Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Bologna is well-known for its food, architecture, music and for its independent political thinking, and is now regarded to be one of the most attractive cities in Italy. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy and is less than an hour inland from the east coast, about halfway between Florence and Milan. Nearby cities of interest include Modena and Ravenna.

The history of Bologna began with the Etruscans. In the VI century B.C., the city bore the Etruscan name “Felsina”.  Later the Romans renamed the city Bononia, from which the current name, Bologna, is derived.  At its peak, it was the second city of Italy, and one of the most important of all the Empire, with various temples and baths, a theatre, and an arena. Pomponius Mela, author of A Description of the World, included Bononia among the five wealthiest cities of Italy. Although fire damaged the city during the reign of Claudius, the Roman Emperor Nero rebuilt it in the 1st century AD.

In 1088, the Studio, later known as the University of Bologna, was founded and could boast notable scholars of the Middle Ages in attendance, such as, Irnerius, Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarca. The university received a charter from Frederick I Barbarossa in 1158, but in the 19th century, a committee of historians led by Giosuè Carducci traced the founding of the University back to 1088, which would make it the oldest university in the world.

University of Bologna

Two Towers

In the Medieval period, Bologna was an important and thriving city. Between the XII and XIV centuries, some of the city’s most important buildings were constructed: among these were the Two Towers, the traditional symbol of the city, the Basilica of San Petronio and King Enzo’s Palace.

In 1256, Bologna passed the Legge del Paradiso (“Paradise Law”), which abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves, using public money. At that time the city centre was full of towers (perhaps 180), built by the leading families, notable public edifices, churches, and abbeys. It was the next most important city after Rome but, always, managed to maintain relative autonomy. In the XVII and XVIII century, the city expanded, above its outside walls. In the middle of the XVIII century, the Portico of San Luca was built. 

Bologna is also a city famous for its painters, such as the Carracci brothers, Guido Reni and, in the XX century, Giorgio Morandi, in which his famous still life works are exhibited at the Giorgio Morandi Museum, inside the Town Hall (Palazzo Comunale).

The Bolognese are also known for their fierce independence; throughout history the city’s rebellions against the papal rulers and injustice illustrates this spirit. Even today, you are sure to see locals in heated political discussion and debates about the day’s topics.

San Luca is the world’s longest continuous portico, a covered walkway of 666 arches more than two miles long

Bologna Nightlife:

Bologna has a rich music heritage, where music plays a significant part in everyday life. The city of Bologna is an important place for Italian and international events and festivals. The city hosts the International Composition competition in August, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Bologna railway station slaughter in 1980, the European Jazz Festival and the Bologna Festival, dedicated to classical, baroque and contemporary music. It is also the seat of “Angelica”, an international festival of contemporary music and of the Zecchino d’Oro Festival (children’s choir festival). Additional summertime entertainment options include a daily open-air disco in Parco Cavaioni on the outskirts of the city and the city-sponsored Bologna Sogna series, with concerts at museums and buildings around town. During the rest of the year, nightlife events abound for young people in the university area.

The Food of Bologna:

The cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region is one of the best in Italy and some of Italy’s most famous foods come from this region. Handmade egg pasta and stuffed pasta, especially tortellini, are specialties of Bologna and, of course, there is the famous Ragu alla Bolognese, a long cooked meat sauce. In truth, there probably isn’t one authentic recipe for bolognese sauce.  (See my post for my version:  http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/)  Bologna is also known for its salami, ham and cheese.  

D.O.P stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta”, which means Protected Designation of Origin.  The D.O.P designation guarantees that the products come from a certain location in Italy. Also, the methods of production must be traditional, and have fixed storage guidelines.

Parma ham (also known as Posciutto Crudo di Parma) –  (D.O.P.)  This is ham that’s been salted for several weeks, rather than cooked. It has a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and it’s made — of course — in Parma.

The home of Prosciutto di Parma and other meat delicacies.

Mortadella di Bologna. Spiced pork from Bologna. This is where we get our word “bologna” from, but this is not the supermarket lunchmeat. 

Mortadella di Bologna IGP

Parmigiano Reggiano.  A D.O.P. protected cheese, made in Parma and Reggio Emilia.  You might know it as “parmesan.” However, unless you’re holding the D.O.P-protected Parmigiano-Reggiano in your hands, you’re not really tasting the real thing.

