Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Olive oil

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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

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On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

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Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

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Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

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Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

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

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

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Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Tuna has been fished from the warm, temperate parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans since ancient times. As a member of the mackerel family, tuna naturally has a stronger, more robust flavor than whitefish. In 1903, when sardines were the canned fish of choice, canner Albert P. Halfhill managed a shortage by packing tuna in cans and persuading local grocers to stock them. More than a century later, tuna is a household staple as a protein-packed, quick-yet-wholesome meal.

Tuna is one of the most popular types of fish used for canned seafood products. It is high in protein and vitamins, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and has an appetizing taste and texture. The are many different types of tuna but there are only a few that are highly desired by the canned tuna industry. The most popular types of canned tuna are:

  • Skipjack Tuna is one of the smaller species of tuna and is commonly found at the surface of tropical oceans. It is fast, sleek and can grow up to three feet in length. The Skipjack tuna is a healthy tuna stock and is currently quite stable. It has a faster breeding cycle than other tuna and is a popular choice for many fisheries.
  • Albacore Tuna is one of the most plentiful species of tuna found in the ocean and, as such, is one of the most common types of canned tuna found in stores. A full sized Albacore tuna can weigh close to one hundred pounds and be close to five feet in length. It has a darker blue color and is silver on the underneath side. At present many Albacore tuna stocks are fairly healthy and are not at current risk of being overfished.
  • Yellowfin Tuna, when canned, is typically called Chunk Light Tuna and is usually very easy to find in grocery stores and supermarkets. Yellowfin tuna is a large predator fish that can weigh close to 500 pounds when full sized and reach lengths of over 7 feet. It’s name comes from a stripe of yellow that runs along its side and its yellow fins.Yellowfin tuna is usually canned in salt water, oil or natural spring water. This type of tuna will have a stronger flavor than Albacore Tuna and may be similar in taste to swordfish. Unfortunately the Yellowfin Tuna is in decline because of excessive human consumption and unsustainable fishing practices.

These three species of tuna fish are the most commonly consumed and most commonly used for canning. They each have unique characteristics, flavor and ocean habitation patterns. Knowing more about what species of tuna you are eating and it’s relative strength as a species is a good start for choosing a sustainable tuna brand. Of course when buying canned tuna always ensure that the tuna species is listed prominently on the can and try to choose canned tuna that is caught by pole and line fishing. As connoisseurs of canned tuna we want to help promote sustainable canned tuna, to ensure the world can enjoy eating tuna for many years to come.

tuna packed in olive oil

tuna packed in water

Turns out tuna is not just for sandwiches! In fact, it’s perfect for appetizers, soups, main dishes, casseroles, pasta dishes and all kinds of salads.Tuna consistently makes the top-choices list for “best canned items” to keep on hand. You’ll find canned tuna packed in water, oil or brine; it can be salted or unsalted and you can choose the variety of tuna you want. Below are some of my favorite ways to use canned tuna.

Tuna Florentine Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pouch (6.4 oz.) or can white tuna in water
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can (15 oz.) white beans (cannellini)
  • 1/2 cup dry orzo (or other small pasta)
  • 6 cups low sodium Chicken Broth
  • 3 oz. fresh spinach (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Mix in white beans, orzo and chicken broth and cook for 7 -8 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Stir in pesto and tuna. Add spinach and stir until just wilted.

Serve with parmesan cheese.

Tuna Sliders

For 10 mini burgers

Tuna Patties

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (or any hot pepper)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 3 cans tuna in olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 3 minced scallions
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tablespoons flour (+ extra flour for dusting the patties)
  • 10 slider rolls

Coleslaw

  • 1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded white cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

For the coleslaw:

In a large bowl, mix the cabbages with the sugar and the salt, cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Then add the carrots and parsley. Mix the rest of the slaw ingredients together and add them to the cabbage. Adjust salt if necessary.

For the patties:

In a small pan add the olive oil, jalapeno, celery, garlic, cayenne pepper, celery seeds, salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes and set aside.

In a large bowl, shred the tuna; add the panko, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard, flour, egg and scallions. Mix well and add the cooked celery and garlic mixture.

Flour your hands and make small balls (size of a golf ball) and gently flatten them to the desired size (just a little bit bigger than the bun you will use, as they will shrink while cooking.

Lightly flour each patty and refrigerate them for 10-15 minutes on wax paper. This will make them firmer and easier to saute.

Saute the patties in a large skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of hot oil. Cook until golden brown.

Warm the buns without toasting them. Put a patty in each bun and top with the slaw to serve.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna, packed in water, drained
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata or black olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 cups mixed greens

Directions

Combine eggs, tuna, onion, olives and feta cheese. Combine olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl; whisk until well blended. Add to tuna mixture. Season with pepper. Serve over mixed greens.

Zucchini Fettuccine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 onion finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2/3 cups half & half or cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 2 zucchini cut lengthwise, into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 cans or pouches tuna in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of minced scallion
  • 3 teaspoon of lemon juice

Directions

Boil water with salt and cook the pasta “al dente”.

Place the zucchini ribbons in the pasta water during the last 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta and the ribbons and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter; add the onion, salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown. Approximately 5 minutes.

Add the white wine, boil for 1 minute and add the broth. Boil again for a couple of minutes, add the peas and the half & half; cook for 1 minute and add the tuna at the just to warm it. Do not over mix or shred the tuna. Add the fettuccine and ribbons to the sauce, the lemon juice, parmesan cheese and scallions. Gently mix and serve with a little Parmesan cheese on top.

Tuna Stuffed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 red skin medium-large size potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cans or pouches tuna in olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato (small cubes without seeds)
  • 1/4 cup julienned roasted peppers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large pot of cold water put the unpeeled potatoes. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and boil. After the water returns to boiling, cook for 20 minutes or until tender.

In a bowl mix the ricotta cheese, tomatoes, roasted pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

When the potatoes are done, drain and set aside to cool. Cut off the top of the potato and with the help of a spoon remove about a third of the potato and add it to the ricotta mixture. Repeat with remaining potatoes.

Then add the mozzarella and tuna to the ricotta mixture. Carefully combine; don’t flake the tuna.

Stuff the potatoes with the filling, top each with parmesan cheese and place in a baking dish.

Bake for 8-10 minutes and the parmesan is golden brown.

Tuna Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

24 jumbo shells, cooked “al dente”

Stuffing:

  • 1/2 cup fat free half and half
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans or pouches tuna in olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 baby zucchinis, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Sauce:

  • 4 cups canned diced Italian tomatoes 
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped bell pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

For the stuffing:

In a skillet sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 10 minutes. Add the white wine, reduce to half and add the half & half. Cook for 5 more minutes and set aside to cool.

In a bowl: mix the ricotta and mozzarella cheese, add the tuna with the olive oil, the cooked mushroom mixture, parsley, zucchini, half the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Mix gently.

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan; add the garlic, onion and bell pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes on medium heat, then add the tomatoes. Cook for 20 more minutes until flavors are blended and the sauce has reduced about 20%. Add salt and pepper to taste followed by the parsley and oregano. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Stuff the shells with the tuna and ricotta stuffing. Place about 1″ of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Place the stuffed shells over the sauce, stuffing face up. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350° F. Uncover, add the remaining Parmesan and cook for 5 more minutes.


Flatbread is thin and, in many instances, made without yeast. Many cultures have their own version and it was probably one of the earliest bread products ever made. Some of the oldest examples of food found in tombs and archaeological sites have been flatbreads. They vary widely in size, shape, texture and ingredients.

Unleavened flatbread has a special symbolic role for several religions, especially Judaism. Matzo is a common example and it traditionally takes the form of a rectangular crisp cracker. Tortillas are a softer version, made with corn or flour, depending on the region and the dish. The disparity between these two dishes helps to illustrate the wide range of flatbreads eaten around the world.

