Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: May 2012

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

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

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

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


To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:

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

 Appetizers

Clams Oreganato on the Grill

Serves 4 as an appetizer

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

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

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

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

Origins of Bruschetta

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

Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

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

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

Main Dishes

Spinach Pesto

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

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

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts

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

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

Grilled Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops

Fennel seed and pork are a fairly typical Italian combination.

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

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

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

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

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

Tomato Olive Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Chicken Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Swordfish Kabobs

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

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


Florentine Steak

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


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


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

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

Dessert

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese

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

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

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


Making_Olive_Oil_HeaderImage

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use Olive Oil in Your Cooking

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

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

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

Herb-infused Olive Oil

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

Italian Herb Flavored Oil      

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


Some sample recipes for infusing oil:

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

Lemon Infused Olive Oil

This is excellent drizzled over cooked vegetables

  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil

Preparation:

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

Roasted Carrots with Lemon Infused Olive Oil

Yield: 2

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

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

Lemon Olive Oil Cake                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Chive-infused Oil

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

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

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

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



       ” The shapes pasta takes are numbered in the hundreds, and the sauces that can

              be devised for them are beyond numbering, but the principles that bring pasta

  and sauce together in satisfying style are few and simple.”

      Marcella Hazan

Pasta comes in many shapes and lengths and there are hundreds of combinations of pastas and sauces. These pairings may seem random, but to Italians, there’s a surprisingly logical process that goes into choosing the perfect pasta shape for a given sauce.

You would not want to pair a chunky sauce with thin noodles because the sauce will separate from the noodles and wind up in the bottom of the bowl. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces are best with larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie (shells). Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive oil based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces work better with thicker, hollow strands known as bucatini or perciatelli.  Fusilli is excellent with a dense, creamy sauce, that clings to all its twists and curls.
Here is a link to a chart that gives you a picture of the various pasta shapes and the sauces that go well with them:. http://www.chow.com/assets/2009/03/pasta_chart.pdf

Did you know there is a reason why you might use ruffle-edged lasagna noodles instead of flat-edged? In the book, The Geometry of Pasta, is the explanation that lasagne ricci, the ruffled noodles, may allow lighter sauces to penetrate the dish better. It is also more decorative, which may be why it is a staple of the Christmas table in Sicily. http://www.geometryofpasta.co.uk/index.php

Here are some well-matched pasta and sauce recipes for you to try.

eggplant2bbolognese-close

Eggplant Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • Kosher salt, divided
  •  1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground sirloin or ground turkey, (leave out for a vegetarian meal)
  • 8 cups chopped eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 10 ounces uncooked rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Directions

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and beef; cook 10 minutes or until the beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef.

Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding kosher salt to the cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with the eggplant sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

fettuccine asparagus

Creamy Fettuccine With Asparagus

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound fettuccine
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Italian Fontina
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fettuccine and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the asparagus, and cook 4 to 6 minutes more, or until the fettuccine is al dente and asparagus crisp-tender. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot; cover to keep warm.

Combine milk and flour, whisking until smooth.  Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat oil and garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the cream cheese and Fontina until smooth and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, adding pasta water to moisten, if necessary. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

angelhair

Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

Optional: add 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp to the skillet when adding the tomatoes

Ingredients

 

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered 
  • 5-6 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • 16 oz. package angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Directions
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and pepper flakes to the skillet.
Add the cherry tomatoes and basil. (Add shrimp, if using.)  Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.
Garnish with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
lasagna

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients      

  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon water or red wine
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (or large Portabellas, chopped)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 1 recipe homemade marinara sauce, see post for recipe: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and lay out on clean kitchen towels.

In a large bowl stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and black pepper; set aside.

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, add 1 tablespoon water (or wine) and sauté mushrooms and onion over medium heat 5–6 minutes, or until onion is tender.

 Stir in spinach and set aside.

Coat an 11″ x 7″ baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer 3 noodles, half of the cheese mixture, half of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of pasta sauce. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining pasta sauce.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 8 servings.

tuna

Italian Style Pasta with Tuna

 Ingredients                         

  • 4 oz. whole-wheat spiral pasta
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, preferably red, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 12 sun-dried tomato-halves, packed in oil, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained cannellini beans, or cooked dried beans, see post
  • http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/23/how-to-use-beans-in-italian-cooking/
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well-drained
  • 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside. Mix the sun-dried tomatoes and plum tomatoes with the onion mixture. Add oregano and pepper flakes to taste.

Add beans, tuna and capers to the skillet and cook, breaking up tuna, until the mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomatoes and the onion/garlic mixture.

Cook, stirring often, until completely heated through. Add cooked pasta and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.   


When I was growing up, my maternal grandparents lived in the same city as I did in New Jersey.  They had a large house ( because they needed it for 7 daughters) and a large yard. My grandfather was a great gardener and he loved it.  He could make anything grow and was eager to share his bounties with you.  He had row after row of stunning roses, gladioli and lilies of the valley. Whenever I went to his house, he would send me home with a big bunch of whatever flowers were in season or a bag of zucchini and tomatoes.  I loved that my grandfather had such a gift. After my husband and I bought our first house that was not too far from his house, he would come over and spruce up my yard for me. He saved a great, little magnolia tree in the center of my yard and, boy, did my tomato plants thrive. Wish I could remember, now, what he did to those tomatoes to make them so fine.

Italians have had a very close relationship with food throughout history, but the famine endured by most Italians during World War II, shaped their cuisine into a more simple and inexpensive one. The hardship of war meant that Italians grew vegetables in their own backyard gardens, even if the garden was only 10 yards across. Owning land and the cultivation of a vegetable garden have always been popular for Italians and a right they have taken full advantage of in Italy and in the US.

