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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Mediterranean Tonight

Mediterranean ingredients and flavors are abundant in this dinner. Fish, beans and bread all healthy foods prepared with olive oil and healthy cooking methods. Seasoning is important in making recipes that taste good. Fennel, rosemary, parsley, sage, garlic, preserved lemon and olives all contribute to making these foods taste so good. Don’t leave any of them out and definitely try the bean recipe – it is delicious.

Mediterranean Grilled Salmon

Prepare the bean recipe first and keep warm while you grill the salmon.

Ingredients

1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 center-cut salmon fillets with skin
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 large green olives, such as Cerignola

Directions

In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the scallion, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice.

Using a sharp knife, make several 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin. Rub the preserved lemon mixture on all sides of the salmon. Place in a covered dish and allow to marinate several hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before grilling. Rub the remaining oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Light an outdoor grill and oil the grates very well so the fish does not stick.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes.

Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

Place the fish over the prepared cannellini beans and garnish with chopped parsley. Scatter the olives over the fish.

Cannellini Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
8 fresh sage leaves
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted cut in half if large
2 cups cooked cannellini beans, canned or homemade and drained
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

Directions

Combine the onion, garlic, sage, fennel, celery and oil in a deep, wide skillet.

Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion and fennel start to soften.

Add the artichoke hearts, the beans, broth and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper chili flakes. Keep warm.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Focaccia is delicious hot from the oven or warm and it is best the same day it’s made. But leftovers can be successfully reheated, either as slices in the toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.

 

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Asian Tonight

I remember my years living up north and the wonderful Asian restaurants we had in our area. Missing those dishes, I have been tinkering with recipes and sauces to create some of the tastes I remember. This recipe turned out with the taste I was looking for, especially with the combo of grilled meat and deliciously seasoned vegetables and noodles. Give it a try. It has great flavor.

Asian Grilled Pork Kebabs

4 servings. This recipe may be doubled.

Ingredients

1 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
Marinade
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon sweet Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon Sambal owlet chili paste

Directions

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a glass dish.

Add the pork and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to grill, thread the pork onto two 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Reserve the marinade in the dish.

Spray both sides of the meat generously with vegetable oil spray.

Turn all grill burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off the other burners.

Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the skewers on the hot side of the grill and cook the pork until well charred, 3 minutes.

Turn the skewers, brush with the reserved marinade mixture, and continue to grill until the second side is well charred and the meat registers 140 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer, 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the pork to a platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while the stir fry vegetables are prepared

Stir Fry Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions

Combine ingredients for the stir fry sauce in a jar and shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Asian Stir Fried Vegetables and Noodles

Ingredients

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups Chinese fresh noodles
Stir Fry Sauce, recipe above
2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
12 oz broccoli florets, cut into smaller florets
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
3 scallions, sliced

Directions

Place the noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let sit in the hot water until ready to add to the stir fry.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger followed by the broccoli.

Stir fry until the broccoli florets are tender. Add the shredded carrots and stir for a minute or two.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Drain the noodles and add them to the skillet. Stir in the stir fry sauce and water.

Return to the heat, gently toss for 1 minute to heat through the noodles and for the sauce to thicken. Add the scallions. Stir.

Pour onto a serving platter and top with the grilled pork to serve.

Italian Tonight

Growing up in an Italian American family, every Sunday meant pasta was on the menu. My grandmother and mother could come up with an infinite amount of pasta recipes to keep us from getting bored. The smells were incredible. It is easy to keep the tradition alive, if you can keep the process simple. Which is what I have done with my Sunday dinner recipe for pasta. I hope you enjoy it.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 (26-oz) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

Pasta

1 lb spaghetti twists or other short pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and remove to a plate to cool. Then cut into ¼ inch slices.

Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes to the skillet, stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, sliced sausage and salt and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.

For the pasta:

Cook the pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well salted boiling water, uncovered, until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the sausage sauce. Cook for a minute.

Pour pasta into a large serving bowl, dollop with tablespoons of the warmed ricotta with and serve with the grated cheese.

Notes:

The sauce can be made ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered, up to 5 days or frozen in an airtight container for 2 months.

You can also turn this dish into a baked pasta casserole:

Add 8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese to the ricotta.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add 1 cup of the sausage sauce and toss to coat with the pasta.

Spoon the pasta into an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta-mozzarella mixture on top.

Gently fold some of the ricotta mixture into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should still have pockets of ricotta.

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.

Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Italian Garden Salad

Ingredients

1 head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup Italian Olives

Italian Salad Dressing

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons seasoning mix

Directions

For the salad dressing:

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mix in a small jar.

In a mixing bowl whisk the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Combine the green salad ingredients together in a salad bowl Add some of the dressing and mix well.

Taste the salad to see if if needs more dressing or salt and pepper. Reserve any leftover seasoning mix and dressing for another salad.

Sourdough Ciabatta

2 large loaves

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour

Directions

Mix the yeast with the flour.

In an electric mixer bowl combine the milk, olive oil and salt with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a dough the consistency of drop-cookie batter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces.

Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place each loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a serrated knife, make three slashes in the tops of the loaves, each 1/2-inch deep.

Cover with a damp towel.

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately 30 minutes. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Steak Dinner For Company

Steak dinners are special and you don’t need to go to a steakhouse to get a great steak dinner. Easy to do at home. Choosing a cut of steak may seem an intimidating task as there are so many to choose from. When choosing your cut, it should be moist rather than dry or slimy. Look for firm, fine-grained meat with a light marbling of fat – without this the steak will be dry once cooked. Any fat on the edges of the steak should be creamy-colored and the meat should be deep burgundy in color, not bright red. Rib-eyes, strip steaks, top sirloin steaks and T-bone steaks are familiar and delicious; you can’t go wrong with any of them. My choice and just the right size for a special dinner are New York strip steaks also called Delmonico steaks. The biggest mistake cooks make when grilling steak is that they overcook it. I prefer organic, grass-fed meat and that type of steak is very easy to overcook. Grass-fed beef cooks much more quickly than regular beef. To make these steaks delicious – use a marinade and follow the directions for the cooking time below. If you cook regular beef, the steaks will need a few more minutes on the grill than grass-fed beef. All you need then are some great side dishes. Dinner party a success!

Marinated Grass-Fed Steak

Serves 6

Directions

Six 1-inch-thick top loin (New York strip/Delmonico) bone-in, organic, grass-fed (8 to 10 oz. each) steaks, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
8 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced

Directions

For the marinade:

In a medium bowl, mix the oil with the soy sauce, the Worcestershire, mustard, vinegar, half of the thyme and garlic.

Put the steaks in a large dish and coat them with the marinade mixture.

Cover the bowl and marinate the steaks in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Sprinkle the steaks with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper.

Clean and oil the grill grates. Heat one burner to medium high and the second burner to medium low.

While the grill heats, let the steaks rest at room temperature.

Place the steaks over the hotter part of the fire.

Cook, covered, 2 minutes per side. If the steaks are thinner then only grill for 1 minutes per side.

Using an instant meat thermometer, check the temperature of the meat.

If it is 120-125 degrees F, remove the steaks to a serving plate.

If the temperature is lower than 120 degrees F, move the steaks to the low heat burner.

Continue to grill until the temperature reaches 120 degrees F.

Transfer the steaks to a large serving platter, sprinkle with the remaining thyme and let rest five minutes before serving.

Sautéed Potatoes

Ingredients

4 pounds red-skinned potatoes
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and chives

Directions

Place the potatoes, unpeeled, in a large saucepan with salted water to cover.

Cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool.

When cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.

(The recipe can be prepared ahead to this point. Drizzle the potatoes with a little olive oil, cover and refrigerate until ready to saute.)

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet large enough to hold potatoes in one layer. When oil is quite hot, add potatoes.

Cook over high heat, shaking skillet and stirring gently, until lightly browned. Turn potatoes with a spatula.

Cook for a few minutes more until light brown.

Add butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss and blend well. Sprinkle with parsley and chives. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

Start the zucchini on the low heat side of the grill about 5 minutes before you put the steaks on the grill.

Ingredients

3 medium zucchini
Olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped deli sliced pepper rings
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in.ch thick shells. Brush with oil; set aside.

Chop the zucchini pulp.

In a large skillet, saute the zucchini pulp, celery and onion in oil. Add garlic and tomato; cook 1 minute longer.

Add the dried bread crumbs; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped pepper rings, parsley and salt. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini shells.

Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until zucchini is tender and the top of the stuffing begins to brown.

remove the cooked zucchini to a serving dish. cover with foil until the steaks are ready to be served.

