Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Chickpea Plant

Chickpeas are perhaps better known by their Spanish name garbanzo beans. They are a roundish, beige member of the legume family grown primarily in western Asia, India, and in the Mediterranean. Most people are familiar with chickpeas as either used whole in salads, or ground up to make the popular Middle Eastern dish hummus.

The name chickpea came from the French word chiche and Italians call them ceci beans. In Italian the word ‘ceci’ means both wart and chickpea. At some stage it was believed that you could cure warts by touching it to a chickpea plant at a new moon.

Chick peas are also a frequent ingredient in Italian dishes. They may be used to make pasta and beans. They are often added to marinated vegetables and are usually on an antipasto platter. They may also be recognizable as a staple in three-bean salad, which is comprised of green beans, kidney beans and chick peas and pickled with vinegar or stored in vinegar and oil.

Chick peas are an excellent nutritional choice. A serving of chick peas, about 4 ounces or half a cup, has about 17 grams of dietary fiber and 19 grams of protein. They are also considered more digestible than most other beans. Dried chick peas cook much more quickly than other dried beans.

Chickpea Pod

Shelled Chickpeas

Salad or Side Course

Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Serves 4

Great as a side salad with grilled meat, it can also work as a vegetarian entree.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                             

  • One 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Greek nonfat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 cups lightly packed)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh mint

Directions:

 In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, parsley and onion.

 In a small bowl whisk together the oil, lemon juice and zest, oregano, cayenne, salt, and black pepper.

 Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat evenly.

 In another small bowl stir together the yogurt, orange juice and zest, and honey.

 Serve the chickpea salad over a bed of spinach leaves. Top with the yogurt sauce and garnish with the mint.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

  • 8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water to cover, soaking liquid reserved
  • or  two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 16 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) yellow or red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 English cucumber (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots (4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 scallions, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil

Directions:

 Place chickpeas, soaking liquid, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large pot. Liquid should cover beans by 2 inches; adjust as necessary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a bowl. (Makes 3 cups chickpeas.) Or substitute two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed.

 Using a chef’s knife, press flat side of the blade back and forth across garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to make a paste. Transfer to a bowl, and whisk in peppercorns, vinegar, oil, and oregano. Pour dressing over chickpeas. Let stand, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, scallions, parsley, and basil.

Vegetarian Main Dishes

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can low sodium chopped tomatoes (15 ounces)
  • 2 cans low sodium chickpeas (15 ounces each), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped 

Directions:

 Preheat the oven to 400º F. Toss together the cauliflower, 3 tablespoons olive oil and a little salt and place on a baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

 In a large pot, heat the remaining olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add in the shallots, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender. Add in the Italian seasoning, fennel seed and cayenne pepper and stir about 15 seconds.

 Turn the heat down to a simmer and add in the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and roasted cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the stew over medium heat until it thickens slightly, about 20 minutes.

This stew can be served over rice or couscous.

Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Makes 4 chickpea cakes and 1 cup cucumber-yogurt sauce

Sauce

  • 1/2 an English cucumber, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Arrange the grated cucumber in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Let drain for 10 minutes and place on a paper towel. Squeeze dry. Stir in the remaining ingredients together in a serving bowl and add the cucumber. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), mashed fine with a fork
  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped fine
  • Olive oil, for sauteeing

Directions:

While the cucumber drains, in a large bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the yogurt, olive oil, spices and seasoning. Stir in the chickpeas, panko, green onion and cilantro, combining without overworking. Evenly divide mixture in four; gently form four one-inch thick patty with your hands, compressing the mixture just enough to hold it together. Place on a plate and cover with waxed paper.  Refrigerate for an hour or longer.

In a large skillet, heat oil just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the skillet until shimmery. Add the chickpea cakes and cook without moving for four to five minutes per side or until golden and hot clear through.

Serve with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce on the side.

Tip: These cakes can be made ahead and reheated on a grill pan or outdoor grill. They also freeze well.

Main Dishes

Grilled Fish With Chickpea Artichoke Salad

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Fish

  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black  pepper
  • 4 thick fish fillets (salmon, tuna, or swordfish; 1 1/2 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Chickpeas

  • 1/2 cup canned or frozen quartered artichokes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bag baby arugula leaves (4–5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Heat outdoor grill or grill pan. Brush fish with olive oil.

Combine fennel, salt, and pepper; then coat both sides of fish.

Grill fish 5 minutes on each side or until 145°F registers on a thermometer and fish flakes easily.

Chop artichokes and onion.

Combine arugula, chickpeas, onions, and artichokes.

Whisk vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper until blended; add to salad. Toss.

Serve grilled fish over chickpea salad.

Spicy Penne with Broccoli, Sausage and Chickpeas                             

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli or broccoli rabe; trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound penne or whole wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian hot sausage, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 1 –  15-oz can chickpeas; rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon oregano; freshly chopped
  • 1 15-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Crushed red pepper flakes 

 Directions:

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add penne, and cook 4 minutes less than package instructions; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.

 Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Add garlic to sausage and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and chickpeas. Season with salt, crushed red pepper and oregano, and simmer for a few minutes. Add pasta, broccoli and reserved cooking liquid to the sauce and heat.

Add cheese and toss to coat.


According to the Roman historian Livy, a Celtic village was first founded in this area in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Roman legions in 222 BC, “Mediolanum” (this was the Roman name for Milan) attempted to rebel, becoming an ally of Carthage, Rome’s enemy. But the Romans won and, towards the end of the 1st century BC, Milan became a part of the state of the Caesars.

Milan then went through several transitions over the years, beginning in 1535, when the city fell under Spanish rule, and then in 1713, the city was passed to Austria.

In 1802, Milan became the capital of Napoleon’s Italian Republic, and he was crowned King of Italy and Milan in 1805. Following a brief return of the Austrians, Vittorio Emmanuele II drove them out in 1859, thus incorporating Milan into the new Kingdom of Italy. To commemorate this king, the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II was built in the center of Milan. The key factor of the city’s success was credited to trade, which led the city to a great success in development.

La Scala, is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated in August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala.

Milan now is the fashion icon of the country of Italy and houses millions of residents in this Northern city in the Lombardy region. Located south of the Italian Alps, Milan is very close to several other cities and attractions such as Venice and Florence, great skiing and the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. Each are just a few short hours away, which makes Milan a great place to live or tour.

The fashion quarter is full of the big names in the industry but also many small boutique stores and fashionable shops. However, everyone looking for fashion will be searching out the big designers and they are all here, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent all have shops. This area is where you will find all the prestigious outlets, top line names with the prices to match.

Milan Specialties

Each region in Italy has its own culinary specialty, which may have been influenced by an area close to it, such as, the sea or the mountains or a bordering country.  Noted below are five specialties of the Lombardy region. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Polenta– is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and it is one of the staple foods in Northern Italy, especially in the region of Lombardy. Usually this dish is served with tomato sauce and sausages and ribs.

Risotto alla Milanese– is a typical dish of the city of Milan with rice, saffron and ox bone marrow.  Even though there are a number of different varieties of this dish in Northern Italy, the original has these ingredients plus onion, wine, butter and beef broth.

Cotoletta alla Milanese- is actually the rib of calf with the bone, breaded and fried in butter, originally, the fried butter used was also poured on top of the meat, but in more modern times people tend to use lemon on top, and sometimes you will find it with tomato sauce and rucola (arugula) on the side, but this version is used during the cold months.

Panettone– is cake is used for Christmas in all parts of Italy and it literally means big bread.  It is originally from Milan and was served only in the houses of noble people but later became popular for everyone. The shape of the Panettone is almost like a dome, and the ingredients are water, flour, butter, eggs and dried candied fruits.

La Barbajada-a sweet that is made with whipped cream, hot chocolate, coffee and milk.  It is delicious drink but with a high caloric content, and it is served hot, which makes it a great winter dessert. The history behind this dessert is that the hot chocolate with whipped cream was invented by Domenico Barbaia, who operated a coffee shop in the La Scala Opera House in Milan and it became popular around the 1830’s.

