Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: zucchini

Summer Squash Basics

When European explorers came to the America’s, squash was one of the 3 major foods the native Indians used, along with beans and corn. Europeans had never seen them before, so they thought they were melons. Squash seeds have been found in Archeological digs in Mexico that date back to between 9000 and 4000 B.C.  Columbus brought squash seeds back to Europe following his explorations in the Americas.

There are many varieties of summer squash, including zucchini, crookneck, sunburst, yellow and patty pan squash. Summer squash is picked in the summer before it has ripened, whereas a winter squash is picked when it is fully ripe. Summer squash is eaten cooked, grilled or raw. Even the skin is edible in summer squash.

Zucchini comes from the Italian Zucca that means squash. Though squashes didn’t originate in Italy, it is believed that the Italian name was adopted because the Italians are credited with developing this food. The zucchini as we know it wasn’t used in this form until the late 1800’s in Italy, probably near Milan, because many of the early varieties are named after nearby Italian cities.

Zucchini is simply an elongated, cylindrical, usually green variety of summer squash. There are three varieties of zucchini: Elite, Senator and Spineless Beauty. The Senator and Spineless Beauty are both hybrids and take less time to harvest, on average a week less than the Elite Zucchini.

Yellow squash belongs to the summer squash family along with the zucchini and scallop squash. Its pale yellow fruit is prized in a variety of dishes from stir-fries to roast vegetable recipes. It produces heavily throughout the summer months, with each plant turning out several squashes a week at the peak of production. Harvesting the yellow squash at its pinnacle of ripeness ensures it is tender yet flavorful, as overly ripe squash is tough and unappetizing.

Crookneck squash are typically yellow with bent or “crooked” necks. They are not as popular as zucchini and straightneck squash because they are not as easy to package and ship. Breakage can occur at the neck during harvest and transportation. Examples of crookneck squash include Destiny II, Dixie, Gentry, Medallion, Meigs, Prelude II and Supersett.

Straightneck squash are among the most popular varieties of squash because of the ease in harvesting and transportation, compared with crookneck squash. Examples of straightneck squash include Cougar, Enterprise, Fortune, Golddrop, Lemon Drop L, Liberator III, Lioness, Multipik, Monet, Seneca Prolific and Superpik. Straightneck squash can typically be harvested between 40 and 50 days after the first fruit appears. Most have a large bulb that tapers down toward a thin neck. The typical color of straightneck squash is yellow, but some are a light green.

When selecting patty pan squash at the market, look for squash that are regularly shaped, without bruises or nicks. Steer clear of any with discolored areas or moldy spots. If you’d like to steam or roast the patty pans whole, choose smaller squash, as they’ll cook more quickly and thoroughly. However you decide to prepare them, a pound of squash should serve nicely as a side dish for two or three people.

White Bush Scallop squash  is pale green in color. This tender squash, also referred to as Patty Pan squash, makes a delicious basis for stuffed squash. Similar to other summer squashes, White Bush Scallop squash is low in calories and contains potassium and vitamin A.  Mature squash is generally more nutrient-rich than when it’s immature. Because of its mild taste, a variety of fillings work well with scallop squash.

What to Look For: Look for summer squash that are firm and heavy for their size; the skin should be brightly colored and blemish-free. Because they are harvested earlier, smaller squash are more tender than larger ones and have thinner skins; choose squash that are less than eight inches long.

How to Store: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to four days; do not wash until ready to use.

Basil-Topped Grilled Summer Squash

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Combine basil, pine nuts, oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. 
  3. Coat both sides of squash slices with cooking spray.
  4. Grill the squash until browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pesto.

Tip: To toast pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Zucchini Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Add minced fresh jalapeño, if you want more spice.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds small zucchini, cut into lengthwise slices about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup thinly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the peel from lemon with a vegetable peeler, making sure not to include any white pith. (Reserve the lemon.) Cut the peel into thin slivers. Add to the boiling water and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl. Add oil, pepper and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high or place a grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.
  4. Oil the grill rack or a grill pan. Grill zucchini slices, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Arrange the zucchini on a platter and drizzle with the reserved lemon dressing. Serve sprinkled with almonds, cheese and the lemon peel.