Balsamic vinegar of Modena. One of the region’s most world-famous foods, D.O.P. protected balsamic vinegar can only be made in Modena, which is in Emilia-Romagna.  It is especially good drizzled over some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Look for it on pastas, too. One thing Emilia-Romagna does very well is mixing sweet and savory, such as a pasta filled with pears, Parmigiano Reggiano, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Calamari ripieni di calamaretti. Small squid are chopped, seasoned, mixed with rice, and used to stuff – large squids.

Asparagi ravennati.  Famous asparagus of Ravenna. Look for it in risotto.

Anguilla alla ravennate. Eel sautéed in butter with tomatoes, and a specialty in Ravenna.

Piselli alla pancetta. Peas cooked with pancetta (a salt-cured, spiced Italian bacon), sometimes with mixed with pasta.

Lasagna. Some Bolognese claim that lasagna was invented here. Regardless of where exactly it originated, the version made in Bologna is one of the best.

Tortellini. The pasta that has become a favorite worldwide — those little pouches filled with cheese or, in some cases, meats (although that’s usually for their larger cousin, tortelloni) — was invented in the Emilia-Romagna region. And some fascinating legends are connected with how it got its start. Our story: While traveling, the pope’s daughter Lucrezia Borgia checked into the small town of Castelfranco Emilia, near Modena. The innkeeper was captivated by Lucrezia, and in the night, he couldn’t help himself — he peeked through the keyhole into her room. All he saw… was her navel. In typical Italian fashion, he turned his desire into inspiration, making a new pasta in the shape of Lucrezia’s navel in homage. A second story: to the Bolognese, the shape of tortellini was inspired by the female navel. One story, hailing from the 17th century, claims that tortellini was created by a cook who molded the pasta in the navel of a Bolognese woman.

Capellettacci. Pasta filled with chocolate-flavored chestnuts and served with olive oil and pepper.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese. Not exactly what we think of when we think “Bolognese sauce,” this is a thick ragu of onions, carrots, pork, veal, and with just a little bit of tomato.

Amaretti or amarelle. Almond-flavored macaroons, a specialty of Modena. Today, bakeries throughout the region, and in Italian communities around the world, carry Amaretti di Saronno, but it’s worth the (small) effort to make them yourself. The recipe is simple, and fresh from the oven, they have a crisp-yet-tender texture that’s beyond compare.

Pampepato di cioccolato. A Christmastime cake made of cocoa, milk, honey, spices, almonds and lemon peel, then covered with candy-studded chocolate frosting. It dates back to the 15th century, and an 11-pound version was even given by the city of Ferrara to General Eisenhower during the World War II.

Bologna Inspired Recipes For You To Make At Home

Lunch

Onion Frittata                                                                                                                                                                  

The key to making this dish is to have all the ingredients prepared before you begin sautéing the onions.

4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 large eggs or 4 whole eggs and 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 3 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 3 large fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1/3 cup skim milk ricotta

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in egg mixture. Spoon dollops of ricotta evenly over.

Cook until frittata begins to set, about 2 minutes. Place in oven; bake until just set, 7-9 minutes. Slide the frittata onto a platter. Cut into wedges; serve hot or at room temperature.

Shaved Fennel Salad in Balsamic Vinaigrette                                                                                                                           shaved-fennel-salad                    

The balsamic dressing below is quite versatile; try it with baby greens or grilled vegetables.

Make a double batch and refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks.

 Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried 
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered, and sliced paper-thin
  • 6 oz mixed baby greens or arugula

Directions:

Place the shallots, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in jar. Close with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend.
Pour the dressing over the fennel in a bowl. Toss, taste for salt, adjust if needed, and marinate for 15 minutes. Serve over a bed of baby greens or arugula.

Dinner

Bologna-Style Pork Chops

These pork chops with prosciutto and cheese are somewhat more involved than some other pork chops, but will be a delightful surprise at the table, and are well suited to company.

6 servings 

Ingredients:

  • 6 (3/4 inch) bone on pork chops
  • 6 slices of prosciutto
  • 6 slices fontina cheese
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Trim all the gristle and fat from the cutlets, then split them in half, leaving the halves attached only along the bone, so that the cutlets will open like a book.

Open the pork and fill each with a piece of prosciutto and a piece of cheese, trimming their edges so nothing sticks out.