Bring The Foods Of Milan To Your Table

You can make some of Milan’s culinary specialties without the unhealthy calories by using the recipes that I have adapted, as posted below:

Minestrone alla Milanese

Serves 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 pound garden peas
  • 1/2 pound lima beans or 1-10 oz. package frozen, defrosted
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1  1/4 cups small pasta or rice, whichever you prefer
  • 1 bunch Parsley
  • Handful of Basil and Sage
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano)

Directions:

Dice the celery, carrot, and zucchini; slice the tomatoes, discarding the seeds; peel the potatoes and dice, and mince the parsley, basil, sage and the garlic with the onion. Put the vegetables, except for the peas, in a pot and add 2 quarts of water; lightly salt the soup and simmer it over a gentle flame for about 2 1/2 hours.

When the time is up stir in the peas, and the short pasta (e.g. ditalini or small shells) or rice. Adjust seasoning and cook, stirring gently, to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is cooked, ladle the soup into bowls and serve it with grated cheese.

Pappardelle with Mushrooms                                                                                                               

This recipe calls for porcini mushrooms and they are necessary to do it justice. Ideally, fresh porcini, but if you cannot find them you will have to make do by purchasing cultivated mushrooms and a 1-ounce packet of dried porcini (this will be about a half cup, packed. Steep the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then mince them and add them to the cultivated mushrooms. Strain the steeping liquid, since it may contain sand, and add it to the sauce as well. The other option, in the absence of fresh porcini, is to use the wild mushrooms available where you live, combining them with some cultured mushrooms, if need be, and some steeped dried porcini.

A last thing: This recipe calls for pappardelle, which are broad (1-inch) strips of pasta. You can, if you want, use fettuccine (half-inch strips) instead.

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pappardelle, ideally freshly made
  • 3/4 pound fresh porcini, or follow directions above
  • 2 shallots
  • 12 oz. low sodium diced canned tomatoes
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • The leaves of a sprig of rosemary
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Chopped parsley for a garnish

 Directions:

Clean the mushrooms, brushing the dirt away from the stems, and separate the caps from the stems; dice the stems and cube the caps, keeping them separate.

Mince the shallots and the herbs and sauté them for a few minutes in the oil in a deep pot. Add the diced stems, cook another minute, and then add the wine and the tomatoes. Season with a little pepper and simmer the mixture over a very gentle flame for 30 minutes. Depending upon how much moisture the mushrooms contain you may need to add more liquid: a little more wine or water (or the liquid the mushrooms steeped in if you are using dried mushrooms), and the cubed caps. Continue simmering the sauce over a gentle flame.

In the meantime bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pappardelle. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce; garnish with herbs and serve with grated cheese.

Milanese Chicken Stuffed with Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken weighing 3 ½ to 4 pounds
  • 10 walnut halves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 4 white cabbage leaves, shredded
  • 2 leaves sage
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 onion, cut in quarters
  • 2 celery ribs, cut in quarters
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Twine 

Directions:

Bring a pot of water large enough to contain the whole chicken to boiling and add the celery and onion.

In a bowl combine the shredded cabbage, sage, garlic, cheese, pancetta, breadcrumbs, egg, nutmeg, and walnuts. Mix well and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing and close it tightly with the twine (don’t forget to include the neck opening).  See directions below.

Salt the boiling water and submerge the chicken. As soon as the water comes back to boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken, partially covered, for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken with 2 large spoons to a platter. Cut up the chicken into 8 pieces, without breaking up the stuffing. Arrange the pieces on a heated platter, slice the stuffing into half-inch thick slices, and serve.

Save the broth for making risotto, or for serving meat based tortellini, or for making soup.

Step 1
With the breast side up, line up the middle of your piece of twine with the chicken’s tail and tie a knot around the tail

Step 2
Make a loop around each drumstick.

Step 3
Pull them close together and tie a knot.

Step 4
Keeping the twine tight around the chicken, pass each half of the twine through the wing.

Step 5
Tuck the wings under the chicken so that they’re holding down the twine.

Step 6
Flip the chicken over so that it’s breast side down. Tie the twine around the neck so that it’s holding down the wings. Make sure the knot is secure, then cut off any excess string.

Milanese Meat and Vegetable Stew

Milanese Stew, or Stufato Milanese: Almost every region of Italy has a stew or pot roast, it calls its own. This variation is Milanese, and it will also work well with lamb or pork; the important thing is that the pieces of meat not be too small, because if they’re small then the dish is a spezzatino as opposed to a stufato. The quality of the red wine is important; don’t use something you wouldn’t want to drink — and also, be careful not to overcook it.

Serves 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef (chuck or a similar cut suited for pot roasting)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • Canned beef broth
  • Flour
  • Dry red wine (For example, Valcalepio Rosso, or Valpolicella), enough to cover the meat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg ( a pinch)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Dust the meat with some freshly ground pepper, a little salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Put it in a bowl and add wine to cover; let it sit in the refrigerator for at least six hours, turning it occasionally.

Slice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a Dutch Oven until golden. Remove the onion from the pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry. Flour it and brown it in the pan drippings. Then return the onions to the pan, add the remaining ingredients and the reserved marinade, cover, and cook at the barest simmer for about 4 hours. Check on it occasionally, and, to keep the meat covered with liquid, add a little beef broth to the pot, as needed.

Served with Polenta.

Charlotte alla Milanese

Charlottes fall into the category of dolci semifreddi, in other words chilled desserts. They are also generally much more elaborate than this version, generally calling for liqueur, whipped cream, candied fruit, and all sorts of other things. In short, they’re desserts for when company is expected. So is this Milanese Charlotte, though not so much for the ingredients as for the presentation.

6-8 servings                                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 jigger Rum
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • Thinly sliced Italian bread, about 16 slices

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place apples, 1/2 cup sugar (or a 1/4 cup of Truvia), lemon zest and wine in a heavy saucepan. Pour in water to cover completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 minutes.

Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak 10 minutes, then drain and reserve.

In a small bowl, cream together butter and  2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia until well combined. Coat the bottom and sides of a 2-quart round baking dish (or a Charlotte Mold) with this butter-sugar mixture.

Line bottom and sides of the baking dish with bread slices, overlapping slightly. Drain the apples and combine them with the drained raisins. Spoon the fruit mixture into the lined dish. Cover the top with the remaining bread. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia.

Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour.

To serve, pour rum over the warm charlotte and light it with a long match or kitchen torch to brown the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


You’re hungry, you just arrived home and you don’t have much food in the house. You can’t be bothered to cook and you want something that you can eat immediately. You need something more substantial than a yogurt or a mango, so what do you reach for? No, not the cereal, you need one of life’s most celebrated foodstuffs – the sandwich. But what makes a good sandwich?

Well, what is it?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard,  dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all and probably some additional factors.

But, the question I ask you is, ” what’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?”

Good ingredients (not necessarily specific ones either) which go together, moist spread(s) whether mayo or mustard or tomato based, a very good bread or roll but not as thick as the often illustrated sandwiches in food magazines. You must be able to get your mouth around it with ease and not make a mess in the process.

According to popular legend, the sandwich was invented by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, while gambling, told his butler to put some meat between two slices of bread so he could eat without interrupting the game and getting grease on the cards. Although the tale is almost certainly questionable because the first sandwich was probably made the day after bread was invented, but the earl did lend his name to this popular food.

At its simplest, a sandwich is two slices of bread enclosing a filling. It also is often a perfectly balanced meal, consisting of protein, vegetable, carbohydrate, often dairy and even fruit. My definition is somewhat broader: A sandwich is a filling enclosed in bread that can be eaten by hand. That definition leaves out such things as open-faced roast beef or turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy that must be eaten with a knife and fork.

My definition includes such things as wraps, tacos, Cornish pasties, empanadas and stuffed pitas — all of which can be held in one hand while playing cards.  So what makes a good sandwich for you?

Sandwich Ideas

Here is an international festival of quick-and-easy, absolutely delicious sandwich ideas that are a snap to make, travel well, and deliver satisfaction on outings of all kinds.