My grandfather certainly espoused that philosophy and most of his yard was dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. He even grew grapes – for wine, of course. The grapes, he grew, were white and light red, but I don’t recall what kind of grapes they were. He would cut off a bunch, usually the white ones, with his pocket pen knife and hand them to me for a snack.  I would eat a couple but they tasted awful – tart and full of seeds. I would eat a few because I did not want to hurt his feelings.  He was very proud of those grapes.

The grapes were grown on a trellis that overlooked a large bench he had for sitting in his yard. The trellis was impressive and I would sit there under all those grapes and feel quite cozy in what felt like another world.  My grandfather did make wine with those grapes and he would bring the wine to Sunday dinner, usually in a big jug. My father would put the jug on the floor near his feet and occasionally hoist the jug up and fill the glasses on the table – not mine, of course. You may have heard that European children drink wine with dinner, but not in our house. Wine was for grown-ups.  I remember my mother passing on my grandfather’s wine, saying, it was a bit too strong for her, but my father and grandfather enjoyed it.

Using Wine in Your Recipes

The function of wine in cooking is to intensify and enhance the flavor and aroma of food – not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it.  Use wines in your cooking that you would drink for dinner.   Wines, labeled cooking wines, are not quality wines and they often contain salt and food coloring.
When you take some of the fat out of dishes, you usually need to add another ingredient to replace the lost moisture. Here are some examples of how wine can do just that:

  • Instead of sauteing veggies in butter or oil, you can saute them in a smaller amount of oil plus some wine for flavor and moisture.
  • Instead of making a marinade with 1/2 cup of oil, decrease the oil to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup wine.
  • You can add wine to the pan while fish is cooking or drizzle fish with a tablespoon or two of wine and bake it in a foil package
  • For certain types of cakes, using wine or sherry in place of some of the fat not only lightens up the cake but adds flavor.
The following recipes use wine in their preparation and range from appetizers to desserts.

Appetizer course 

Italian Octopus Stewed in Wine and Tomatoes

This is a recipe for Southern Italian stewed octopus with white wine and tomatoes. Octopus requires long, slow simmering over low heat to keep it tender. Serve with crusty bread. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small octopus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the octopus to the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove. Discard water.
Cut the octopus into pieces and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute or two.
Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chili flakes and bring to a simmer.
Add the salt and the honey.  Mix well, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the capers and half the parsley.
Check the octopus — sometimes small ones will be tender in just 30 minutes.
If they are still super-chewy, cover the pot again and simmer for up to another 45 minutes.
When you think you are about 10 minutes away from being done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a little to cook down the sauce.
To serve, add the remaining parsley, basil and black pepper.

Soup Course

Zuppa di Cipolle:  Italian Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 5 large yellow onions 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 6 cups beef stock, low sodium
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices country-style bread, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated or shaved

Directions:
Peel the onions and cut in half.  Thinly slice the onions crosswise.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the diced pancetta and cook for about 3-5 minutes until some of the fat has been rendered.
Add in the sliced onions, stir. Cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and slowly cook the onions until tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir often.
Stir in the stock and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Toast the bread slices.  Rub the toasted slices with garlic. Place the bread slices in individual soup bowls. Pour the soup over the bread.
Either sprinkle grated cheese or shave cheese over the soup. If your bowls are oven proof, you can then place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.

Second Course

Osso Buco is another traditional dish that uses veal, in this case, veal shanks. There are many recipes for Osso Buco that also use pork, beef or lamb shanks. Turkey thighs are not traditional but create the same effect and contain less fat than shanks.

Turkey Osso Bucco

Ingredients

  • 6 turkey thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the turkey with paper towels to dry and ensure even browning. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and dredge the turkey in the flour to coat.

In a heavy roasting pan large enough to fit the turkey thighs in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the turkey to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season vegetables with salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer about 3 minutes.

Return the turkey to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come 2/3 up the sides of the turkey. Add the herb sprigs, and bay leaf to the broth mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer to the oven.

Braise until the turkey is fork-tender about 2 hours, turning the turkey after 1 hour. Serve this dish over risotto or polenta with a side of green peas.

Side Dish

Broccoli Sautéed in Wine and Garlic – Roman Style

Makes 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds broccoli, cut into spears
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat until just sizzling. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing frequently and gradually adding the wine to keep the garlic from browning until the stalks are tender 8 to 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes lemon and orange zest and toss well.

Dessert Course

Biscotti, means twice-baked, and these cookies have grown to become an Italian classic.  As its name implies, the cookies are baked twice, first in the form of a log. They are then baked again after the log is sliced into diagonal strips. The crisp, crunchy cookie is perfect for dipping in coffee or dessert wine or even simply for snacking. Because they don’t need to be moist, biscotti are naturally low in fat.
It is said that biscotti were originally created as a provision for Venetian sailors and businessmen who went to sea for long periods of time and required foods that wouldn’t spoil. Many Italians eat the cookies as part of their breakfast with café latte. The varieties of biscotti differ throughout the many regions of Italy, but they are famous for their classic anise, almond or hazelnut flavor.

Vin Santo ( the wine of saints) is a late-harvest wine from Italy, generally Tuscany. It’s usually made from white grapes, namely Trebbiano or Malvasia, that are semi-dried before being pressed and fermented; then the wines are stored in small barrels for up to 10 years, usually in attics which turn hot and cold with the seasons. There is a wide diversity in styles, from sweet dessert versions to dry, sherry-like styles, and quality varies.

