Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Look for these winter vegetables at farmers’ markets (if you’re lucky enough to have year-round markets near you) and in produce departments for the best flavor and greatest value in season. Specific crops and harvest dates will depend on your region’s climate and most of these are only available locally in temperate regions.

Beets are in season in temperate climates fall through spring, and available from storage most of the year everywhere else. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached

Belgian Endive are mostly “forced” to grow in artificial conditions, and are available year-round. Their traditional season (when grown in fields and covered with sand to keep out the light), is late fall and winter.

Broccoli, like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates, so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best (that is, more sweet, less bitter and sharp) when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli Rabe, rapini is a more bitter, leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels Sprouts grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer.

Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather it grows in, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”)

Carrots are available from winter storage from local growers in many areas, and fresh in warmer and temperate regions.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Celeriac/celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring (except in cold climates, where you’ll find it during the summer and early fall).

Celery is at its best in the fall, with its harvest continuing through winter in warm and temperate climates.

Chicories are cool weather crops that come into season in late fall (and last in temperate climates through early spring).

Curly Endive (Frisée) is a chicory at its best in fall and winter.

Escarole is another bitter chicory in season fall and winter.

Fennel‘s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Herbs from hothouses in cooler climates.

Horseradish is at its best in fall and winter. Like so many other root vegetables, however, it stores well and is often available well into spring.

Jerusalem Artichokes/sunchokes are brown nubs, that look a bit like small pieces of fresh ginger. Look for firm tubers with smooth, tan skins in fall and winter.

Kale is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.

Kohlrabi comes into season by the end of fall, but stays sweet into winter.

Leeks more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

Onions,  year round.

Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Potatoes,  year round.

Radicchio, like all chicories, radicchio is more sweet and less bitter when the weather is cool.

Radishes large varieties are available in winter.

Rutabagas also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetable perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed.

Sweet Potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They store very well and are available year-round.

Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter Squash comes into season in early fall and usually lasts well into winter.

Recipes for Winter Vegetables

 

Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter

If you don’t have time to make fresh pasta, use purchased wonton wrappers.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red or golden beets (about 14 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Fresh Egg Pasta, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap beets individually in foil; place on baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Open foil carefully (steam will escape). Cool. Peel beets; finely grate into a medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in breadcrumbs.

Roll Fresh Egg Pasta dough into long sheets according to recipe. Place 1 dough sheet on work surface. Using 3-inch round biscuit cutter, cut sheet into 7 rounds. Transfer rounds to lightly floured baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough for total of 56 rounds.

Sprinkle 2 smooth kitchen towels with flour. Place 8 pasta rounds on work surface, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic. Place small bowl of water next to work surface. Spoon 1 teaspoon beet filling onto half of each round. Dip fingertip into water and dampen edge of 1 round. Fold dough over filling, pushing out as much air as possible and pressing edges firmly to seal. Transfer to prepared towels. Repeat with remaining rounds.

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen solid, about 6 hours. Transfer ravioli to resealable plastic bags.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat and stir in poppy seeds; keep warm. Working in batches, cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to skillet with melted butter; toss to coat. Divide ravioli among 8 plates; sprinkle with Parmesan.

TIP

The flavor, color, and texture of roasted fresh beets is incomparable, so don’t use canned beets. When choosing beets, select bunches with bright, glossy leaves attached.

Fresh Egg Pasta

You can also cut ravioli from the store bought sheets of fresh pasta dough.

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/4 POUND

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 4 large eggs 

Directions:

MAKING THE DOUGH

Place flour in processor. Add eggs. Using on/off turns, blend until clumps of moist dough form (do not process into a ball). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; shape into ball. Knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

ROLLING DOUGH INTO SHEETS

Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover with plastic wrap. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine. Fold in half crosswise (end to end) and run through again. Continue, adjusting machine to narrower settings after every 2 passes and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until pasta sheet is 22 inches long (scant 1/16 inch thick). Place sheet on lightly floured work surface; cover with plastic. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

8 Servings

Ingredients:

PASTRY

1 refrigerated 9 inch pastry crust, such as Pillsbury

FILLING

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat free half & half

Directions:

PASTRY

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ round. Transfer to a 9 inch pie dish; press onto bottom and up sides of dish. Fold overhang under; crimp edges. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Line dough with foil or parchment paper; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Return to oven and bake until crust is light golden brown, 15-20 minutes longer. Let crust cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

FILLING

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450°F.  Using a small paring knife, cut around stems of bell peppers. Lift out stems with seeds and discard. Transfer whole peppers to a small baking dish; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast on upper rack, turning peppers occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer peppers to a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Peel peppers, then cut into strips. Set aside.

At the same time, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast on lower rack for 10 minutes. Add sweet potato to eggplant and mix gently. Continue roasting until eggplant and sweet potato are tender, 20–25 minutes longer. Set vegetables aside.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Arrange tomatoes, skin side down, on prepared sheet. Roast on lower rack until tomatoes are beginning to brown and are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and fennel; cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 5–6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Scatter onion-fennel mixture over bottom of crust. Top with eggplant-sweet potato mixture and roasted peppers. Scatter 1 teaspoon thyme over. Top with cheese and tomatoes.

Whisk eggs and half & half in a small bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture over vegetables. Scatter remaining 1 teaspoon thyme on top.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake tart until filling is set, 50–60 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Bread Crumbs    

The secret behind this Sicilian-inspired dish: crunchy homemade breadcrumbs.                                                         

To make your own, let cubes of Italian bread dry out, then process them into coarse crumbs in a food processor.

8–10 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into 2” florets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, soaked, rinsed, patted dry
  • 3/4 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl; season mixture with salt and pepper. Divide cauliflower mixture between 2 large rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is golden and crispy, about 45 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Cauliflower can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Reheat before using.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 5–6 minutes. Add capers and cook until they start to pop, about 3 minutes longer. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden, 2–3 minutes; transfer breadcrumb mixture to a plate and set aside.

Add chicken broth and anchovy paste to same saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add golden raisins and white wine vinegar and cook until half the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Do ahead: Breadcrumb and raisin mixtures can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm raisin mixture before continuing.

Transfer warm cauliflower to a serving bowl. Scatter raisin mixture over, then toss to distribute evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cauliflower with breadcrumb mixture and parsley.