Some other examples include chapati, injera, pizza, pita, lavash, puri, barbari, arepas, and naan. Many of these breads are designed to work like eating utensils for scooping up foods from a common serving platter. They can also be wrapped or rolled around foods, stuffed like sandwiches or eaten plain. Almost every culture with access to grain has devised some kind of bread that is flat, made from ingredients, like wheat, teff, corn, rye or rice.

The most basic flatbread is made from ground grain and water. Many cooks also add salt and oil for additional flavoring. Leavened breads may be made with yeast and they may also include eggs in some types. The variants certainly do not stop with the basic recipe, however, and the dough can be mixed with herbs, spices and vegetables, such as dill, thyme, cumin, coriander seed, onions, or garlic.

Kiosk (in Cesena)

In the case of pizza and focaccia, the bread may be topped with a wide variety of ingredients. Piadina is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Romagna region (present-day Emilia-Romagna.). It is usually made with white flour, lard or olive oil, salt and water. The dough was traditionally cooked on a terracotta dish (called teggia), although nowadays flat pans or electric griddles are commonly used. Piadine are usually sold immediately after preparation in specialized kiosks. They can be filled with a variety of cheeses, cold cuts and vegetables and sometimes with sweet fillings, such as jam or Nutella. There may be minor differences in the fillings, depending on the area of production. Piadine produced around Ravenna are generally thicker, while those produced around Rimini and the Marche region are thinner but the diameter is greater.

Flat breads can be stored in several ways: Room temperature: 5 days; Refrigerated: 25 days; Frozen: 6 months – Quality is not compromised when frozen. Thaw at room temperature.

Flatbreads Without Yeast

Skillet Flatbreads

These flatbreads are great for stuffing or rolling around a variety of ingredients, especially cheese and roasted red peppers.

 Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 2 to 3 additional tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Place the flour, baking powder, Italian seasoning and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add the oil and ice water and mix to make a soft, cohesive dough. Adjust with additional flour or water as needed. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet on the stovetop. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until the oil starts to shimmer in the pan.

Divide the dough into 10 to 12 equal pieces. Each piece should weigh about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces, about the size of a large egg. Dredge each piece in flour and roll to a rough circle or oval, about 1/4″ thick or hand shape the pieces by flattening between your palms.

In batches, fry the flatbreads in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn and fry on the second side for another 2 minutes. Or you can put a griddle pan on high heat and cook each flatbread for a couple of minutes per side, until slightly puffy and lightly charred – you’ll need to do this in batches.

Transfer from the pan to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Add more oil as needed for frying successive batches.

Yield: 10 to 12 flatbreads.

Whole Wheat Piadina (Italian Flatbread)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups ice water

Directions:

Combine the ingredients in the order given, one at a time, stirring well between each addition. Knead a bit by hand for the final mix. Work fast to keep the dough tender.

The dough should be soft but easily rolled out. You may need to add a bit of flour or water depending on the weather and the type of flour you are using.

Cut into 10-12 pieces. Roll out thin on an oiled surface. Create disks approximately 8 -10″ round.

Prick the top of the bread with a fork and fry in a lightly oiled skillet or on a grill. These work well on the outdoor grill, if the the grill is well oi. Good toppings are prosciutto and cheese.

Italian Chickpea Flatbread

This recipe is vegan and gluten free.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour)
  • 3.5 cups fresh cold water
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water gradually as you whisk the flour to keep any lumps from forming. Once all the water has been added, mix until completely smooth. Add the salt and pepper.

Let the mixture stand on the counter for 3 hours or so. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Gently skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the mixture with a slotted spoon.

Prepare a large rimmed cookie sheet by pouring enough olive oil onto the bottom to completely cover the pan.

Once the oven is hot, pour the batter onto the baking pan, making a layer about (1/4) inch deep. Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool before cutting and serving. Pesto makes a great topping for this bread.

Flatbreads Made With Yeast

Grilled Onion and Sage Flatbread

Serve this flatbread as an appetizer or for lunch or dinner with a salad and soup. Use any type of herb that you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red onion, trimmed, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (6 slices)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Prepare a medium (350°F to 375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the onion slices with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the onion slices until grill marks form on one side, about 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the slices and continue to grill until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes more. Stack the onions on a large piece of foil, wrap the onions up and let them sit for 10 minutes to soften further.

Coarsely chop the onions.

Generously coat a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Oil your hands as well, then evenly press the pizza dough onto the sheet pan all the way to the corners. Using your knuckles, make dimpled depressions in the top of the dough.

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon water; brush the dough with the mixture.

In a medium bowl, toss the sage and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Top the dough with the onion mixture. Bake in the center of the oven until the flatbread and onions are browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Slice and serve.

Carta da Musica/Pane Carasau

Sardinian flatbread is called Pane Carasau.

This Italian flatbread has a crispy, cracker-like texture and is usually seasoned with rosemary and salt. It is also nicknamed “piano paper” or carta da musica which describes it’s thinness. It is said to have been first made by the shepherds in Sardinia, who took it with them into the pastures because it keeps well.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Semolina Flour
  • 1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Salt

To Serve: fresh chopped rosemary, salt and olive oil

Directions:

Combine the two flours with 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a small cup, dissolve the yeast and a 1/4 cup of the warm water. Let sit until bubbly.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour with the rest of the water. Mix until you have a smooth dough. Cover and let sit 1 hour. Knead for 5 minutes and cover for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Spray two flat baking sheets with oil spray. Knead the dough once more and divide into 8 equal balls. Roll each ball out as thinly as you canand place on the baking sheets.

Bake each pan for 5 minutes in the preheated oven.

The breads should blister but not brown. Remove from the oven and pile one on top of the other. Place a board or flat tray on top and let sit until cool.

To prepare for serving,:

Return each bread to the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary and salt and return to the oven for a few minutes. Serve warm.


Salads are no longer the bowls of lettuce and tomatoes of yesterday. Today’s modern salads are full of zest and flavor and are often served as meals in and of themselves. Some of the most diverse salads are those that come from Italy. Authentic Italian spring salad recipes provide light, flavorful alternatives to heavier meals and bring a little taste of Old World Italy to your dining table, often with ingredients that are already in your kitchen.

A classic insalata mista (salad of mixed greens) often combines a variety of whatever salad ingredients are freshest and in season. Romaine and other Italian lettuces, Belgian endive, arugula, radicchio, dandelion greens, very young radish tops, sorrel leaves, chive flowers or fresh young herb leaves (oregano, basil or thyme) are a few of the possibilities.

Italian Salad Making Basics

Greens should be loosely wrapped in damp paper or cotton towels and refrigerated until shortly before the salad is to be prepared. Using wooden utensils will help avoid bruising tender greens.

Extra virgin olive oil is always the most essential ingredient and that is usually simply combined with white or balsamic vinegar or lemon, which is especially common in the central southern region of Italy. Only in the last generation or so have Italians begun to explore more elaborate vinaigrettes and dressings.

In any discussion of salad dressings, there are just a couple of things to keep in mind: Always apply the dressing just minutes before serving it, otherwise, the vinegar or lemon will wilt the lettuce leaves. Only dress the amount of salad you intend to eat. You can store the rest in the refrigerator with a wet kitchen towel on top of it. (Tupperware is perfect for storing salad; just be sure the lettuce is thoroughly dry.) If you have any leftover salad dressing, most can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or more.

Another very important thing to remember before applying whatever dressing you choose, is that it is crucial that you thoroughly dry the lettuce after you’ve washed it; there is nothing worse than a salad with soggy lettuce. If you use a spinner-which is a really great invention-after the first spin, be sure to stop and turn the lettuce. Sometimes the leaves act as a kind of a screen, impeding the water from actually being expelled. If you spin and turn the lettuce a couple of times, you can be sure to enjoy a crisp salad later.

For most green salads, the serving bowl and individual salad plates should be chilled slightly, while the dressing should be at room temperature.

Lemon Dressing

Classic Italian Vinaigrette

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

Make this dressing up to a week ahead. Add it sparingly to greens along with cracked black pepper.