Biscotti al Vin Santo

Makes about 20 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) sliced almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz butter), cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup sweet white wine, (substitute a sweet Madeira or sweet Marsala for Vin Santo, if unavailable in your area)

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Let them cool.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir in the sugar and lemon zest. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, then stir in the almonds. Make a well in the center and add the wine and almond extract. Stir gradually drawing in the flour to make a smooth soft dough that holds together. If it seems dry, add a little more wine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape the dough into a log about 1 inch thick, 4 inches across and 12 inches long. Wrap it in plastic wrap, then flatten it slightly. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours and longer if you wish. The dough can also be frozen.

For the first baking:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the log, set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until lightly browned and firm on the outside 35 to 40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the log cool on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the second baking:

When cool, cut the log with a serrated knife into 1/2-inch slices – they will be quite soft, almost cake-like in the center. Space the biscotti on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake, turning halfway through,  until they are dry and lightly browned on the cut surfaces, 20 to 25 minutes. Let them cool on a rack and store them in an airtight container.


How to Use Leftovers to Create New Meals.

No, not that again, was the usual chant from my threesome, when told dinner was leftover from a previous night. Except for maybe spaghetti and meatballs or something with hot dogs, most leftovers were met with such disdain.  My husband is easy. He likes whatever is on the dinner table.  It doesn’t matter if it is a leftover.  If he doesn’t eat it for dinner, he will have it for lunch. The kids were the real food critics.

Planning for leftovers that can be turned into new dishes is the secret to not having to eat leftovers!  If you think about portion control for many entrees, you won’t have to deal with leftovers on a regular basis.  Most people make way too much food and you can save money if you plan meals wisely.

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the latest investigation into the high cost of leftovers, noting that the average four-person family spends $500-$2,000 on food that ultimately ends up in the garbage. Throwing away food and wasting money brings on those guilty feelings. Considering the high cost of food and the shaky state of the economy, though, wasting good food is foolish.

Leftovers tend to be pitched or ignored in the refrigerator because they do not look appetizing; not because there is anything wrong with them.  The Journal story says that vegetables are the most commonly thrown away food, accounting for 25% of what winds up in the trash. But vegetables are also, the easiest foods to recycle by adding them to soups, stir-fries or other dishes, such as pasta.

If you put a little thought into meal planning and some creativity into food preparation, eating leftovers isn’t just frugal, it can be really good.  For example, one of my favorite entrees are crab cakes and, one day, after having discovered I had made too much salmon for dinner, I wondered what I could do with it.  I have to say that I am not a fan of leftover cold salmon or adding it to pasta or soup.  

Why not make crab cakes with salmon! They turned out great. Now, I make salmon fillets, just so I can have it leftover for salmon cakes.

Here is what I do.

Salmon Recipe for the First Night:

Roasted Salmon With Fennel Orange Salsa

  • 4 Salmon fillets without skin  
  • (figure 5-6 oz per person for dinner and buy and prepare 8oz of salmon for an additional meal
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh herbs (chives, rosemary, or thyme.)

For the salsa:

  • 1 fennel bulb finely diced, plus 1 tablespoon minced fennel leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely diced navel oranges
  • 10 green olives pitted and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While it’s heating, make the salsa.
In a medium bowl, stir together the fennel bulb and leaves, the diced orange, the olives, the juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Then, place salmon fillets, including the extra salmon, skin side down on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil. Brush fish with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and press the herbs into the flesh.  When the oven is hot, roast the salmon for 18-20 minutes. Serve 4 of the salmon fillets with salsa.

Wrap the 8 oz. extra piece of salmon and refrigerate it until you are ready to make the salmon cakes.  You can even freeze it for several weeks, defrost the salmon overnight in the refrigerator and proceed with the salmon cake recipe.

Salmon Recipe for a Second Night:

Salmon Cakes

  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (or scallions) finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 of a small bell pepper (color of your choice), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 pound (8 oz.) cooked salmon
  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup plain or lemon pepper panko, divided
  • 1 teaspoon crab boil seasoning (such as, Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Remoulade Sauce (recipe follows) or make extra salsa
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


Combine onion, bell pepper, celery and parsley in a shallow bowl.
Add salmon and flake apart with a fork.  

Leftover Cooked Salmon

Add mayonnaise, egg substitute, Worcestershire sauce and mustard; mix well. Add ½ cup panko bread crumbs, Old Bay seasoning and pepper; mix well.

Salmon Patty Mixture

Shape the mixture into 4 patties, about 3 inches wide. Dredge in remaining panko crumbs.
Chill in the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before baking. Prepare Remoulade Sauce and chill.

Salmon Patties Breaded and Ready for the Oven

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet well with non-stick cooking spray.
Place patties on prepared cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip patties, carefully, and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Turn oven to broil for final 5 minutes and broil until the patties are golden.
Serve salmon cakes with sauce and lemon wedges.  4 servings

Remoulade Sauce

  • 1/4  cup low-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 2  teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4  teaspoon hot sauce

Whisk ingredients together and chill.  Keeps several days in the refrigerator. 

Some Additional Ideas:

Roast Vegetable Frittata

Spray a large ovenproof nonstick pan with olive oil. Saute’ vegetables until heated through. Add eggs to vegetable mixture. Cook on low heat until eggs are cooked most of the way through. Sprinkle with cheese and place under the broiler for about 2 minutes until eggs are cooked through and cheese is melted.  Number of Servings: 4

Pork Ragu

2-3 cups leftover, cooked pork loin, cubed
see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/08/make-dinner-sunday-for-your-mom/
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, cut into small dice
2 medium ribs celery, cut into small dice
1 medium yellow onion, cut into small dice
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1-14.5 oz can low salt diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until tender and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the pork and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the broth has reduced by half, about 1 hour. Since you want the pork flavor to come through, it is important to reduce the sauce by half or it will taste more like a tomato sauce.  Stir in the parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This pork stew can be served over pasta, rice or gnocchi. It is especially good served with fresh cheese tortellini.


Formaggio                                                

Is Cheese Healthy?