Wilted Escarole with Prosciutto and Chilies           

   8-10 Servings                                    

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into matchstick-size pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 heads of escarole (about 2 pounds), leaves torn into medium pieces (16 packed cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Working over a small bowl, finely grate enough zest from lemon to measure 2 teaspoons. Cut lemon in half; squeeze juice into another small bowl. Set zest and juice aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until garlic is beginning to turn golden at edges, about 2 minutes. Add prosciutto and cook, spreading with tongs to keep pieces from sticking together, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes; stir for 30 seconds, then add escarole. Cook, tossing escarole, until wilted but not overcooked, 3–5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, transfer escarole to a serving dish. Add butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice to pan. Cook, whisking, until a sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle sauce over escarole.


This ancient town rises on a rock and is split into two parts by the steep Fiumarella valley. The two sections are connected by a huge concrete steel bridge (the Viadotto Morandi), that is one of the highest in Europe, built in 1960 by architect Riccardo Morandi. This beach town has a large boardwalk, and a harbor for small fishing and pleasure boats. It is often referred to as the city of the 3 V’s from Vitaliano (the patron saint), velvets (it was a textile center since Norman times) and “venti” (winds) for the breeze from the Sila mountains and the sea.

Catanzaro is a windy city due to its altitude and position between two seas. In fact, there are only 18 miles separating the Ionian Sea from the Tyrrhenian Sea and Catanzaro is wide open to the constant strong breezes from the Ionian Sea and the Silas.

Catanzaro Lido beach and marina

The old town was built over three hills (St. Trifone/ St. Rocco Hill; Episcopate’s Hill; St. Giovanni Hill) during Byzantine times. There are differences on the origin of the name, some say it was derived from two Byzantine generals, Kata and Zaro, while another theory is that Zaro was the original name of the river, so that Kata Zaro would mean beyond the river.

In the 11th. century Catanzaro was the first area in Italy to introduce the silkworm. The peasants of the countryside around the city produced the raw silk, which was then woven in the silk workshops of Catanzaro. A large part of the population was involved in this business, and the silk from Catanzaro supplied almost all of Europe. The silk was sold in a large market fair in the port of Reggio Calabria, to Spanish, Venetians, Genovese and Dutch merchants.

A devastating earthquake in 1783 wiped away churches, palaces and a large part of the population. And a second in 1832 completed the destruction of most ancient historical buildings.

Notable landmarks are the remains of the Norman Castle and the 16th. century cathedral which was built over the top of the original Norman cathedral. Due to the two earthquakes and World War II many of the original buildings were destroyed but there are still plenty of landmarks to be seen. As in all Italian cities there are many beautiful churches, including the Basilica dell’Immacolata, one of the most important religious landmarks in the region. It is an intimidating structure and is built in the Baroque style, supported by huge marble columns.

Piazza Grimaldi

The main center of the town is Piazza Grimaldi, named after the famous House of Grimaldi. On all four sides of the square are historic buildings interspersed with narrow streets and alleyways leading to old shops and crumbling houses. The piazza is the main meeting area of the city and there is a constant flow of people making it a pleasant and interesting place to sit, drink coffee and watch the world go by.

The Food of Catanzaro

The basic ingredients of Catanzaro’s cuisine are simple, such as, olive oil, hot pepper and bread. The local specialities are a pasta filled with provola cheese, boiled eggs, soppressata and covered with meat sauce and grated cheese; and a vegetarian pasta made with fried eggs and pecorino cheese. The most famous dish among the second courses is a tripe dish cooked in a spicy sauce and served in a round shaped focaccia bread (pitta).

Other dishes include kid, veal or pork cooked with tomatoes, vegetables and chili peppers, as well as sausages, soppressata and cheeses, such as, a caciocavallo with butter inside.

Typical pastries are crocette, which are, dried figs filled with nuts, cinnamon and candied cedar and baked. The pastries are served with the local Malvasia wine.

 

Candied Cedar

Make Some Catanzaro Inspired Recipes At Home

Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 6 long zucchini
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 8 ounces day-old Italian bread crust removed and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Minced parsley (a small bunch)
  • Olive Oil
  • Black pepper and salt to taste (keep in mind that Pecorino Romano is salty)
  • Lemon quarters

Directions:

Wash the zucchini, split them lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. Chop the pulp. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and use it to fill the zucchini shells. Put the stuffed zucchini in a lightly oiled baking dish, drizzle them lightly with oil, and bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 45 minutes. Garnish with lemon.

Stuffed Chicken Catanzaro Style

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, weighing about 3-4 pounds
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread cubes
  • 8 salted anchovy fillets, minced
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Marsala wine for basting

Directions:

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Cream the butter and add the anchovy fillets, lemon juice and pinch of nutmeg. Mix with the bread cubes. Fill the cavity with the mixture, tie the opening closed.  Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Place the chicken on a roasting pan.

Roast in a 400 degree F. oven (Italians roast at fairly high temperatures) for about an hour, or until the juices run clear if you slip a skewer into the meaty area under the wing joint.

Baste the chicken occasionally with Marsala wine and the drippings that collect in the pan.

Stuffed Figs

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh ripe figs
  • 1/2 pound shelled blanched walnuts or almonds
  • 1 ounce cocoa
  • 2 ounces candied citrus peel (e.g. oranges and citrons), diced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

Chop the walnuts or almonds, and combine them in a bowl with the candied citrus peel and cocoa powder. Mix well. Slice the figs lengthwise, so as to open them like one might a book, and fill the center with the chopped nut mixture, closing them back up and layering them in a bowl or jar.

Combine the sugar, water and cinnamon in a saucepan and stir gently while heating the syrup; when it comes to a boil let it boil for 6 minutes, and then pour it over the figs. Cover the figs with a saucer or bowl to weigh them down and to keep them submerged in the syrup. They’ll be ready to serve when the syrup has cooled.

Yield: 6 servings

 


Nothing beats the winter chill like a steaming bowl of soup. Soup can be filling and also budget-friendly, since it can last for weeks or months in the freezer. Let the soup recipes below warm your cold bones. Soup doesn’t have to be rich and creamy to be satisfying, though. The soup recipes here include recipes for a vegetable soup, a chicken soup and several other easy soup recipes that are healthier versions of their more traditional counterparts. I have also added recipes for homemade broth, if you are so inclined.

Here are a few tips to help you add flavor to your soup recipes. These tips will help take bland tasting soups and turn them into delicious, full flavored soups.