Chicken For Dinner

Saltimbocca is an Italian word for jumps in the mouth. It is an Italian dish made of veal lined or topped with prosciutto and sage; marinated in wine, oil or saltwater depending on the region or one’s own taste. The original version of this dish is Saltimbocca alla Romana (saltimbocca Roman-style) which consists of veal, prosciutto and sage, rolled-up and cooked in dry white wine and butter. Marsala is sometimes used. Also, sometimes the veal and prosciutto are not rolled-up but left flat. An American twist replaces the veal with chicken and that is the version I use. Be sure to use good quality prosciutto, preferably Prosciutto di Parma, for the best taste.

Chicken Saltimbocca

6 servings

Ingredients

6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
12 large fresh sage leaves
6 thin prosciutto slices (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface.

Using a mallet, pound the chicken to a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

Place 2 sage leaves on top of each chicken breast half.

Top each chicken breast with a prosciutto slice, pressing to adhere. Spread 1/2 cup flour on plate.

Dredge chicken in flour to lightly coat both sides.

Preheat the oven to a low heat setting (around 200 degrees F.)

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add 3 chicken breasts, prosciutto side down; cook 4 minutes.

Turn chicken over and cook just until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the foil lined pan and place in the oven.

Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken breasts. Place in the oven.

Whisk the wine and remaining 4 teaspoons of flour in small bowl. Pour into the same skillet that the chicken was cooked in and bring to boil.

Add the lemon juice; whisk until the sauce thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve with the polenta.

Quick Cooking Polenta

6 servings

Ingredients

4 cups chicken stock
1 cup quick cooking polenta
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place the broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the polenta, whisking to prevent clumping.

Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed and the polenta is creamy and thoroughly cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

Add cheese, butter and salt, stirring gently until incorporated. Serve immediately.

Skillet Green Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, washed and cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed flat with side of a knife
A little salt
1/4 cup water
Salt & pepper

Directions

Heat the skillet on medium and add the oil.

Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or til lightly golden, stirring.

Add the beans, turn a few times to coat well with the oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Stir in the water. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Cover and cook 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Uncover and increase the heat to high.

Cook 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are cooked but still bright green.

Taste and adjust the salt as needed. Transfer to a serving dish.

 

What Is In Season In August

August means summer and it is a good time to take advantage of all the great produce at the market. Tomatoes are tasting good now, lots of corn around, as well as eggplant, peaches and blueberries. Take advantage of the grill. Pair pasta with lots of vegetables. Make colorful salads. Seafood is in season, so pair it with tomatoes or seasonal vegetables. Lots of delicious meals ahead for the month.

Steak Burgers

4 servings

There are several cuts of beef that work well in making steak burgers including: Brisket, Hanger, Short rib, Steak tail and/or Sirloin and when combined with chuck or each other, they can create some of the best-tasting Burgers around. Get creative with your toppings. While bacon and cheese are ever popular, I like to create healthier toppings from what is seasonally available. So my toppings incorporate tomatoes, peppers and onions.

You can actually roast the peppers on the grill. After the grill is heated, oil the grates and place the peppers directly on the hot grill. Rotate them as they blacken. As soon as all the sides are blackened, place the peppers in a paper bag to cool. when they are cool enough to touch, remove the stem and seeds and pull off the skin. The peppers are then ready to place on top of the burgers.

Serve these burgers with a Greek Salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 lbs grass-fed organic ground beef steak for burgers
  • Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
  • 4 sturdy burger rolls (recipe link for my homemade rolls)
  • 1/2 cup tomato jam (recipe link)
  • 2 whole roasted red peppers
  • 1 medium onion sliced and sautéed in butter

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties. If you want to make just two servings, freeze two of the burgers for another time.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for 8 minutes total.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls.

Assemble the burgers by placing 2 tablespoons of tomato jam on each patty, then one-quarter of the onions and top each with half of a roasted red pepper. Place the roll tops on the burgers and serve.

Greek Vegetable Salad

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • Half of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 Tuscan pickled peppers
  • Half of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large salad bowl, combine the onion, olives, bell peppers, Tuscan peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese.

Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, agave and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss and serve.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Serve with Stuffed Tomatoes, recipe below.

Serves 2-3

  • Salt to taste
  • 8 ounces penne or other short pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 large zucchini, about one pound
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.

Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.

Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.

Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.

Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Stuffed Tomatoes

For 2

Ingredients

  • 2 vine-ripened medium-sized tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and seeds.

Salt the insides of the tomato shells and set upside down on a paper towel to drain, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs, 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese and the oil.