Because of its relatively high fat content, cheese has gotten the bad reputation as an unhealthy food. But it actually can be quite healthy, especially , if eaten in moderation. The trick is to know which kinds of cheeses are best and how to use them.  Try freshly grated Parmesan or Romano on your finished dishes, and you can add a tremendous amount of flavor without a lot of fat or calories. A little sprinkle makes just about everything taste better!

One ounce of cheese has 27 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium, 26 percent of phosphorus and 2 percent of magnesium. Calcium and phosphorus combine to form the mineral part of bones. Magnesium is an essential part of protein that supports calcium and phosphorus. Throughout your life, old or damaged bone is dissolved and then replaced with new bone. If you don’t consume enough of these minerals to support that continuous rebuilding process, then you’ll begin to lose bone density and develop osteoporosis.

Cheese is loaded with calcium. You need calcium to maintain strong and healthy bones. What you might not know, however, is that cheese also contains Vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining bones and cartilage and it allows the calcium to be absorbed by your body.  Calcium and Vitamin D, once again, bolster the strength of your teeth and help prevent cavities and the wearing down of tooth enamel.  It can be seen as a good dietary way to prevent osteoporosis since it builds up bone density and maintains the strength of your body.

The government’s current dietary guidelines for dairy intake is 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy per day. For cheese, a serving equivalent takes the form of 1.5 ounces of hard cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, or ½ cup of soft cheese.

The Cheeses of Italy

In Italian American cuisine, cheese is often added to everything, not so in Italy. There are certain foods that call for cheese, others that do not.  The no cheese with fish custom has nothing to do with snobbery. Most Italians feel that cheese would overwhelm the delicate taste of fish.
Although most Americans think of mozzarella and Parmesan as typical Italian cheeses, Italy produces many varieties with each individual Italian region quite proud of their own. Many Italian varieties are not available in America, but the cheeses listed are some of the more common cheeses you can find in the United States.

Soft Cheeses

Mozzarella is a generic term for the several kinds of fresh Italian varieties that are made by spinning and then cutting: the Italian verb”mozzare” actually means to cut. Mozzarella was first made in Italy near Naples from the milk of water buffalos.
Today, two types of mozzarella are produced in the USA. Low-moisture mozzarella produced primarily for pizza, and fresh high-moisture mozzarella which is quite soft and can be eaten as appetizers or in salads. With the increasing popularity of Italian food, fresh high-moisture mozzarella is now readily available in USA supermarkets. Most fresh mozzarella is now made from cow’s milk, although it can be made from a combination of milks including goat’s milk and a small amount of buffalo-milk. It is also possible to get buffalo milk mozzarella imported from Italy.

Gorgonzola is a creamy, firm bleu variety originating from Lombardy, Italy. It can range from mild to sharp and is often used in dips, salads or paired with beef.

Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese, milky-white in color, spreads easily and often is used instead of butter to thicken and enrich risotto. It is also a main ingredient of tiramisu and lasagna. Mascarpone is used in various dishes of Lombardy, Italy, where it is a specialty.                                  

Ricotta The name “ricotta” means “cooked again” (“re-cooked”) in Italian, referring to the second processing of the liquid done to produce the cheese. A traditional creamy cheese made from the whey of cow or sheep’s milk and is very similar to cottage cheese, though considerably lighter and with more flavor. Its excellent in lasagna and desserts.

 

Semi-Hard Cheeses

Provolone is an Italian cheese that originated in southern Italy. It is basically mozzarella that has been aged and sometimes smoked. It is drier than fresh mozzarella and is therefore excellent on sandwiches.

Bel Paese is a mild, white creamy cheese made from cow’s milk. Originally produced in Melzo, a small town near Milan in the Lombardy region, it is now made in both Italy and the United States. It has a mild, buttery flavor and served with fruity wines. It is excellent as a snack or dessert cheese and melts easily for use on pizzas or in casseroles. It can be used as a substitute for mozzarella cheese.

Fontina Val d’Aosta is one of the oldest cheeses in Italy. Fontina cheese has been made in the Aosta Valley since the 12th century. Made from cow’s milk, Fontina melts well and is often used as a dessert cheese and in fondue. It is excellent on pizza as well.

Hard Cheeses

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a grana, or a hard, granular Italian cheese, cooked but not pressed, named after the producing areas of Parma and Reggio Emilia, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

Grana Padano is one of the most popular cheeses of Italy. The name comes from the noun grana (‘grain’), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the river Po. Grana Padano is a semi-fat, hard cheese which is cooked and ripened slowly (for up to 18 months). Today it is made in the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto, and in the province of Trento.

Pecorino is the name of a family of hard Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. The word pecora, from which the name derives, means sheep. Most are aged and sharp. Of the four main varieties of mature pecorino, all of which have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under European Union law, Pecorino Romano is probably the best known outside Italy, especially, in the United States which has been an important export market for the cheese since the nineteenth century.
Pecorino Romano is most often used on pasta dishes, like the better-known Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan). It also needs to be bought whole and grated fresh to enjoy its wonderful flavor. Its distinctive, strong, very salty flavor goes well with pasta dishes with highly flavored sauces.

Asiago is a hard cheese from the Veneto region and develops a strong flavor as it ages. It is grated and perfect for sauces or for slicing over salads.

Recipes That Use Cheese in a Healthy Way

Spinach-Lasagna-Rolls-53582B

Spinach Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 packages (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups prepared marinara sauce, (see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/)
  • 1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella

Filling:

Combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg substitute and salt and pepper. Refrigerate while cooking the pasta.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray  a 9”x13” baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread 1 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and gently transfer to a clean dish towel.

Working with one noodle at a time, spread with about Spread a heaping 1/3 cupful over each noodle.. If you have any filling leftover, divide it evenly among the rolls.