Use fresh ingredients at their peak of flavor. Many make the mistake of using old or leftover ingredients, especially vegetables, to make soup. The basic soup vegetables needed for starting soups are, onions, carrots, leeks, celery, sometimes green and/or red bell pepper, parsnips and garlic. Of course you can add other vegetables depending upon your soup recipe.

Homemade broth can really make a difference in how your soup tastes. Soups need bones. Unless you are a vegetarian, this is important to develop a flavor base. You need a flavorful broth or stock and soup bones are key to making a flavorful broth. I save bones from steak, chicken or roasts, etc., in my freezer for this purpose. If not, you can buy soup bones or meat parts that have bone attached. You can buy a whole chicken and keep the non-meaty parts like the neck or back for soups. Chicken wings or a turkey carcass also make a delicious soup stock. Beef shanks make excellent beef stock.

Roasting the bones in a hot oven first also adds more flavor and you do not need to add fat to brown them in the soup pot. Delicious vegetable broth can be made by roasting the vegetables first.

Fish bones are needed for a good fish stock, even shrimp shells will work for this type of stock.

Remove Fat From Chilled Broth

An advantage to making the broth ahead of time, is that the broth can be chilled overnight and, the fat that accumulates on the top of the broth, can be removed before making the soup.

Use herbs and seasonings. Find good fresh, flavorful salt free seasonings. Experiment with different herbs and spices. Try different chilies (they range from mild to hot) and, they are especially good to add to bean soups. Adding freshly ground black pepper can also make a difference and increase flavor in a soup recipe.

Take your time and let good flavorful soups simmer for a few hours or use a crock pot. Make plenty and enjoy delicious, healthy soups even more the next day. Also, put some in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner.

Stock Vegetables

Easy Method for Making Homemade Broth for Soup

Vegetables do not need to be peeled – just wash – peel and all. Use these broths in the recipes below. Of course, you can use canned broth, if you do not have time to make the broth.

CHICKEN STOCK

Roast 2 lbs. of chicken bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of chicken stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

SHELLFISH STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of shrimp or lobster shells or fish bones in the oven at 325 degrees F. for 40 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of fish stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

VEGETABLE STOCK

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a roasting pan add 4 carrots, 3 onions halved, 2 leeks, 3 stalks of celery, 2 shallots and 4 tomatoes cut in half. Roast for 45 minutes. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of vegetable stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

BEEF STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of beef bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of beef stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

Winter Soups

Potato and Kale Soup

Collard or mustard greens can be substituted for the kale.

Servings 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium canned
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, root ends trimmed
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2. In a heavy stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a bowl; lightly mash with a fork (or use an immersion blender). Return mashed vegetables to the soup pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in kale, a handful at a time. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Stir in the reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Apple Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, large, peeled and diced
  • 8 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 small onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable broth or low sodium canned
  • 1/2 cup Marsala (optional)
  • 2 ounces dried apples
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche or Greek yogurt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Place the diced vegetables and fresh apples on a baking sheet and toss with the walnut oil, honey, rosemary, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Roast, turning often, until vegetables are softened and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Combine the vegetable broth, Marsala, and dried apples in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; simmer for 20 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables.

Immersion Blender

4. Working in small batches, puree the ingredients in a blender; (or use a hand immersion blender in the soup pot) and transfer to a saucepan. If the soup is too thick, thin with hot water or vegetable broth.

5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle a little creme fraiche or yogurt over the top of each serving and swirl with a skewer or a knife. 

Easy Minestrone

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, medium-sized, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low sodium canned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red potato, large-sized, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves or Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta (whole wheat, if possible)
  • 15 ounces white beans, canned, drained and rinsed
  • 2 zucchini, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed or a bag of baby spinach
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Pour in broth and water. Add potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. Add orzo and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 5 minutes. Add beans and zucchini and continue to cook, partially covered, until the vegetables and pasta are tender, about 8 minutes.

3. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season the soup with vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with Parmesan.

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Serves 8

To make a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth and substitute quartered button mushrooms and/or cubed firm tofu for the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups homemade chicken broth or low sodium canned, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 small chicken breast (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced or other greens of choice

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook about 8 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Add remaining 7 1/2 cups of broth, water, rice, chicken and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 35 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

3. Remove bay leaf and stir in kale. Continue cooking just until kale is wilted and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Bean and Cabbage Soup

A thick, simple soup for a chilly afternoon, this dish is easy to make and tastes even better a day later.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red or white beans (1/2 pound), rinsed and picked over (or use low sodium canned beans)
  • 2 quarts water or homemade chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 head cabbage (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 1 – 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each parsley, thyme, a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Directions:

If using canned beans skip step 1.

1. Combine the beans and broth or water in a large saucepan or pot. Discard any of the beans that float. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Season to taste with salt. Do not discard bean cooking water.

2. In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until tender, five to eight minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant, and add the cabbage and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for five to 10 minutes until the cabbage has wilted.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste and the red pepper flakes or cayenne, and continue to cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture smells fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add more so that they’re just covered. Add the bouquet garni, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The beans should be soft. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, passing grated Parmesan, if desired, to sprinkle on.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for four days in the refrigerator. The soup also will keep for that long and can be frozen.


For centuries, people have rendered fat, squeezed olives, collected cream and caught fish to obtain the fatty acids their brains, nervous systems, immune systems and body cells need to function well. Luckily for us, things are a bit easier these days and the oils we need for good health are readily available. Not all oils are created equal, though. No one oil can be used for all things; instead, each has its distinct place in the kitchen.

Keep these basic categories in mind when you’re cooking:

For baking: Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best.

For frying: Because they stand up well to the heat, peanut, palm and sesame oil are ideal for frying.

For sautéing: canola, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.

For dipping, dressings and marinades: When it comes to making dressings and marinades, or finding oil that’s perfect to serve alongside crusty bread for dipping, you’re looking for flavor. For this purpose look to avocado, flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.

TYPES OF OILS

Avocado Oil: Pressed from avocados, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated, making it a heart-healthy choice. Use it in salad dressings or to saute fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.

Canola Oil: A cousin to cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s a variety of rapeseed that’s part of the mustard family. It’s beneficial due to its fatty acid profile and omega-3 and low saturated fat contents. It is perfect for light cooking, sauces and desserts, such as, homemade mayonnaise or tender cakes.

