arthur.

This bread is just about the easiest home-baked bread recipe that I have found because it can be made without kneading and is ready in under 2 hours.

No-Fuss Focaccia

1 1/2 cups warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for drizzling)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

Italian seasoning or other herbs of choice

Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Drizzle the bottom of a 9″x 13″ pan with 1 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine all of the ingredients and beat at high-speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.

Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan.  If you spray a spatula (or your fingers) with cooking spray, the dough will be easier to smooth out.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.  Drizzle it lightly 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated parmesan cheese.

Bake the bread until it is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Focaccia



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Smaker, dofter och gömställen kring Medelhavet

Eating My Feelings

Because food just makes life so much better.

LauraLovingLife

Lover of cooking ~ Wanting to share my adventures in the kitchen!

The Sunny Cook

Easy, healthy, frugal and delicious recipes to brighten your everday life.

Il mondo di Macdelice

Il blog rosa di Maria Cavallaro

Good Food Everyday

From the heart of the Mediterranean ....

Culinary Adventures of The Twisted Chef T

Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours!

therapy bread

no, not just bread: crafting edible creations as a way to feed the spirit, body, friends and family <3

healthy.yogi.mama

Fitness, recipes and babies in NYC

The Good, the Bad and the Italian

food/films/families and more

SOLE Food Kitchen

SUSTAINABLE. ORGANIC. LOCAL. ETHICAL. THAT'S HOW WE ROLL.

vinicooksveg

Amazing & fun.........Indian cooking!!

What's Cooking

Fine dining my way

Chocolate Spoon & The Camera

A clumsy newbie in the kitchen. Una principiante ai fornelli.

An eye for food

Food is to be admired as well as desired. It should speak to you visually and make you want to taste it!

mycookinglifebypatty

Adventures in Healthy Living

Things My Belly Likes

Where eating to live and living to eat are not mutually exclusive

Our Growing Paynes

A journey about gardening, cooking, and knitting.

Silvia's Cucina

Welcome to my authentic Italian home cooking blog

gotta get baked

musings of a baking fiend

thewhitedish

Let's talk recipes, great food and FITNESS!

on the road with Animalcouriers

pet transport through Europe and beyond

jittery cook

recipes worth sharing

soulofspice

delicious nourishing energizing spice

pattytmitchell

site for Patricia Mitchell, author

Cookie's cakes and bakes

Seeking world domination - through the power of baking!

Simply Sophisticated Cooking

Effortless home cooking recipes, tips and methods for busy lives to encourage fine eating in instead of out.

FARMINISTA'S FEAST with Karen Pavone

Farm to Table Adventures in California's Beautiful North Bay

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