Make Ahead: Prepare through Step 4, cover and refrigerate the zucchini, lemon peel and dressing for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tips: Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin curls or slivers off a block of hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano. To oil a grill rack, oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

Tortellini & Zucchini Soup

Serve this soup with a slice of multigrain baguette and a spinach salad.
6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 9 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen tortellini, whole wheat or spinach-cheese
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Directions:

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots and onion; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add tortellini and tomatoes and simmer until the tortellini are plump and the tomatoes are beginning to break down, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir vinegar into the hot soup just before serving.

Zucchini Tomato Frittata

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 3 medium (1 pound) vine ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion, zucchini, and thyme; cook, covered, stirring often, until tender but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, and cook until all the liquid in the pan evaporates. Season with salt and pepper; remove skillet from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and cheese, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over zucchini, gently lifting zucchini to allow eggs to coat bottom of pan. Arrange tomatoes in an overlapping pattern on top.
  3. Return skillet to medium-low heat, and cook until sides are set yet still slightly runny on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Place in oven, and cook until the center is cooked through when tested with a wooden skewer, and the tomatoes are browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven; gently slide a heatproof spatula around the edges and underneath to loosen from skillet. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 pounds zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup ricotta

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Brush two rimmed baking sheets with oil. Arrange zucchini in a single layer on sheets and brush tops with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast zucchini until tender and lightly golden in parts, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine according to package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add oil, lemon zest, and zucchini and toss to combine. Serve pasta topped with ricotta.

Tomato, Bocconcini, and Zucchini Pie

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped shallot, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 small zucchini, 7-8 ounces, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick half moons
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, plus cherry tomatoes for garnish, if desired
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces bocconcini (small mozzarella cheese balls)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Whole Wheat Pastry, see recipe below
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 large egg yolk

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and liquid has been released, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Halve one-third of the tomatoes. Stir halved and whole tomatoes, cheeses, basil, lemon zest and flour into shallot-zucchini mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet. Drizzle crust with remaining tablespoon oil.
  4. Spread with filling leaving a 3 inch border. Fold in sides of crust, slightly overlapping and over filling. Refrigerate until cold, about 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk milk and egg yolk in a small bowl. Brush crust with egg wash. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pastry

Makes enough for 2 pies. Remember to roll this out thinly so that it doesn’t become too bready.
Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Directions:
Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar, and allow to sit until the mixture is creamy, about five minutes in large bowl of mixer. Beat in the egg and the olive oil using the paddle attachment. Combine the flours and salt, and stir into the yeast mixture.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for a few more times, just until the dough is smooth-do not overwork it.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently knead a couple of times, and cut into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball without kneading it. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for five minutes. Then roll out into thin rounds, as directed in the recipe above.
If not using the second piece of dough right away, freeze the dough for another time.

Rosemary Chicken and Summer Squash Brochettes

Serves: 2.  Can be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (1 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts halves (cut into 6 pieces)
  • 3 small patty pan squash or yellow squash, cut in large dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper,cut in large dice
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut in large dice
  • 4 metal skewers

Directions:

  1. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken, onion, red bell pepper and squash; toss. Let stand 10 minutes; toss occasionally
  3. Alternate 3 chicken pieces with vegetable pieces on each skewer.
  4. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are just tender, turning often, about 10 minutes.
About these ads

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

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

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

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

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

How To Make Pizza On the Grill

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

Make the Dough

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

Assemble Your Toppings

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

Grill the Crust

Prepare the grill for high heat.

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

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

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

  • You can oil the grill grates, but it’s not necessary; once the crust has set, after about three minutes, it should be easy to pull off the heat with tongs, a spatula, or your fingers.
  • Don’t worry if it droops a little through the grate–it’ll firm up fast.
  • After two to three minutes, give it a little tug–it should move easily. If it sticks, give it another minute or so.
  • When the crust is set, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a plate or peel; flip it over so the “done” side is up, and add the toppings.
Grill the topped pizzas until the cheese melts and the toppings are heated through. Depending upon the heat of the grill and the size of your pies, this can take two to 10 minutes (if your grill has cooled dramatically, you might need to cover it with a lid to finish the cooking).

Grilled Veggie Pizza

4 pizzas

Ingredients:

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

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

Toppings: (Enough for 4 pies)

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

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

Simple sauce:

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

Directions:
Stir together sauce ingredients and place near grill.