In a skillet large enough for all the pork chops to lie flat, heat the oil with the bay leaves. Place the pork chops into the pan and brown them on both sides, turning them carefully. Season the meat with the minced garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper, cover, and cook over a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, turning the meat occasionally.

Agnolotti With Sage Butter 

Some agnolotti pasta are square or rectangular in shape, while others, especially from Bologna form a half-moon circle.

A quick way to achieve small stuffed pastas without all the kitchen labor, is to cheat a little, by using Wonton (what Chinese!) wrappers.  Not authentic but quick and tastes like the real thing.

Servings: 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces ground beef
  • 2 ounces ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 42 wonton wrappers (square or round)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Directions:

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and pork; saute until brown, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and saute until wilted and liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Cool.

Finely chop mixture in the processor. Transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in egg.

Lightly flour a baking sheet. Arrange 12 wonton wrappers on work surface, keeping the rest covered with a towel to prevent dryness. Spoon 1 teaspoon filling in center of each. Brush edges with water. Fold each wrapper in half, forming a triangle or rectangle. Press edges together and form into desired shapes. Transfer to the floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.).

Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over low heat. Add sage; remove from heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, working in batches, cook Agnolotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer Agnolotti to shallow soup bowls. Drizzle with sage butter and serve.

 

Chicken Scallopini with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

After the scaloppine are browned in olive oil, the pan is deglazed with chicken stock and balsamic vinegar to create a rich sauce. Add a 1/2 pound of mushrooms with the shallots if you like this addition.

 Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken scallopini (about 4 ounces each), pounded thin with a mallet, see post on how to prepare scallopini: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/09/how-many-ways-can-i-make-scallopini/
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, optional
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena)
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, torn

Directions:

Dredge the scaloppine in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add the scaloppine in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes; turn. Cook on the other side until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the shallots (and mushrooms, if using) and garlic to the skillet; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and reduce over high heat for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the balsamic vinegar; cook until the sauce reduces and becomes syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in the basil, return the chicken to the skillet, and turn a few times to coat with the sauce and to warm through. Serve hot. 

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Orange                                                                                                         

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. egg tagliatelle or fettuccine (preferably fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1″ pieces
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup fat-free half and half
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente, (about 2 minutes for fresh pasta), longer for dried. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto; sauté until browned, about 3 minutes.

Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of the orange zest and half and half; bring to a simmer. Add pasta; cook, stirring, until sauce coats the pasta, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divide among warm bowls. Sprinkle remaining orange zest over pasta.


Native to the East Indies, endive and escarole were introduced into Egypt and Greece at a very early period and references to them appear in early history accounts.  Escarole is a member of the leafy chicory family, widely cultivated in England from at least the 1500’s and is a popular green in Sicilian cuisine. The plants were, eventually, brought to America by colonists.

Endive is closely related botanically to chicory and the two names are sometimes incorrectly used as synonyms. Escarole is another name for a type of endive with broad leaves and  “endive” is used to designate plants with narrow, finely divided, curly leaves. Equally confusing are the two types of endive plants that you will see in your produce aisle. These greens are used raw in salad, or may be cooked like spinach. The slightly bitter flavor adds zest to a mixed salad.

French Endive

Endive-Frisee

Chicory

The outer layers of the escarole plant are dark green but after peeling back a layer, it will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green. Each layer will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green, and as the leaves lighten in color, the bitterness will also significantly lessen. What this means is that in preparing a dish, one can use different layers of escarole in order to achieve a particular taste that one wants.

Few young people, these days, have ever heard of escarole and I wonder how many have ever tasted this leafy green. In the world of Italian-American foods, escarole may be second only to Sunday “gravy.” Escarole finds itself in soups, in recipes with beans and in stuffed versions. A very important use of escarole has been for a New Year’s Day soup, a soup that most Italian Americans called “Straciatella,” which means something like “rag soup.” The name comes from the way the greens and the beaten egg swirl about shapelessly in the chicken broth. Then, there is escarole and beans, one of my grandfather’s favorites.

Purchase and Care of Escarole

Choose firmly packed heads with unblemished leaves. Crispness, freshness, and tenderness are essential factors of quality. Wilted plants, especially those that have brown leaves, are undesirable, as are plants with tough, coarse leaves. Such leaves will be excessively bitter. 

How to Store: Wrap escarole in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days.

What are the health benefits of Escarole?

