Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: vegetables

After an overindulgent holiday, nothing gets you back on track like some healthy veggies that are packed with fiber and cancer-fighting carotenoids. Roasted winter vegetables are a perfect side dish for roasted meats or poultry. You can add as many vegetables as you can fit in your roasting pan or include only vegetables that you like or what’s available in the market. Make sure to cut all the vegetables to the same size for even cooking. It also makes the finished dish look nicer.

Choosing Your Vegetables

Some vegetables benefit from roasting more than others, such as onions, potatoes, carrots and hearty root vegetables, but most vegetables will work. Green beans, broccoli and other green-hue vegetables are less suited for roasting because they tend to turn olive green and green beans shrivel before becoming tender. A real benefit to roasting is the ability to cook a combination of colorful vegetables, resulting in a full-flavor side dish or meatless entree.

Roasting Pointers

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Roasting vegetables should be done at high heat so they caramelize on the outside. If the oven is too low, the vegetables will overcook before achieving the desired browning.

A heavy 13x9x2-inch roasting pan works well for roasting vegetables, but you can also use a large baking pan. To keep cleanup to a minimum, you can line the pan with foil. Place the vegetables that take the longest to cook in the pan. Do not crowd the vegetables or they will steam instead of roast. If you like, add 1 or 2 heads of garlic with the tops trimmed off, several sprigs of thyme, and/or snipped fresh rosemary, oregano or sage.

Tossing the vegetables with a seasoned oil mixture keeps them from drying out and helps to flavor the vegetables. In a small bowl combine several tablespoons of olive oil with lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle the seasoned oil over the vegetables in the pan and toss lightly to coat all of the vegetables. A basting brush also works well to help coat the vegetables with the oil.

If you prefer, you can omit the heads of garlic and fresh herbs from the vegetable mixture in the pan and add minced garlic and snipped fresh herbs or dried herbs (1 tablespoon snipped fresh herb equals 1 teaspoon dried herb) to the oil mixture.

Roast the longer cooking vegetables, uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove the pan from the oven and add vegetables with shorter cooking times. Toss to combine and return to the oven. Continue to cook about 10 to 15 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender and brown on the edges, stirring occasionally. The timings here are approximate and will depend on the vegetables you choose.

Use the chart below for vegetable roasting time as a guide.

Vegetables for Roasting

Preparation

Approximate Roasting Times at 450 degrees F. Roast vegetables until crisp-tender.

Carrots

Trim and peel or scrub baby carrots or regular carrots. Cut regular carrots into bite-size pieces or julienne strips.

40 to 45 minutes (julienne strips may cook faster)

Parsnips

Trim and peel parsnips. Cut into bite-size pieces or julienne strips.

40 to 45 minutes (julienne strips may cook faster)

New potatoes or regular potatoes

Whole tiny new potatoes, quartered, work especially well. For large potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces. Peeling is not necessary, but scrub well before using.

40 to 45 minutes

Sweet potatoes

Scrub and peel. Cut into bite-size pieces.

40 to 45 minutes

Onions

Remove papery outer layer. Cut into fairly thin wedges.

30 to 45 minutes

Fennel

Trim the stalks and cut a thin slice from the bottom of the bulb. Cut bulb into fairly thin wedges.

30 to 40 minutes

Brussels sprouts

Trim stems and remove any wilted outer leaves; wash. Cut any large sprouts in half lengthwise.

30 to 40 minutes

Baby beets or regular beets

Scrub and peel beets. Trim off stem and root ends. If desired, halve or quarter baby beets. Cut regular beets into 1-inch pieces.

30 to 40 minutes (you may want to cover the beets if they start to burn).

Roma tomatoes

Wash and halve lengthwise.

20 to 30 minutes

Zucchini, pattypan, or yellow summer squash

Baby zucchini, patty pan or summer squash can be roasted whole. For larger squash, cut into bite-size pieces or slices.

10 to 15 minutes

Small eggplant

Peel if desired. Cut into quarters lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

10 to 15 minutes

Sweet peppers, regular size or small

For regular-size peppers, wash, seed and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. For small peppers, if desired, roast whole, then remove stems and seeds.

10 to 15 minutes

Asparagus

Wash and break off woody bases where spears snap easily. Leave spears whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.

10 to 15 minutes

Baby leeks

Trim and halve lengthwise. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels.

10 to 15 minutes

Cauliflower

Wash and remove leaves and woody stem. Break into florets.

10 to 15 minutes

Basic Recipe For Roasted Winter Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 5 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled (or 1 bunch celery, trimmed)
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled
  • 6 small new potatoes, peeled (see note)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
  • 8-10 shallots, peeled
  • 1 whole bulb garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 450°F.

Separate the garlic cloves and peel them.

Pull the little leaves off of the fresh herb stems until you have a tablespoon. Set them aside along with another couple of whole sprigs of herbs.

Cut the carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, squash and celery (or celery root) into about 1-inch pieces. Cutting the vegetables the same size will help ensure even cooking.

Transfer the cut vegetables, along with the shallots and garlic, to a large baking pan.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with Kosher salt and black pepper, sprinkle with the herb leaves and toss to combine. Place the whole herb sprigs in the pan with the veggies.

Roast for 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender but not too soft.

Remove the whole herb sprigs from the pan and let the vegetables cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 generous servings.

 

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Roasting the vegetables gives them a slightly sweeter flavor that pairs nicely with the tangy dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato, about 8-oz, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium white potato, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (peeled parsnip may be substituted)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 medium celery stalks, 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Salad greens for serving

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In large bowl toss potatoes, carrot, onion, celery and beet with 1/2 tablespoon oil, coating well. Arrange vegetables in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, stirring several times, until tender and beginning to brown, about 35-40 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon with remaining oil and stir in parsley, oregano and walnuts.

Drizzle dressing over vegetables and gently toss. Serve over salad greens and top with crumbled feta.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Honey-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/4 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • One 1 1/4 pound celery root—peeled, quartered and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/4 pounds golden beets, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450° F. In a large bowl, toss the root vegetables with the oil, honey, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Divide between 2 large, sturdy rimmed baking sheets. Cover with foil and roast for 35-40 minutes, shifting the pans once, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes longer, until glazed. Return them to the bowl and stir in the vinegar then adjust season with salt and pepper, if needed.

MAKE AHEAD The vegetables can be cooked early in the day and kept at room temperature before rewarming.

 

Chicken and Pan Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes (from one 2 1/2-pound squash)
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 large red onions, cut into thin wedges
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Warm flatbread, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F and position rack in the upper middle third.

In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the brussels sprouts, onion wedges and 1/4 cup of the oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on a large, sturdy rimmed baking sheets.