Appetizers

Eggplant Caponata Crostini

Serves 8                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches

4 Sandwiches                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Main Dishes

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

4 servings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Tomatoes Stuffed with Cannellini and Couscous

Serves: 6

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

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Grilled Stuffed Eggplant 

Serves: 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Ingredients:

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

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

Portobello Burgers with Roasted Peppers, Mozzarella, and Caramelized Onions

Serves: 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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

Ingredients:

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

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


LEO GERMANO AND JENNIFER EWING’s mural is entitled Papa Gainni which depicts an Italian fishing village. It is at Café Trieste located at 1667 Market Street, San Francisco.

Italy is water-bound, with thousands of miles of beaches, bays, and inlets. Almost everything that lives in the sea, from swordfish, which the fishermen still harpoon from the bows of their boats in the Straights of Messina, to arselle, little clams that live in the sand just beyond the shore and gathered with strainers, finds its way to the table. 

The role of fish in the Italian diet was, in the past, even more important than it is now. Up until the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church required that their followers eat fish on Fridays and days of penitence.  All large cities had fishmongers to meet the demand, as well as, traveling fishmongers who made the rounds of the towns too small to support a specialized store. 

Each of Italy’s main regions are known for specific types of fish and the ways of preparing it. When Italians emigrated to America, they first settled along the coastal areas and brought with them their style of preparing fish. Vegetables are often used to create sauces in fish dishes in traditional Italian cooking.  The following recipes are examples of this cuisine.

Tuna Steaks Simmered With Fennel

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered, cored and cut across the grain into thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds tuna steaks
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Directions:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until leeks are limp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the fennel and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust seasonings. The mixture should be very soft. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper and heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the tuna steaks for 1 minute on each side and remove to a plate.
3. Return the fennel mixture to the skillet and place the tuna on top of the mixture. Cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through or cooked the way you like it.
4. Sprinkle on the parsley and serve, laying the fish on top of the fennel, with lemon wedges on the side.
Yield: 4 servings.
Advance preparation: You can cook the fennel up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate. Bring back to a simmer in the skillet, add the tuna fillets and proceed with the recipe.

Fast Italian Fish

Ingredients:

Directions:

Heat oven to 425°F. Trim ends off the zucchini and cut lengthwise into quarters.
Put on nonstick baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, wrap 1 slice prosciutto around each fish fillet.
Remove pan from oven, turn zucchini over and push to one side, and put fish on pan. Roast until fish is cooked and flakes easily and zucchini are tender, about 8 minutes. Top each fillet with 1 tablespoon pesto and garnish with basil leaves.

Pasta With Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers

Nutritionist and author, Jonny Bowden of  “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,”  has created a list of healthy foods people should be eating but aren’t.  Sardines is one of them. They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins. Choose sardines packed in olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped and garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long pasta with a hole through the center, like perciatelli
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers, crushed red pepper and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Swordfish – a staple in Italian cuisine.


I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t swordfish endangered? No. Or at least it’s not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.
If you’ve never worked with swordfish, it is dense and meaty. It also has an inedible rubbery skin around the outside that must be removed. When shopping for swordfish, pay attention to the bloodline, that red patch of meat in the steak. It should be red. If it is brown, the fish is old.
Good alternatives to swordfish, if you can’t find it, are yellowfin tuna or mahi mahi.

 

Swordfish Roll–Ups

Yield: Serves 4

Use a light hand when pounding the fish; it should be thin enough to roll around the simple bread-crumb-and-cheese filling, but not so thin that it rips.

Ingredients:

  • Juice of 2 lemons, strained of seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon drained, chopped capers
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 6-ounce pieces swordfish, cut long and thin so each is 4 or 5 inches long
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh or dried bread crumbs
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces provolone, thinly sliced or grated

Directions:

1. To make the sauce: Put the lemon juice in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Stir in the parsley, basil, capers, and rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use. 

2. To make the fish: Lay the swordfish between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy skillet, lightly pound the fish until it is about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the fish to a plate, season with salt and black pepper.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

4. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the bread crumbs and sun-dried tomatoes.  Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, thyme, capers, and red pepper.  Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

5. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the fish. Cover with the provolone and roll each piece of fish into a cylinder. Hold the rolls closed with toothpicks.

6. In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the swordfish rolls until golden brown on all sides. Turn them carefully with tongs or a wooden spoon. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, just until they are still moist in the center. Do not overcook.