Starting at one end, roll up the lasagna noodle tightly; then arrange in pan either seam-side down or with the rolls close enough together to hold each other closed.

Pour remaining marinara over assembled rolls then sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Grilled eggplant and Ricotta

Grilled Eggplant with Ricotta and Tomato-Basil Relish

4 servings

For the grilled tomato-basil relish:

8 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, diced fine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil plus fresh leaves, for garnish

Heat your grill to high.
Place the tomatoes in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes on the grill and cook until charred on all sides, and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the grill and coarsely chop.

DO NOT TURN OFF THE GRILL.

Put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, onion, vinegar and basil and gently mix until combined. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Can be made 4 hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For the eggplant:

  • 8 slices (1 large eggplant, ends trimmed, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices)
  • Olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Lightly brush eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the slices on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and continue grilling until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir together the ricotta and parsley in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Place the grilled eggplant on a large platter and top each slice with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta and a heaping tablespoon of the tomato relish.

beef tenderloin

Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Asiago Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4  beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 5-6 oz.each)(organic, grass-fed beef is healthier)
  • 1  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1  tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4  cup lower sodium beef broth
  • 1-8-ounce package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1  ounce Asiago cheese, shaved
  • 4 cups arugula dressed with Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette, to taste

Directions

Trim fat from steaks. Rub both sides of steaks with pepper.

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook, uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

Add steaks to skillet; reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired doneness, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Allow 7 minutes for medium rare (145 F) to 9 minutes for medium (160 F). Transfer steaks to a plate and keep warm.

Add beef broth to skillet. Cook and stir until bubbly to loosen any browned bits in bottom of skillet. Return mushrooms to the skillet and heat.

Place 1 cup of arugula dressed with the Orange Balsamic dressing to taste on each of four dinner plates.

Place a steak on top and spoon mushroom sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with shaved cheese.

Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white or red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions

Peel the garlic clove and smash with the side of a chef’s knife. Using a fork, mash the garlic with the salt in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in oil. Add juice, vinegar and mustard; whisk until well blended.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. The oil will solidify, so bring to room temperature and whisk before using.


 

Pensacola_Beach_1957_White_SandMy husband and I love having our children and their families come for visit and we love visiting them in their homes. Family is important to us and even though none of us live near each other, we keep in touch daily.  When we are together, it is always great fun. So much to do – swimming in the pool, riding the waves at the beach or racing go-karts – brings out the hunger pangs and Grandma has a fix for that.  I am sharing some of my grandchildren’s favorite foods; kid-friendly meals that I have tried to make healthy without sacrificing flavor.

The dish that wins, hands down, as the number one favorite, is chicken fingers. They are healthy because they are baked with minimal fat instead of fried. To date, no one has noticed that they are not fried. The steps to prepare this dish are listed below:

Unfried Chicken Fingers

  • 1/2 pound chicken breast tenders (fingers), about 8
  • 1/4 cup refrigerator egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Olive oil cooking spray   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat a 9”x 13” glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish and pour the egg substitute over them.  Rotate and coat all the fingers.

Chicken Fingers coated in egg substitute.

Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and dredge fingers in crumbs.

Chicken Fingers coated in bread crumbs

Place in prepared baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle fingers with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Chicken Fingers drizzled with oil

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn fingers over and bake 15 minutes more.

Baked Chicken Fingers

Serve this dish with a healthy ranch dip (recipe below) and apple slices for lunch.
Chicken fingers may be frozen and reheated in a hot oven.  I usually prepare a supply when I know the children are coming, so that they are handy when we need them.

Healthy Ranch Dip

  • 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash of Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill.

  1. Chicken fingers also make a good dinner option with low-fat macaroni and cheese and a green vegetable.

Low-fat Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni ( whole grain pasta is better)
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 3 oz. Velveeta Light Cheese cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz. Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 13”× 9” baking dish with cooking spray.

Boil macaroni in salted water until tender but firm.
While pasta cooks, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in small bowl.
Pour remaining 1½ cups milk into large saucepan and heat on low. Once milk is slightly warmed, turn heat to medium-low and add flour and milk mixture, stirring until thick.
Reduce heat slightly and add butter, cheeses and salt.
Cook until smooth (about 5 minutes).
Drain macaroni, then combine with sauce mixture, stirring thoroughly.
Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly and evenly on top and bake 25-30 minutes.

    2.  Another good dinner option: soup and calzone:

Easy Stracciatella Italian Soup

Ingredients

8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta (very small pasta)
10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach ( thawed and well-drained)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot bring chicken broth to a boil on high heat.
Stir in orzo; cook approximately 10 minutes until tender but slightly firm.
Stir in spinach, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook approx 5 minutes.
Add in beaten egg to soup stirring constantly until set and cooked.
Serve in kid- sized bowls.
Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Tomato and Mozzarella Calzone

  1. Store bought pizza dough or ½ of the recipe for homemade dough, (see post, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/04/its-friday-lets-have-pizza/)
  2. Flour, for dusting
  3. Homemade Tomato Sauce (see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  4. Sliced skim mozzarella cheese
  5. Salt, pepper and dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, shape into balls, then flatten and roll out into 6 inch rounds on a lightly floured surface. Brush cold water around the edges.
  • Spread marinara sauce over the dough, spreading evenly and leaving a small border around the edge. Place slices of mozzarella on one side of each dough round and season with oregano and a little black pepper.
  • Enclose the filling by lifting over the other side of the dough. Press the edges firmly together to seal and transfer to a large baking sheet.
  • Cut a couple of tiny holes in the center of each calzone. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the calzone is pale-golden.  Serve with additional sauce.                                                                                                                                                                                               


Vanilla & Chocolate Rocks

Of course we can’t forget dessert.  My grandchildren (and children) love these cookies. This recipe can be doubled and the cookies freeze well.