Ingredients:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cracked pepper

Directions:

Combine lemon juice, vinegar and salt in small bowl or jar. Stir to dissolve salt. Whisk in olive oil. Let stand 10 minutes. Add pepper add additional salt, if desired.

Spring Salads

One of the most flavorful of traditional Italian spring salads is also one of the easiest to prepare. Insalata Caprese is a light, savory salad made from tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, olive oil and seasonings. To prepare: slice four large, ripe tomatoes into slices 1/4 inch thick. Slice 1 pound of fresh mozzarella cheese into 1/4-inch thick slices. On a large platter, place tomato and mozzarella slices along with fresh basil leaves in intermittent layers. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Before serving, sprinkle with cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve cold.

The most classic version of Italian spring salad contains fresh ingredients such as grated Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic and black olives. To prepare: in a medium-size bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of water, one clove of roasted and finely minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of dried, crushed oregano. As you whisk the combination, slowly add 4 teaspoons of olive oil. Set the mixture aside. In a large, separate bowl, combine 4 cups of mixed spring salad, one medium yellow bell pepper cut into thin strips, one fresh red onion cut into rings and 1/4 cup of fresh black olives. Toss salad until well mixed and then top with dressing mixture. Before serving, season with fresh ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Serve cold.

Insalata Primavera is a light, but hearty salad that will easily substitute for heavier dishes for warmer weather lunches or suppers. To prepare: in a large bowl, combine 18 cooked, yet still firm, asparagus spears that have been chopped into 2-inch pieces, 1/2 pound of fresh green beans that have been cooked and cut in half, six cooked and sliced artichoke hearts, three large peeled and diced tomatoes and 1 thinly sliced peeled cucumber. In a medium-size glass jar, combine 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of your favorite white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste. Place a lid on the glass jar and shake vigorously until mixed well. Drizzle the dressing over the salad before serving. Serve cold.

Arugula Salad with Salami and Pecorino Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 clove garlic, pounded to a paste with a pinch of salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice; more as needed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed
  • 4 large handfuls arugula, about 5 oz, washed and dried
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz piece of stick salami, cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 oz aged Tuscan Pecorino cheese, cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch dice

Directions:

Combine the garlic and vinegar or lemon juice in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt or vinegar, if necessary.

Just before serving, use a mandolin to thinly slice the fennel. In a large work bowl, combine the shaved fennel with the arugula, salami and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens.

With a delicate hand, transfer the salad to a platter or individual serving plates, making a fluffy pile of greens. Sprinkle the salami and cheese that have fallen to the bottom of the bowl on top. Serve immediately.

Tortellini Salad Italiana

Ingredients

  • 2-9 oz packages fresh cheese and spinach tortellini (refrigerated, prepared according to package directions)
  • 2 cups yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh small mozzarella cheese balls (bocconcini), halved
  • 1 cup tomato vinaigrette dressing, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 12 cup basil, thinly sliced
  • black pepper, fresh cracked

Directions:

Combine prepared pasta, bell peppers, cheese, vinaigrette, prosciutto, tomatoes and basil in medium bowl. Sprinkle with pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour

Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
  • 4 tablespoons chiffonade basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

In a nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, herbs, shallots, lemon juice and 1 1/4 cups olive oil. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Warm Bean Salad With Fresh Herbs and Olives

An excellent side dish to meat or fish. Also good with shrimp added to the salad.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked and drained white beans (or canned). If made from dried beans, save about 1/3 cup of cooking liquid.
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Scant 1/3 cup bean cooking liquid, water or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Place the beans in a medium nonstick skillet and set aside.

Prepare herb mixture. Combine olive oil and garlic in a small skillet and cook on low heat until garlic is soft, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat slightly and add rosemary and thyme. Cook until the herbs begin to sizzle- do not let garlic burn.

Add the bean cooking liquid (or other stock) and olives, increase heat and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat.

Scatter the parsley and basil over the beans in the other skillet. Pour the dressing over them and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost all absorbed by the beans.

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Italian Seafood Salad with String Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound cleaned squid, bodies cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rings, tentacles halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops or quartered sea scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 1/2 pounds small clams scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound mixed yellow wax and green beans, ends trimmed, beans cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and cook, stirring, until the shrimp turn a light pink, about 1 minute. Transfer the shrimp to a platter. Add the water to the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the pan juices into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet. Add the squid and scallops. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to the platter.

Pour the reserved pan juices from the bowl into the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the mussels, clams and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of garlic and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over high heat until the shells open, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels and clams to a large bowl; discard any that do not open. When the shells are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and add it to the platter.

Pour any accumulated shellfish juices into the skillet and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Pour the liquid into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and let cool. Stir in all of the seafood and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry. Add the beans, basil, tomatoes and parsley to the seafood salad. Season with salt and cayenne and serve with lemon wedges.


For centuries, people have rendered fat, squeezed olives, collected cream and caught fish to obtain the fatty acids their brains, nervous systems, immune systems and body cells need to function well. Luckily for us, things are a bit easier these days and the oils we need for good health are readily available. Not all oils are created equal, though. No one oil can be used for all things; instead, each has its distinct place in the kitchen.

Keep these basic categories in mind when you’re cooking:

For baking: Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best.

For frying: Because they stand up well to the heat, peanut, palm and sesame oil are ideal for frying.

For sautéing: canola, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.

For dipping, dressings and marinades: When it comes to making dressings and marinades, or finding oil that’s perfect to serve alongside crusty bread for dipping, you’re looking for flavor. For this purpose look to avocado, flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.

TYPES OF OILS

Avocado Oil: Pressed from avocados, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated, making it a heart-healthy choice. Use it in salad dressings or to saute fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.

Canola Oil: A cousin to cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s a variety of rapeseed that’s part of the mustard family. It’s beneficial due to its fatty acid profile and omega-3 and low saturated fat contents. It is perfect for light cooking, sauces and desserts, such as, homemade mayonnaise or tender cakes.

Coconut Oil: Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is ideal for light and subtly flavored dishes. This oil is particularly good to use for making popcorn and hash browns.

Corn Oil: Most corn oil is extracted only from the germ of the corn kernel and is golden yellow in color; unrefined oil will have a darker color and richer corn taste. Use in salad dressings and dips with stronger flavors like peppers or garlic.

Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of the winemaking industry. Use it on salads and raw veggies or in dips, sauces and salsas. Mix grapeseed oil with garlic and basil, then drizzle it on toasted bread.

Olive Oil: A mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and one of the oldest known culinary oils, olive oil is a heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Extra virgin olive oil results from the first cold-pressing of olives. Regular olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over hummus or grilled vegetables.

Peanut Oil: Peanut oil’s high monounsaturated content makes it heart-healthy. Peanut oil is excellent for frying, light sauteing and stir-fries.

Sesame Oil: The seed of the sesame plant provides sesame oil, which has a high antioxidant content. Unrefined sesame oil is a key flavor component in sauces or dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat frying and toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips. 

HEALTH FACTS

Fats and oils also play crucial roles in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing raw materials for making hormones and contributing to a healthy immune system. But remember everything in moderation. Since all fats are calorie-rich, remember not to overindulge.

Fats are one of the three major nutrients of the human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and protein.Triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body. Think of fats as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape. Every triglyceride “brick” consists of a mixture of three fatty acids — saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

A particular fat is defined by the combination of fatty acids that make up its “bricks.” The triglyceride bricks in olive oil, for example, have many more monounsaturated fatty acids than it does saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, making olive oil a monounsaturated fat.

MONOUNSATURATED

Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are more chemically stable than polyunsaturated fat but not as stable as saturated fat. This means they keep better than polyunsaturated oils but not as well as saturated oils.

They are most appropriate for light cooking or used raw in salad dressings and the like. Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut and sesame. When stored at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are typically liquid, but they are likely to solidify when stored in the refrigerator.

POLYUNSATURATED

Due to their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to rancidity than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish oils. These are liquid at room temperature. 