Coconut Oil: Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is ideal for light and subtly flavored dishes. This oil is particularly good to use for making popcorn and hash browns.

Corn Oil: Most corn oil is extracted only from the germ of the corn kernel and is golden yellow in color; unrefined oil will have a darker color and richer corn taste. Use in salad dressings and dips with stronger flavors like peppers or garlic.

Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of the winemaking industry. Use it on salads and raw veggies or in dips, sauces and salsas. Mix grapeseed oil with garlic and basil, then drizzle it on toasted bread.

Olive Oil: A mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and one of the oldest known culinary oils, olive oil is a heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Extra virgin olive oil results from the first cold-pressing of olives. Regular olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over hummus or grilled vegetables.

Peanut Oil: Peanut oil’s high monounsaturated content makes it heart-healthy. Peanut oil is excellent for frying, light sauteing and stir-fries.

Sesame Oil: The seed of the sesame plant provides sesame oil, which has a high antioxidant content. Unrefined sesame oil is a key flavor component in sauces or dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat frying and toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips. 

HEALTH FACTS

Fats and oils also play crucial roles in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing raw materials for making hormones and contributing to a healthy immune system. But remember everything in moderation. Since all fats are calorie-rich, remember not to overindulge.

Fats are one of the three major nutrients of the human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and protein.Triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body. Think of fats as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape. Every triglyceride “brick” consists of a mixture of three fatty acids — saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

A particular fat is defined by the combination of fatty acids that make up its “bricks.” The triglyceride bricks in olive oil, for example, have many more monounsaturated fatty acids than it does saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, making olive oil a monounsaturated fat.

MONOUNSATURATED

Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are more chemically stable than polyunsaturated fat but not as stable as saturated fat. This means they keep better than polyunsaturated oils but not as well as saturated oils.

They are most appropriate for light cooking or used raw in salad dressings and the like. Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut and sesame. When stored at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are typically liquid, but they are likely to solidify when stored in the refrigerator.

POLYUNSATURATED

Due to their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to rancidity than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish oils. These are liquid at room temperature. 

Many experts don’t recommend polyunsaturated oils for cooking because they are so easily damaged by heat. They are best used in their raw form, and used quickly at that. Never keep polyunsaturated oils beyond their expiration date. If cooking is necessary, use low temperatures. Polyunsaturated oils should be stored refrigerated in dark bottles.

SATURATED

Saturated fats are the most chemically stable, giving them a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. Typically solid at room temperature, saturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and tropical oils.

In general, animal fats such as butter, cream and tallow are predominantly saturated, however, two of the most highly saturated fats — coconut oil and palm kernel oil — come from vegetable sources. Furthermore, animal fats like lard, chicken fat and duck fat are predominantly monounsaturated, while fish oils are predominantly polyunsaturated. And, it is interesting to note that the fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the animal.

 Animal fats have their place in the kitchen. Many believe that lard makes the best pie crust, and several traditional Hispanic dishes rely on lard for their distinctive flavor. Butter is the most common animal fat in the kitchen and good quality butters are available, as are cream and other dairy-based products used in cooking.

TRANS FATS

Trans fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th. century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat and pressure. This saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids. This is done to make vegetable oils, which are normally liquid at room temperature, solid and more chemically stable, thereby extending the shelf life of products in which they are used. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.

Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.

The Trans Fat Labeling Law

Effective since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food vendors who are not affected by the labeling law.

Some packaged products may still contain significant amounts of trans fats, such as: margarine, shortening, baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers and snack foods such as potato chips.

SOME FACTS ABOUT OIL

Heat and light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. For the record, you’ll know your oil is rancid if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should toss it and buy fresh oil.

Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy or solidified when refrigerated. It doesn’t affect their quality at all. A few minutes at room temperature and the oil will be back to normal.

Heating oils beyond their smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals — is never a good idea. Always discard oil that’s reached its smoke point, along with any food with which it had contact. Unsure of an oil’s smoke point? Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the correct temperature.

Some oils are refined to make them more stable and suitable for high temperature cooking. Keep in mind, though, that the process removes most of the flavor, color and nutrients from the oils, too. That’s why refined oils are acceptable for baking and stir-frying, where their high smoke point and neutral flavors are a plus. On the other hand, unrefined oil is simply pressed and bottled so it retains its original nutrient content, flavor and color. Unrefined oils add full-bodied flavor to dishes and are best used for low- or no-heat applications.

Recipes To Try 

COCONUT OIL

 

Whole-Wheat Ginger Scones

Coconut oil is the perfect non-dairy fat to use for scones and other baked goods. These scones have the same rich, flaky texture that scones made with butter have, along with a subtle and pleasing coconut flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or mild honey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger

Directions:

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir in the sugar. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle.

 Add the coconut oil to the food processor or mixer and pulse several times or beat on low speed until it is distributed throughout the flour and the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal; if you’re using a mixer, it will still have some lumps.

Beat together the buttermilk and agave or honey in a small bowl and add to the food processor or mixer. Add the ginger and process or mix at medium speed just until the dough comes together.

Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares, then cut the squares in half on the diagonal to form 12 triangular pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 12 scones.

GRAPESEED AND WALNUT OILS

 

Radicchio Salad With Beets and Walnuts

Walnut vinaigrette is especially good with bitter greens like radicchio.

For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • 1 very small garlic clove, puréed
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 4 small golden or red beets, roasted, peeled and cut in wedges
  • 1 large or 2 small radicchio,
  • 2 tablespoons broken walnuts
  • 4 to 6 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons minced chives

Directions:

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, Dijon mustard and garlic until combined well. Whisk in the grapeseed oil and the walnut oil. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

AVOCADO OIL

Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Citrus and Avocado Oil

Delicately flavored avocado oil can lose its personality when heated; pour a touch of the oil over food just before serving.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 – 6-ounce skinless fillets white or Mexican sea bass or grouper (about 1″ thick)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons avocado oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a small sharp knife, cut off all peel and white pith from fruit. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juices from membranes; discard membranes. Drain fruit, reserving 1/2 cup juices. Return segments and juices to bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat fish dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add grapeseed oil. Add fish; cook without moving, occasionally pressing fish gently with a spatula to keep all of surface in contact with pan, until fish is golden brown and releases easily from pan, 4–5 minutes.

Turn fish, transfer to oven, and roast until just opaque in the center, 3–5 minutes.