Recipes combine fresh seasonal vegetables and other unique ingredients—including leftovers—to make tasty and versatile treats great for lunchboxes, long hikes, or elegant romantic getaways for two!

Use these ideas as jumping-off places for your own creativity. And keep sandwiches in mind when you cook: Leftovers from the grill or the frying pan make great sandwiches the next day.

Peasant Loaf

Cut crusty bread or baguette in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil and fill with thin slices of Gruyere cheese, ham, a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves, mesclun salad greens, salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

Crunchy  Garden Rolls

Slice tender rolls in half, spread with light mayonnaise and fill with thinly-sliced radishes, thinly-sliced English cucumber, chopped scallions, watercress, and fresh or dried dill.

Hearty Tuscan Grill

Fill wholegrain bread or rolls with leftover grilled vegetables—bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, onions. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Mediterranean Bagels

Spread halved bagels with light cream cheese and hummus, thinly-sliced cucumbers, chopped lettuce and tomato, and toasted sesame seeds.

Red Pepper & Spinach Wrap

This makes a delicious, quick and easy lunch that can be made ahead of time.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese, plain
  • 1 10″ whole wheat tortilla
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 roasted red pepper, jarred
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, fresh
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/6 avocado, sliced

Directions:

Spread cream cheese evenly over tortilla. Layer spinach leaves over cream cheese.

Chop red pepper and fresh mushrooms. Layer on top of spinach.

Add scallion and avocado. Roll, and wrap in foil for easy packing.

Italian Tuna Melts

Servings: 4

The tuna melt is a decidedly American sandwich with an Italian twist.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 9 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls or 1 long ciabatta loaf, split lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 pound Robiola cheese or Mozzarella, sliced

Directions:

Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard until combined. Add the flaked tuna, chopped artichokes, chopped olives, sliced red onion and shredded basil and toss gently. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Using a pastry brush, brush the cut sides of the ciabatta lightly with olive oil and broil cut side up on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, until the ciabatta is golden and lightly toasted; rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Rub the garlic clove over the toasted ciabatta and mound the tuna salad on top. Cover with the sliced Robiola cheese and broil until the cheese is just melted, about 1 minute. Serve the tuna melts at once.

Tomatoes on Toast

If you don’t have Boursin cheese, you can use light cream cheese with some chopped fresh herbs mixed in. You will find the Boursin easiest to spread if it has been sitting at room temp for 10 minutes or so.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 slices of Italian loaf bread
  • Light Herbed Boursin cheese, about 2 tablespoons per slice of bread
  • 1 medium to large vine-ripened tomato
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1 Toast the bread.

2 While the bread is toasting, slice the tomato into 1/4-inch slices.

3 Once the bread is lightly toasted, spread one side with Boursin cheese. Top with a couple slices of tomato, overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a snack.

Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Pockets

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce package fully cooked chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound), cut into small florets
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces provolone, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds pizza dough, at room temperature
  • All-purpose flour, for the work surface
  • Cut-up vegetables and ranch dressing, for serving

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 425° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sausage, broccoli, bell pepper, and garlic with the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the broccoli is tender, 25 to 30 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the provolone, and toss to combine.

2. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch each piece into a 7-inch circle. Dividing evenly, spoon the broccoli mixture onto one side of each round (about ½ cup each), leaving a ½-inch border. Dot the border with water, fold the dough over to form a semicircle, and press firmly to seal.

3. Place the pockets on a parchment-lined large baking sheet and cut several slits in each. Bake the pockets until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the vegetables and ranch dressing.

4. The unbaked pockets can be frozen for up to 3 months. First freeze them on the baking sheet until firm, then transfer to freezer bags. To cook, bake the pockets from frozen on parchment-lined baking sheets at 425° F until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Tip

If freezing the pockets to cook at a later date, write the oven temperature and cooking time on the outside of the bag in permanent marker for easy reference.

turkeypanini

Turkey & Tomato Panini

Some pickles and sweet potato oven fries can round out this meal. Thinly sliced roast beef can be substituted for the turkey in this Panini.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli turkey
  • 8 tomato slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, Parmesan, basil, lemon juice and pepper in a small bowl. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the mixture on each slice of bread. Divide turkey and tomato slices among 4 slices of bread; top with the remaining bread.

Heat a panini maker and cook sandwiches according to manufacturer’s directions.

If you do not have a panini maker then have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 panini in the pan. Place the medium skillet on top of the panini, then weigh it down with the cans.

 Cook the panini until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the panini, replace the top skillet and cans, and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with another 1 teaspoon oil and the remaining panini.


Healthy Eating and Portion Control

Researchers at Louisiana State University have concluded that a low calorie diet can lower your insulin levels, reduce your core body temperature, and reverse signs of aging. However, those same researchers urge people to avoid going overboard when it comes to restricting calories. Consuming less food and using low calorie meal plans can undoubtedly be beneficial to your health. However, you should set realistic and healthy expectations for yourself.

If you regularly eat around 2000 calories a day, switching to a 500 calorie a day meal plan won’t be healthy or realistic. On the other hand, switching to a 1500 calorie meal plan wouldn’t be detrimental to your health or particularly difficult for you to do, especially if you were armed with the right strategies.

Strategies To Help You Plan Low Calorie Meals

If you’ve made the decision to change your diet and adopt healthy low calorie meal plans, you’re going to have to change the way you eat and what you eat. First and foremost, you should adjust your food portions. By learning to visually identify some simple serving sizes, you can better control your portions. When eating a typical serving size of meat, it should be about 3-4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. A standard serving of grains or raw vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball or your fist.

Your low calorie meals don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, particularly if you aren’t trying to adhere to any particular diet. If your primary goal is to reduce your caloric intake, you should plan your meals based on what you like. You may want to make a list of all the low calorie foods you normally enjoy eating and include those in your healthy meal plans.

Online tools can help you plan out your meals and count the calories you consume. Your goal should be to calculate all the calories you plan to consume each day as a part of your overall meal planning efforts. Excellent free online tool: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/SuperTracker/default.aspx

Drinking water throughout the day will help curb your appetite. And drinking a glass of water before each meal has been proven to reduce food intake. When you reduce your caloric intake, hunger is going to be your biggest hurdle. Drinking more water will help you overcome that hurdle.

Plan to eat two or three low calorie snacks a day, and bring those snacks with you to work or wherever you go throughout the day. Some ideal snacks are baby carrots, apple slices, grapes, and whole-wheat pita bread with hummus. Eating snacks throughout the day will help prevent overeating at meals and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Which One is Yours?

Lower Calorie Italian Dinners

Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Shrimp

 Serve with a Garden Salad.

Ingredients:            

PESTO:

  • 1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

PASTA AND SHRIMP:

  • 10 ounces multigrain angel hair pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

To make the pesto:

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak for 10 minutes, or until softened. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add the walnuts and garlic and process briefly to combine. Add the whole tomatoes, parsley, oregano or basil, cheese, and oil and process until smooth. Add just enough of the reserved tomato soaking liquid to form a paste; process until smooth.

To make the pasta and shrimp:

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. Sprinkle with the black pepper and salt. Place in the bowl with the pasta and top with the pesto. Toss well to combine. 

Stuffed Boneless Pork Chops  

Serve with Braised Fennel (recipe below) 

4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop)

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil, diced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup block-style fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of the minced garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, tomatoes, and spinach; sauté until moisture evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and lemon rind.

Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each pork chop to form a pocket. Stuff about 1/4 cup spinach mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper over pork. Arrange pork on the rack of a broiler pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Combine remaining garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and oregano in a bowl; stir well. Brush half of mustard mixture over pork. Broil 6 minutes; turn pork. Brush remaining mixture over pork; broil 2 minutes or until done.

Serve with

Braised Fennel 

Ingredients

  • 3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Slice the fennel into 1/2″ thick pieces (try to keep each piece with some of the root base so it stays together.)