Many experts don’t recommend polyunsaturated oils for cooking because they are so easily damaged by heat. They are best used in their raw form, and used quickly at that. Never keep polyunsaturated oils beyond their expiration date. If cooking is necessary, use low temperatures. Polyunsaturated oils should be stored refrigerated in dark bottles.

SATURATED

Saturated fats are the most chemically stable, giving them a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. Typically solid at room temperature, saturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and tropical oils.

In general, animal fats such as butter, cream and tallow are predominantly saturated, however, two of the most highly saturated fats — coconut oil and palm kernel oil — come from vegetable sources. Furthermore, animal fats like lard, chicken fat and duck fat are predominantly monounsaturated, while fish oils are predominantly polyunsaturated. And, it is interesting to note that the fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the animal.

 Animal fats have their place in the kitchen. Many believe that lard makes the best pie crust, and several traditional Hispanic dishes rely on lard for their distinctive flavor. Butter is the most common animal fat in the kitchen and good quality butters are available, as are cream and other dairy-based products used in cooking.

TRANS FATS

Trans fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th. century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat and pressure. This saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids. This is done to make vegetable oils, which are normally liquid at room temperature, solid and more chemically stable, thereby extending the shelf life of products in which they are used. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.

Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.

The Trans Fat Labeling Law

Effective since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food vendors who are not affected by the labeling law.

Some packaged products may still contain significant amounts of trans fats, such as: margarine, shortening, baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers and snack foods such as potato chips.

SOME FACTS ABOUT OIL

Heat and light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. For the record, you’ll know your oil is rancid if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should toss it and buy fresh oil.

Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy or solidified when refrigerated. It doesn’t affect their quality at all. A few minutes at room temperature and the oil will be back to normal.

Heating oils beyond their smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals — is never a good idea. Always discard oil that’s reached its smoke point, along with any food with which it had contact. Unsure of an oil’s smoke point? Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the correct temperature.

Some oils are refined to make them more stable and suitable for high temperature cooking. Keep in mind, though, that the process removes most of the flavor, color and nutrients from the oils, too. That’s why refined oils are acceptable for baking and stir-frying, where their high smoke point and neutral flavors are a plus. On the other hand, unrefined oil is simply pressed and bottled so it retains its original nutrient content, flavor and color. Unrefined oils add full-bodied flavor to dishes and are best used for low- or no-heat applications.

Recipes To Try 

COCONUT OIL

 

Whole-Wheat Ginger Scones

Coconut oil is the perfect non-dairy fat to use for scones and other baked goods. These scones have the same rich, flaky texture that scones made with butter have, along with a subtle and pleasing coconut flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or mild honey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger

Directions:

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir in the sugar. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle.

 Add the coconut oil to the food processor or mixer and pulse several times or beat on low speed until it is distributed throughout the flour and the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal; if you’re using a mixer, it will still have some lumps.

Beat together the buttermilk and agave or honey in a small bowl and add to the food processor or mixer. Add the ginger and process or mix at medium speed just until the dough comes together.

Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares, then cut the squares in half on the diagonal to form 12 triangular pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 12 scones.

GRAPESEED AND WALNUT OILS

 

Radicchio Salad With Beets and Walnuts

Walnut vinaigrette is especially good with bitter greens like radicchio.

For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • 1 very small garlic clove, puréed
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 4 small golden or red beets, roasted, peeled and cut in wedges
  • 1 large or 2 small radicchio,
  • 2 tablespoons broken walnuts
  • 4 to 6 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons minced chives

Directions:

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, Dijon mustard and garlic until combined well. Whisk in the grapeseed oil and the walnut oil. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

AVOCADO OIL

Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Citrus and Avocado Oil

Delicately flavored avocado oil can lose its personality when heated; pour a touch of the oil over food just before serving.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 – 6-ounce skinless fillets white or Mexican sea bass or grouper (about 1″ thick)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons avocado oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a small sharp knife, cut off all peel and white pith from fruit. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juices from membranes; discard membranes. Drain fruit, reserving 1/2 cup juices. Return segments and juices to bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat fish dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add grapeseed oil. Add fish; cook without moving, occasionally pressing fish gently with a spatula to keep all of surface in contact with pan, until fish is golden brown and releases easily from pan, 4–5 minutes.

Turn fish, transfer to oven, and roast until just opaque in the center, 3–5 minutes.

Place fruit and avocado on plates. Top with fillets. Spoon 2 tablespoons citrus juices over fruit on each plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon avocado oil over fish and fruit.

PEANUT OIL

 

Sear-Roasted Pork Chops with Balsamic-Fig Sauce

Be sure that the oven has reached 425°F before starting to sear—most ovens take 20 to 30 minutes to heat up thoroughly.

Serves four. Sauce yields about 1/2 cup, enough for four servings.

For the Pork:

  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoons. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork:

Heat the oven to 425°F. Turn the exhaust fan on to high. Pat the pork chops with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each total). Heat a 12-inch heavy-based ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirl it around the pan, and then evenly space the pork chops in the pan. Cook without touching for 2 minutes.

Using tongs, lift a corner of the pork, check that it’s both well browned and easily releases from the pan, and flip it over. (If it sticks or isn’t well browned, cook for 1 to 2 more min. before flipping.) Cook the second side for 1 minute and then transfer the skillet to the oven.

Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F and is just firm to the touch, about 5 to 8 minutes. Using potholders, carefully remove the pan from the oven, transfer the pork to a large plate, tent with foil, and let it rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet. Return the pan to high heat and add the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Cook, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until the broth is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 min. Stir in the figs, honey, and thyme and cook until the sauce is reduced by another 1 to 2 tablespoons, about 1 min. Add the butter and swirl it into the sauce until it’s completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops.

OLIVE OIL

Olive Oil-Braised Vegetables

Serves 4-6

Ingredients0

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 lemon, ends trimmed, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
  • 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold or new potatoes
  • 1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs marjoram, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put the olive oil, anchovy paste, chili flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary , and lemon slices in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Place over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally , until fragrant and the garlic and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pot and stir once or twice to coat in oil. Cook, covered, without stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 30 minutes.

Stir vegetables gently, replace the lid, and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender, about 30 minutes more.

Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in parsley and marjoram. Drain vegetables and place in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper.


Do you eat the same food for three to four days in a row or eat the same food at the same meal day after day? Perhaps you eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. Or you always eat peanuts for a snack. Sound familiar?

It’s so easy to fall into an eating rut. Having the same breakfast, lunch, or dinner, day in and day out, offers convenience and comfort.  No need to think about what to eat or where to find it.There are no surprises when you pour yourself a bowl of the same cereal for breakfast day after day.

The foods people get hooked on are the usual — burger and fries, chips and soda and pepperoni pizza. Rarely do you hear of anyone stuck on broccoli for days or months.

That doesn’t mean that eating the same thing again and again has to be unhealthy. One person who made an eating rut work to his advantage was Jared Fogel of Subway fame. In less than a year, he says, he lost 235 pounds on a diet of coffee for breakfast; a 6-inch low-fat turkey sub with extra veggies, baked chips, and diet soda for lunch; and a 12-inch veggie sub for dinner.

You’re probably the best judge of whether you’re in an eating rut. However, just in case you are in a rut, here are some ideas for getting out of that rut:

  • Next time you go to the grocery store, venture out of the familiar aisles. Buy brown or wild rice instead of white, pita pockets instead of white bread, and pears instead of bananas.
  • Challenge yourself to try one new food each week.
  • Pick up a healthy dinner from a restaurant instead of having pizza delivered.
  • Have the sandwich you usually choose for lunch for breakfast instead.
  • Try slight alterations to your old standbys: accessorize your sandwich with spinach leaves instead of lettuce, stir sliced veggies into your scrambled eggs, choose a new type of cheese for your casserole.
  • Don’t say “Yuck” when friends want to try an ethnic restaurant that serves unfamiliar cuisine.
  • Visit a farmers market.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Buy a new cookbook or get a subscription to a healthy cooking magazine.


Here are some new ways to prepare some classic foods:

Old Favorite

Linguine with Clam Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through clams). Cover and cook 10 minutes or until clams open.

Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to pasta; toss again.

New Twist

Spaghettini in Clam Broth with Cherry Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced into rounds
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 cans minced clams, undrained
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 oz. spaghettini or angel hair pasta or spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, chopped 


Directions:

Wash the sliced leek well in a bowl of cold water, agitating it, then lift out and pat dry. Set aside.

Combine the undrained clams, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and wine in a small bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside (do not rinse).

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add leek, carrot and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 30 seconds; add clam mixture; gently simmer until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes.

Then add cooked pasta and parsley; toss just to combine. Top with plenty of fresh cracked pepper. Remove from heat.

Old Favorite

Restaurant Style Baked Flounder With Crabmeat Stuffing

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup light cream
  • 8 oz. crabmeat
  • 3 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 4 flounder fillets
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Directions:

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with nonstick cooking spray, add butter, then the onion and red pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally about 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and the light cream.

Increase heat to medium high and bring to boil; cook for 1 minute or until thickened. Gently fold in crabmeat and 2 teaspoons of the parsley. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place one of the flounder fillets, skinned-side up on work surface, then spoon 1/2 cup crab mixture onto one end of fillet; roll up, creating a small bundle. Repeat using remaining fillets and crab.

Transfer bundles to baking dish, seam side down, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon parsley. Add wine to the pan; transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until fish is solid white and flakes easily with a fork.


New Twist

Shrimp and Mango-Stuffed Fish Fillets

Ingredients:

4 flounder fillets

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup finely processed crumbs, from Italian bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup finely chopped shrimp (about 8 oz. shelled)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced mango
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon diced pimientos, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced chives

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • Dash paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine all the stuffing ingredients. Spoon about 1/2 cup stuffing onto each fillet; roll up. Place seam side down in baking dish.

Combine the butter and lemon juice and drizzle over the fish rolls. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Old Favorite

Classic Lasagna


Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz.) container Pomi tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Lasagna:

  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 16 lasagna noodles


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Make sauce:
Heat oil in large saucepan and add garlic, basil, tomatoes, tomato paste, seasonings, salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Make filling:
Beat eggs. Add ricotta and parmesan cheeses, salt and parsley.  Refrigerate until needed.

Cook pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.

To assemble:
Spread ½ cup sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat 2 more times. Top the last 3 noodles with sauce and cover tightly with foil.  Bake 45 min. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


New Twist

Deconstructed Lasagna

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved if large and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and the 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions; drain and separate on kitchen towels. Cut each noodle in half.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl.
  4. Add zucchini to the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.
  5. Place some tomatoes in each of four pasta bowls; top with a noodle and a spoonful of ricotta, some zucchini, and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

Old Favorite

BBQ Sirloin Steak

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • Dash  ground cinnamon
  • 1 boneless beef sirloin steak (1-1/2 lb.), 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick

Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Mix barbecue sauce, marmalade and cinnamon.
Grill steak 8 to 10 min. on each side or until medium rare to medium (125 to 130 degrees), brushing with barbecue sauce mixture after turning steak. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

New Twist

Baked Steak

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 -2 pound, 2 inch thick sirloin steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a roasting pan, combine the mushrooms, celery, lemon slices, onion, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Season the steak with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, rub in the garlic and place steak on top of the vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Spoon the ketchup mixture over the top of the steak and roast 30 to 35 minutes for medium-rare (when a meat thermometer registers 125°F). Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve the steak with the vegetables.


Old Favorite

Fried Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 large firm green tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Lay them out in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomato slices in a colander and allow time for the salt to pull the water out of the tomatoes, approximately 30 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Add pepper to the self-rising flour in a shallow bowl.  Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl.

In a large skillet for deep-frying, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Dip the tomatoes into buttermilk, then dredge them into flour. Deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with the Remoulade Sauce.


Remoulade Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup  mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine  mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Chill.

New Twist

Baked Green Tomatoes with Onion Relish

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 green tomatoes,  each cut into 4 slices
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sprinkle the tomato slices lightly with sea salt.

Combine bread crumbs, olive oil, water, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Place tomato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Divide the crumb mixture evenly over each tomato slice.

Bake about 20 minutes or until brown and crispy. Serve with Onion Relish.

 Onion Relish

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and most of their liquid has evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until onions turn deep golden, 10 to 20 minutes more. (Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water if the onions start to stick.)

  2. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if desired.


What Is Giardiniera?
Long a staple in many Italian-American communities, giardiniera is an Italian style condiment that is usually packed in shelf stable jars with vinegar or olive oil. And while recipes to make giardiniera differ, most consist of a mix of chopped celery, mild or hot peppers, carrots, olives, and a blend of spices.  With summer approaching and the availability of fresh vegetables during this season, it is the opportune time to make this unique dish.
While there are numerous versions of giardiniera, most often, you will find it labeled as either hot or mild, and depending on your taste buds, you’ll chose one or the other. The hot style is enough to give your appetizers or main courses a kick, but not too hot to overwhelm flavors. The mild version adds an Italian restaurant appetizer taste accent not found in many places anymore.
This unique condiment of ingredients are usually coarsely chopped and then tossed with a specialty blend of spices. Traditionally, pitted green olives are then added to the mix and the mixture is packed into containers.

Chicago Style Hot D

Giardiniera (pronounced jar-deen-YAIR-uh and Italian for “from the garden”) is piled on pizza, hot dogs and even stirred into tuna salad. In the days before refrigeration, the summer months were perhaps the busiest time of the year for Italian cooks, especially those with access to a garden. Throughout Italy people went to work, selecting, peeling, and slicing the various vegetables and fruit, cooking them, packing the jars, and sterilizing them, before the jars were stored away for the winter months.
Now, of course, refrigeration, commercial cold storage, and long distance shipping have greatly increased the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables, many of which are no longer seasonal but rather sold year round. There is, therefore, less need for preserving summer’s bounty and, additionally, vegetables pickled or packed in oil are available commercially everywhere. 
This doesn’t mean that Italians have stopped making Sottoli and Sotto Aceti (as they are called in Italy), because, those who have vegetable gardens must still preserve what they do not consume or give away. 

Sotto Aceti are vegetables that have been pickled in vinegar, whose acidity keeps the food from spoiling. Italians generally use wine vinegar, though apple vinegar will also work, as will flavored vinegars, which will give your sotto aceti an extra touch. When selecting vinegar for pickling, make certain it’s fairly strong, especially if you plan to pickle vegetables that have high moisture contents.

Sottoli are vegetables packed in olive oil, and require much more care in preparation than do sotto aceti, because oil is not a preservative; it prevents spoilage merely by isolating the vegetables from the air. This means that the vegetables must be fully cooked (often in vinegar, whose acidity acts as a disinfectant) and transferred immediately to a sterile jar, which must be filled immediately, and tapped briskly so as to dislodge all the air bubbles.

There’s a satisfaction that comes from making pickles at home, plus one can tailor the recipes to suit one’s tastes, and they also make excellent gifts. Instead of mixed pickles, you can make a single vegetable in one jar.

Carciofi Sott’Olio
Artichokes packed in oil
Cipolline Sotto Aceto
Pickled onions
Giardiniera
A medley of pickled vegetables
Mostarda
A classic hot and spicy condiment made with fruit
Sott’Oli
Vegetables pickled and packed in oil.
Peperoni Sotto Aceto
Pickled bell peppers
Peperoncini
Tiny round hot peppers
Pimmaduori Siccati
Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, Calabrian style.

Making the pickles is a tradition in many Italian-American households, but it does not require the work you might expect of a long-handed-down custom. This is preserving with no lids to seal and no fear of poisoning your family; it takes only an hour or so of preparation and two or three days of waiting, and keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.
In many ways, what follows is more about technique than recipe, with flexibility to suit your mood or tastes. If you love carrots, add more. Or introduce zucchini, eggplant, onions or green beans. If you want it extra-spicy, add more serrano peppers or red pepper flakes . Chop the vegetables uniformly so that the brine will penetrate evenly: mincing makes a great relish for a hot dog, while larger pieces are better for a side dish.
The process is not complicated: vegetables brine in salty water overnight, then rinse the vegetables, make the vinaigrette and pack the jars. After a couple of days, taste the pickle; you just may be hooked. The fact that this version is not cooked, as in standard canning methods, means the vegetables retain their freshness.