Stuff the tomatoes with the filling, sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Place the tomatoes in a small oiled baking dish and bake the tomatoes until cooked through and the tops are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Corn Chowder

For the corn stock ingredients

  • 12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed and set aside for the chowder)
  • 2 chive stalks
  • 2 stems fresh parsley
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and measure the broth.

If you do not have 6 cups add water to make the 6 cups. Set aside the broth.

For the chowder ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
  • 6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth if you don’t make the corn stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.

Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the 6 cups corn stock, chili powder and the thyme.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Take the pot off the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender.

Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Gulf of Maine Redfish Poached in Puttanesca Sauce

Acadian Redfish, also known as ocean perch, are caught in the Gulf of Maine (deep waters off the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire). The fish I purchased is certified, wild caught and sustainable. Fish cooked this way is so tasty and tender.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pounds Maine redfish of other boneless white fish fillets, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 small onion or 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2 cups seeded and finely diced fresh plum tomatoes, about 8-9
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 oz thin spaghetti or linguine

Directions

For the puttanesca sauce 

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan with a cover over medium-high heat until hot.

Saute the onions and garlic until translucent, about 2 minutes, and then stir in the wine, olives, capers and anchovy paste, tossing to combine.

Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, stir in the tomato paste, followed by the oregano and red pepper flakes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cook the pasta al dente. Drain

For the fillets

Dry the fillets well with paper towels. Score the skin of each fillet three times with a sharp knife.

Sprinkle with salt.

Bring the sauce to a boil, again. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the fish fillets, skin side down.

Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 6 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Divide the pasta between two plates and place the fish and sauce over the pasta to serve.

Cooking The Mediterranean Countries-Greece

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. This series continues with the country of Greece.

Plagia, Ikaria Island, North-Eastern Aegean Islands

Before it became known as a “Blue Zone”—a region of the world where people tend to live unusually long and healthy lives—the island of Ikaria, Greece, was unknown to most Americans. Ikaria is where the majority of the people live to be well into their 90’s.

In the past few years, Ikaria has received considerable attention from scientists and journalists who want to learn the secrets of its long-living residents. Food clearly plays a large role in the Ikarians’ longevity: The Mediterranean diet they follow has been linked to lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and—most recently—heart disease. Although, we, Americans, can’t adopt all aspects of the Greek-island lifestyle, we can incorporate some of the eating patterns and dietary traditions practiced there. And, the best part of “eating like a Greek” is  that the food is delicious.

Ikarians regularly dine on potatoes, greens, olives and seasonal vegetables. Vegetables are a big part of every meal and they are prepared in a healthy way—served raw in a salad or roasted with olive oil, rather than fried.

The majority of people in Greece eat a salad as an appetizer before the main course. This way, their appetite is significantly reduced by healthy ingredients.

Shellfish and fish are abundant in their cuisine, all of which tastes great over pasta with lemon and olive oil or in a souvlaki-style flatbread wrap with vegetables. Ikarians also eat smarter snacks—like raw vegetables and protein-rich dips made from Greek yogurt, beans or lentils.

Ikarians typically have a late morning breakfast comprised of goat’s milk, yogurt and or cheese, fruit, herbal tea or coffee, whole grain bread and local honey. At lunch, salads made of beans, legumes and potatoes, along with cooked fresh garden vegetables are standard fare and prepared with generous amounts of olive oil. Locally-caught fish may also be served and Ikarian red wine typically accompanies the meal. Meat is eaten just a few times per month. Ikarians eat a late lunch and it is usually followed by an afternoon nap, a practice that many Ikarians still follow and which results in a restful and stress free rest of the day. Quiet leisurely late afternoons and a heart-healthy routine greatly reduces the risk for heart disease. A light dinner of bread, olives, vegetables and wine is followed by evening visits with neighbors before bedtime.

Ikaria is the Mediterranean Diet in all its aspects, including the ways in which locally produced fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food and community are all integrated in ways that support physical, emotional/ mental health, relationships and the environment.

“Eat Like a Greek”

Greek Lentil Soup

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 large red onions, coarsely chopped, about 2 cups (500 mL)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound (500 g) small brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped or pureed tomatoes
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh or dried whole chile pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar
  • Raw red or white onion for serving

Directions

Coarsely chop one of the onions. Place in a large, heavy pot, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, covered, over very low heat until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir.

Rinse the lentils in a colander. Add the lentils, tomatoes, sage, oregano, bay leaf and chile pepper to the pot, and toss all together for a few minutes over low heat.