In the same bowl, combine the cup of yogurt with the garlic, lemon juice, oregano and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated. Arrange the chicken and yogurt mixture on top of the vegetables.

Roast for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the vegetables are nearly tender and the chicken is nearly cooked through. Pour off any accumulated liquid in the pan and roast for about 20 minutes longer or until the the vegetables are tender and the chicken is lightly browned. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and serve with warm flatbread and additional yogurt.

MAKE AHEAD The chicken and vegetables can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

 

Beef Tenderloin and Winter Vegetables

Ingredients

Vegetables

  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound mini carrots, well cleaned
  • 2 bunches mini beets, scrubbed, tops trimmed and halved
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Beef Roast:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (6-pound) whole beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Cook’s Note: You can use any combination of vegetables or whatever looks good at the market. You want about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables per person.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Vegetables: Combine all the vegetables, garlic, olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Toss until well coated. Arrange in single layers on 2 baking sheets.  Roast until all the vegetables are golden brown and tender, about 35-40 minutes. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and keep warm until serving.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Roast: Combine the oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the tenderloin with the mustard mixture. This can be done the day before and left in the refrigerator overnight. Just before roasting, season generously with salt, to taste. Set the tenderloin in a large roasting pan and put it in the center of the oven on the middle rack.

Roast until an instant-read meat-thermometer registers 135 degrees F, about 20 minutes. Remove the roast from the oven to a cutting board. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. Slice the meat and arrange on a serving platter. Serve alongside the warm roasted vegetables.

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Grilled vegetables.

Grilling vegetables is not difficult. The general rule is to cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. All pieces should be of consistent thickness and no more than about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Brush lightly with oil to prevent sticking. Do not overcook and you’ll have vegetables better than you thought possible. If you like grilling vegetables and want to try smaller things use a grilling basket to keep them out of the fire.

Some Guidelines in Grilling Vegetables

Asparagus: Cut off ends. Soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pat dry and brush with olive oil. Place on grill, turning every minute. Remove when tips start to turn brown. You can add some extra flavor to asparagus by mixing a little sesame oil in the olive oil before you brush them.

Bell Peppers: Cut through the middle of the pepper top to bottom. Remove stems, seeds and whitish ribs. Brush lightly with oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Chili Peppers: Brush with oil. Grill whole on each side, 2-3 minutes. To reduce the heat, cut off the stems and pull out the seeds.

Corn on the cob: Gently pull back the husks but don’t remove. Remove the silk and cut off the very end. Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Dry and brush with butter. Fold the husks back down and tie or twist the ends. Place on grill for about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn to avoid burning.

Eggplant: Cut lengthwise for smaller eggplants or in disks from top to bottom for larger eggplants. Soak in water for 30 minutes. Pat dry, brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes.

Garlic: Take whole bulbs and cut off the root end. Brush with olive oil and place cut side down over a hit fire. Grill garlic bulbs for about 10 minutes or until the skin is brown.

Mushrooms: Rinse off dirt and pat dry. Brush with oil and grill. 4-5 minutes for small mushrooms, 6-8 minutes. Use a grill basket or skewers for small mushrooms.

Onions: Remove skin and cut horizontally about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with oil and grill 3-4 minutes.

Potatoes: There are many ways to grill potatoes. You can do them whole for a baked potato or cut into wedges Brush wedges with olive oil, and grill until browned. Rub whole potatoes with oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally.

Tomatoes: Cut in half, top to bottom. Brush with a light coating of oil and grill cut side down 2-3 minutes.

Zucchini and Small Squash: Slice 1/2 inch thickness. Brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes per side. Small squash can be cut down the middle and grilled.

Recipes That Use Your Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Parmesan-Basil Crumbs

Serve with Grilled Corn on the Cob and a Green Garden Salad.

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs or Italian flavored panko crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 pounds eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the bread crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil; toss well. Bake for 8 minutes, until the bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown. Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with the basil and cheese.

Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, fanning them out. Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and hot, about 1 minute per side.

Arrange the tomato slices over the eggplant and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.

Grilled Vegetables With Ravioli

Tasty grilled vegetables and pasta – that’s ready in 25 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend, such as Mrs. Dash
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 medium bell peppers (any color), cut lengthwise in half and seeded
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 package (9 oz) cheese refrigerated ravioli or 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil grill rack with cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil. In small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic-pepper blend and salt. Brush on cut sides of zucchini, bell peppers and onion.

Place vegetables, cut side down, on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 to 12 minutes, turning once and brushing occasionally with oil mixture, or until each kind of vegetable is tender, removing from grill when done.

While vegetables are grilling, cook ravioli as directed on package. Drain and return to saucepan; keep warm.

Cut zucchini crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut bell peppers into slices. Separate onion into pieces. Add vegetables to ravioli in saucepan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the basil and thyme; toss and heat through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Caesar Vegetable Salad

This grilled vegetable salad is ready in 25 minutes – perfect for dinner. Serve with a light soup and a really good loaf of bread.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat Caesar dressing, see recipe below
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, cut into fourths
  • 4 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 medium bell peppers (any color), cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

In small bowl, mix dressing and parsley; set aside. Brush mushrooms, summer squash and bell peppers with oil.

Place mushrooms, summer squash and bell peppers in grill basket (grill “wok”) or directly on grill rack. Cover and grill over MEDIUM heat 5 to 7 minutes, shaking basket or stirring or turning vegetables occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.

To serve, arrange mushrooms around edge of serving platter and remaining grilled vegetables in center; sprinkle with tomatoes. Drizzle dressing over vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

Makes about 1/2 cup. Can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small clove garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Place garlic and salt in a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste (if using), and pepper; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and whisk to combine.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Quick Grilled Herbed Vegetables and Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a small eggplant (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 small zucchini (about 4 oz.)
  • 1 small fennel bulb (about 6 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 16 ounce tube plain refrigerated cooked polenta, cut into 12 slices
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can Muir Glen diced tomatoes with garlic and onion

Directions:

Peel the eggplant, if desired. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and fennel crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. In a small bowl combine the oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Brush the vegetables with about half of the oil mixture, reserving remaining oil mixture for the polenta.

Preheat an outdoor grill on high setting.. Arrange half the vegetables on a greased grill rack. Grill 6 to 8 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender and grill marks appear, turning once. Remove vegetables from grill rack or pan; set aside. Repeat with remaining vegetables.

Brush the polenta slices with reserved oil mixture. Place the polenta slices on the grill rack. Grill 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned, turning once.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat the undrained tomatoes until boiling. Add the grilled vegetables. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place 3 polenta slices in each shallow bowl or on each dinner plate; spoon the vegetable mixture over the polenta.