Adapted from King Arthur
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1  cup unbleached all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Melt the butter blend in a large microwave-safe bowl, add the sugar, and return to the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, till the mixture is hot to the touch.
Cool slightly, and beat in the vanilla, baking powder, salt, espresso powder, and egg substitute.
Let cool to lukewarm, then add the flours and chocolate chunks, stirring briefly, just until well combined.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. (I put 12 cookies on one baking sheet) Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, until they’re barely set.
Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. Yield: 2 dozen cookies.

When I was growing up, veal dishes were on our dinner table regularly and I know I did not even think about where veal came from in those days. My father would go to the butcher shop and bring home a couple of pounds of veal cutlets, proclaiming “how beautiful they were”. My mother usually breaded and fried the veal in oil; the basis for veal parmesan.  We usually just ate it as fried cutlets but occasionally with tomato sauce.  Most of the Parmesan style dishes are not found in Italy but have developed, over the years, into Italian-American cuisine.

In the first few months of my marriage, I decided to experiment with one of the veal scallopini dishes from my Ada Boni book. I made the Veal Scallopine with mushrooms and wine. My husband loved it; so I added it to my recipe box. Shortly after, we invited my in-laws for dinner and my husband wanted me to make this dish. I knew his mother liked Italian food but I wasn’t sure about his father. I asked what he liked to eat and my husband said he was “a meat and potatoes man”.  I thought, well, this will work. I always served it over pasta with 2 small cutlets per person, but I made a little extra that day and thought “just in case”.   When we sat down at the table for dinner, we passed the serving plates and my father-in law said he didn’t eat pasta. I said to my self, UH OH, as he proceeded to take several helpings of the veal and said , “it wasn’t bad.”  I was glad I made enough pasta for the rest of us.

Scallopine is an Italian dish made with thin ¼ inch slices of meat (traditionally veal) that are pounded with a mallet to approximately 1/8 of an inch. The veal used is generally taken from a muscle and is cut across the grain and trimmed of any fat. This makes veal scallopine a very low calorie cut of meat. Scaloppine is a fairly quick dish to prepare, since the thin slices of meat require very little cooking time. The classic veal scallopine is often dredged in flour with a few Italian herbs, salt and pepper, and then cooked in a skillet in oil and butter. There are a few traditional additions, such as capers and parsley and sometimes cooked mushrooms. White wine is added to the pan, once the meat is removed, to make a light sauce.

If lemon juice is added to scaloppine dishes then the dish would be called  piccata. Adding Marsala wine to scaloppine dishes is traditionally referred to as Veal Marsala. Using chicken or turkey breasts instead of veal can further reduce the fat content of veal scallopine; and if you reduce the amount of fat you cooked the meat in, you will have a healthy entree. Scallopini dishes are good quick fix dinners for busy weeknights. 

I know that veal is the traditional type of meat used in scallopini dishes in Italian cuisine but I prefer to use chicken, turkey, pork or fish in my recipes.  Animals were once confined to limit their movement; hence, the meat would be more tender and pale. In the past, Milk-fed veal came from calves up to 12 weeks old that had not been weaned from their mother’s milk, but veal of this quality is rare in today’s supermarket. Animal rights activists made the public aware of such practices in the 1980s.  For that reason, the consumption of veal was a source of controversy. In recent years, veal producers have attempted to make their system of production more humane.

Today, shoppers are more likely to find calves fed a nutritionally balanced milk or soy-based diet that is fortified with essential nutrients.  Many producers of veal are committed to animal friendly housing and humane treatment of their animals. The calves feed on a combination of milk and nutrient rich grains free of antibiotics. New facilities in America sometimes surpass strict European humanely raised standards. While the old veal was white and bland, the new veal is pink and flavorful.  Although veal is supposed to be leaner and more tender than beef, not all veal is made equally, and not all cuts carry the same level of quality.

According to the website, Organic: Love to Know, “A good way to tell if veal is humanely raised is simply by looking at it. If it’s pink, that most likely means the calf had an adequate supply of iron.” They conclude that this pink veal is sometimes called Meadow, Rose, Pastured, Free-range, and Grass-Fed.  The New York Times adds that you should look for the label “certified humane. ”These “Certified Humane” calves are now given abundant space free from harsh weather and given good, dry bedding. Furthermore, calves are kept in small groups with others of similar size and age, allowing each to receive the full care from the veterinarian or the farmer.  The pinker the meat, the older the animal was at slaughter and, therefore,  the meat may be tougher and stronger-flavored. If the meat is a reddish tone but still marked as veal, it may be a calf between 6 and 12 months and should more appropriately be called baby beef. Or, the calf may have been allowed to eat grains or grasses, which also darken the meat.  The choice is yours.

Anything you can make with veal, you can make with chicken, turkey, fish or pork. I will describe below the different preparations for the type of meat or poultry that you choose to use. To prepare the cutlets, you will need is a meat mallet with a smooth side. The flouring process is quite important.  The flour helps brown the meat, but also lends more texture to any sauce produced at the end. Without flour, the addition of canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes is likely to result in a watery sauce. In the wine deglazing process of a traditional scallopine dish, the collection of flavorful bits that accumulate in the middle of the pan while cooking the meat, is made easier when the meat is flour coated.

Scallopini Preparation

Chicken Scallopine.

To serve four, start with four 6-ounce boneless and skinless chicken-breast halves.  Cut each breast crosswise on the bias into two equal pieces. Place the pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Proceed with the recipe.

Pork Scallopine.

To serve four, start with eight 3-ounce slices of boneless pork tenderloin completely trimmed of fat. Place the slices between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them several times with a meat mallet to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Proceed with the recipe.