On medium-high, heat a large saute pan then add olive oil. After oil is hot, add fennel and caramelize on all sides (3-4 min side.)

Add stock, wine, thyme and bay to fennel and reduce heat to medium-low.

Cover and gently simmer for 25 min., or until fennel bulbs are tender, (you may need to add more stock as you simmer).

Salt and pepper to taste.

Pan-Roasted Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce                                                                                                                                                         

Use any firm white fish fillet. Serve with quick cooking brown rice and sauteed kale.

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 fillet and 1/2 cup sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato or 1 -14 oz can low sodium diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, skin on

Directions

1. Heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper; keep warm.

2. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add fish to pan, skin side down; cook 3 minutes or until skin is browned. Turn fish over; cook 3-4 minutes. Pour sauce over fish. 

Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables              

Add a garden salad to round out this meal.

 Ingredients:

  • One 1 1/2 pound acorn squash, scrubbed—cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings, seeds discarded
  • 1 small red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large plum tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 12 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat rigatoni
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil; season with salt and pepper and spread in a single layer. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil on another rimmed baking sheet; add the tomato halves and garlic and roll to coat with oil. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and turn them cut side down.

Transfer both sheets to the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, until tender. Using tongs, transfer the garlic to a bowl; continue roasting the tomatoes for about 20 minutes longer, until very soft. Roast the squash and onion for about 45 minutes total, until tender and golden brown. Remove skin from squash rings and cut the squash into bite-size pieces. Discard the tomato skins and coarsely chop the flesh. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al-dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta. 

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the pine nuts and toast over moderate heat until golden. Add the crushed red pepper and olives and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir over moderately high heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Return the pasta to the pot.  Add the reserved cooking water, basil and parsley and toss. Serve the pasta in bowls, topping each with 1/2 tablespoon of the pecorino.

Grilled Mustard Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

Serve with green beans and store-bought focaccia or grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.                                                                                                                                                        

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lightly cracked fennel seeds
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 oz. each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil

 Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and fennel seeds. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Trim any excess fat from the breasts and then rinse and pat dry. Season the breasts with salt and pepper and rub them all over with the mustard-oil mixture.

When the grill is ready, grill the chicken until one side is nicely browned and grill marks appear, 2 to 3 min. (There may be some flare-ups at first; if they don’t go out, move the chicken off to the side until they do.) With tongs, rotate the breasts 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the sides of the breasts are fully opaque, another 2 to 3 min. Flip the breasts and grill in the same way until the second side is browned and the inside has just a trace of pink, another 4 to 6 min. Transfer to a clean cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 5 min.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil with the lemon juice, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Slice the chicken on an angle and serve drizzled with the vinaigrette.

Dieting? Low And Slow May Be The Way To Go When It Comes To Dieting

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

If you’re dieting, you know you’ve got to count calories, carbs and fats. But if you really want to take off the weight and keep it off, you might want to pay more attention to the glycemic index, which is essentially a measure of how quickly foods are digested.

That’s because high glycemic foods cause a surge in blood sugar, followed by a crash. That biological reaction releases hormones that stimulate hunger and actually lower metabolism, adding up to a dismal recipe for people who want to lose weight and keep it off. According to David Ludwig of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, “One of the unfortunate aspects of weight loss maintenance is that it takes fewer and fewer calories to just stay the same. As the body loses weight, it becomes more efficient and requires fewer calories,making it harder and harder to continue losing and making it difficult to maintain weight loss without continually dieting.” By some estimates, only 1 in 6 Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off after one year.

But Ludwig and colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that offers some tools you might use to fight back. Researchers compared the low-carb, low-fat and low-glycemic diets to see which one burned the most calories per day. The low-carb diet was the clear winner. The low-fat diet was the loser. But it was the diet in the middle, the low-glycemic index diet, that Ludwig suggests is more promising. It burned more calories per day than the low-fat diet and proved easier to stick to over the long term than the low-carb diet.

Mike Rogers, 43, was a participant who managed to keep off the 40 pounds he lost. He says the difference in the three diets was “enormous,” adding that “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”

Still trim, Rogers now eats far more fruits and vegetables than he did in the past, and, when it comes to carbohydrates, he opts for those with a lower glycemic index. That means brown rice versus white, whole grain pasta and steel cut oats instead of “quick-cooking” oats. He pretty much stays away from all processed foods.

Highly processed and refined foods, like packaged items, white bread, white rice, prepared breakfast cereals and crackers have a high glycemic index. “The body can digest these foods into sugar literally within moments after eating,” says Ludwig.

Low-glycemic foods tend to be natural foods like most vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. They actually wend their way slowly through the body’s digestion system, using up more energy and burning more calories in the process. And, best of all, says Ludwig, they actually “increase the metabolic rate and decrease hunger, giving us a biological advantage” in losing and maintaining weight.

Ludwig is quick to caution that his study was short and not conclusive. He’s working now to design a long-term study that looks at diet and weight loss maintenance over a number of years.

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the low-glycemic diet is hard to follow. In large part, that’s because there are many factors that affect how the body digests food, including the combination of food we eat, food preparation, whether vegetables and fruits are ripe, and our individual differences in how we digest food.

And eating too many low-glycemic foods that are also high in calories, sugar or saturated fats can be problematic.

Dubost urges moderation of carbs and fats. But equally important, she says, is a “part of the equation often ignored”: exercise. She points to research that shows people who were successful in maintaining their weight a year after losing it added a significant ingredient to their daily regimen: at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every single day.


Only about one percent of tuna comes to the market to be sold fresh. The rest goes to the cannery, because canned tuna is America’s most popular fish.

The word tuna dates back only to 1880 in print and is attributed as a Spanish American derivation of the English counterpart, tunny. It is derived from the Latin Thunnus, the name of its scientific genus. Tuna has been fished from the warm, temperate parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans since ancient times. As a member of the mackerel family, tuna naturally has a stronger, more robust flavor than whitefish.

Tuna meat differs from that of many other fish because it is pink or red rather than white. It is one of the most widely consumed types of fish, however, some varieties are endangered and therefore avoided or protected. In addition, the high levels of mercury in some kinds of tuna is a health concern, particularly for children and pregnant or nursing women.

Tuna can cruise up to 55 miles per hour and they are constantly in motion. To keep this speed machine going, the tuna eats up to ten percent of its body weight daily. Depending on the variety, weights average from 10 pounds up to 600 pounds per fish. The majority of the commercial tuna harvest comes from California. The average consumption of tuna in America is 3.6 pounds per person, per year, most of which is canned.

Tuna are saltwater fish and there are nine different species.

The different species are:

Albacore

Bigeye

Blackfin

Karasick

Longtail

Northern Bluefin

Pacific Bluefin

Southern Bluefin

Yellowtail

Skipjack makes up most canned light tuna.

Italian Cuisine

Tuna is a popular fish in the Italian cuisine. All along the Sicilian coast there were villages called tonnare that people would inhabit during the tuna season; when the tuna arrived (they’re migratory fish) the men would take to the sea, stringing nets that hung down from the surface like curtains, forming a corridor that guided the tuna into a final net with a bottom strung between the boats or in an inlet.

Like many other things, the traditional tonnara has fallen into decline, a victim of increasing industrial pollution in the Mediterranean and overfishing by commercial fleets that operate out at sea. However, some tonnare survive and, aside from the use of outboard motors and synthetic materials in the nets, little has changed in the fishing technique. Most of the catch is preserved, in part, by packing in oil.

Issues Over How Fish is Caught

Fishermen use different methods to catch tuna, however, methods that do not catch unwanted fish and sharks are preferred by environmentalists concerned about worldwide oceanic health.

Purse seines (see diagram) are very large circles of netting that can be lowered into the ocean around a school of fish. Fishermen then pull a drawstring at the bottom of the net closed and pull the net on board or use smaller nets to remove fish from the purse seine. Purse seining is most commonly used to catch tuna, however, this method frequently catches a considerable amount of bycatch or other fish including dolphins, very young tuna and sharks. Use of “fish aggregating devices,” floating objects around the netting, increases the bycatch when purse seining is used. Yellowfin, tongol, skipjack and blackfin tuna caught by this method have received an “avoid” ranking from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch due to concerns about by catch.