Escarole is rich in many minerals and vitamins, especially folate.  A 1/2 cup serving of escarole provides 36 mg of folate.

Escarole is a good source of vitamin B complex, A, C, and K.

Escarole is high in fiber and is also an optimum source of minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium.

Escarole is fat free, low in carbohydrates and calories. It can be added to any diet plan and 100 grams of fresh leaves will only be around 17 calories

Escarole is enriched with a good amount of antioxidants that are derived from Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is also an essential vitamin for vision, healthy hair and glowing skin. Consumption of natural greens also protects from lung and oral cavity cancers.

So next time you are in the produce aisle, pick up a head of escarole and make one of the following recipes.

Sauteed Escarole                                                                                                                                                                   

Serves: 4

Italians incorporate an abundance of vegetables into their diet. This is a very typical and simple preparation of a traditional vegetable. Serve as a side dish with your favorite entrée or a pasta with a hearty tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads escarole, about 1 3/4 lbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

To prepare escarole:

Cut out the core of each head, then cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Rinse leaves several times in cold water until all dirt has been rinsed off. Drain escarole of as much liquid as possible prior to sautéeing.

Combine olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan and heat together over medium heat until the garlic begins to lightly brown. Be very careful not to burn garlic as it will turn bitter. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute. Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover the pan for a few minutes so that escarole can braise in its own liquid and lose some of its bitterness. Uncover and let liquid evaporate. Escarole is finished once it is tender (approximately 5 to 6 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl.

Escarole and Beans

This dish is best served with warm crusty Italian bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large heads escarole, torn into bite sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

Wash escarole well in several changes of water

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook for one minute. Mix in escarole, turning to coat with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until tender.

Pour in beans and chicken broth, and simmer until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley; simmer 10 minutes more.

Escarole Salad

Using marmalade in a dressing allows you to put a little sweetness into a salad without adding additional sugar. Orange Marmalades range in flavor and texture, so your dressing will vary, depending on which sort you choose. Some are more sweet, others more bitter. Use the marmalade you like best.

 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
  • 1/2 pound small button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 4 ounces escarole (inner leaves are good for this dish), torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach (about 4 packed cups)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • Flaky coarse sea salt

Directions:

Make the base for the dressing: In a small saucepan, combine the shallots, oil, 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Heat over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are very soft and just lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.

When the shallots have cooled, add the marmalade plus the orange zest, the vinegar, lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon each fine sea salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, then whisk in the lukewarm water.

In a large serving bowl, combine the escarole and spinach. Add the dressing and toss. Season to taste with crushed flaky coarse sea salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms and walnuts. Gently toss to combine and garnish with extra orange zest, if desired.

Caponata-Style Escarole With Fish Fillets                                                                                                                          

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each) other firm white fish fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large head of escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
  • 10 anchovies (about 3 ounces), drained and coarsely chopped
  • 10 oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, well rinsed
  • Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Thinly slice off both ends of one lemon. Cut into 8 thin slices. From remaining lemon, squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice into a bowl.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over moderate heat until deep golden, about 2 minutes; discard the garlic. Add the escarole to the pan along with the anchovies, olives and capers. Cook, stirring constantly, until the escarole turns bright green and wilts, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange salmon or other fish fillets on top; season with salt and pepper. Place 2 lemon slices on each fillet. Cover, and cook until salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes.

Transfer salmon to a plate. Stir lemon juice into escarole mixture. Serve fish over the escarole and garnish with parsley.

Mediterranean Rice-Stuffed Escarole

Stuffed Escarole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • 1 large head escarole (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten  or 1/4 cup egg substitute   
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the upper third of the oven.

Quarter escarole, lengthwise, leaving base attached, and rinse well. Cook in a medium pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) 6 minutes. Drain and cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1 quart water to a boil with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan. Add rice and parboil, uncovered, 10 minutes (rice will not be tender). Reserve 1/2 cup the cooking liquid, then drain rice in a fine sieve.

Cook pine nuts in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add beef and brown. Add peppers, raisins, capers, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until raisins begin to plump, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add rice. Cool slightly, then stir in egg and 1/4 cup cheese.

Cut off and discard base from 1 escarole quarter, then gently spread leaves to create a 4-inch-wide area. With base end nearest you, place one fourth of rice mixture in center of bottom half of one escarole quarter. Fold base of leaves over rice, then fold in sides and roll up rice in escarole. Put, seam side down, in a 2-quart flameproof shallow baking dish, then repeat with remaining escarole and stuffing.