Indoor Method

Prepare vegetables and oil mixture as above in Step 1. Preheat a grill pan on the range top over medium-high heat. Grill half of the vegetables as in Step 2; repeat with remaining vegetables. Use the grill pan to grill brushed polenta slices as above in Step 2. Continue with Step 3 and serve as directed above.

Grilled Pizzas with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), thick ends removed
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), thinly sliced, plus 3 tablespoons oil from jar
  • 1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup ricotta

Directions

Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, combine asparagus, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 6 to 9 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut asparagus and scallions into thirds.

Brush a large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. On a lightly floured work surface, divide dough in half. Roll or stretch to form two 9-inch ovals. Transfer to prepared sheet, and brush with remaining tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil.

Transfer dough pieces to grill. Cook until undersides are firm and beginning to char, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a large spatula, transfer crusts, grilled side up, back to baking sheet.

Dividing evenly, top crusts with ricotta, then asparagus, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Slide back onto grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until crusts are cooked through and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pizzas to a cutting board, cut in half, and serve.

 


Benefits of Freezing Summer Produce

Freezing fruits and vegetables is a great way to serve the family healthy, nutritious fresh foods all winter. By using safe, approved techniques, the nutrients will be preserved. Freezing foods is quick and easy and doesn’t take a lot of equipment.

Home freezing techniques to preserve high quality foods with the maximum nutritional value are based on the same principles commercial companies use. Freezing fruits and vegetables is perhaps the best method of preserving their nutrients and quality.

Blanching Vegetables Before Freezing

Blanching involves dipping foods into boiling water for a short period of time, then chilling rapidly. Foods are then drained, packaged and frozen. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or blanching is not long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colors, off-flavors and toughening. Blanching deactivates the enzymes and helps destroy microorganisms on the surface of foods.

Steps in Blanching Vegetables

Use a large pot that holds at least 2 gallons of water. Figure 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables. Other items needed: wire basket or colander, timer, large bowl or pot with ice water, extra ice cubes, additional colander for draining, freezer containers or bags, marking pen for labeling.

  • Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  • Place vegetables in basket (do not crowd), immerse basket into water.
  • Cover pot, keep boiling.
  • Time as soon as water returns to a boil, using the chart below, on “How to Prepare Vegetables for Freezing”.
  • Put the basket in ice water for the same amount of time as blanching. Keep ice in the water.
  • Drain the vegetables thoroughly to avoid too many ice crystals.
  • Pack, using either the dry or tray pack method, see below “Packaging Vegetables for the Freezer”.
  • Label, freeze.

The blanching water may be used 2 or 3 times; change when cloudy. Microwave blanching in not recommended; off-flavors, colors and textures may result.

Freezing Chart for Vegetables

Asparagus:

Wash asparagus and cut off any tough parts. Blanch small stalks for 2 minutes and large ones for 4 minutes. Cool, drain, and pack into containers by alternating tip and stem ends. Do not leave a headspace.

Beans, Green or Wax:

Pick young, tender beans. Remove stems and break into 1-2 inch pieces. Wash. Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes and dip into cold water. Drain, pack and freeze. Leave a 1/2-inch headspace.

Beets:

When triming beets, leave 1-inch of their tops on. This will prevent “bleeding.” If you don’t, your beets will lighten during cooking. Wash beets and cook them for 25 minutes. Cool in cold water and peel them. The skins should easily slip off now. Cut into cubes or slices, pack and freeze, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.

Broccoli:

Wash and peel stalks.To remove insects, soak for 1/2 hour in a solution of  5 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of water. Boil for 3 minutes and cool in cold water. Drain and pack into containers leaving no headspace.

Brussels Sprouts:

Trim and remove outer leaves. Wash and boil small heads for 3 minutes and large heads for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water, drain, and pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Cabbage:

Remove outer leaves and cut into wedges. Wash and heat in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water, drain and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Frozen cabbage is only suitable for use as a cooked vegetable, as in soup or sauteed with apples as a side dish, and not for coleslaw.

Carrots:

Remove tops, wash, and scrape or peel. Leave small carrots whole and slice larger ones. Boil whole carrots for 5 minutes and sliced ones for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Cauliflower:

Break into 1-inch pieces and wash. Remove insects by soaking for 1/2 hour in a solution of 5 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of water. Drain and rinse. Boil for 3 minutes and cool in cold water. Pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Corn:

Husk the ears and remove the silk. Heat the ears in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Cut kernels from the cob and cover corn with water. Pack into containers leaving 1-inch headspace.

Corn-on-the-cob:

Husk, remove silk and blanch (same as above.) Wrap in plastic wrap and pack into containers. Freeze.

Mushrooms:

Wash in cold water.  Rinse well. If mushrooms are larger than 1 inch, slice or quarter them. Soak the mushrooms in an anti-darkening solution (lemon juice or Fruit Fresh) for 5 minutes, drain. Steam mushrooms for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Okra:

Pick tender pods, wash, and cut off stem end. Be careful not to cut open the seed cells. Heat for 4 minutes in boiling water and cool promptly in cold water. Leave whole or slice, and pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Onions:

Wash and peel onions. Chop and place into containers. Leave no headspace.

Peas:

Shell peas and wash to remove blossom ends and pod particles. Heat in boiling water for 2 minutes and cool in cold water. Drain. Pack peas into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Peapods:

Wash and blanch pods for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and pack into containers. Freeze.

Peppers:

Wash, cut out seeds, and chop. Pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Pumpkin:

Wash pumpkin and cut into quarters. Cook until soft by either boiling, steaming, or baking. Press through a sieve. Cool and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Sweet potatoes:

Wash sweet potatoes and cook until almost tender. Cool in cold water and peel. Slice, mash, or leave sweet potatoes whole. To prevent darkening, dip sweet potatoes in lemon juice or Fruit Fresh for about 5 seconds. If sweet potatoes are mashed, just add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to a quart of sweet potatoes. Pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Tomatoes:

Wash, remove stem ends, and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Cool in cold water and remove skins. Quarter, halve or leave whole. Pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Tomatoes, stewed:

Wash, remove stem ends, and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Cool in cold water and remove skins. Quarter and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Place the pan of cooked tomatoes in cold water to cool, and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Packaging Vegetables for Freezing

Packing vegetables tightly  into the freezer container will cause them to freeze in a “clump,” which is fine, if the entire package will be cooked at once. This is called a “dry pack.”

Sometimes, a loose pack is desired, called a “tray pack.” Foods are spread out on a tray or flat pan to freeze, then packaged.