Turkey Scallopine.

To serve four, start with eight 3-ounce turkey cutlets. (Most turkey cutlets are sold pre-cut in supermarket meat cases; if not, use boneless turkey breasts and cut then into slices and come as close as you can to these weights.) Place the slices between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of about 1/ 4 inch. Proceed with the recipe.

Fish Scallopini

Fish is not pounded, so buy thin fillets (4 small white fish fillets (such as tilapia, flounder or sole), about 1 pound total).  Salt & pepper the fish.  Put them into a shallow dish and cover with milk. (Soaking in milk helps to freshen the fish). Set aside.  Lift out of milk and proceed with the recipe.

Technique

Use a small skillet that fits 2-3 cutlets at one time.  This way very little fat will be needed.  It is better to repeat the process with a second batch of cutlets. Cutlets are removed to a dish to be kept warm and the sauce is made in the pan after the cutlets are removed.  The sauce is then poured over the cutlets on the serving platter.

For each batch of 3 cutlets:

Flouring

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Season the scallopine with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour to coat both sides lightly and tap off excess flour.

Cooking

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet.  Cook the cutlets until golden brown on the underside, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove to a platter and cover with foil. Repeat with remaining scallopine.

You will need the following ingredients for the sauce:

Number of Servings: 3

  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • If you like the taste of Marsala, you can use that instead of white wine.  You may like red wine in the sauce for pork scallopini.
  • 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
If you like the taste of lemon, you can add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. The resulting dish is called Piccata.
Double the ingredients if you are making 6 cutlets.

Completing the Sauce                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Add all the sauce ingredients to the skillet, except the parsley.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 30 seconds.  Pour sauce over cutlet that are on the platter and sprinkle with parsley.  I like to serve scallopini with a green vegetable.


Mother’s Day

From painted hand prints to roses and other elaborate gifts, Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world. People everywhere take the opportunity to honor their mothers.
This tradition has been around since the early Egyptians celebrated the Goddess Isis, who they considered the mother of the pharaohs. The ancient Romans also celebrated the festival of Isis, but their true celebration of motherhood was in honor of Cybele who stems from the Greek goddess Rhea. Rhea who was regarded as the mother of all deities including Zeus, was called the Great Mother or Magda Mater. 

It’s said that Mother’s Day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward Howe in 1872 as a day dedicated to peace after the Franco Prussian War. The holiday gained in popularity due to the efforts of Anna M. Jarvis.  Anna began a letter-writing campaign to gather support for a national Mother’s Day holiday about the same time that her mother passed away in 1905.  With the help of friends, reaching out to influential leaders, including William Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Wannamaker, Anna was able to gain support for the idea. She believed mothers deserved their own special day and that it would help strengthen family bonds.  She persuaded her mother’s church in West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. By 1911 Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state, and flowers quickly became a lasting tradition to express love on the occasion. In 1914, Congress passed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, saying it is “a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” President Woodrow Wilson issued the first proclamation making it an official U.S. holiday.  In addition to the United States, countries that celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Turkey.

Italian Tribute

                                            “For you, mother, one kiss for every heart”.


Mother’s Day in Italy was celebrated for the first time on May, 12, 1957, in the city of Assisi, thanks to the initiative of Reverend Otello Migliosi, parish priest of the Tordibetto church. This celebration was so successful that the following year it was adopted throughout Italy and is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. “La Festa della Mamma” is the name of their celebration and  mothers are honored with a big feast and a heart-shaped cake. Mothers are relieved of their household chores that day and children bring home handmade gifts.


Mother’s Day Menu

First Course

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Traditional butternut squash lasagna can be very rich.  This is a healthier version that you can use for special occasions.  I like to roast the squash first because it adds much more flavor than when you boil the squash.

Squash Preparation

  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus extra leaves for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper. Bake until light brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl or food processor and mash. Season the squash purée to taste with more salt and pepper and chopped sage.  Set aside.

White Sauce


I like to use Wondra flour for sauces because it dissolves instantly in hot or cold liquids and you do have to mix it with lots of butter before adding the milk.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup Wondra all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups nonfat milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat add milk, flour and butter. While whisking, bring the sauce to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Completing the Lasagna

  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 1⁄2 cups shredded skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 13-by-9-by-2- inch glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Spread 3/4 cups of the sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom of pan with one layer of lasagna noodles. Spread half of the squash purée over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering once more, finishing with a layer of noodles covered only by white sauce.
Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese over the lasagna and continue baking until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.  Garnish the corners with sage leaves. Serves 12 for a first course and 8 as a main dish.

Second Course

Tuscan Pork Loin

  • 1- 3-pound boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest and lemon slices for garnish
  • 3/4 cup white wine

1. Tie kitchen string around the pork loin in three places so it doesn’t flatten while roasting. Place salt and garlic in a small bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Stir in oil, rosemary and lemon zest; rub the mixture into the pork. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Place the pork in a small roasting pan. Roast, turning once or twice, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 degrees F., 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add wine to the roasting pan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the string and slice the roast. Pour the wine sauce over the pork slices.  Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound thin green beans 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Trim off the ends of the beans and blanch them in lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain well.  

Arrange the beans on a nonstick cookie sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the beans, about 10 minutes.

Let the beans sit a few minutes for the cheese to cool slightly. Lift the beans out onto a platter and serve.


Dessert

Hazelnut-Olive Oil Cake

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 1/2 ounces) hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. Lightly coat 9-inch springform pan with olive oil cooking spray.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then rub in a clean dish towel to remove skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet, and bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

Have a Wonderful Mother’s Day!

Don’t forget to honor your mother by playing Luciano Pavarotti singing “Mamma” in the video below.