Place fruit and avocado on plates. Top with fillets. Spoon 2 tablespoons citrus juices over fruit on each plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon avocado oil over fish and fruit.

PEANUT OIL

 

Sear-Roasted Pork Chops with Balsamic-Fig Sauce

Be sure that the oven has reached 425°F before starting to sear—most ovens take 20 to 30 minutes to heat up thoroughly.

Serves four. Sauce yields about 1/2 cup, enough for four servings.

For the Pork:

  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoons. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork:

Heat the oven to 425°F. Turn the exhaust fan on to high. Pat the pork chops with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each total). Heat a 12-inch heavy-based ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirl it around the pan, and then evenly space the pork chops in the pan. Cook without touching for 2 minutes.

Using tongs, lift a corner of the pork, check that it’s both well browned and easily releases from the pan, and flip it over. (If it sticks or isn’t well browned, cook for 1 to 2 more min. before flipping.) Cook the second side for 1 minute and then transfer the skillet to the oven.

Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F and is just firm to the touch, about 5 to 8 minutes. Using potholders, carefully remove the pan from the oven, transfer the pork to a large plate, tent with foil, and let it rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.

For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet. Return the pan to high heat and add the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Cook, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until the broth is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 min. Stir in the figs, honey, and thyme and cook until the sauce is reduced by another 1 to 2 tablespoons, about 1 min. Add the butter and swirl it into the sauce until it’s completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops.

OLIVE OIL

Olive Oil-Braised Vegetables

Serves 4-6

Ingredients0

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 lemon, ends trimmed, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
  • 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold or new potatoes
  • 1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs marjoram, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put the olive oil, anchovy paste, chili flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary , and lemon slices in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Place over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally , until fragrant and the garlic and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pot and stir once or twice to coat in oil. Cook, covered, without stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 30 minutes.

Stir vegetables gently, replace the lid, and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender, about 30 minutes more.

Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in parsley and marjoram. Drain vegetables and place in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper.


Most people are creatures of habit. We go to the grocery store on the same day every week and fill our carts with the same stuff. If it’s Monday, chicken’s for dinner and Wednesday, always means spaghetti. We are comforted with knowing what to expect—even if our meals aren’t that exciting–we know what we’re going to eat.

That’s what makes eating healthier so scary sometimes. We are so used to eating a certain way that we rarely think about what we’re actually putting into our bodies. So planning a healthier diet means paying attention to what’s on your plate.

Explore these tips for eating well:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice
  • Use healthy fats in your cooking, such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Choose low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Choose lean sources of protein and don’t forget to add nuts to your meals.
  • Compare sodium in foods, especially soup and frozen meals and choose foods with less sodium.
  • Eat seafood at least twice a week
  • Pay attention to portion size.
  • Drink tea.

All you need to round out these entrees is a garden salad with Italian dressing (made with olive oil) and some whole grain Artisan country bread.

 

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Makes about 9 cups; 60 calories per cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetables fresh or frozen vegetables (about 28 ounces total)(see choices below)
  • 4 cups liquid (water, stock or broth), enough to cover
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs such as basil, Italian seasoning or other spice blends
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, if using water for liquid, otherwise to taste

Directions:

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until shimmery on medium high. Add onion, celery and carrots and stir well to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables turn golden.

While the onion-celery-carrot mixture cooks, prep the other vegetables.  It helps to keep starchier vegetables (potatoes and sweet potatoes) separate from the rest. Stir vegetables in (starchier ones first) and let them cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the non-starchy vegetables and saute a few minutes more.

Cover with liquid. Add tomatoes, dried herbs and salt. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are done.

Notes:

Vegetable Choices

Aim for 4 to 6 kinds of vegetables, varying color and shape and kind of vegetable. Use all fresh vegetables or half fresh vegetables and half frozen vegetables. Good fresh vegetables include bell peppers (red for color, green for price), turnips, fennel, rutabaga, sweet potatoes (peeled), potatoes (skins on), turnips, zucchini, bok choy, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, spinach. Good frozen vegetables include corn, green beans and green peas.

Cooking Tips:

The trick to this soup is flavor and texture. For flavor, let the onion/carrot/celery mixture cook really well, until golden. For texture, the other vegetables should be cooked just until done.

Fresh Broccoli and Red Pepper Frittata

Makes 4 servings. (serving size: 1/4 of a 10-inch Frittata) 211 calories

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fat free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and return to a boil. Cover and boil 2 minutes or until just crisp-tender. Drain well in a colander.

Wipe skillet dry with a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium; add oil, and heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook 3 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring frequently. (Note: Do not overcook peppers, as their color will start to fade.)

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and ground red pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until well blended.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add broccoli to onion/pepper mixture in skillet, and stir gently. Pour egg mixture evenly over all. Cover tightly, and cook 12 minutes or just until set. Remove from heat; sprinkle with remaining salt, and top with cheese.Place in the broiler and cook until top starts to brown lightly.  watch carefully so the top does not burn. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Italian Seafood Stew

6 servings

Serving Size: 2 cups; calories 214

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen cod or other white fish
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen shrimp
  • 1 cup finely chopped leeks
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1 pound mussels, soaked, scrubbed, and beards removed or clams
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions:

Thaw fish and shrimp, if frozen. Rinse fish and shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 1-inch pieces. Peel and devein shrimp; halve shrimp lengthwise. Set fish and shrimp aside.

In an 8-quart Dutch oven, cook leeks, fennel, celery, carrot, and garlic in hot oil about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste and Italian seasoning; cook for 1 minute. Add wine and stir until wine is nearly evaporated.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, the water, and clam juice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add mussels or clams and fish. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until shellfish open. Discard any that do not open. Add shrimp; cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until shrimp are opaque. Stir in half of the parsley. Ladle into shallow soup bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Makes 6 servings (2 cups each)

Tip

Scrub mussels or clams in shells under cold running water. Remove beards on mussels. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, combine 4 quarts cold water and 1/3 cup salt; add mussels or clams. Soak for 15 minutes; drain and rinse. Discard water. Repeat soaking, draining, and rinsing twice to rid the shellfish of sand.

 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings; Calories 275 per serving

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, capers, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Return the shrimp mixture to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and heat. Turn into serving bowl and garnish with basil.