Easy Giardiniera

Yield: About 2 quarts.

  • 4 serrano chiles, thinly sliced, with seeds removed
  • 2 red sweet peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 or 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 or 2 carrots, sliced 
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 (5 ounce) jar pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you would like a hotter version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1/2 cup grape seed or safflower oil. (or use all olive oil)

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the vegetables and salt until well combined. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to sit, unrefrigerated, for 8 to 12 hours.
2. Drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly. Sterilize 2 quart-size glass jars, with lids, in the dishwasher or by submerging them in boiling water for 10 minutes.
3. In one sterilized jar, combine the garlic, olives and all the herbs and spices; add the vinegar and the oils and shake well to emulsify the dressing. Pour half the dressing into the other jar.
4. Pack the vegetables into the jars. If vegetables are not completely coated, make and add more dressing. Screw lids on to jars and refrigerate. Allow the mixture to mellow for a 4-5 days before serving.

Because the  condiment has oil in it, the oil will congeal in the refrigerator.  Just dish out a serving and let it stand at room temperature for 10- 15 minutes.

How To Use Giardiniera:
The beauty of this condiment is its versatility. Add some giardiniera to scrambled eggs for an eye opening twist, or similarly, fold some into an omelet.
For the most part though, plan to add a few forkfuls to any Italian style dish. It is the ideal addition to a sandwich or add it to pasta salad. The standard Italian antipasto misto wouldn’t be quite right without these, and they also work very well alongside grilled fish or meats, especially pork chops or as a condiment for burgers.


Benefits of Buying Seasonal Produce

Cost: Seasonal food is often cheaper than out of season produce because it doesn’t require anywhere near as much effort to produce. If it’s the right season, food can be pretty much left to grow on it’s own, meaning it’s far less labor intensive and time-consuming. As consumers, we have gotten used to seeing strawberries in our stores all year round and many of us don’t realise the hidden costs of having out of season produce available.  We may, also, forget what the taste of real, seasonal strawberries are like.
Flavour/taste: Blueberries and cherries taste great in the summer but buy them in the winter and you will be disappointed with the taste, texture and flavor. Food that’s allowed to grow and ripen properly is far tastier than artificially produced food that’s travelled thousands of miles to reach the supermarket shelves. On a positive note, some supermarkets are starting to stock produce from local suppliers and you often find the number of air miles (or the country of origin) printed on the packaging which allows us to make a more informed choice.
New experiences with food: If you follow the seasons (as opposed to a shopping list) you’ll also find a more rich and varied collection of fruit and vegetables, which will entice little ones to experience lots of interesting tastes and textures.

Seasonal Ingredient Map

Use Epicurious’ interactive map to see what’s fresh in your area, plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap

Summer Vegetable Pizzas

Most fresh seasonal vegetables are delicious on pizza — thinly sliced red or green tomatoes, sweet peppers (red, green, yellow or orange), red onions, scallions, finely chopped broccoli, sliced mushrooms and asparagus tips. Fresh herbs will give intense flavor and fragrance — oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, arugula, dill and plenty of fresh minced garlic. Keep the combinations simple and light without adding too much cheese. Thinly sliced green tomatoes with basil leaves, oregano, scallions and garlic  are colorful and inviting choices.
Use a mixture of Italian (parmigiano reggiano, asiago, pecorino romano, fontina) and other imported cheeses, such as Irish cheddar, French gruyere or English cheddar. Look for flavorful American artisanal cheeses or sharp white Vermont cheddar (Cabot). Grate and mix two or three cheeses together. Keep the cheeses in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pizza Dough

All-purpose unbleached flour makes an excellent crust, with a deep golden color and a rich baked taste.  Add whole-wheat flour for a more nutritious, nutty taste.

2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour and 2 cups King Arthur white whole-wheat flour
2 packages dry rapid rise yeast
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ cups warm water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in an electric mixer (such as a KitchenAid) using the dough hook,  Mix very warm water and the olive oil together. Pour the liquids into the flour mixture. Knead with mixer for about 10 minutes, until the dough comes together. It will form a ball and should be firm and not sticky. Place the dough in a deep oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place. It will double in size in about one hour. While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings.

Putting It Together

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. You will need two large pizza baking pans, greased and very lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.
Shape the dough to fit the pizza pan using oiled fingers. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Sprinkle the dough with a small amount of the grated mixed cheeses. This will help to seal the dough and keep it crisp. Top with sliced tomatoes, other vegetables, garlic and herbs. Season the pizza with freshly ground white pepper. Lightly sprinkle more grated mixed cheese or crumbled feta or shredded mozzarella cheese on top.

Don’t use too many ingredients and leave space between the toppings, so that the pizza will turn out crisp. The preheated oven should have racks on the bottom and the middle. Place one pizza on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack for about 10 minutes. Switch positions and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted, but not brown. Pizzas can be baked separately on the middle rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

Some Ideas To Get You Started

green tomato, broccoli, asparagus, basil, and cheese pie

red tomato, yellow squash, sweet peppers, and red onion pie

Summer Vegetable Pizza

When peppers, sweet corn, and cherry tomatoes are at their peak, there’s nothing like enjoying them on pizza.

  • 1 large pizza crust, recipe above                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • 1 cup homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degree F.  Stretch or roll pizza dough out to cover a 16 inch pizza pan.
In a small bowl mix marinara sauce, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Spread evenly over the dough. Top with corn, peppers, and tomatoes. Season vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Top with basil, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for about 20 minutes at or until the top is golden, and bubbly – and the crust is browned and cooked underneath. Let cool before slicing.

Herbs and Tomato, Kalamata Olive  Pizza with Peppers, Arugula, Onions, Basil, Olives, and Cheese

4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
2 oz. Italian fontina, shredded
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of fresh arugula, chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaf (julienne)
1 cup plum tomatoes, sliced
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
½ medium sweet onion, sliced into strips
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 small hot chile, chopped (crushed red pepper may substitute)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Arrange topping ingredients on pizza dough and bake as directed above.

Now create some summer pizzas of your own based on what is in season in your area.


           Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook, if you do it right!

By choosing foods that are low in fat, high in nutrients and full of flavor you can get great meals that are also healthy. Use marinades, not only to add extra flavor, but also to reduce the formation of cancer causing substances on foods. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce the formation of these chemicals by as much as 99% and, since, marinades tenderize meats, you will have a much better meal.

There has been a lot of talk about grilling and cancer. While the risk is real and you really need to keep this in mind, there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the cancer risk.  Two primary substances, Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are chemicals that form on  food, primarily meats, when they come  in contact with intense heat and flame. They are known cancer causing agents, so you need to reduce their formation, as much as you can. HCAs and PAHs are formed mostly from fat. Either by fat being heated to extreme temperatures or by the smoke created by fat burning. For the most part, this applies to meat fats and not just the grease and fat from what you are cooking, but from the build up on the bottom of your grill.

Scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that herbs of the Lamiaceae family (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage) used in marinades, reduced HCA formation dramatically.   These herbal antioxidants reduce the formation of chemicals when meat is grilled and, also happen to be,  herbs traditionally used in Italian cooking.


To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:

  • Keep your grill clean. A clean grill not only cooks better it is safer in every way.
  • Trim excess fats from foods. These fats are the troublemaker, so keep it to a minimum.
  • Use marinades based on olive oil and/or citrus juices.
  • Avoid flare-ups. Flare-ups burn foods and this increases HCA formation.
  • Don’t overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of PAHs and HCAs, so if you have charred sections of meat cut them off.
  • Use herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage to add flavor and reduce HCA formation in foods.
  • Grill extra vegetables to accompany meats. They do not form HCAs like meats do, plus the antioxidants they contain may help to lessen some of the damage HCAs and other cooking toxins cause in your body.