Freezing Fruits

Fruits are usually served raw, so blanching is not used. Instead, ascorbic acid is added to prevent browning and the loss of Vitamin C. The acid interferes with the enzymes and compounds that destroy the nutrients and food quality.

Most fruits will darken after they are cut, so you will need to prevent this by using an anti-darkening agent. I usually soak cut fruit in a solution of water and bottled lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon per quart), but you can use a commercial anti-darkening agent, such as Fruit Fresh. Both work with great results.

Sugar is added to some fruit to help retain color and to enhance taste. You can either add sugar to the fruit and mix it in, or you can mix sugar and water together to form a syrup and pour it over the fruit. I have had good results with packing fruits for the freezer without sugar.  Some fruits, including rhubarb, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries freeze well without sugar. Light sugar syrup is an alternative but I would skip heavy sugar syrup additions.

Freezing Chart for Fruits

Apples for pies: Peel, core and slice apples. Treat apples with an anti-darkening agent. Drain. For each quart of apples, sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar (optional). Mix, seal and freeze.

Applesauce: Wash and quarter apples. Cook until tender with enough water to prevent apples from scorching. Run cooked apples through a food mill and sweeten, if desired. Pack into containers.

Apricots for pies: Wash, halve, pit and peel (optional.) If you do not wish to peel, heat apricots in boiling water for 1 minute so skins won’t toughen. Treat with an anti-darkening agent, drain and mix one quart fruit with 1/2 cup sugar (optional).

Blackberries for pies and jams: Remove stems, wash, and drain. Mix 3/4 cup sugar (optional) to 1 quart berries. Fill containers and freeze.

Cherries for pies: Stem, wash, drain and pit. Mix 3/4 cups sugar (optional) to 1 quart cherries. Pack, seal and freeze.

Gooseberries: Remove blossom ends and stems. Wash and pack into containers. You do not have to add sugar. If you wish, you may cover with a sugar syrup and freeze.

Melons: Cut up melons and pack into containers with a sugar syrup. Seal and freeze.

Peaches for pies: Wash, pit and peel. If you do not wish to peel the peaches, you can dip them in boiling water for a minute to loosen skins; the skins will be easier to pull off. Treat with an anti-darkening agent, drain and pack peaches into containers. Cover with cold water, seal and freeze.

Pears: Wash, peel, core and quarter. Heat pears in light syrup for 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack pears in containers with syrup and anti-darkening agent (Fruit Fresh or lemon juice). Seal and freeze.

Plums: Wash, pit, and cut in halves. Pack into containers and freeze.

Raspberries: Same as for Blackberries.

Rhubarb: Wash and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Heat in boiling water for 1 minute and cool in cold water. Pack into containers and freeze.

Strawberries: Wash, drain, and remove stems. (Optional-add 3/4 cups sugar to 1 quart berries and mix.) Put into containers and freeze.

Steps in Freezing Fruits

  • Wash, sort fruits carefully. Discard portions that are not high quality and fully ripe.
  • Cut the fruit as you would want to serve it (slices, bite size pieces, etc.).
  • Refer to the How to Prepare Fruits for Freezing chart to determine if anti-browning treatment is needed. Use ascorbic acid as directed in the chart or on the package label.
  • Prepare dry sugar or sugar syrup as directed in the How to Prepare Fruits for Freezing chart.
  • Light Syrup Recipe: Boil 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water=5 cups syrup Dissolve the specified amount of sugar in the specified amount of water, stir. Let sit until sugar is completely dissolved. Do not heat. Sugar syrup may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Pack into good quality freezer plastic bags, freezer boxes or jars. Allow 1/ 2 inch head space at the top for expansion. Seal bags or fasten lids on tightly.

Packaging Foods for the Freezer

  • Frozen foods need to be packaged properly to prevent “freezer burn,” or loss of moisture from the foods.
  • Packaging must be both moisture and vapor proof, keeping moisture in the product and outside odors out.
  • If using containers, be sure they are freezer storage containers. Reusing food containers is a great practice, but things like cottage cheese boxes do not keep moisture in or vapors out. Lids need to fit tightly.
  • If using bags, be sure they are freezer bags, not regular food storage bags. Freezer paper is lined with plastic, and is easier to mold to the shape of firm foods.
  • No matter what containers are used, be sure to expel as much air as possible before closing. Label containers with the product and date to ensure using them before the quality declines.

Storing Frozen Foods

Store frozen foods (home prepared and purchased) at 0 degrees F. or lower. 

Most frozen fruits maintain high quality for 8 to 12 months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than those packed in sugar or sugar syrups.

Most vegetables will maintain high quality for 12 to 18 months at 0° F or lower. However, it is a good idea to plan to use your home frozen vegetables before the next year’s crop is ready for freezing.

Longer storage of fruits and vegetables than those recommended above will not make the food unfit for use, but will decrease its quality.

Freezing Herbs

Herbs can be preserved for a long time if they are properly frozen. Freezing an herb does not change its flavor, but it can no longer be used as a garnish because it becomes limp when defrosted. You can, however, add frozen herbs to your favorite cooked dishes, soups and stews. 

Pick fresh herbs when they are almost ripe and the flower buds are beginning to open up. Choose herbs such as parsley, sage, tarragon, basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, mint or rosemary.

Remove the stems and wash the herbs gently under running cold water. Put them in a strainer and then transfer to paper towels to remove all moisture. You can also spin them dry in a slad spinner.

Spread the herbs on a cookie tray and place it in the freezer. When they are frozen, store them in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.

Some other methods for freezing herbs:

  • Place the the washed and chopped herbs in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with a little water to give the cubes some shape. Place the trays in the freezer and use when needed.
  • Grind the washed herbs in a blender. Add two tablespoons of olive oil per one cup of herbs. Transfer the pureed herbs to the ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Pick out a few leaves from each herb and tie them together with a string to make a bouquet. Place the bouquet on a cookie tray and freeze. Transfer the frozen herbs to an airtight plastic bag.

How To Freeze Basil                                                                                                                                      

Freezing basil is a great way to preserve its deep, unique flavor to enjoy during the long winter when its taste brings to mind happy thoughts of summer gardens.

Unlike other green herbs which suffer little from freezing, basil requires one extra step if you want it to emerge from the freezer as green as it was when it went in: blanching. Simply bring a pot of water to a boil, dip the basil leaves in for 30 seconds, drain the basil, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can (rolling it in a clean kitchen towel does a good job).

At this point you can simply double-bag the basil, pushing out as much air from the bags as possible, and place it in the freezer. I prefer, however, to whirl the basil in a blender with a bit of olive oil to make a thick puree. Freeze this in small covered containers or in a clean ice cube tray (once frozen through, transfer the basil cubes to a sealable plastic bag for long-term storage).