Peppered Chicken in Marsala Sauce

Makes: 6 servings; 275 calories per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken breast halves (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala
  • Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Skin chicken. Brush chicken with oil; sprinkle black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt over chicken. Arrange chicken in a 15 x 10 -inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan, cook mushrooms in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add broth and Marsala. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Place sauce on serving plates and top with a chicken breast. If desired, sprinkle with additional pepper.

Roasted Pecan Salmon Fillets

4 servings; 265 calories per serving:

Ingredients:

  • 4 salmon fillets (5-6 oz. each)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Wedges of fresh lemon

Directions::

1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on baking sheet.

2. Combine mustard and honey, brush on top of salmon.

3. Mix topping of bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley or rosemary and sprinkle over salmon.

4. Bake at 400°F 15-20 minutes or until flaky. Serve with wedges of fresh lemon.


Honey is as old as written history, dating back to 2100 B.C. where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite code, and the sacred writings of India and Egypt. It is presumably even older than that. It is not entirely clear but about 4000 BC, the Egyptians started keeping bees in a cylinder of unbaked hardened mud pots, stacking them in rows to form a bank. Some beekeepers in Egypt moved their hives on rafts down the Nile, following the blossoms. The Greeks modified the Egyptian design by baking the mud into a sturdier terra cotta. (1450 BC). Another design using hollow logs hung from trees and is still used in Africa today. Others include woven cylinders, woven skeps and rectangular boxes made from wood. The theme is all the same, a long low cavity with a small entrance hole at one end and a door at the other. One of the earliest evidence of honey harvesting is on a rock painting dating back 8000 years, this one found in Valencia, Spain shows a honey seeker robbing a wild bee colony. The bees were subdued with smoke and the tree or rocks opened resulting in destruction of the colony.

“Man of Bicor.” c. 15,000 BC. Cueva de la Arana, Valencia, Spain

Honey is an organic, natural sugar with no additives that is easy on the stomach, adapts to all cooking processes, and has an indefinite shelf-life. Its name comes from the English hunig, and it was the first and most widespread sweetener used by man. Legend has it that Cupid dipped his love arrows in honey before aiming at unsuspecting lovers.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, Israel was often referred to as “the land of milk and honey”.  Mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey was called “nectar of the gods” . The Romans used honey to heal their wounds after battles. Hannibal, a great warrior, gave his army honey and vinegar as they crossed the Alps on elephants to battle Rome. Honey was valued highly and often used as a form of currency, tribute, or offering. In the 11th. century A.D., German peasants paid their feudal lords in honey and beeswax.

Although experts argue whether the honey bee is native to the Americas, conquering Spaniards in 1600 A.D. found native Mexicans and Central Americans had already developed beekeeping methods to produce honey. Honey has been used not only in food and beverages, but also to make cement, furniture polishes and varnishes, and for medicinal purposes.

It was in Europe where apiculture made its greatest advances in development and bee biology. Even further advancements were made in 1851, when Rev. Langstroth from Philadelphia designed the Langstroth movable bee frame. The ability of the honey bee to survive has been remarkable. It has been able to adapt to the harsh environments of the world living in regions where man lives, from the equator to beyond the Arctic Circle. Most of the domestic honey bees have descended from a small number of queens from their original countries – that is Europe and Africa –  and in these regions the honey bee has survived through natural selection processes. If honey bees were to disappear from the planet, man would have just 4 years until serious food shortages would result. The pollination services that bees provide are numerous. Think about the fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and legumes we eat. Most of these are pollinated by the bee.

Honey Trivia

• Honeybees must tap over two million flowers to make one pound of honey, flying a distance equal to more than three times around the world.

• The average worker bee will make only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime.

• The famous Scottish liqueur, Drambuie, is made with honey.

Italian Honey

Italian Bee – Apis Mellifera var. Ligustica Spinola

Originally from the Apennine Peninsula in Italy, the true Italian breed is the Ligustica. There are 3 yellow bands on the abdomen of the Ligustica and 4 or 5 bands on the Italian. These bees are usually gentle to manage,  winter well and build up their numbers quickly in spring. Their proficient breeding ability during periods of little or no honey flow often results in depletion of their honey stores and, as a result, they have a tendency toward swarming.

Today, in Italian cuisine, honey is mostly used in sweets, from pastries to torrone, and in traditional sweets like panforte and fritters. Honey is a favored ingredient in southern Italian cuisine due to the strong influence of the Arabs in this area, whose palates have a preference for sweet and sour combinations. A spoonful of honey can sweeten a glass of tea, turn a plain piece of bread into a treat, glaze barbecued spareribs, or serve as the basis for a salad dressing.

Types of Italian Honey

Orange Blossom Honey of Sicily

Orange blossom honey crystallizes a few months after having been gathered and is very light, almost white in color. The intense fragrance is reminiscent of orange blossoms, while the flavor is a fusion of aromas recalling both the flower and the fruit. Excellent in sweets or mixed with yogurt, it is just as good spread on bread or used to sweeten tea.

Chestnut Honey from Calabria

Chestnut honey is rich in fructose and crystallizes only after a long time. Dark in color, ranging from brown to black, it has a strong, intense smell, woody and slightly tannic (due to the tannin in the tree). Grains of chestnut pollen, can be found in the honey. The flavor is not very sweet and, with an almost bitter aftertaste, highly appreciated by those who are not fond of sweets. It is a perfect honey for delicious contrasts, splendid with aged cheeses or hearty meat dishes.

Acacia Honey from the Prealps (the foothills of the Italian Alps)

Acacia honey, one of the clearest in color, remains liquid regardless of the temperature or its freshness (it very rarely crystallizes). The fragrance is light, the flavor delicate and very sweet, with a hint of vanilla. A honey universally liked, it is particularly suitable for use as sweetener since it does not change the taste of the substances it is added to.

Eucalyptus Honey from Sardinia

Eucalyptus honey has a color that ranges from light amber to beige with grayish tones. Its fragrance is intense, distinctive and recognizable, and the flavor recalls the taste of caramel, but is more refined. This is a special honey, excellent as a table honey for those who like its taste.

Millefiori Honey from Tuscany

Millefiori honey from Tuscany has as many subtle tones of taste. Each millefiori honey has a special taste, fragrance, and color. A lover of this honey can become a true connoisseur of it, and learn to recognize the variations it takes on from one season to another, because a millefiori honey is a summary of all of the different components of a landscape. The more varied is its nature, encompassing a range of plants and flowers, the more complex and rich will be its overall aroma.