 Appetizers

Clams Oreganato on the Grill

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped very fine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherrystone or littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 3-4 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat grill and coat the rack with vegetable oil.  Dip each closed clam in water (this will add steam) and place on the grill so that none of the clams are overlapping. Close cover and grill for approximately 4-5 minutes or until clam shells open. Check often for clams that have popped open. Remove clams  with tongs to a platter as soon as they open their shells.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt. Add the olive oil and stir until well combined. Add enough of the chicken stock to moisten the bread crumbs..

Top the bottom half of the clams with the bread crumb mixture, dividing mixture evenly on top of each clam, and place back on the grill. Close grill cover and for about 1 minute or until just heated through. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Origins of Bruschetta

Bruschetta comes to us from Central Italy where it’s chiefly eaten as an appetizer or snack. The most basic bruschetta begins with tomatoes, good quality olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and onions.  Depending on the combinations of ingredients you use, you can take this dish, from such a basic foundation, to one that is a uniquely- flavored creation.

Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

1 small eggplant (1/2 – 3/4 pound)
1 small zucchini summer squash
1 large meaty tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 red bell pepper
1 Vidalia onion, peeled
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6-1″ thick slices fresh Italian bread
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinegar

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the squash into long diagonal 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the  onion and tomato into crosswise 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the pepper into quarters.  Season vegetables with kosher salt, pepper and brush with olive oil. Brush bread slices with a little oil.
Put all the vegetables on the grill, except the tomato. Grill on medium high heat until cooked through and grill marks are formed, about 10 minutes. Grill the tomato slices about 2 minutes.
Grill one side of bread until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove bread and vegetables from grill.  While the bread is hot, rub the toasted side of each piece with garlic .
Chop vegetables into very small dice and add basil. Serve chopped vegetables on bread slices, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Main Dishes

Spinach Pesto

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy.  Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.  This pesto freezes well if you have it leftover.

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts

Prepare grill and oil grates.
Brush 4 boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  

Grill 5 minutes each side..  Top with a tablespoon or two of Spinach Pesto.
Spinach Pesto is also goes well with grilled scallops.

Grilled Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops

Fennel seed and pork are a fairly typical Italian combination.

  • 1 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 4 (¾-inch-thick) loin bone-in pork chops
  • Vegetable oil for brushing grill rack

Grind the fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or, if you don’t have either of those, in a plastic bag with a rolling pin). Combine them in a  bowl with the garlic, salt and enough of the olive oil to make a paste.

Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then spread the fennel-garlic paste over both sides of the chops. Let sit for 30 minutes (or up to a few hours, if you put them in the refrigerator;  bring back to room temperature before cooking).

Grill the chops for 1-2 minutes per side over a hot fire, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the internal temperature reaches at least 137 F. Let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a green salad.   4 servings

Grilled Bone-in Chicken Breasts and Legs with Tomato Olive BBQ Sauce

Tomato Olive Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Sambuca, (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, reduce heat, cover, sweat in the oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic,  stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives, honey, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Sambuca, and salt and pepper.
  • Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature.

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs with thighs attached

Instructions:

  • Prepare grill for medium indirect grilling.
  • Brush each piece of chicken with barbecue sauce.
  • Grill indirectly until juices run clear, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.

Swordfish Kabobs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get 12 evenly cut cubes.)
4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
12 (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper
12 cherry tomatoes
Vegetable oil

Combine first 10 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add swordfish fish cubes. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.
Prepare grill and oil grates. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Thread swordfish cubes, onions, and bell pepper alternately onto each of 4 (10-inch) skewers. Thread cherry tomatoes on a fifth skewer and set aside.
Place swordfish kabobs on grill and grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once. After 4 minutes, place the tomatoes on the grill and rotate after two minutes. Serve tomatoes with fish kabobs and garnish with lemon slices. Serve with rice.
Serves 4.


Florentine Steak

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally made using T-bone or Porterhouse steaks, but you could make it with rib eyes, strip loins, sirloin, or even fillet steak.
As long as the meat is of a very high quality (organic, grassfed is best), it will taste delicious, even if it’s not entirely authentic!  It is healthy only if you keep portions small – about 4 oz. per person.
The marinating time is quite long, so make sure you start this dish at least a day before you want to eat it.


  • 2 10 oz. T-bone steaks
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar or lemon
  • High quality extra virgin olive oil


Put the steak in a shallow dish. Mix together the olive oil, rosemary, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the steak, cover  and let rest in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours.
Heat a grill until it is very hot. Grill the meat to taste, turning to cook the steak evenly on both sides. Traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served rare to medium-rare; test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer.  Cook to an internal temperature of 130 to 135°F for medium-rare or an internal temperature of 120 to 125°F for rare.

Remove steaks from grill, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice steak across grain, then place slices on heated dinner plates.   Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and shave some parmesan cheese over the top. Season to taste and serve. Good with an Arugula Salad.
Serves 4 or more

Dessert

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese

  • 4 firm, ripe peaches, pitted and halved
  • olive oil for brushing the cut sides of the peaches
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 8 teaspoons fig jam
  • Mint leaves

Brush peaches lightly with olive oil. Place the peaches on a greased grill rack, cut side down, and do not move the peaches in order to get grill marks on them. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side to get those grill marks.  Continue grilling the peaches until slightly softened and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes total. Turn the peaches over and warm a minute or two.

Mix together the mascarpone cheese, Amaretto and honey.
To serve peaches, place a teaspoon of fig jam in the hollow where the pit had been and top each with a tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture.  Decorate with mint leaves.


Making_Olive_Oil_HeaderImage

The pressing of olives to make olive oil dates back to about 3000 B.C.. Historians generally believe that the olive tree originated in Ancient Greece and spread throughout the Mediterranean region as the Greeks and Phoenicians explored the territory. Cato, a Roman author, described the agricultural techniques for growing olives in his writings about the second century B.C.
The olive tree is a unique type of evergreen that grows in subtropical climates in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It grows between 10 and 40 feet tall and produces small clusters of white flowers in late spring which eventually grow into olives. Similar to grape vines, olive trees do not start producing olives until the age of eight; however, even then these olives cannot be used. The olive tree must mature until the age of at least fifteen for it to produce a worthwhile crop, but once this stage is hit, the olive tree will produce olives for the next 65 years and continue to live for long after that, even for several hundred years. There are hundreds of varieties of olive trees, each excelling in the production of different products. Italy is the second leading producer of olives following Spain.A Man Harvesting an Olive Tree

Olive harvesting takes place at different times depending on the area. In most of the Mediterranean olive harvesting occurs in the months of November, December, and January; however, in the more Northern areas such as Tuscany, olive harvesting must be carried out earlier due to early frosts.  The different times in which olives are harvested results in the different tastes of each region’s olive oil. The younger olives of Tuscany result in a peppery taste. Similarly their young age produces less oil making their olive oil a premium commodity. Since each olive contains about 20 percent oil it takes an average of around 200 olives to produce one liter of olive oil.


Unlike most products these days, olives are one of the few industries in which mechanization is not usually present. This is due to the fact that olives are easily damaged resulting in a lower quality of oil. It is believed that the quality of oil decreases with the increase of mechanization. Since olives must be treated gently, better olive oils are more expensive because they must be hand picked. There are two different ways to hand pick olives. The first way is considered to be the best method because it will result in the less damage to the olives which will produce the best quality of olive oil; however this also means that it is the most expensive. This method involves hand picking the olives and placing them directly into a basket. The second method involves handing picking the olives but letting them drop to the ground onto a net.Farm worker with fresh olives

Immediately after the harvesting is completed the olives are taken to a frantoio, which is a communal mill. Since the frantoio is  communal, each farmer must make an appointment for his pressing. It is important that the olives do not stay in the baskets for too long, since the risk of spoiling is very high.  Olives are usually stored in their baskets, for no longer, than a day. Each farmer has great pride for his olives and his olive oil, therefore, it is very common for the farmer to accompany his own olives throughout the production process to ensure that only his olives go into his pressing.  A farmer’s main concern when going to the frantoio is the yield of oil obtained per olive and the percent of acidity.