If your favorite way to use basil is in pesto – go ahead and make the pesto when the basil is fresh and freeze the pesto itself. I leave the cheese out when I freeze pesto. It can be added when you make the pasta.

Methods of Preparing Basil for Freezing

Option 1: Wash and dry the basil leaves (the stems should be discarded). Then, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and flash freeze. Transfer the frozen basil to freezer bags, and use as needed.

Option 2: Blanch the basil leaves for 15 seconds. Then, plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry thoroughly. Then, flash freeze using the method described in option 1.

Option 3: Use a food processor to coarsely chop clean basil leaves. Then, add a drizzle of olive oil, and pulse to lightly coat the leaves with oil (this will keep the basil from turning black in the freezer). Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer the finished cubes to freezer bags and use as needed. Once cube is the equivalent of about two tablespoons of fresh basil.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Tips:

1. Basil tends to turn black when frozen. If maintaining that bright green color is important to you, use option 3.

2. Oil should only be added to basil if it will be frozen. Storing basil in oil, either in the refrigerator or at room temperature, causes a risk of botulism.

3. Planning to use your basil in heated dishes? Just add your frozen basil directly to the pot. There’s no need to thaw it first.

 


A common question today is : “What should I eat to be healthy?”

Here are some “tried-and-true” meal planning tips:

  • Entree. Here’s where you can put the dietary guidelines to work for you. Plan on fish twice a week and at least one meatless meal. You’re almost half-way done. For the remaining meals, plan one that’s fast and easy to cook, one big family-type meal and one meal based on leftovers. Remember that a serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards. The rest of the plate will be filled with other good things.
  • Vegetables. Begin to fill in vegetables according to the entree. Look for colorful ones and plan some variety throughout the week. Get out of the rut of the too familiar rotation of cooked peas, corn and green beans. How about sugar snap peas, broccoli or beets? Instead of the same old iceberg lettuce, how about spinach, tomato slices or shredded carrots?
  • Whole grains. Think of all the options: brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread or rolls, couscous, barley, and kasha You can cook whole grains ahead and use leftovers the next day — especially in soups and salads.
  • Fruit. It’s not just for dessert anymore. Fruit can be a topping, a salad, a sauce, stuffed into chicken, and grilled or broiled on skewers. Think frozen bananas, grapes or berries for those hot nights.
  • Beverage. Water is perfect. Other good choices include low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and a glass of wine or beer.
The following menus are formed around stuffed chicken breasts because chicken is a good dinner choice due to its versatility and popularity. The menus show you how to build a meal around this delicious entree.  I would, however, encourage you, if at all possible, to buy organic chickenChicken is one of the best places to spend your organic dollars, according to a 2006 “Consumer Reports” study. If you’re resolved to eat a healthier diet, consider the benefits of organic chicken and add it to your shopping list.
Yesterday’s health news is another reason to look for organic chicken in your supermarket. A growing number of medical researchers say more than 8 million women are at risk of difficult-to-treat bladder infections because superbugs – resistant to antibiotics and growing in chickens – are being transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli.  The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chicken to protect them from disease in cramped quarters. It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/superbug-dangers-chicken-linked-8-million-risk-women-122809803–abc-news-health.html.
While health news recommendations can be confusing from report to report, it is standard industry practice to regularly use antibiotics in livestock production.  It is important for consumers to be aware of what goes into the production of their foods, so they can make wise purchase decisions.
Look for this label to be certain you are purchasing organic chicken:

Menu 1

Two-Cheese Stuffed Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup part-skim, shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless medium chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add onion and cook, stirring until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes and garlic. Add spinach, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes until spinach is soft. Remove from heat.
3. Let mixture cool slightly; stir in Mozzarella and Parmesan.
4. Heat oven to 375°F.
5. Beginning in the center of the thicker end of the breast, insert a small knife horizontally, stopping about 1 inch from the opposite end. Open incision to create a wide pocket and pack 1/4 of the filling mixture into each breast.
6. Season chicken with Italian seasoning blend and place in 13″x 9″x 2″ baking dish.
7. Pour broth over chicken. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
8. Keep warm until served.

Brown Rice Pilaf With Hazelnuts                                                                                                                               

4 Servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons (2 ounces) coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Alternate: Replace the hazelnuts with walnuts, pine nuts, or pecans.

Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and nuts and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, thyme, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. For best results, avoid stirring the rice while it cooks. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Radicchio Salad

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds radicchio, cut in 1-inch shreds
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Put the fruit in a small bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Let soak for 15 minutes. Pour the fruit and vinegar over the shredded radicchio in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt. Toss well to coat the salad with the dressing.

Menu 2

Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Basil Couscous

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

Ingredients:

  • 4  (about 1 1/4 pounds) medium skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
  • 1/4 cup (about half 4.4-ounce package) light garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 8  whole fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Lemon and Basil Couscous:                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarse

Directions:

  1. Prepare Stuffed Breasts: With tip of knife, cut each chicken breast from a long side, keeping knife parallel to surface of breast, to form a deep pocket with as small an opening as possible.
  2. In small bowl, combine cheese, peppers, and basil. Spread 1/4 cheese mixture in each chicken pocket. Rub outside of chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare Lemon & Basil Couscous: In 2-quart saucepan, add oil, salt, pepper, and 1 1/3 cups water and bring to boiling over high heat; stir in couscous. Cover saucepan; remove from heat and let stand at least 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place chicken on grill over medium heat and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear when thickest part of the breast is pierced with tip of knife, turning over once.
  5. To serve, add basil and lemon juice to couscous, and fluff with fork to mix well. Spoon couscous onto 4 dinner plates and arrange chicken on top.

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Salad


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup of chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or green onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, onions and oregano together. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over vegetables.
Serves 4.

Menu 3

Chicken Roll-Ups

   

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 11/4 lb chicken cutlets
  • 4 slices lean ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of Progresso Italian Panko crumbs  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay cutlets on plastic wrap, pound until thin. Fold ham and cheese and half and lay over the chicken. You can add basil, rosemary  or any herb of choice.

Start at the narrowest end of cutlet and the roll up. Secure with a toothpick or be sure to lay them seam side down once breaded.

Dip pastry brush in extra virgin olive oil and brush on chicken rolls. Quickly put the entire chicken roll into bowl of Panko crumbs and use your hand or a spoon to press crumbs firmly onto chicken roll.

Transfer the rolled cutlets to a  greased baking dish. Then, using a teaspoon, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over each chicken roll.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in the middle of the oven. In the last few minutes switch your oven to “broil” and move your baking dish to the rack closest to heating element. In 1-2 minutes, the high heat will brown up the crumbs.