7. Put each swordfish roll on a plate. Whisk the vinaigrette and spoon a little over each roll. 


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

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

Avocado, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad                                                                     

Add grilled shrimp for a complete meal.

4 servings

  • 4 small plum tomatoes, halved

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

  • 6 oz small buffalo mozzarella balls, torn in half

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

  • Basil leaves, roughly chopped

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

Directions

Position a rack 5-6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the garlic and scallions. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the tomatoes.

Broil the tomatoes for 4–5 minutes, or until they just begin to soften and the garlic is golden brown.
Place the hot tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and all cooking juices in a bowl.  Add the mozzarella, remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, capers, and basil and toss gently.

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

Penne and Vegetable Salad

4–6 servings

  • 1 lb. penne

  • 3 cups broccoli florets

  • 2 cups asparagus tips

  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed

  • 2 large carrots, cut into julienne

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil or oregano

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to the package instructions, until al dente.

Meanwhile, steam or microwave the broccoli and asparagus for 4 minutes. Add the snow peas and carrots and steam about 3 minutes more, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl. Toss in the vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Zucchini and Mint Salad

Add grilled chicken breast for a complete meal.

Serves 4

  • 8 zucchini, halved lengthwise

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped

  • About 2/3 cup croutons, see recipe below

  • About ½ cup toasted almonds

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 3 lemons

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

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

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

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

Directions

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

Shellfish Salad with Oranges and Fennel

Serves 8

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

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper

  • Salt

  • 3 navel oranges

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

  • 2 cups dry white wine

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

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

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

Directions

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the citrus juices. Whisk in the pepper and the salt to taste, Set aside.

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

Place the fennel in a bowl, add half of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat evenly. Divide the fennel evenly among 8 salad plates, forming a bed on each one, or arrange the fennel in a bed on a large platter.

In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook gently until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Add the scallops to the pan and simmer gently until just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the bowl holding the shrimp. Drizzle about one-third of the remaining vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat evenly.

Place the orange segments evenly over the fennel. Then distribute the warm seafood evenly over the oranges. Add the orange juice from the bowl to the remaining vinaigrette and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Artichoke Salad

Makes 4 servings

 Add grilled salmon fillets for a complete meal.

  • 1 lemon

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

  • 1 large bunch of arugula

  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Add the juice and rind of the lemon to a small saucepan and place the artichoke hearts in the pan with enough cold water to just cover the artichoke hearts.
Add a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the artichokes for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool.

Divide the arugula and artichokes among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina – Piedmont Style

4 Servings

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

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

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  • Salt

  • Freshly milled white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons sliced, pitted imported green olives

  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long, thin strips

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, or 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.
Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the smoky flavor.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives, and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

Cannellini Beans and Tuna                                                                                                  

Serves 8 or more

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

  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved

  • 2 whole cloves

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig fresh sage

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

  • ¼ cup olive oil

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

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Rinse the beans and place in a bowl of cold water to cover. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Drain the beans and place them in an ovenproof casserole. Stud the onion halves with the whole cloves and bury them in the casserole with the garlic, thyme, and sage. Add enough cold water to cover by ½ inch and cover the casserole.

Place casserole over low heat and bring contents to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in oven. Bake until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes to be sure that the liquid is simmering and is still above the level of the beans, adding boiling water if necessary.) Season with the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Set aside, uncovered, until cooled.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to serve, remove the onion, garlic, and herbs. Fold in the oil and drained tuna. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley.


but it is not. With the exception of Polenta, which is ground cornmeal, corn, as we know it, is fed to the animals.

Ari Weinzweig, of the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan has an excellent blog about the history of how polenta came to Italy. He writes that since corn arrived in Europe, after Columbus’ first visit to the Western Hemisphere, it would be reasonable to assume that the history of polenta would have seemed to have started in the Americas. However, grinding corn meal was a natural next step for people who were already making similar porridges from chickpea flour, chestnut flour, millet, barley and other grains.

Corn came to Italy long after this tradition of porridge eating was well established. In Italian it is referred to as granoturco (“Turkish grain”) which would indicate that, despite its North American origins, it arrived from the Ottoman east, most likely via Venetian traders. One old Italian name for corn is meliga, or melica, derived the even older word for millet.