Purse Seine

Longline fishing (see diagram) involves stringing a fishing line of anywhere from 1 mile to over 50 miles in length. Smaller fishing lines are then hung vertically at spaced intervals with baited hooks to catch tuna near the surface of the open sea. Longline fishing for tuna can result in bycatch of endangered and threatened species including sharks and sea turtles. With the exception of tuna caught by longline near Hawaii or in the United States Atlantic Ocean, longline caught tuna is rated “avoid” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Longline Fishing

Trolling (see diagram) for tuna is a straightforward method where fishermen use a standard hook-and-line beside their boat or towed behind their boat. Trolling for tuna in this way is an environmentally sound way to catch tuna as lines are promptly reeled in after a fish takes the bait and fishermen can easily release unwanted fish. Troll fishing is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to catch tuna.

Troll Fishing

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch advises against eating any kind of Bluefin tuna at this time because the species are severely endangered. Bluefin is the most popular type of tuna used in sushi and is considered a delicacy. It has suffered extensive overfishing as a result. In addition, the great majority of Bluefin tuna is still wild-caught using methods that endanger other marine life, such as dolphins and sea turtles.

Tuna has been a popular fish for human consumption for centuries and has significantly suffered from overfishing as a result. Tuna farming has recently become more popular as a way to harvest the meat more safely. The different varieties of Bluefin are most widely used in these farming operations.

 Health Benefits of Eating Tuna

Tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, 464 mg per serving to be exact, which promotes heart health by reducing erratic heartbeats, lowering your risk of heart attacks and blood clots. Reducing blood clots has an added bonus of preventing and reducing risk of stroke.

A major health benefit of tuna, thanks to its high levels of selenium, is to flush toxins out of the liver. This promotes overall good health, which is a key factor in successful and ongoing weight loss.

Another health benefit of tuna is preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Thanks to the omega-3 and polyunsaturated fatty acids, tuna is a great way to control hypertension as well as prevent it for those at risk.

 Italian Style Tuna Recipes

Sicilian Tuna Steak – Tonno Alla Marinara                                                                                       

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen tuna steaks, 1 inch thick
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon minced)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or one 28-ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup pitted ripe olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

1. Cut tuna into 4 portions. Rinse tuna; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until onion is tender. Add tomatoes, wine, and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 7 minutes. Add olives, capers, and dried basil; cook for 3 minutes more.

3. Sprinkle tuna with kosher salt and black pepper. Add tuna to skillet on top of tomato mixture. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more or until tuna flakes easily when tested with a fork and is slightly pink in the center.

4. Transfer tuna pieces to 4 serving plates. Spoon tomato mixture over tuna. Sprinkle with fresh basil and drizzle with lemon juice.

Grilled Tuna with Rosemary – Tunnu a Palirmitana

4 servings                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen tuna cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon minced)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, slightly crushed
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs

Directions:

Cut fish into 4 serving-size pieces. Brush both sides of fish with oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle garlic and rosemary evenly onto fish; rub in with your fingers.

For a charcoal grill, place fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium-hot coals. Grill for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Top grilled fish with capers. If desired, garnish with fresh rosemary.

Broiler method: Place fish on the greased unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through broiling.

Spaghetti with Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes                                                                                         

Servings: 4 to 6 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a pasta course

  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound cooked fresh tuna (leftover grilled tuna is great) 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 whole, small, dried red chiles (such as chile de arbol) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed 
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half (about 2 cups) 
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a rolling boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, chop the tuna (you should have about 1 cup); set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, chiles and fennel. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the garlic is lightly golden and the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the cherry tomatoes and the anchovies and cook for about a minute to break down the anchovies. Add the tuna and use a wooden spoon to break up the tuna and the tomatoes into a chunky mixture. Add red wine vinegar and salt to taste. The flavor should be sweet, fragrant and bright. Keep warm over low heat until the pasta is done.

4. When the spaghetti is done, drain it, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and add the noodles to the skillet. Turn the heat to high, add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing the noodles to coat lightly with the sauce. Mix in the basil, season to taste with salt and serve immediately.

Sicilian Baked Tuna – Tunnacchiu ‘Nfurnatu

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh tuna from a small fish, in one piece
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 an onion finely chopped
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • 2 pounds potatoes, quartered
  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine a quarter cup of olive oil with the onion, vinegar and parsley to make a marinade; season with salt and pepper and marinate the fish for about an hour, turning frequently.

In the meantime cut the potatoes and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the fish in a baking dish, spoon some of the marinade over it.  Arrange the potatoes around it. Sprinkle everything with more marinade and the juice of the two lemons. Bake for 40 minutes and serve.

Lemony Pasta Salad – Insalata di Pasta Profumata al Limone

4 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 1 pound farfalle (butterfly) pasta
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 1/4 cup defrosted frozen peas
  • 12 ounces drained tuna, packed in oil, crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley and basil
  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • The grated zest of an organic lemon
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

Grate the carrots directly into a bowl. Crumble the tuna into the bowl as well, add the garlic, peas, the lemon juice and zest, stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, season lightly with salt, dust with a grating of pepper, mix well, and chill the mixture, covered, for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pasta. Drain it when it’s still fairly firm. When the pasta has cooled, stir it into the tuna mixture and season the pasta with the minced herbs.

If you don’t plan to serve it immediately, cover it and keep it chilled in the refrigerator.

Note: You can also use fresh tuna; you’ll need 2-8 ounce tuna steaks, which you will want to grill 3-4 minutes per side (season them with salt, pepper, and lemon juice) and dice.

 mosaic of fish


Eat at least a cup of beans weekly

What makes beans so good for us?

Here’s what the experts have to say:

Chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease all have something in common. Being overweight increases your chances of developing them and makes your prognosis worse if you do, says Mark Brick, PhD — which means that trimming your waistline does more for you than make your pants look better. Brick, a professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, is investigating the ability of different bean varieties to prevent cancer and diabetes.

More than just a meat substitute, beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week.

“Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories “, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Wellness Institute in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. But they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel full, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived.

Black Beans

Black Eyed Peas

Our diets tend to be seriously skimpy when it comes to fiber (the average American consumes just 15 grams daily), to the detriment of both our hearts and our waistlines. One cup of cooked beans (or two-thirds of a can) provides about 12 grams of fiber – nearly half the recommended daily dose of 21 to 25 grams per day for adult women (30 to 38 grams for adult men). Meat, on the other hand, contains no fiber at all.

This difference in fiber content means that meat is digested fairly quickly, Brick says, whereas beans are digested slowly, keeping you satisfied longer. Plus, beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger. When you substitute beans for meat in your diet, you get the added bonus of a decrease in saturated fat, says Blatner.

Pinto Beans

A study conducted at the University of Kentucky has shown that only three weeks of increased bean intake (3/4 cup of navy or pinto beans) lowered the men’s cholesterol by an average of 19%. This reduces the risk of heart attack by almost 40%.

Red Beans

In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans made the top of the list. And three others — black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas — achieved top-40 status.

How To Cook With Beans

Beans certainly hold up better in the industrial canning process than many other vegetables, but there are still many good reasons to cook your own, not the least of which, is the fact that so many canned varieties come packed with way more sodium than you need. Canned beans are a convenience but the taste difference in using cooked dried beans is very noticeable.

This recipe gives the beans a relatively neutral seasoning that leaves them easy to take in different directions. If desired, you can add herbs and spices to the cooking liquid, but resist the urge to add anything acidic, such as tomatoes, citrus, or vinegar, until the beans are cooked, or the skins of the beans will not soften as they should.

  • 1 pound dry beans of any variety
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more to taste

1. Rinse the beans, picking through them to remove any debris. Pour them into a bowl and add enough water to cover them by about 1 inch. Soak for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

2. Pour the oil into a medium pot over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beans and their soaking liquid, and add more water as needed to cover by about 1 inch.

3. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low so that the liquid barely simmers, cover, and cook the beans until tender, 1 to 2 hours (or even longer, depending on the variety and age of the beans).

4. Add the salt, and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes so that the beans absorb the salt. Taste, and add more salt if needed. If you’re not using the beans immediately, cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or portion into heavy-duty freezer-safe plastic bags and freeze for several months.

Turkey Sausages with Spicy Beans

Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 turkey sausage links
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 dried red hot peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked beans or 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Directions:

Heat a large high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to heat. Once hot, add the sausages and brown on all sides, for about 8 minutes total. Remove the sausages from the pan to plate and reserve.

Add the garlic, and saute until golden and brown. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped tomatoes and red peppers and season with salt and pepper. Lower the flame, and cover the pan with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and thickened to a sauce-like consistency.

Add the browned sausages (and any juice left on the plate), beans, and bay leaves to the thickened tomatoes. Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add the chopped parsley before serving.

Borlotti Bean Ragu 

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 7 cups cooked borlotti beans
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot; preheating the pan will prevent the pancetta from sticking. Cook until crispy. Add the oil, shallots, garlic, 3 teaspoons of the thyme and the vinegar and stir and simmer for a minute. Add the beans and the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer to heat the beans through. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives and serve.

Note: Borlotti are one of the many beans in the cranberry bean family. Originally from Colombia, Italians have bred them to have a thicker skin and possibly a creamier interior, making them ideal for dishes like this and for pasta e fagioli.

Lentil and Chicken Stew

Serve with slices of whole-grain baguette and a green salad.

2 servings, 1 3/4 cups each

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander or fennel seed, crushed (see Tip)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed (see Note)
  • 1 – 6 ounce bag baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Directions:

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring once or twice until no longer pink in the middle, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and heat over medium-low heat. Add carrot, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and lentils, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes (brown lentils take a little longer).

Add the cooked chicken, spinach and lemon juice and return to a simmer. Cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in dill.

Tips:

  • Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
  • Place whole spices in a plastic bag and crush with the bottom of a heavy skillet or pulse in a spice grinder.
  • French green lentils are firmer than brown lentils and cook more quickly. They can be found in natural-foods stores and some large supermarkets.

Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked with reserved cooking liquid or canned cannellini white beans, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 16 large shrimp, peeled (tail left on) and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small serrano chile, thinly sliced or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomato, canned or fresh
  • 1 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Drain the beans over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Put the white beans in a large skillet with just enough of their liquid to moisten them. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and bring the beans to a low simmer. Keep them warm while you prepare the shrimp.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and cook for about 1 minute, tossing frequently. Remove the shrimp with tongs to a bowl. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until the garlic browns. Add the serrano chile or chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and basil and stir briefly, then add the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute, and then stir in the shrimp. Toss well and cook briefly to reheat the shrimp. Remove the shrimp mixture to a plate and sprinkle with parsley.

Spoon the white beans on a platter or individual plates. Drizzle them with the best olive oil you have, and then top with the shrimp. Serve warm.

Toscana Soup with Ditalini and White Beans

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked or 1 can (19 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
  • 4 large (about 4 cups) plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups Ditalini pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided

Directions:

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sauté 3 to 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add broth and beans; heat to simmer.

Stir in tomatoes, Ditalini, 2 tablespoons parsley, oregano, pepper and salt.

Boil 10 to 12 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining parsley and 1/2 cup cheese. 

Serve with remaining cheese, crusty bread and a drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Cookbook

The book has the story of Rancho Gordo, the different heirloom beans in the Rancho Gordo collection and of course lots of great recipes and ideas for using beans.


How to Make Healthy Food Choices In Your Busy Life

You already know how important it is to make healthy food choices for you and your family, but how can you fit the best choices into your busy life?

You’ll be pleased to discover that a hectic life doesn’t mean that every meal has to be fast food on the run! Sometimes it’s difficult to make healthy changes, but with a little planning and know-how, it can be done.

Here are some strategies to help you and your family make healthy choices:

1. Avoid temptation. It’s so easy to walk into the store with good intent, but walk out with bags full of unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, our wills are weak, especially if we’ve trained ourselves over the years to buy junk foods.

Never shop when you’re hungry. This way you won’t pick out unhealthy choices because they look good at the moment.

Get rid of the unhealthy foods in your home. If they aren’t around, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Think of healthier alternatives to your family’s favorite unhealthy foods. Rather than high calorie chips, try trail mixes or whole grain crackers. Low calorie puddings or frozen yogurts are better alternatives to higher fat ice creams.

2. Eat fast and healthy meals at home. When you’re tired at the end of the day and you realize you still have to feed the family, it’s easy to go to a fast food chain and bring home dinner. It may save some time, but it won’t save your health – or your pocket book!

The great thing is that there are many easy, fast, and healthy foods you can make at home. This takes some planning, but you’ll be more satisfied, save money, and be healthier as well.

Look online for quick and easy recipes made with all natural ingredients. Many recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less and only have 5 ingredients. Taking the time to do some recipe research will save your sanity in the long run. (Don’t forget; there are many such recipes on this blog.) Then once you find a “hit” with the family, store the recipe in a book or on your computer.

3. When you cook, make large batches and freeze the leftovers. This way, you’ll already have meals in the freezer that you can just thaw, heat, and serve. No muss, no fuss! This is the opportune way to enjoy “fast” food at home.

4. Eat Slower. Since the brain takes about 20 minutes to get the signal that the stomach is full, if you eat too fast you’ll pack in a lot more food than you need. When you’re still thinking you’re hungry, it’s easy to make the wrong choices about food. If you slow down while you’re eating, you’ll eat less and you’ll still feel full.

5. Make dinner time a social experience. Dinner should be about enjoying your company and taking pleasure in the foods you’re eating.

Set a calming mood before sitting down for a meal. Avoid having the television on or eating as you’re rushing the kids out the door to another activity. Sitting calmly at the table will allow everyone to relax and enjoy their meal.

When you begin to look at mealtime as a social experience, it becomes easier to make the right choices about healthy foods. Suddenly you aren’t so worried about rushing through and making it quick.

Dinner becomes a great experience when you’re able to enjoy healthy foods together. Take time to eat as a family and enjoy a real conversation with each other. Talking will naturally slow down your eating pace, while also reconnecting you with your family members.

Healthy food choices are a possibility in your busy life if you take the time to plan ahead and make dinner time a priority in your home.

Grilled Sirloin Steak With Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette Italian salad dressing
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup cubed Havarti or Swiss cheese or cheese of choice
  • Creamy Italian salad dressing, recipe below
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens

Directions:

Brush steak with vinaigrette salad dressing and let stand for 15 minutes. Heat grill.

In large bowl, combine corn, onions, pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese with creamy Italian salad dressing and toss to combine. Place greens on serving plate and top with corn salad.

Grill steak for 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Remove from grill and let stand for 5 minutes.

 Slice thinly across the grain and place on top of corn salad. 4-6 servings

Low Fat Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, process all ingredients except sour cream until completely mixed.

Add sour cream and process just until mixed.

Fruit and Chicken Pilaf

Serve with roasted broccoli florets, see recipe post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/07/vegetables-on-the-side-no-butter-please/

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 oz. package quick cooking long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large skillet; add ground chicken and onions and cook until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 14-19 minutes until rice is tender and mixture is hot. 4 servings

Italian Sausage Kale Soup

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds Italian turkey sausage links, casings remove
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Crumble sausage into a Dutch oven; add onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain and wipe out pan; set sausage aside.Add olive oil and saute kale until wilted. Add garlic and, if desired, pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute. Add wine; cook 2 minutes longer.

Stir in the broth, beans, diced tomatoes, dried tomatoes, pepper and sausage mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts).

Linguine With Spicy Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp, tails removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 2 bunches watercress(or baby spinach leaves), torn (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, stopping just short of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta. Wipe out the pot.

2. Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the pasta, watercress, lemon zest, and reserved cooking water and cook, tossing, until the sauce coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes.