American Honey

There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different plant source. I am listing some of the more common ones in this post due to space limitations. As a general rule, the flavor of lighter colored honeys is milder and the flavor of darker colored honeys is stronger.

ALFALFA

Alfalfa honey, produced extensively throughout Canada and the United States from the purple blossoms, is light in color with a pleasingly mild flavor and aroma.

AVOCADO

Avocado honey is gathered from California avocado blossoms. Avocado honey is dark in color, with a rich, buttery taste.

BLUEBERRY

Taken from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush, the nectar makes a honey which is typically light amber in color and with a full, well-rounded flavor. Blueberry honey is produced in New England and in Michigan.

BUCKWHEAT

Buckwheat honey is dark and full-bodied. It is produced in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as in eastern Canada. Buckwheat honey has been found to contain more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys.

CLOVER

Clover honey has a pleasing, mild taste. Clovers contribute more to honey production in the United States than any other group of plants. Red clover, Alsike clover and the white and yellow sweet clovers are most important for honey production. Depending on the location and type of source of clover, clover honey varies in color from water white to light amber to amber.

EUCALYPTUS

Eucalyptus honey comes from over 500 distinct species and many hybrids. As may be expected with a diverse group of plants, eucalyptus honey varies greatly in color and flavor but tends to be a stronger flavored honey with a slight medicinal scent. It is produced in California.

FIREWEED

Fireweed honey is light in color and comes from a perennial herb from the Northern and Pacific states and Canada. Fireweed grows in the open woods, reaching a height of three to five feet and spikes pinkish flowers.

ORANGE BLOSSOM

Orange blossom honey, often a combination of citrus sources, is usually light in color and mild in flavor with a fresh scent and light citrus taste. Orange blossom honey is produced in Florida, Southern California and parts of Texas.

SAGE

Sage honey, primarily produced in California, is light in color, heavy bodied and has a mld flavor. It is extremely slow to granulate, making it a favorite among honey packers for blending with other honeys to slow down granulation.

TUPELO

Tupelo honey is a premium honey produced in northwest Florida. It is heavy bodied and is usually light golden amber with a greenish cast and has a mild, distinctive taste. Because of the high fructose content in Tupelo honey, it granulates very slowly.

WILDFLOWER

Wildflower honey is often used to describe honey from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources.

Read Kathy Siler’s (a Michigan beekeeper) description of the process of harvesting honey and reaping its benefits: http://blog.mlive.com/freshfood/2012/12/the_bees_are_in_their_huddles.html

 

Recipes Using Honey

 

Honey Pizza Dough or Focaccia Bread

Servings: 4   

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                                                    

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast ( or 1 package)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sauce and toppings of choice

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in ¼ cup warm water (100-110 degrees).

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and the salt.

Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup water, mix on low speed until dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.

If the dough is still sticky, then simply add a bit more flour until it pulls cleanly away from the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 2 or 3 minutes.The dough should be smooth and firm.

Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for about 30-45 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).

Take dough out of bowl and divide into either 1 or 2 balls, depending on whether you want 1 large pizza or 2 small.

Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times.

Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rest 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, the dough can be used or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

To make pizzas, stretch the dough out onto a greased pizza pan, top with sauce and toppings, and bake at 450 degrees F. for 20 minutes, until done. (Smaller pizzas will take less time).

For Focaccia Bread

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt — 2 teaspoons
  • Fresh rosemary — 1 tablespoon
  • chopped garlic to taste, optional

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a medium-sized baking dish and place the dough in the pan. Use your hands to push the dough out to the sides of the pan so that it fully and evenly covers the bottom. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Use your fingers to press dimpled indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough all over with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle with the sea salt, the rosemary and garlic if using.

Set the baking pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

 

Italian Honey Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about one small bunch)
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, good quality
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, good quality
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey

Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and process to blend completely.

 

Italian Honey Orange Chicken

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 chickens, 3 lbs each, cut up (or 6 lbs chicken pieces)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger, or 3/4 tsp ground ginger, or to taste
  • Fresh orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Directions

Grease a large roasting pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper

Whisk together hot water, orange juice, honey and ginger in a bowl.

Place the chicken in the greased roasting pan and cover the chicken evenly with the honey orange liquid.

Cover the pan with foil and let it roast in the oven for 45 minutes, basting occasionally.

Uncover the dish after 45 minutes and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Let the chicken continue to roast for 10-20 minutes longer, basting every few minutes, until the skin is brown.

Serve on a platter garnished with fresh orange wedges, if desired.

Mascarpone Tart with Honey, Oranges, and Pistachios

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • Whole Wheat Pie Crust, recipe below
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1- 8 to 8.8-ounce container chilled mascarpone cheese*
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup honey, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Make pie crust according to baked crust instructions below. Bake according to instructions.

Cool completely on rack.

Meanwhile, grate enough orange peel to measure 1 1/4 teaspoons. Cut off remaining peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges into thin rounds, then cut rounds crosswise in half. Place orange slices on paper towels to drain slightly.

Combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, 3 tablespoons honey, cardamom, and orange peel in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat just until blended and peaks form (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle). Spread filling evenly in cooled crust. Arrange orange slices on top tart in concentric circles; sprinkle with pistachios. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon honey and serve.

*Italian cream cheese; available at many supermarkets and Italian markets.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 5 tablespoon trans-free vegetable shortening

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours, honey and the salt. Add the shortening and with a pastry blender cut the shortening into the flour. You can also quickly use your fingers to break up the shortening and form a coarse dough. Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until a moist dough forms. You’ll use 5 to 6 tablespoons water.

For a filled crust: Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a floured piece of wax paper or a pastry cloth. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Crimp the edge with the tines of a fork. Freeze for 10 minutes before baking.

For a baked crust: Prepare the dough as for a filled crust. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake in a 450ºF. oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

 


Salerno is a very beautiful city situated in the middle of the Amalfi and Cilento coasts in the region of Campania. Located on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Gulf of Salerno, the city is within an easy distance of the stunning Amalfi Coast. Famous for being the location of the world’s first medical university, Schola Medica Salernitana, Salerno was also an important center for art, culture and learning dating back to the 16th. century. Over the years Salerno suffered through many plagues and earthquakes, as well as foreign rule. Today Salerno is a city filled with many interesting things to see and do.