Polenta remained a staple of the poor, primarily in the north, right into the early years of the 20th century.  The Italian peasants who relied on the ground cornmeal they were cooking, were not aware, that it was noticeably different from the cornmeal Americans were eating.  What had happened was that the Italians skipped a step from the traditional Native American preparation, leaving people vulnerable to a previously unheard of disease.

In the Western Hemisphere the dried corn kernels were soaked in water that had an added alkaline substance, such as wood ash, lye or quicklime and this step loosened the husk and released the natural niacin in the enzymes of the corn kernel. Humans need niacin; without it, our tissues start to degenerate. The Native American discovery of this process permitted them to make a cuisine that relied heavily on corn—supplemented by beans and squash—nutritionally viable. Polenta makers skipped this stage of the process. The corn was simply grown, dried and then ground.  Convenience, it seems, was the reason Europeans skipped this step. 

Early in the 18th century, some Italians began to fall victim to a new disease, called pellagra. (The name means, literally, “rough skin.”) The symptoms also included nervousness, sore joints, mental illness and left people looking pallid and unhealthy. At first corn was blamed, and actually banned, as the cause of pellagra. With little else to eat though, many peasants continued cooking polenta just as they had. Finally, early in the 20th century scientific advancement made it clear that nutrient-deficient diets, not corn itself, was the cause of pellagra. Of course, it is no longer a health problem that people have to worry about and polenta is one of the most important dishes in the northern Italian cuisine.
http://www.zingermansfoodtours.com/2011/08/why-did-polenta-become-italian/

What made me think so much about corn today, is that it is corn season where I live. I received my first share on Saturday from the CSA. I belong to near my home. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you join a CSA, you are essentially buying a farm share. Members pay in advance for a growing season so farmers have operating capital. During the growing season, members receive a box of produce from the CSA on a regular schedule. The produce is superior to anything you will find in a supermarket. Most likely the produce from  the CSA was picked the morning you received it. Taste and freshness are the stand out qualities of locally grown produce.  If you have an opportunity to belong to a CSA or shop at a Farmer’s market, I would urge you to do so.  After I had this big bag of corn on the cob sitting on my kitchen counter, I began to think about how corn would fit into the Italian cuisine, that is, if they had it.

Mario Batali, in his book, The Italian Grill, says that Italians do not grill corn, but if they did, this is what they might do.

A sprinkling of fresh mint and red pepper flakes makes a nice finish.

Corn As Italians Would Eat It

Ingredients

6 ears corn, shucked
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano (freshly grated)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Hot red pepper flakes

 Directions

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a gas grill.
Place the corn on the hottest part of the grill and cook for 3 minutes, or until grill marks appear on the first side. Roll each ear over a quarter turn and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then repeat two more times.
Meanwhile, mix the oil and vinegar on a large flat plate. Spread the Parmigiano on another flat plate.
When the corn is cooked, roll each ear in the oil and vinegar mixture, shake off the extra oil, and dredge in the Parmigiano to coat lightly. Place on a platter, sprinkle with the mint and pepper flakes, and serve immediately.

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Gratin With Fresh Basil
Serves 6

Ingredients

  •  1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  •  1 medium onion, finely chopped
  •  1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  •  1 large garlic clove, minced
  •  3/4 pound zucchini, thinly sliced or diced
  •  Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn (about 2 cups)
  •  3 large eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
  •  1/2 cup skim milk
  •  1/2 cup fresh basil, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  •  1/4 cup fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  •  3/4 cup Sargento® Shredded Reduced Fat Italian 4 Cheese Mix, shredded
  •  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2-quart gratin or baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Set aside the kernels from one of the ears of corn.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes; add the red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and peppers are tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and the zucchini, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is just beginning to look bright green and some of the slices are translucent. Stir in the kernels from one of the ears of corn. Stir together for a minute or two, and remove from the heat. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Place the remaining corn kernels in a blender jar, and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into the bowl with the vegetables. Add the basil, parsley and the cheese, and stir everything together. Pour into the gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Corn, Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad

  • 1-1/2 cups red cherry tomatoes (about 8 oz.)
  • 1-1/2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes (about 8 oz.)
  • 3/4 lb. fresh mozzarella (use bocconcini or cut large balls into cubes)
  • Kernels cut from 1 ear raw fresh corn (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Directions
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a serving bowl. Add the mozzarella cubes and the corn kernels, season with the salt and pepper. Drizzle with the vinegar and then with the olive oil. Toss gently. Top with basil.