Broccoli with Orecchiette                                                                                                                                                                         

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or small shells, whole grain
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch (about 1 1/2 pounds) broccoli stalks, peeled and trimmed, stalks and florets, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until golden, stirring to avoid burning, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli and reserved cooking liquid; cook, stirring, until broccoli is tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Add reserved pasta to pan, and toss well to coat. Transfer to four serving bowls; drizzle each with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and garnish each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Menu 4

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 6 oz low fat softened cream cheese
  • 12 sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices Proscuitto

Directions:

In a skillet, saute mushrooms in oil until browned on medium heat stirring often to avoid burning. Add shallots and cook for an additional minute. Mix with cream cheese.

Divide the filling so that you have enough for 4 breasts. Put filling in the middle and roll tucking in the side ends so that you will not have the filling spill out later.

Do the same with the rest of the chicken pieces.

At this point wrap with prosciutto ham to encase the roll. Place in a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Spaghetti with Roasted Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz spaghetti, whole grain
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 small zucchini (about 1 lb total), sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions:

Heat oven to 425°F.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

In a large bowl toss the zucchini, garlic, red pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the Parmesan cheese toss to combine. Spread the zucchini mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the zucchini is tender and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the zucchini mixture, parsley and lemon zest.

Menu 5

Chicken Roulade with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Preserved Lemon or lemon zest
  • 12 pitted Kalamata ripe olives, drained and divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Directions:

1. Combine breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons capers, 1 tablespoon Preserved Lemons, 6 olives, and garlic in a food processor or blender, and pulse 10 times or until the mixture is coarsely chopped.

2. Place each breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions; spread 1 portion on each breast half, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the outside edges. Roll up each breast half, jelly-roll fashion, starting with short side. Secure with wooden picks or twine.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned. Add wine; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 1 minute), stirring often. Add remaining 2 tablespoons capers, 1 cup water, broth, juice, raisins, and turmeric. Quarter the remaining 6 olives. Add to pan; bring to a boil. Add chicken to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, turning chicken after 10 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce.

Roasted Red Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 12 small red potatoes cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash® Garlic and Herb Blend, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Toss potatoes with olive oil and 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Blend in a bowl. Turn into a greased baking dish.

Roast in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 30 minutes.

Increase heat to 450°F. Sprinkle with remaining Mrs. Dash Blend and continue to roast for 5 – 10 minutes or until tender and browned. Sprinkle with cheese just before serving.


Sauteed Fresh Green Beans 

In skillet with cover, add 1 small shallot sliced, 1 small garlic clove, minced, 1 cup low sodium chicken broth and 1 lb. trimmed fresh green beans.  Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper. Bring to boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook until beans are tender.

Ciro’s Italian Village, Washington, D.C. (1930)
Photo courtesy of Bill Walsh, copy editor at The Washington Post.

In the early 1900’s the Italian Immigrants who came to America lacked a common language and a common interpretation of “Italian cuisine.”  In Italy they had  been sharecroppers and tenant farmers and had become accustomed to living on the foods they grew on their land. While there was no single style of cooking that typified the newly-arrived Italian, one foodstuff that all Italian immigrants had in common was pasta made from soft wheat flour, water, and salt. At the time, semolina pasta made with durum wheat (as we know it today), was a staple for only the Italian upper classes, however, that would change once the newcomers found housing and steady incomes in America.

As they began to form communities in America, the Calabrese settled with other Calabrese; Sicilians with other Sicilians, etc. They cooked the dishes they remembered from Italy, whenever possible, with ingredients close to those they knew from home. These Italian neighborhoods became the ‘Little Italy’ communities in the major cities of the United States. Among the better known are the North End in Boston, North Beach in San Francisco, The Hill in St. Louis, the Bella Vista neighborhood in Philadelphia, Federal Hill in Providence, and the Little Italy quarters of Chicago, Baltimore, and New York.

Commercial pasta production—on a mom-and-pop level—began with the first waves of immigrants. Many set up shops, some in the front parlors of their apartments, to sell their homemade products to neighbors.

Although many worked as laborers and longshoremen, Italians found that even with a $10.00 weekly wage, one could enjoy the semolina pasta and salume (cured meats) they had been unable to afford back home. Tenement living may have been crowded and unpleasant, but semolina pasta—even simply dressed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes—gave them a sense of liberation from the oppressive poverty they had known in Italy.  (Source: Almost Italian: A Cookbook & History of Italian Food in America by Skip Lombardi and Holly Chase.)

Following the First World War, pasta was an inexpensive choice at a time when food prices were rising in America. Recipes for spaghetti and tomato sauce started turning up in women’s magazines. American millers found a new use for flour, the consumption of which had decreased as the population moved to cities and began eating  more varied diets, which were not based on bread. The millers sponsored “eat more wheat” campaigns in the early 1920s and promoted macaroni. Pasta makers began using durum wheat, which they advertised as being higher in protein than soft wheat (it is, but not by much). Campbell’s, Heinz and other manufacturers brought out canned macaroni with tomato sauce, joining Franco-American, which in the 1890s had begun to sell canned spaghetti, stressing that it used a French recipe. Cooking pasta long enough to can it safely, institutionalized what was already a long-established practice, one for which Italians still deride Americans—over cooking pasta.  

Semolina Flour

It became acceptable and fashionable  to promote Italian food, even if the pasta was mush and the tomato sauce was full of sugar and salt. One typical recipe for tomato sauce omitted garlic and consisted of canned tomato soup with Worcestershire sauce added. In 1927 Kraft began marketing grated “Parmesan” cheese in a cardboard container with a perforated top and suggested that the cheese be served as a topping for spaghetti with tomato sauce. Spaghetti sales outnumbered those of egg noodles and ran a strong second in popularity to elbow macaroni, called simply macaroni, which was already conventional in salads.