Drizzle with reserved rice cooking liquid and remaining tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and turn on broiler, then broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is browned, 4 to 7 minutes.

 


What happens when you’re having guests for dinner and one or two of them are vegetarian?

Some preparation beforehand can ensure that your vegetarian guests will enjoy the evening as much as your other guests.

Ask your dinner guests exactly what they do or do not eat.There are different types of vegetarians. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions and what options are safe to serve.

Lacto vegetarians eat non-meat animal products, e.g. dairy (milk, gelatin-free yogurt, butter, rennet-free cheese) and honey, but no fish, chicken, meat, or gelatin.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs in addition to dairy products, but no fish, chicken, meat, gelatin, or cheese that contains rennet.

Vegans avoid eggs, dairy products, honey, meat, gelatin and animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products.

Pescetarians aren’t vegetarians but eat seafood and a mostly vegetarian diet. 

Read the labels: Some curry pastes and pasta sauces contain meat or fish products (fish sauce or shrimp paste in the former, and anchovies or meat stock in the latter are common culprits). Always check the labels. Some recipes may already be acceptable, or could be easily adapted (for example, using soy milk instead of cow’s milk to make a dessert vegan). When purchasing products, look out for hidden animal ingredients such as meat broths, gelatin, casein or whey, lactose, butter, cheese, etc.

Do not assume that vegetarians will pick the vegetables out of a meat dish, or eat potatoes or vegetables that has been cooked in the same oil as meats or fish. Prepare a separate meat-free dish for them, without using the same utensils. Don’t assume that vegetarians just survive on tofu and lentils. Look to some of the great cuisines of the world, such as those of Asia, southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, for inspiration.

Keep it fresh-avoid mock meat. When in doubt, simple is the way to go. Use seasonal produce – it will be cheaper, too. Remember that vegetarians eat what non-vegetarians eat, just without meat. Think basics such as pasta and risotto and you can’t go wrong. Make sure that the quantity and quality of food served to all the guests is similar. Don’t expect a vegetarian guest to feel satisfied with an iceberg lettuce salad or pasta in boring, basic tomato sauce while everyone else has a gourmet meal. It is a common error that restaurants also make. Don’t forget to include protein. Good protein sources are vegetarian bean or whole grain casseroles.

How to best accommodate vegetarian dinner guests:

An easy solution is to make two versions of the main dish; a meat version and a vegetarian one, and prepare vegetarian sides. That way you’ll satisfy all guests. The secret to making a vegetarian version of any main dish is simply substitute the meat with a meatless ingredient that will easily take the place of the meat. This way you can cook a balanced vegetarian version for any main dish without requiring any complicated or hard-to-find ingredients.

Both main dishes can be treated similarly in terms of timing, letting you focus on being with your guests the rest of the time. Very little extra work is required; only the main dish is being duplicated, and it still takes less than twice the work because you’re simply splitting your ingredients into different pans. Ultimately, your vegetarian dinner guests are certain to notice and appreciate any efforts you make to accommodate their dietary requirements, particularly a vegetarian version of your main dish.

Holiday dinners present an even bigger challenge because special meat dishes are usually the centerpiece of the menu . The following recipes show you how to prepare two versions of the main dish; a meat entree and a similar vegetarian one. Much of the preparation can be done in advance in all these recipes. 

Beef Wellington

Vegetable Wellington

Beef and/or Vegetable Wellington

A classic Beef Wellington can break both your calorie and grocery budget. It is an extravagant combination of beef tenderloin, truffles, chicken liver pate, puff pastry and a rich sauce made from Madeira wine. Few dishes can top a Wellington when it comes to elegance and presentation. However, with a few substitutions, you can make this dish fit better with a healthy diet without sacrificing any of the decadence or flavor. If you have vegetarian guests at the your table, you can save time by using the same stuffing for both entrees and still give your vegetarian guests an equally elegant holiday dish. I would serve two non-starchy vegetables with these entrees, such as sauteed greens of choice and roasted parsnips.