Fresh Corn Risotto

  • 6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the bay leaf. Keep the stock warm over very low heat.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring until opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until completely absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time and stirring until it is absorbed between additions. After about half of the stock has been added, stir in the corn, then add the remaining stock. The rice is done when it is al dente and creamy, about 25 minutes. Stir in the cheese and butter; season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf and serve.

Did you know that there are gluten free pastas made of corn in the market?

Rustichella Organic Gluten Free Fusilli Pasta - 100% Corn

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, and olive oil. Here, the classic Italian sauce is reformed with corn in place of the basil. The finished dish has a creamy richness that is reminiscent of carbonara.

Ingredients

  • 4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup Pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces penne or fusilli
  • 3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Directions

  • Cook bacon in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from the skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Pour remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through the feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to a desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer pasta to a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Pasta With Italian Sausage,Tomatoes and Corn

Serves: 4

  • 2 ears of corn, grilled for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally to grill evenly on all sides. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut off kernels.
  • 8 ounces ziti
  • 6 oz. green beans, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 links of sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil, hand torn
  • 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt. Add pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes, until al dente. During the last 4 minutes of cooking add the green beans. When pasta is done, drain pasta and beans, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauté pan, cook sausage and garlic over medium heat until browned, 5-7 minutes, breaking up into bite-sized pieces. Add pasta, beans, grilled corn, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Gently stir in basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.  

Italian Vegetable Soup

  • 4 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1-32 oz container reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 8 ounces green beans (stem ends removed), cut into fourths
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) no salt added, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Basil Pesto
  1. Stand ears in a wide bowl. With a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release kernels. Discard cobs; set kernels aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini, green beans, pepper, corn, tomatoes and orzo; cook, uncovered, until orzo is tender, 8 to 11 minutes. Add herbs, crushed red pepper, cheese and salt to taste. Top each serving with a tablespoon of basil pesto.

                                                                                                              


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

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Number of Servings: 8

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Add hot cooked pasta, chicken and vegetables and toss well to coat. Pour into pasta serving bowl and top with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a green salad.

Parmesan Zucchini Cakes

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

For Snack Time

Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip

  • 1 -15-ounce can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper
  • Carrot and Celery Sticks

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

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

Turkey Pizza Burger Sliders

Makes 8 sliders

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

Directions

Place turkey, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, basil 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Gently combine, without over mixing, until evenly incorporated.

Mix all the burger ingredients well and form into 2.5 ounce balls. Flatten into patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with olive oil.
To grill the turkey burgers, preheat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the patties, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes total.

Place burgers on a whole wheat potato roll. Top sliders with a tablespoon of marinara sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese.

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

Codfish Cakes

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

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Boil and mash the potatoes, set them aside.
Poach the codfish until it flakes easily. Drain and add the fish to the potatoes. Mash together. Mix the fish, the potatoes and the next 7 ingredients together.

Form the mixture into 3 inch patties and lightly dredge in bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet well with olive oil cooking spray.

Place patties on prepared baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip patties, carefully, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 fish cakes. Serves 4-6.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

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

Cut 2 large sweet potatoes into finger size thicknesses.

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

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place two tablespoons of cornstarch into a plastic bag.

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

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

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

Bake the fries in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.


Zucchini

Bell Pepper

Eggplant

Tomato

Bell Peppers, eggplants, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes are the vegetables usually used for stuffing. As I looked through my cookbooks, every one of them has a different version of how to stuff a vegetable.  I am sure that in any culture where there is an abundance of farm raised crops, home cooks try to figure out how to utilize the produce and make dishes that have variety, as well as appeal.

As a child, I remember my mother making stuffed green peppers, regularly, because my father liked them. I wasn’t fond of them and I don’t think my siblings were either. Since I am not overly fond of green bell peppers, that was strike one. They were always made with ground beef, rice and tomato sauce. As an adult my tastes for different vegetables improved and, because my husband would often ask for stuffed peppers, I began experimenting with recipes for different fillings and vegetables that we eventually liked.