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

The promotional efforts worked and annual per capita consumption of pasta went from near zero in 1920 to 3¾  pounds by the end of the decade (as compared with fifty pounds in Italy). Restaurants accounted for much of this rise. Cafeterias, which became extremely popular in the twenties, served a great deal of spaghetti and tomato sauce. Italians all over the country opened “spaghetti houses” that served spaghetti and meatballs (purely an Italian American creation) to blue-collar workers. By the end of the twenties Italian restaurants had become the most popular ethnic restaurants in American cities, a lead they now hold nationwide. The Depression made spaghetti less an option than a necessity, and spaghetti and meatballs began appearing regularly on millions of American tables. ( Source: July 1986 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE)

In the mood for some real Italian spaghetti, try these recipes:

Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce                                                                                                                

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces hot Italian pork or turkey sausage links
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Arrange sausage on a small baking sheet. Broil sausage 5 minutes on each side. Remove pan from oven (do not turn broiler off). Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil sausage slices 2 minutes on each side or until browned.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
4. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, and salt; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Add sausage and cooked pasta to pan; toss well. Top with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sautéed Chicken with Pesto Spaghetti                                                                                                     

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Directions:

1. Make the pesto if using homemade.
2. Trim the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Dredge the chicken in the flour.
3. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 – 5 minutes per side. (Do not move them until you are ready to turn them – let them caramelize.) Place chicken on a plate and set aside.
4. Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil in a large pasta pot.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.
6. Return pasta to the pot in which it was cooked.  Remove chicken from the sauté pan to a plate. Pour the sauce from the sautéed chicken over the pasta.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta.  Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.
7. Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate.  Arrange the chicken over the pasta and top with the reserved pesto.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Scallops, and Clams                                                                                                 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound fresh clams, scrubbed and rinsed well 
  • 1/2 pound. fresh scallops, cut small
  • 1/2 pound fresh raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

Directions:

1.  Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and sweat the garlic and chili for a few minutes until soft. Add the wine to the pan. Tap the clams on the work surface and discard any that do not close.  Add the clams and scallops to the pan and continue to sweat, taking care that the garlic and chili do not burn. As soon as the clams open (discard any that do not), remove the clams and scallops to a plate and set aside. Add the shrimp to the same pan and saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes until they turn lightly pink. Return the clams and scallops to the pan.  Season with salt and a little black pepper, and toss briefly to heat through.
2.  Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce with a tiny amount of the cooking water (just enough to keep the pasta moist). Stir well, transfer to a large serving bowl or individual pasta bowls, and sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley.

Note
How to clean clams:
Scrub the clams well under cold running water to wash away any grit. Put the clams in a large bowl of salted water making sure they are well covered with water (but do not cover the bowl). Soak in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight – any grit or sand will be left behind in the bottom of the bowl when you remove the clams. Pick out the clams by hand and rinse in plenty of fresh cold water.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Artichokes And Ricotta                                                                                                       

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to sizzle, add the artichokes and lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water together in a large pasta bowl until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley.

Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Add it to the pasta bowl with the ricotta and toss to coat the pasta. If necessary, add a little hot pasta water to attain a creamy consistency. Add the artichokes and toss again. Serve immediately with generous amounts of grated Parmesan.

Spaghetti With Fresh Veggies                                                                                                                     

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 thin stalks fresh asparagus (or any fresh green vegetable in season)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 medium plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter*
  • 3/4 pound of spaghetti 
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fat free half

Directions:

Trim asparagus. Remove tips; set aside. Bias-slice asparagus stalks into 1 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add asparagus stalks, wine, and salt. Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Add asparagus tips; cook uncovered, for 1 minutes. Add butter; stir till melted.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Return to pan and toss with asparagus mixture, half and half and basil.

Note: The butter is used in this recipe to bind the sauce. Margarine might not be an effective substitute.


Summertime and the living is supposed to be easy. That’s why the secret ingredient for a perfect summer day is simplicity: Sleep in, have breakfast on the porch, go hiking or biking and pack a picnic lunch. In the afternoon the neighborhood pool offers a chance to cool off. Dinner needs to be quick—put the main course on the grill along with vegetables from the local farmer’s market or make the side dishes below that are fast, healthy and easy to prepare.

Sauteed Zucchini, Peppers and Tomatoes                                                                                       

Serve this with grilled meat or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Quarter zucchini lengthwise; cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Remove ribs and seeds from peppers; cut into 3/4-inch squares.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Citrus-Herb Grilled Vegetables                                                                                                                                     

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 small zucchini, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 small yellow squash, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut into quarters, each held together with a skewer
  • 1 small eggplant, each cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed

Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine oil, salt, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, pepper, lemon zest and juice. Put zucchini, squash, bell peppers and onion in a large ziplock bag and pour in half of marinade. Seal bag and shake to coat vegetables. Let stand for 3 hours at room temperature. Put eggplant and mushrooms in a separate ziplock bag, add remaining marinade, seal and shake to coat vegetables. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.  

2.To plan ahead: prepare the marinades and vegetables as described and refrigerate the bags overnight.  Follow grilling directions below.

3. Preheat grill to medium. When heated, oil grates. Place onions, bell peppers and eggplant on grill and cook for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, squash and mushrooms to grill and cook all vegetables about 15 minutes longer, turning halfway through.

4. Cut vegetables into smaller sizes for serving, if desired. Arrange on a platter and serve warm, or cover and chill to serve cold.

Salad Greens with Pears, Fennel and Walnuts                                                                                                            

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium pears, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Divide the salad greens onto 6 plates. Scatter the fennel and pear slices over the greens. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Add black pepper, to taste.

Tangy Triple-Bean Salad                                                                                                          

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (9-10 oz) frozen lima beans
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 Serrano chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped

Directions:

1. Prepare lima beans according to package directions. Transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside to cool.

2. For dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir in lima beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, carrots and the chile.. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Transfer salad to a serving bowl. Stir in basil.

Fast Italian Cucumber Salad                                                                                                                          

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes (about 1-1/2 cups chopped)

  • 1 large red onion, diced

  • 2 cucumbers, diced

    Italian Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Directions:

Whisk Italian Dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. Add vegetables and stir.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving. Can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

Tomato and Mozzarella Burger                                                                                                                            

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves picked

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 450° F.  Slice a thin piece from the bottom of each tomato so the tomatoes sit upright. Slice each in half horizontally.
2. Arrange the tomato halves, cut-side up, on a foil-lined shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.
3. Drizzle the tomatoes with the oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Scatter the garlic over the tomatoes.
4. Roast until softened and warmed through, about 15 minutes. (Under ripe tomatoes may take 5 to 15 minutes longer.)
5. Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into six ½-inch-thick slices. Using a spatula, sandwich each slice between 2 hot tomato halves. (The heat will melt the cheese slightly.)
6. Drizzle the tomatoes with any juices that collected in the roasting pan and serve with the basil.

Make it a meal: Serve the “burger” with arugula tossed with sliced fennel and radishes, toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Italian Coleslaw                                                                                                                                                                       

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 green pepper, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 red pepper, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cut into matchstick slivers
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1-16 oz. bag coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt

Directions:

In a large bowl with a fitted lid, combine onion, peppers, fennel and cabbage. Add oil, vinegar, and remaining ingredients.  Put lid on and shake until everything is evenly combined. Salt to taste. Refrigerate and serve chilled.