Tip

You may see either bagged, larger-stemmed, or delicate hydroponically grown watercress in the grocery store. All work equally well in this recipe. Trim off any thick and woody stems before using.

Tuna Fish Cakes

Serve with Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, recipe below

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz.cooked tuna, (3-5 oz. cans or pouches) drained
  • 1 large sweet potato, mashed with a little milk and olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Plain Panko crumbs (enough to be able to shape the fish into cakes)

Directions:

Put sweet potato in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender. Mash adding just enough milk and olive oil to moisten. Drain tuna well and add to mashed sweet potato.

Add in the scallions and sweet chili sauce. Mix together well.

Add enough breadcrumbs to make patties. Season with salt and pepper. Mold the mixture into 4 patties.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in frying pan and cook the fish cakes for 5 -7 minutes, turning only once, until hot and golden.

Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

4 servings, 1 cup each

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put green beans in the basket and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Toss the green beans in a large bowl with oil, orange zest, salt, pepper and almonds.


 

What is Swiss Chard?

It isn’t Swiss, for starters. It’s not clear where it’s from originally, most likely somewhere in the Mediterranean. Chard has gone by so many names over the centuries. A kind of beet green is what chard actually is. The Swiss chard we find in our markets, with its long white stems, is prized by Mediterranean cooks for flavoring soups and rice dishes. Swiss chard is grown abundantly in the districts around the Rhône valley because it can withstand cold weather, and is harvested up until the frost.

Although Swiss chard was known by the ancient Greeks, it is not always recognized in historical literature because of the enormous variety of names, in various languages by which it is and has been called and because of its relation to the beet family. In English it is also known under these names: chard, white beet, strawberry spinach, sea-kale beet, leaf beet, Sicilian beet, spinach beet, Chilean beet, Roman kale, and silverbeet. Originally, chard was a corruption of the French word for cardoon, carde, and the Swiss cardoon, a misnomer that William Woys Weaver, author of Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, likens to another famous misnomer, “Jerusalem artichoke.”

This vibrant, rainbow-hued vegetable is the top leafy green source of iron and manganese, both of which play a key role in balance control — which becomes increasingly important as we age. Manganese is particularly adept at subbing for other minerals in a pinch, but when manganese stores are ransacked, other manganese dependent functions (like healing and balance) may suffer. Harvard scientists examined the effects of this interplay in a basic study that matched mineral intake against balance and coordination. They found that iron deficiency caused a 77% increase of manganese loss in several motor-control brain regions of rats. This compensation depleted manganese stores, causing a 26% decline in balance ability. When additional manganese was added to the diet, balance improved by 33%. One cooked cup provides 22% iron and 29% manganese and 15% of daily fiber — for a mere 35 calories.

Garlicky Sauteed Greens

This is a basic recipe for cooking  greens and it is an excellent side dish for any entree.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 cups (packed) stemmed and roughly chopped swiss chard (about 5 large bunches)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Heat garlic and oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside.

Add greens, red pepper flakes, and salt to skillet. Using tongs, turn greens until wilted enough to fit in pan. Raise to medium, cover, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, tossing a few times during the cooking process. Transfer greens to a colander to drain. Return to pan and toss with reserved garlic and oil mixture.

Meatballs in Swiss Chard-Tomato Sauce

Ground turkey will work just as well as beef and pork in the meatballs.                                           

Makes 6 servings

For the meatballs:

  • 1 cup (2 ounces) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground pork
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the sauce:

  • 2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, rinsed but not dried, stems chopped, leaves shredded crosswise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups homemade marinara sauce

Directions:

To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk and let stand 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the pork and veal, soaked bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Form into 18 medium or 24 small meatballs and arrange them on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Bake, turning the meatballs once, until browned on both sides, about 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the garlic in the olive oil, stirring often, until it begins to release its fragrance, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chard stems, raise the heat to medium, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leaves and any water still clinging to them, cover, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon and the red pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, until the chard is tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the raisins and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook until the raisins are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the meatballs, cover, and simmer gently so the meatballs will absorb some of the sauce, about 10 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if you like.

Scoop the meatballs into a serving bowl or individual bowls, top with the sauce, and serve.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tortelli                                                                                                                                 

Tortelli are a stuffed pasta cut into square shapes.

4 to 6 servings

Filling:

  • 2 pounds Swiss chard (1 1/2 to 2 bunches)
  • 8 ounces skim ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta cooking water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pasta

  • 2 1/4 cups “00” Italian flour or all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For Filling:

Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to a boil.

Cut leaves from stems and center ribs of chard; rinse leaves (reserve stems and ribs for soup or for another use). Add chard to boiling water; simmer until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander; cool. Using your hands or a kitchen towel, squeeze out all excess liquid from greens, then finely chop (you should have about 1 cup greens).

In a bowl, stir together chard, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, salt and pepper. (Filling keeps in an airtight container and refrigerated, for up to 1 day.)

For Pasta: 

Put flour and eggs in the work bowl of the processor and process until the dough forms a ball.. Begin using dough immediately, or cover completely with a clean dishtowel and let rest for a few minutes.

Divide pasta dough into four pieces. Cover 3 pieces with a clean dishtowel. Flatten dough so that it will fit through the rollers of a hand-cranked pasta machine. Set rollers of pasta machine at the widest setting, then feed pasta through rollers 3 or 4 times, folding and turning pasta until it is smooth and the width of the machine. Roll pasta through machine, decreasing the setting one notch at a time (do not fold or turn pasta), until pasta sheet is 1/8-inch-thick.

Lay pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface with the long side facing you. Starting from the left end of the dough, about 2 inches from short edge, put 1 level tablespoon filling on to dough. Continue putting tablespoons of filling onto dough, each about 1 1/4 inches apart, until you reach end of pasta sheet. Fold dough over filling, lengthwise, then, using your fingers, gently but firmly press spaces around each mound to eliminate any air pockets. Using a pasta cutter, cut between mounds to form tortelli, then trim the unfolded edges.

Transfer tortelli to a cornmeal or semolina flour coated baking sheet and cover with a clean dishtowel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling to create 40 tortelli. (Tortelli can be boiled immediately, or kept, each layer separated by and covered with a clean dishtowel, in refrigerator for up to 2 hours).

Heat oven to 200º F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat; keep warm over very low heat.

When water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt. Add about 1/3 of the tortelli to the boiling water. Allow water to return to an active simmer (not a full boil), and cook until edges are tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tortelli to a large serving bowl, or to individual bowls. Drizzle with 1/3 of the butter and cheese and put into oven to keep warm.

 Repeat with remaining tortelli, butter and cheese. Once all tortelli are cooked, drizzle with 1 tablespoon pasta cooking liquid to moisten. Serve immediately.

Sirloin Steaks with Garlicky Swiss Chard

Ingredients:sirloin steaks with garlicky swiss chard recipe

  • 2 lb. sirloin steak, 1 inch thick
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine, such as merlot
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon. Dijon mustard
  • 2 large bunches Swiss chard (about 1-1/2 lb. total), stems very thinly sliced and leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 oz. Pecorino Romano, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler (1 cup; optional)

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Trim and cut the steak into 4 portions. Season the steaks all over with the rosemary, 2 teaspoons. salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the steaks in the skillet in a single layer and cook, turning once, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to the oven and roast until medium rare (130°F to 135°F), 4 to 6 minutes more. Set the steaks aside to rest on a serving plate.

Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium-high heat. Carefully add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil while whisking constantly.

Add the chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves in batches and cook, tossing, until the leaves are wilted enough to fit comfortably in the skillet, about 2 minutes. Cover the skillet and cook, tossing once or twice, until just tender, about 5 minutes.

Place the chard mixture on top of the steaks. Sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano, if using, and serve.

Serve with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, which can roast right alongside the steak at 400 degrees F. (though they’ll need to begin roasting before the steak goes in).