I still have my mother’s recipe written down on a recipe file card.  It is fading, but still readable. This was pretty much my mother’s way to make

Stuffed Green Peppers:

  • 6 large green peppers
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 of a small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions
Cut off the top of the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes.
Cook peppers in enough boiling water to cover for 5 minutes and then drain.
Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic and then drain off fat.
Stir in rice, salt, and half the tomato sauce.  Heat through.
Stuff each pepper with beef mixture and stand upright in an ungreased square baking dish.
Pour remaining tomato sauce over the tops.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Remove from the oven and uncover dish.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 15 minutes.
4333946845_0f2a3a9796

Stuffed Red Peppers

As in the recipe above, many recipes for stuffed vegetables call for boiling the vegetable before stuffing.  I don’t do this because this step makes the vegetables soggy and they will spend the better part of an hour in the oven. Also, I feel the vegetables lose nutrients when boiled.

The recipes for fillings I am including here can be used in any vegetable of your choice and there are both meat versions and vegetarian versions.

Preparations of the vegetables before stuffing will vary.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium red peppers
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground turkey breast or lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-8 oz package shredded Italian mixed blended cheeses
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise and discard seeds.

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender.

Add the turkey, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper; cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.

Transfer to a bowl; stir in half the cheese, the chopped tomatoes and bread crumbs. Spoon into pepper halves.

Place in a large baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake, uncovered, at 325° F for 40 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Return to the oven and heat, uncovered, until cheese is melted.

 Yield: 6 servings.

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked couscous, farro or barley (This would also be a good place to use leftover risotto.)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup prepared basil pesto 
  • 3 large yellow or orange peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups homemade tomato sauce 
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a casserole dish (with lid or you can use foil) with cooking spray and large enough to accommodate all of the peppers.
Combine the couscous or farro or rice and pesto. Stir together. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and if needed.
Fill the halved peppers with this mixture, and arrange in the casserole. Pour the tomato sauce over the peppers.
Cover and bake 45 minutes to an hour or until the peppers are soft but still hold their shape.
Remove from the heat, and serve with some of the tomato sauce spooned over the top.
Sprinkle the tops of the peppers with cheese and garnish with basil leaves.
images

Stuffed Zucchini or Eggplant

 Ingredients
4 medium to large zucchini or 2 medium eggplant

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground lean turkey or beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 seeded and diced plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 egg, beaten or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 
Directions

Cut the zucchini or eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the flesh from the inside of the zucchini or eggplant. The shells should be about 1/4 inch thick. Be careful not to pierce the shell. Reserve and dice the flesh that has been scooped out.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the ground meat and sauté until lightly browned, stirring occasionally – about 8  minutes. Remove the meat to a bowl.
Using the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the chopped mushrooms and reserved chopped zucchini flesh. Sauté until tender – about another 5 minutes. Add the ground meat back into the skillet.
Add the wine and diced tomato. Sauté until tomato is soft and heated through. Stir in the pine nuts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before adding the egg.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  
When the mixture has cooled, stir in egg or egg substitute, Parmigiano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Fill the zucchini or eggplant halves with the mixture.  
Arrange the stuffed zucchini or eggplant in a greased 13x9x2 baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.  Pour about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the baking dish. Place in the oven.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the vegetables are tender.

Vegetarian stuffed tomatoes or zucchini make excellent side dishes.

images (1)

Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 large tomatoes – a thin slice cut from the top and the insides scooped out and reserved
  • 1 cup cooked farro or rice or barley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated plus 2 tablespoons for topping
 
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place olive oil, onion and garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat, and saute until onion is soft but not browned – about 5 minutes.
Add tomato insides, parsley, basil, oregano and simmer another few minutes until thoroughly heated – about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add cooked grain of choice and the 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Fill tomatoes with stuffing until overfilled and top with  the additional grated cheese.
Place in  an oiled baking dish, and bake until cheese begins to melt and the filling browns – about 20 minutes.
Garnish with basil leaves.

Spinach Stuffed Zucchini or Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 large summer squash or zucchini or 6 medium tomatoes with top cut off and the insides discarded
  • 2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 oz  low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut squash lengthwise in half  and remove some of the center flesh to make room for the filling and place in a  greased 9 x 13 pan. If using tomatoes, cut off a thin layer from the top and scoop out the insides.
Heat oil and saute onions and garlic over medium heat until soft. Add spinach, cream cheese, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes, stirring until cheese is melted and everything is heated through. Spoon evenly into shells, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
Bake the squash for 30 minutes and the tomatoes for 20 minutes. Larger squash may take an additional 10 minutes or more. Test the side with a knife to see if tender.


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