Pasta salads are ideal for summer days when it’s too hot to eat fresh-from-the-oven dishes. Lighten up traditional pasta salad by substituting the fattiest ingredients often found in the dish with leaner options. Omitting the mayonnaise or substituting a low-fat version, using  low-fat cheese and adding fresh vegetables, such as spinach, are among the ways that a traditionally calorie-heavy side dish can be transformed into a healthy main course that’s perfect for summer entertaining.

Whatever type of pasta you have in your cupboard, from spaghetti to rigatoni, you can create a great salad in the time it takes the pasta to cook and cool. The first thing to do before you start cooking any noodles is to look through your kitchen and decide which ingredients will be added to the salad.

Here are a few ideas:

1-Vegetables:

You can put just about any vegetable in a pasta salad. Onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, raw spinach, etc. are good examples. If you prefer to have your vegetables cooked rather than raw you can add them to the pot with your pasta. I would wait until the pasta is partially cooked about 3 minutes before adding them to keep the vegetables from overcooking. Tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cucumber should be raw and added after the pasta is cooked and cooled slightly.

2-Meat and Seafood:

Deli-style meat or leftover cooked meat makes a great addition to a pasta salad. Beef, chicken, ham and turkey are good examples. It doesn’t matter if it’s cubed or thinly sliced, it will blend into the salad nicely.

Seafood is another popular ingredient, freshly cooked or canned. The easiest is to add a can of salmon or tuna to your salad. Freshly cooked seafood is becoming quite popular. Some examples are scallops, shrimp, prawns, crab, squid, mussels, oysters, clams, and any finfish. Smoked salmon is full of flavour and my favorite seafood to add to a salad.

Although meat and/or seafood can enhance your pasta salad, they are not required, so if you would prefer to omit them, you can still make a perfectly fine salad without them.

3-Cheese:

Many pasta salads have parmesan cheese added to them but any cheese will add flavor. You can use cheese in any form such as grated, sliced or cubed.

4-Olives:

Any kind of olive enhances a salad.

5-Spices:

Add spices sparingly, use any of your favorites. Some popular ones are: oregano, basil, thyme or chives.

6-Dressing:

For dressing you can go with creamy or an oil and vinegar mix. Any bottled dressing will work or you can make your own. Homemade dressings taste better. For creamy dressing use about a cup of  low-fat mayonnaise or yogurt with 1/4 cup of either vinegar, wine, lemon or lime juice. Add a little spice, salt and pepper to taste and you have a creamy dressing. For an oil/vinegar dressing just substitute the mayonnaise or yogurt with about 1/4 cup salad oil.

Now that you have decided on your ingredients it’s time to boil your pasta. Follow the directions on the package and cook until al dente. In other words, cook pasta until tender but firm (usually about 8-10 minutes).

Drain pasta in a colander and pour into a large serving bowl.  Add dressing sparingly until salad is completely coated. Pasta will absorb the dressing better while it is warm. Add all the other ingredients you have decided upon and mix well. Cool salad for about 2 hours before serving.

Lemon-Basil Chicken-Pasta Salad  

 4 servings

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2 cups uncooked rotini or rotelle (spiral) pasta (6 ounces)
  • 10 asparagus stalks (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 5 ounces cooked chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2  cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Directions:
Fill a 4-quart Dutch oven about half full of water. Add salt and cover with lid; heat over high heat until water is boiling rapidly. Add the pasta. Heat to boiling again. Boil uncovered 9 to 11 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender but not mushy. While water is heating and pasta is cooking, continue with recipe.
Break off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus stalks where they snap easily; wash asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces to measure 2 cups. Add asparagus to the pasta during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch cubes to measure about 2 cups. Tear the basil leaves lengthwise into narrow strips.
Place strainer or colander in the sink. Pour pasta and asparagus in the strainer to drain.
In a large bowl, toss pasta, asparagus and chicken. Stir in garlic, basil, cheese, oil and lemon peel. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until chilled.

Caesar Pasta Salad

Cooked cold shrimp makes a great addition to this salad.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces curly pasta, such as fusilli 
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 9 flat anchovies, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 10 cups chopped green leaf lettuce
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender, about 10 minutes, or as package label directs.
2. While pasta is cooking, combine garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, mayonnaise, olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Drain pasta. Toss with half of the dressing and tomatoes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Toss with Parmesan.
4. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing and divide among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon pasta salad over lettuce, sprinkle with basil and serve.

Orecchiette with Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil

Taking its cue from Italy’s insalata caprese, this easy dish combines fresh mozzarella cheese with basil and tomatoes. Choose the ripest, most flavorful tomatoes for this delicious pasta salad.
4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked orecchiette (about 8 ounces uncooked
  • 3 cups chopped plum tomato
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) diced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions: drain.
Combine pasta, tomato, and remaining ingredients.
Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Chicken-Thyme-Penne Salad

Servings: 6 servings (1 cup each)

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups uncooked penne pasta (10 oz)
  • 2 cups cubed deli rotisserie or leftover chicken (from a 2- to 2 1/2-lb chicken)
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 medium stalk celery, sliced 
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 11/2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions:
Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.
In large bowl, mix pasta, chicken, grapes, celery and onion.

In small bowl, mix oil and 1/2 tablespoon of the fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon of the dried thyme). Pour oil mixture over chicken mixture; toss to coat. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, honey, mustard, salt and remaining thyme.

Cover chicken mixture and mayonnaise mixture separately; refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours. Up to 2 hours before serving, toss chicken mixture and mayonnaise mixture. Cover; refrigerate until serving. Just before serving, stir in 1/4 cup of the walnuts. Sprinkle salad with remaining walnuts.  

Macaroni Salad with Summer Tomatoes

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup salad, about 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, and 3/4 teaspoon basil)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked medium elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • 4 cups chopped seeded tomato (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1 (1-ounce) slice sandwich bread
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
Combine white balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, stirring with a whisk. Add cooked pasta and tomato; toss well to coat.
Place bread in a food processor; pulse 5 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and basil.  Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

Pesto Pasta Salad

An easy homemade pesto elevates a casual pasta salad. Grilled tuna or scallops would be a good addition.
8 Servings

Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Salad:

  • 1 pound gemelli or other short pasta
  • 1 cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Make pesto: In a food processor puree basil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and pine nuts until smooth. With motor running, add olive oil and process until a thick paste forms. Add Parmesan and pulse twice. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Make salad: Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain.
In a large bowl, combine pesto and Greek yogurt and stir until well blended. Add pasta and toss to coat with dressing. Top with tomatoes. Serve salad at room temperature or cover and refrigerate to serve chilled.

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