Pour in enough water to cover the contents of the pot by 3 inches. Raise heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for one hour, or until very tender.

Season to taste with salt. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar just before serving.

To serve: Remove the bay leaf, oregano and sage leaves and discard. Slice the remaining onion. Sprinkle a few onion slices over the top of each soup portion. Drizzle in additional olive oil and vinegar if desired.

Briam – Baked Vegetables in Olive Oil (Island of Ikaria-Greece)

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Chef Bill Bradley, R.D.

Briam is an oven baked dish of fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and an optional feta cheese. It is one of the most classic dishes of Greece.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into large, thick strips
  • 4 small or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3-4 small zucchini, ends cut off and cut into large pieces
  • 2 onions, cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large Dutch oven or baking dish, mix together all the ingredients except the feta cheese. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 1 hour and stir. Re-cover and bake for another hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, stir in the feta cheese and serve immediately.

Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Koula Barydakis

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, yeast, oregano, sugar, salt, olive oil and water in a bowl. Knead until the dough is soft (at least 5 minutes).

Cover with a warm, moist towel and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour).

Spread dough on a baking (cookie) tray, pressing lightly so that it is flat and even.

Oil the dough. Make little cavities throughout the top of the dough by pressing down with your fingers.

Place olives and rosemary in the cavities.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Serve hot.

Chicken Salad Greek Style

Recipe and photo from GAEA.

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bite-sized broccoli florets
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Directions

Using a rolling pin, glass jar or mallet, pound and flatten the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, sauté the chicken breasts until golden brown, about 1 minute each side.

Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the chicken rest, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Slice thinly.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook until slightly softened, about 1 minute.

Place the fennel, oranges, cherry tomatoes and avocado to a large salad bowl.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken slices to the salad bowl. Drizzle dressing on top and gently toss all of the ingredients together. Serve.

Baked Seafood Orzo with Kalamata Olives

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 6

Orzo is one of the most popular Greek pasta shapes. In Greek, it’s called kritharaki.

Directions

  • Salt
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (good quality canned are also fine)
  • Pinch of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine, plus one cup if using whole, unshelled mussels
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 pounds mussels in their shell, or 2 ½ cups shelled, frozen mussels, defrosted
  • 2 cups cleaned, shelled small fresh or frozen and defrosted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 chop chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F / 175C.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the orzo and simmer until al dente. It should be a little underdone.

Drain, transfer back to the hot pot and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

While the orzo is boiling start the sauce:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide pot or deep skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add 3 of the 4 chopped garlic cloves and stir.

Pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add the wine. Simmer until the alcohol has cooked off.

Add 1 cup of hot water, the star anise and hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the sauce over medium heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the olives to the sauce five minutes before removing the pan from the heat.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the seafood:

If using mussels in the shell, make sure they are cleaned and well-washed.

Steam them in two inches of wine in a wide pot with the lid closed, over high heat, until they open.

You can add herbs or garlic if you want to the steaming liquid, before adding the mussels.

Remove and strain in a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pot and add the shrimp and remaining garlic.

If you are using shelled mussels that have been defrosted, drain them and add them to the shrimp.

Stir over medium heat until the shrimp start to turn pink. Remove.

Toss the mussels and shrimp, the reserved steaming liquid, and the pan juices from lightly sautéeing the shrimp into the tomato sauce.

Stir in the oregano and parsley. Remove the star anise.

Oil a large baking dish, preferably ovenproof glass or ceramic. Place the orzo in the baking dish and mix in the sauce thoroughly.

Pour in any remaining olive oil.

Bake, covered, for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the orzo is fully cooked. Remove, cool slightly and serve.

Tahini-Walnut Phyllo Flutes

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tahini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups finely ground walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • Greek honey for serving

Directions

Whip together the tahini and sugar at high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes.

As you whip the mixture, drizzle in the water. It should end up being the consistency of peanut butter.

Using a wooden spoon or whisk, stir in the cinnamon and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Lightly oil two sheet pans.

Open the phyllo and place horizontally in front of you.

Cut three stacks of three-inch strips and keep them covered with a kitchen towel and a damp towel on top.

Take the first strip, oil lightly. Place a second strip on top and oil that, too.

Place a tablespoon of the filling on the bottom center of the strip, fold in the sides, and then roll up to form a tight cylinder.

Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.

Bake the flutes for 8 – 12 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool slightly.

To serve: Drizzle with honey.

You can store the cooled pastries in tins in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.


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