For the Wellington Stuffing:

  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (any combination of white, brown or gourmet)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, sweet onion or shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 ounces fat free cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons truffle oil, optional

Directions:

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan set on medium heat. Saute the chopped mushrooms, garlic, onion, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of cracked, black pepper until the water has cooked out of the vegetables and they are condensed — approximately 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Remove the mushroom mixture from heat. Stir in parsley, cream cheese and truffle oil. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover it and keep it at room temperature.

For the Beef:

  • 3-pound beef tenderloin, in one piece
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

Remove the tenderloin from the refrigerator approximately one hour before it’s time to assemble the dish.

Pat the roast dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-hot heat. Sear the beef, cooking it approximately two minutes on each side.

Transfer the tenderloin to a cooling rack. Place a baking sheet under the rack to catch the drips. Rest the roast until it’s cool to the touch — about 10 minutes.

For the Squash:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small butternut squash (1 1/4 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

In a very large skillet over high heat, melt butter. Add the squash in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. (If the squash doesn’t fit in one layer, cook it in batches). Stir and continue to cook until the squash is golden, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Stir in the maple syrup, thyme, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. 

Assemble the Beef Wellington:

  • 16-ounce package puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets in a package)
  • 1/2 of the Mushroom Pate
  • Browned beef tenderloin
  • 1 egg, whisked with 1/2 teaspoon water and divided in half
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Lightly flour work surface and a rolling pin. Line the 2 pastry sheets up side by side and fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

Roll the pastry into a 13-by-16-inch rectangle. Take care to join the seams.

Spread half the mushroom pate in an even layer over the pastry with a rubber spatula, being careful not to tear the tender pastry. Leave approximately a 1-inch border around the pastry without pate. The mixture will spread out when you wrap it around the beef.

Lay the tenderloin in the center of the pastry. Pull the dough up around the beef, making clean, straight seams. Trim away excess pastry. Press out air pockets as you wrap the pastry around the roast.

Brush the seams with a pastry brush dipped in the whisked egg set aside for the beef. Press the seams lightly with your fingers to seal them. Cool the beef in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Assemble the Vegetable Wellington:

  • 16-ounce package puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets in a package)
  • 1/2 of the Mushroom Pate
  • Butternut Squash mixture
  • Reserved egg wash
  • Olive oil

Directions:

On the same floured work surface, line the 2 pastry sheets up side by side and fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

Roll the pastry into a 13-by-16-inch rectangle. Be sure to join the seams.

Spread half the mushroom pate in an even layer over the pastry with a rubber spatula, being careful not to tear the tender pastry. Leave approximately a 1-inch border around the pastry without pate. Then spoon the squash over the center of the mushroom pate (it will look like a stripe of squash lying on a bed of mushrooms).

Brush the exposed borders of dough with the egg wash set aside for the vegetarian entree. Fold the long sides up to meet in the middle and pinch together to seal; pinch the ends, too. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and turn it over so that the seam is face down. Cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Baking the Wellington :

Brush the top of both Wellingtons with more egg wash.

Beef

Place the Beef Wellington on a baking sheet seam side down in the preheated oven (475) for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 400 degrees F. and cook the beef for an additional 20 to 25 minutes for a medium-rare roast. Check for temperature of the meat by sliding a meat thermometer into the center of the roast. A reading of 135 F. indicates medium-rare.

Lift the roast carefully with a large, sturdy spatula and place it on a carving board. Allow the Wellington to rest for approximately 10 minutes before serving. Cut the Wellington into thick slices for serving.

Vegetable

Place the Vegetable Wellington in the oven when you reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake until puffed, golden, and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve.

Madeira Sauce

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Pour the vegetable stock into a pan after placing the Wellington in the oven. Season the stock with salt and pepper to taste and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling for approximately 20 minutes — until it has reduced to approximately 2 cups.

Add 1 cup of Madeira wine, and boil the stock for about five minutes, until it has again reduced to 2 cups.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Place butter, a dab at a time, into the hot liquid and whisk well while it melts. Do not allow the liquid to boil over.

Serve sauce along with slices of Wellington.

Tips

There are several parts of the Wellington preparation that can be done ahead of time to make the process easier. Prepare the mushroom pate and butternut squash mixture several hours or days ahead of time and refrigerate it until use.

You can also sear the beef a day or two ahead of time. Allow it to set at room temperature for a full hour before wrapping in pastry and cooking.

Vegetarian Cannelloni

Pork Cannelloni

Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni and/or Spinach and Pork Cannelloni

Round out the menu with a sliced tomato basil salad and oven roasted asparagus.  The asparagus can roast on a baking sheet along with the cannelloni.