Before any processing can occur, the olives must first be washed to remove extra leaves and stems. The next step is the grinding of the olives. This grinding process involves the crushing of the entire olive including the skin and the pit by a large granite wheel. This process results in a sort of olive paste which is then put through the mixing stage. This stage is most important, since it has the most effect on the outcome of the olive oil. This process is done very slowly to ensure the consistency of the oil. Next the liquid must be extracted from the remaining paste through the process of pressing. Pressing results in a liquid that must be separated into water and oil. Once this process is completed, the olive oil will be stored in steel tanks and stored in a cool place before bottling.

Olive oil is graded according to factors in the pressing process and the quality of the oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the finest grade, and this grade is given to oil that comes from the first pressing. In Italy, the method used, is cold pressing (in which no heat is used above about 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat destroys antioxidants, so cold pressed oils are the healthiest.

Today, olive oil has gained importance for the health benefits it provides, but to the people of the Mediterranean, olive oil has always played a leading role in their diet and way of life. The Mediterranean Diet is based on the use of olive oil, which is believed to be the reason for their lower rate of heart disease. It is considered a healthy oil because it is a mono-unsaturated fat with high amounts of antioxidants and low amounts of cholesterol.  However, this is not the reason that olive oil plays such a large role in the Mediterranean regions.  Olive oil is what gives such a distinct taste to the Italian cuisine. While the recent popularity of olive oil is based on the newly discovered health benefits, olive oil is valued in Italy for its taste above everything else. The Italian diet is heavily based on the use of olive oil and would not be the same without it.Milling_Yield

Olive oil lasts about 18-24 months. If stored in a sunny spot, expect less than 12 months. If stored in a dark spot and cooler than room temperature, the oil will last a long time. For best every day storage, find a spot in your kitchen close at hand, but away from heat and light. For longer storage, refrigeration is best.  Exposure to light and heat can turn olive oil rancid. This destroys the healthy, antioxidant properties of the oil. Most oils are sold in darkly tinted bottles.

‘Olive Oil History’ The Global Gourmet ®. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.    

How to Use Olive Oil in Your Cooking

When you are using less fat in your cooking, you want the fat, you do use to be flavorful and add taste to your food. This can be accomplished with a fruity, extra-virgin olive oil, especially if the oil will be used in salad dressings or drizzled on a dish just before serving or on grilled bread for bruschetta.  When using olive oil for sauteing ingredients as the foundation of a dish, I generally use a lighter, less expensive oil.

Flavored  and infused oil can be expensive but they have great flavor.  You can make such specialty flavored oils at home and save money. Homemade infused oils will not keep as long as processed ones. Use your herb-infused olive oil within two months.

To begin, you need to first determine what type of mixtures you would like. Try to think of what herbs usually work well together.  A blend of savory herbs such as thyme and rosemary can also benefit from some peppercorns and a bay leaf or two, resulting in a savory blend for roasting meats. You will also need to determine whether you will be using fresh herbs or dry herbs. You’ll receive a better flavor from fresh herbs, but the potential for spoilage is greater after a few months time; while oils mixed with dry herbs can last far longer, but the flavor will not be as strong.  For storage, you will want to find jars that can be sealed completely. I have found that jars with rubber stoppers are better than metal lids and stoppers, as the metal can corrode over time or affect the taste of the oil.

Herb-infused Olive Oil

  • Choose your herbs and spices.  Some suggestions for herbs and spices are rosemary, garlic, basil, bay, chives, dill, mint, marjoram, tarragon and thyme.  Try a few different combinations and make a few different bottles. Gather together the herbs you will be using. You should have enough to fill 1/4 of the jar or bottle.
  • Wash and dry your herbs. After washing, leave your herbs out to dry. Pat; soaking up as much moisture as you can. Leave the herbs to continue to dry in the sun or overnigh on your counter, if you can. Bacteria cannot grow in the olive oil, but it can grow on any water left on the herbs over time, therefore, the problem of spoilage and foodborne illnesses when using fresh herbs, can develop. As long as you allow time for your herbs to have completely dried, your mixture will be fine.
  • Slightly tear or chop the herbs so that they begin to release their aroma and flavors.
  • Heat the extra-virgin olive oil over a low flame until it is warm. Not hot, simply warm. This can best be done in a small stock pot or saucepan.
  • Stuff the herbs into a sterilized bottle or bottles. A little goes a very long way, so there’s no need to overly stuff each bottle.
  • Pour the warm oil into the bottles over the herbs and spices. Let the bottles sit for a while until cool. If you use garlic, be sure to refrigerate the oil, rather than store it in a cool dark place, to avoid botulism.
  • Place a cork or rubber stopper into the bottle. Then set the bottle in a cool dark place for about a week.
  • After a week, strain out the herbs and spices.  Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer, discarding solids. This oil should continue to be stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool dark place.
  • Don’t use infused oils for frying. If heated, the flavor compounds can break down and become bitter. Instead, add them at the end of cooking or to cold dishes.
How to use infused oils
  • As a dip for bread.
  • Drizzle over tomatoes.
  • Toss cooked pasta or rice.
  • Brush fish or chicken with infused oil before grilling.
  • Drizzle over popcorn for snack

Italian Herb Flavored Oil      

2 cups extra virgin olive oil, warmed on the stove
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh basil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons crushed dried red pepper
Follow directions above.


Some sample recipes for infusing oil:

Basil Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh basil.
Mint Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh mint
Dill Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh dill.
Oregano Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh oregano.
Thyme Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh thyme leaves.
Chive Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh chives; reduce oil to 3/4 cup
Sage Oil: Use 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage.
Rosemary Oil: Use 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary.
Black Pepper Oil: Use 1/2 cup coarsely ground black pepper.
Ginger Oil: Place 1/3 cup chopped fresh ginger in a heatproof container. Heat oil, and
pour over ginger.
Chile Pepper Oil: Crumble 2 dried red chile peppers, and place in a heatproof container.
Heat oil, and pour over chiles.

Lemon Infused Olive Oil

This is excellent drizzled over cooked vegetables

  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Scrub lemon clean and dry thoroughly. Use a very sharp paring knife or peeler to remove the zest – just the bright yellow part of the peel, avoiding the bitter white pith immediately below – from the lemon.
  2. Put lemon zest and olive oil in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Do not allow oil to simmer. Keep the oil just below a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove oil from heat and let cool.
  3. Strain lemon zest out of the oil and put the now lemon-infused oil in a clean jar. Store in a cool, dark place.

Roasted Carrots with Lemon Infused Olive Oil

Yield: 2

1 bunch fresh whole carrots
1 tablespoon Lemon Infused Olive Oil
Couple pinches of Kosher salt
Couple turns of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim and scrub the carrots with a vegetable brush. Dry them and them place on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the carrots with the oil.
Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. you will want to check the carrots after 10 minutes and turn them over to ensure that they brown evenly. Remove when they are nicely caramelized.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

2 small lemons
1 cup sugar
Scant 1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with olive oil cooking spray.. Grate zest from 2 lemons and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until lemon zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you will need 1/4 cup. Add yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.
Good with sliced strawberries.

Quinoa, Corn, and Tomato Salad with Chive-Infused Oil

Flavored oil coats the quinoa grains and lends the salad a fresh chive flavor. Refrigerate leftover oil to use as a dressing or to drizzle over grilled fish or summer vegetables. Garnish with whole fresh chives, if desired.
6 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa ( or any grain of your choice)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Chive-Infused Oil, see below
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


Combine 1 1/2 cups water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Combine quinoa, corn, tomatoes, and parsley in a medium bowl. Combine Chive-Infused Oil and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over salad; toss well to coat. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Chive-infused Oil

or you can use the chive infused oil made according to the directions above

3/4 cup (serving size: 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (1-inch) slices fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender; pulse 6 times or until chives are very finely minced. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.




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