Potatoes

  • 1-3/4 lb. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 large cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed

Directions:

Use the oven temperature set in the recipe above if making the potatoes with the steak.  If not, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil, rosemary, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Arrange them cut side down in a well-spaced single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow roasting pan, making sure to scrape out and include any herbs and oil stuck to the bowl. Roast for 20 minutes and then stir the potatoes with a spatula and scatter the garlic cloves over them.

Continue roasting, stirring every 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce easily with a skewer and the skins are browned all over, crisp, and bit shriveled, about 30-40 minutes more. Serve immediately.

 

Onion Pizza With Ricotta And Chard

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound chard, stemmed, leaves washed
  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough, homemade or store bought
  • 3/4 cup ricotta (6 ounces)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute

Directions:

1. Thirty minutes before baking the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and very sweet and soft. Remove from the heat.

2. While the onions are cooking, stem and wash the chard leaves, and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the chard. Cook for two minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop the chard medium-fine.

3. Spread the dough on a pizza pan that has been oiled and dusted with cornmeal.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg substitute, Parmesan and chard. Spread over the pizza dough in an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border around the rim. Spread the onions over the ricotta mixture.

5. Place in the hot oven, and bake 15-20 minutes until the crust and bits of the onion are nicely browned.

Advance preparation: The cooked onions and the cooked chard will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.


Gorgonzola is one of the most famous Italian cheeses in the world. It is known for its blue veins and unique flavor, which is both sharp and sweet. Gorgonzola is a member of the blue cheese family of cheeses. The body of gorgonzola cheese is an ivory color. It has pronounced blue-green veins and a gray-gold or a reddish-brown, wrinkled crust. Gorgonzola comes in a circular shape.

This cheese gets its name from the small town of Gorgonzola, located near Milan and the cheese has been produced for centuries. Although we do not know the exact date it was first produced, we know it was probably around the late Middle Ages. The cheese itself was first produced in the ninth century, although its full blue green-gray color was not fully developed until the 11th century. Gorgonzola was originally aged in caves, where the blue veins in the cheese developed from spores. At one time, Gorgonzola was called “Stracchino” cheese and was used to cure stomach conditions during the Middle Ages. It was also believed to prolong life.

Gorgonzola cheese has special PDO status, which means that it has a Protected Designation of Origin. The quality and authenticity of Gorgonzola is protected by international and Italian law with certain regulations concerning the manufacture and packaging of the cheese. In fact, a consortium was created by the Italian government in order to protect and oversee the production of Gorgonzola. Gorgonzola must be produced with milk from certain provinces in Italy, and it also must be produced in the Piedmont or Lombardy regions in Italy.

A centuries-old legend has it that a young boy working as an apprentice in a dairy was given the important job to oversee the production of the cheese. Even though this job required serious attention, the youngster worked attentively until one evening, distracted by a surprise visit from his girlfriend, he forgot to finish making the cheese. When he returned to work the next morning, the boy immediately realized his mistake and found the milk curds covered with mold. Aware of the trouble that he would be in if his master discovered his mistake, the apprentice decided to mix the ruined curds with fresh milk in an attempt to dissolve the mold. The blue-green veins did not go away, however, the boy quickly realized that he had invented a creamy cheese that tasted good: without intending to, he created Gorgonzola.

In the past, Gorgonzola could take one year to produce because of the long aging process. Today, the cheese is exposed to more oxygen, which shortens the process to three to six months. The cheese can be of a young or an old variety. Gorgonzola that has not been aged long is called Dolce and is creamier and milder than the aged version. It is good for sauces and spreads. Piccante and  Naturale Gorgonzola are the aged varieties. They are sharper and more crumbly which makes them good additions to the tops of prepared dishes or for eating by themselves. In fact, Gorgonzola is most frequently served as a dessert cheese at the end of a meal.

Gorgonzola cheese is an uncooked cheese made from whole cow’s and/or goat’s milk. The milk is added to Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria along with spores of the mold Penicillium glaucum or Penicillium roqueforti. After the whey is removed from the mixture, it is aged at low temperatures. As it ages, metal rods are inserted to create air channels that allow the cheese greater exposure to oxygen. The increased oxygen causes the mold spores to germinate much more quickly and create the blue-green veins. Gorgonzola is usually aged for three to four months, after which it is wrapped in foil.

Gorgonzola can be used in several ways. It is often served alongside fruit such as pears, grapes, and figs and paired with wine at the end of a meal. When used in dishes, it can be served cold (on a salad, for instance) or hot. Gorgonzola sauces can be created for topping vegetables and short pasta such as ziti, and it is sometimes heated and served atop baked oysters. Gorgonzola can also be melted into a risotto or served with Polenta. Gorgonzola is highly perishable so it must be refrigerated. It should be well wrapped in either aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It can be kept this way for a maximum of about 45 days. Gorgonzola cheese is a living food, so it will continue to mature as it is stored. It will develop a stronger flavor and become softer. If, however, the body of the cheese develops a pink or a brown tone, it is too ripe and should be discarded.

Many dishes prepared with Gorgonzola cheese are very fattening because they usually include heavy cream. The smart way to use this cheese is with moderation and low-fat ingredients.  Since it is a strong-flavored cheese a little goes a long way.  The recipes for the first and second courses below are less than 350 calories per serving and the appetizer and dessert courses are less than 200 calories per serving.

Some Typical Ways Italians Serve Gorgonzola Cheese – Made Healthy

Antipasto Course

Arugula and Pear Salad with Pomegranate

4 Servings                                                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup balsamic vinegar syrup
  • 4 oz. arugula washed well and dried
  • 3 Seckel pears, peeled and sliced
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked
  • black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded

Directions:

Make the balsamic syrup by placing vinegar in a small saucepan and cooking over low heat until thickened (or until it starts bubbling). Cool. Place the arugula and pears together in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Divide salad onto four cold plates and garnish with walnuts, cheese (1 tablespoon per plate) and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle a spoonful of balsamic syrup over each salad.

First Course 

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Gorgonzola

You can use 12 cups of spinach instead of Swiss Chard. Do not add the spinach to the boiling water with the pasta until the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time.

4 Servings      

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups Swiss chard leaves, cut into 1-inch strips, stems reserved for another use
  • 6 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic & herb seasoning
  • 4 ounces low fat/skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped sage
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk warmed slightly

Directions:

1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Add in the Swiss chard and pasta, lower heat to medium-high, and cook until pasta is tender about 3-4 minutes; drain.

2. In a large bowl add all of the remaining ingredients except for the milk, add in the cooked pasta and Swiss chard, stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are well combined.

3. Slowly stir in milk.

Second Course

Gorgonzola & Prune Stuffed Chicken

Serve over quick-cooking barley with broccoli or artichoke hearts on the side.

4 servings

Ingredients:

 

  • 1/2 cup chopped prunes, divided
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (1-1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Directions:

Combine 1/4 cup prunes, Gorgonzola, bread crumbs, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme in a small bowl. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin edge of each chicken breast, nearly through to the opposite side. Stuff each breast with about 2 1/2 tablespoons filling. Use a couple of toothpicks to seal the opening. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, shallot, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme to the pan; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and the remaining 1/4 cup prunes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the wine evaporates, about 2 minutes. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, return the chicken and any juices to the pan and turn to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove toothpicks, slice the chicken, and top with the sauce.

 Dessert Course

Vanilla Scented Poached Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts                                                                   

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe but firm Bosc pears
  • 2 cups sweet wine such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions:

Peel pears, if desired, and cut lengthwise in half. (If you like, leave the stems attached to two of the halves for an attractive  appearance.) Use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds. Bring wine, water, and allspice to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven just large enough to arrange pear halves in one layer. Add pear halves. Reduce heat so as to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer pears uncovered, turning over every 5 minutes with a large spoon until pears are almost tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a shallow bowl; cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Turn heat to high; boil juices in a saucepan until reduced to 1/3 cup, 16 to 18 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Transfer pears to serving dishes. Drizzle syrup over pears; top with cheese and pine nuts.

Tip: It’s not necessary to peel the pears. Many of the vitamins are just beneath the skin, and leaving the skin on helps keep the pear from becoming mushy.



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