Serves 8 or more

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons (Wondra) all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan whisk together flour and milk, add butter and heat pan over medium. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly (sauce will thicken). Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes, then whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, then cover pan.

Vegetarian Filling

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. baby spinach
  • 1  3/4 cups skim ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano 

Directions:

Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and sauté, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and grated cheese in a bowl, then stir in spinach mixture.

Pork Filling

  • 1/2 cup (packed) dried porcini, soaked 20 minutes in 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and diced
  • 10 oz. baby spinach 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • A small onion, minced
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A 6-inch stalk celery, minced
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala (or sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup freshly finely grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Directions:

Heat butter in a saute pan and add carrot, celery and onion and brown them lightly. Add the pork and continue cooking until it is browned, then stir in the soaked mushrooms. Add in the Marsala and the diluted tomato paste, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and simmer for an hour, until thickened. Stir in the spinach and cook until completely wilted. Remove from heat and add the grated cheese and parsley.

Prepare Pasta

16 (6- by 4-inch) fresh pasta rectangles or 16 packaged dry lasagna noodles or 16 oven-ready (sometimes labeled “no-boil”) lasagna noodles

See recipe for homemade pasta sheets: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/11/how-to-make-stuffed-pastas-at-home/

Boil fresh pasta, 2 pieces at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water , stirring to separate, until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta or about 6 minutes for dried lasagna noodles. Gently transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking, then remove from bowl, shaking off water, and lay flat on dampened kitchen towels (not terry cloth).

 If using no boil noodles: Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.Trim noodles, as closely as possible, to 6 1/4- by 5 1/2-inch rectangles.

Assemble and Bake Cannelloni:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray two 13- by 9- by 2-inch ceramic baking dish or other shallow 3-quart flameproof baking dish (not glass) with cooking spray.

Vegetarian

Spread 2/3 cup sauce in each each prepared baking dish. Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging them snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni.

Meat

Spread 2/3 cup sauce in each each prepared baking dish. Spread about 1/3 cup pork filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging them snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni.

Reserve extra sauce.

Bake, covered with foil, in the middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Turn on broiler.

Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side.

Tip

Cannelloni can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before baking. Remaining sauce will need to be thinned slightly.

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Stuffed Winter Squash

Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast and/or Baked Winter Squash 

Good sides for this meal could include a wild rice pilaf and green peas.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 6 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless turkey breast, butterflied
  • 4 large acorn squash or any winter squash of your choice
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions for Mushroom Stuffing:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 seconds. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in breadcrumbs, cheese, 2 teaspoons parsley, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 2 teaspoons sage, 2 teaspoons thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. When cooled, set aside 4 cups of stuffing for the squash. The remainder will be used to stuff the turkey.

Directions for Turkey Herb Butter:

Combine 1 tablespoon butter with remaining 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon sage and 1 teaspoon thyme; set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 350ƒ degrees F.

Directions for Turkey Preparation:

Arrange turkey breast skin-side down on a clean surface so that it lies open flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten and make an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap and season turkey all over with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing reserved for the turkey over the meat, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edge.

Close up snugly, tucking in the stuffing as you go, then tie with kitchen twine at (1-inch) intervals around the entire turkey breast.

Rub turkey all over with reserved herb butter and arrange it in a roasting pan. Roast uncovered in a 350 degree F. oven, basting occasionally, until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 1 1/2 hours. (Cover with foil if top browns too quickly.) 8 servings.

Directions for Squash Preparation:

Cut each squash in half. Remove and discard seeds and membranes. With a sharp knife, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each half so squash sits flat. Fill squash halves with 1/2 cup mushroom stuffing. Place in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Pour water into pan.

Coat one side of a large piece of heavy-duty foil with cooking spray. Cover pan tightly with foil, coated side down.

Place squash in the oven after the turkey has roasted for 45 minutes. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until squash is tender. Yield: 8 servings.

Transfer turkey to a carving board, tent with foil and set aside for 15 minutes. Remove and discard twine, cut turkey into slices and serve. Serve one squash half per person.

References:

Fine Cooking; Classic Beef Wellington; Sophie Grigson

Simply Recipes; Beef Wellington; Elise; June 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/dining/10appe.html



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