Are veggie haters born or made? The answer seems to be both. Some of us have negative veggie experiences from our childhood that come back to haunt us as adults. Maybe you were forced to eat vegetables, or had to plow through a stack of green beans to get to dessert. Maybe you were served overcooked, mushy vegetables. “If veggies are only served in ways that don’t match your personal flavor preferences, they won’t seem exciting,” explains Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition adviser for the American Institute for Cancer Research. So if you love spicy food, you won’t like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with a rich sauce won’t be appealing. 

When my children were young, they struggled with eating some vegetables that were on their dinner plates.  I, also, know that many parents struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables – it’s a never-ending battle in many households in America. Nagging and taking away dessert are often futile remedies. What can help is, if a parent can involve their children in food preparation and find healthy ways to make vegetables taste good. 

Deep frying or adding butter and cheese make everything taste so good.  The real challenge is how to make vegetables taste good without it, if you are trying to make your meals more healthy. Cooking vegetables with the right herbs can make a difference, such as oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, coriander, dill and garlic. Adding chopped nuts to vegetable dishes is another way to bring more flavor and nutrition into the meal. Using cooking techniques other than boiling in water, such as roasting and grilling, are ways to improve the taste of vegetables without adding a lot of fat.

Prep veggies, like carrots, asparagus and peppers, place in foil, mist with extra virgin olive oil, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or another flavored vinegar or with a low-fat dressing, sprinkle with herbs like thyme, rosemary and cracked black pepper and place the package on the grill. Some take as little as 10 minutes to become tender. Or use the same seasonings on vegetable kabobs, alternating  vegetables of your choice with cherry tomatoes and onion slices.

You can roast just about anything, but vegetables especially benefit from the high, dry heat of the oven. Their flavor becomes concentrated and their natural sugars caramelize, transforming them into richly satisfying sides. For every 2 pounds of vegetables, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil prior to roasting. Spread in a single layer, with space in between the pieces or they’ll just steam instead. You can roast different veggies together if their cooking times are similar.

The recipes below are ones I have made, adjusting ingredients, cooking techniques and utilizing Italian flavors to make these dishes just right. These are vegetable side dishes that my family likes and enjoys at our family dinners.  

Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.

Tip: This is a good dish to make ahead and reheat for dinner.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic

 The process of roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and intensifies their natural flavors

Ingredients

  • Sea salt
  • 1 lb red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 lb butternut squash, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into eighths
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of bay leaves

Directions

In a large baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray place potatoes, squash, onions and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Toss to coat, then roast for 20 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining ingredients to the baking pan.

Roast for another 20 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally until tender and edges slightly brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Vegetables with Basil Dressing

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, sliced into chunks
  • 1 zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into squares
  • 1 small red onion, sliced and cut into 8 segments
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic  vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Dressing
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Thread skewers with alternating pieces of eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and onion. Place skewered vegetables in shallow pan.

Make the marinade for vegetables by blending vinegar, oil and 1/4 cup fresh basil. Pour over vegetables. Let stand 10 minutes, occasionally turning skewers so marinade coats all sides.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place yogurt, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh basil and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Transfer to small serving dish.

Grill vegetables, adjusting height of rack to avoid charring, if using an outdoor grill.

Serve vegetables as a side dish, as a sandwich filling in ciabatta rolls or on sliced Italian bread or bruschetta. Pass basil-yogurt dressing to use as a topping.   

Baked Spaghetti Squash

What I like about this spaghetti squash dish is that when it comes out of the oven, it’s ready to serve. It does not need any additional cooking to give it flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Kosher or salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up, spray lightly with the cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix together the paprika, onion powder, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Sprinkle over squash.

Bake at 350° F for about an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool 10 minutes.

Using a fork, scrape out the squash flesh a little at a time. It will separate into spaghetti-like strands. Place in a serving dish and serve.

Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Lemon Zest

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook broccoli rabe in water for 4 to 5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a large saute pan heat  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes then toss in the broccoli rabe.

Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently tossing it in the pan. Finish with the lemon zest and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves  6

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs

Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisk together:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon small capers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash the head of cauliflower and trim off the outer leaves. With a sharp knife, remove a cone-shaped piece from the core, keeping the head intact.

With your fingers, rub a little olive oil into the bottom of a deep oven-safe baking dish, rub the remainder on all over the cauliflower, working the oil into the crevasses as best you can. Place core-side down in the baking dish and sprinkle with salt and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 1 hour or 1-1/4 hours, until the exterior is brown and crusty and the center soft.  With a spoon, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top of the cauliflower and let it seep slowly.

Crispy Parmesan Broccoli

2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 lb broccoli, rinsed, dried, and cut into flat sided bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned Panko Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and cheese.

Put the broccoli in a large bowl, add the egg substitute, and toss with your hands to coat.

Sprinkle in the bread crumb and cheese mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer to a baking sheet, flat side down, and roast for 12 minutes.

Italian Green Beans Marinara

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, cleaned and stem ends removed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Snap the beans into 2-inch pieces. Blanch lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain well.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper.
Simmer uncovered, until tomatoes start to break down. Add the green beans and cook, covered, until tender.
Taste the beans for seasoning and, if desired, add more salt, pepper or oregano. 6-8 Servings

Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

Servings: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • olive oil spray
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 4 slices (2 oz) thin sliced prosciutto
  • grated Parmesan cheese
Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Lightly spray asparagus spears with olive oil cooking spray. Season with fresh cracked pepper and divide into 4 bundles.

Bundle 1/4 of the asparagus together and wrap a slice of prosciutto around it.  Place on a baking dish seam side down.  
Repeat with the remaining asparagus and prosciutto.
Place in the baking dish and bake 12 minutes or until asparagus is tender crisp. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.



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