The Salerno Cathedral is the main tourist attraction in the city. The cathedral’s large bell tower dominates the historical center of the city. In the cathedral’s crypt is the tomb of Saint Matthew, one of the twelve apostles.

Another church worth visiting is Chiesa della SS. Annuziata, which was built in the 14th. century and is situated near the entrance to the old city in the north. The main feature of the church is the beautiful bell tower designed by Ferdinando San Felice.

There is also San Gregorio Church, a 10th. century structure that is the home to the Museum of the Medical School of Salerno, and the San Giorgio Church. San Giorgio is the best example of Baroque architecture in Salerno. Inside the church you can view beautiful paintings created by Andrea Sabatini and frescoes by Solimena and Francesco in the 17th. century. The church is related to the oldest monastery in the city, which was built in the 9th. century. 

If you like to walk and people watch head to Lungomare Trieste, the city’s promenade, which was built in 1950 and is known to be one of the best in the country. Lungomare, literally translated as “along the sea,” extends for five miles and is lined with trees. It is often compared to the beautiful promenades of the French Riviera.

Castello di Arechi is a large castle built on the top of a hill by Arechi II over an existing Byzantine-Roman castle. Today the castle is mainly used for meetings and exhibitions. If you visit the castle you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the sea beyond.

One of the most interesting places to visit in the city is the historic center of Salerno, considered to be among the best preserved in Italy, and it is also the main shopping center in Salerno.

The Minerva Garden, or Giardino della Minerva, is located close to the old part of the city. The first ever botanical garden in Europe can be found in this garden.

The large castle, Forte La Carnale, was named after an ancient battle that was fought against the Arabs. The fort is now part of a large sports complex that is also used as a local cultural center.

In 194 BC. Salerno was a Roman colony and was named Salernum. The city made progress and also enriched its culture and its traditions during the occupations by the Goths, Byzantines, Longobards and Normans. From the 14th. century onwards, most of the Salerno province became the territory of the Princes of Sanseverino, powerful feudatories. In the 15th. century the city was the scene of battles between Angevin and Aragonese heirs with whom the local princes took sides. The years 1656, 1688 and 1694 represent sorrowful dates for Salerno due to the plague and the earthquake which caused many deaths.

A slow renewal of the city occurred in the 18th. century with the end of the Spanish empire and the construction of many beautiful houses and churches.  During the Napoleonic period Giuseppe Bonaparte and then Gioacchino Murat ascended the throne. The latter issued decrees that caused the Salerno Medical School to cease operation, the suppression of religious orders and the confiscation of numerous ecclesiastical properties.

After the Unity of Italy a slow urban development continued, many suburban areas were enlarged and large public and private buildings were created. The city expanded beyond the ancient walls and sea connections were established, as they represented an important road network that crossed the town, connecting the eastern plain with the area leading to Vietri and Naples. The city went on developing until the Second World War. In September 1943, Salerno was the scene of the landing of the allies.

Sea Bass

The Cuisine of Salerno

Despite its rich farmland and access to ports for fresh seafood, the cuisine’s” claim to fame” is the wide selection of street food, which may be baked, fried, grilled or even frozen. These treats are generally hand held and are available at shops or along the streets and made from inexpensive, fresh ingredients.

Pizza and pasta, cooked from the local wheat, make the region’s recipes famous throughout the world. 

Genuine pizza, the most famous hand held food, is usually either pizza marinara, topped with tomato, garlic and oil, or pizza margherita with tomato, basil and mozzarella.

Pasta has plenty of shapes in the region. Most are familiar, such as spaghetti, maccheroni, fusilli and ziti. Perciatelli is a less well known noodle, long but hollow.

There are many fish-based dishes, for example, spaghetti with clam sauce, fish soup, fried anchovies, swordfish rolls, octopus cooked with San Marzano tomatoes, and Mussels Impepate. 

The traditional way to cook meat is to grill it along with vegetables.

Vegetables play such a large part in the cuisine that the locals are often called mangiafoglie, or leaf eaters. The fertile soil provides bountiful amounts of food, including salad greens, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic and herbs. A typical cold salad might include raw or cooked vegetables tossed with herbs and cheese. Other popular dishes are a stewed dish of eggplants, peppers, zucchini and onions with basil and olive oil that is served cold, stuffed red and yellow bell peppers with breadcrumbs seasoned with black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies and, of course, the famous eggplant parmigiana.

Cheeses, including Provolone, Pecorino, Manteca del Cilento, Scamorza, Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrino, are all produced in the traditional way from centuries past.

Stone fruits, melons, citrus, figs and grapes are grown here and picked at the peak of ripeness. Olives make richly flavored green extra virgin olive oil. Chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts grow well in this region and are used extensively in local recipes.

Amalfi lemons are used to make the famous Limoncello liqueur and to prepare gelato, sweets and desserts, such as baba, a sponge cake made with whipped cream and strawberries or rum, Sospiri (light airy almond cookies) and Lemon Delizie, a cake filled with lemon custard.

Make Some Salerno Inspired Recipes At Home

Clams Diablo

 6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 – 14.5 oz.diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme dried, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
  • 1 -1/2 lbs. fresh clams scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped 

Directions

In medium skillet, heat oil. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and juice, wine, thyme, salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add clams; cover.

Simmer for 5 minutes or until clams open. Discard any clams that do not open. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Good Italian bread is a must with this appetizer.

Spaghetti with Eggplant and Mozzarella

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 pint (1 pound) cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil or parsley
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • Grated Pecorino or ricotta salata

Directions:

In a skillet, heat oil and saute the eggplant until it is soft and lightly browned. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

Add the garlic and the pepper flakes and place over low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil a couple of times to release its flavor, until it barely begins to color on both sides. Remove the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, immediately cover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook the tomatoes until they fall apart and become saucy, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente in plenty of salted boiling water.

Just before the pasta is done, add the eggplant cubes to the tomato sauce, lower the heat, and cook gently, still covered, for another minute or so.

Drain the spaghetti and turn it into a warm serving bowl. Add the eggplant and tomato sauce, plus the finely cut herbs. Toss well. Add the mozzarella and toss again.

Serve immediately. Garnish with some grated Pecorino or ricotta salata, if desired.

 

Beef and Sausage Roll

At one time very little meat was eaten in this region. When it was, humbler cuts were transformed by long cooking or combined with other ingredients to make meatballs or a meat roll such as this one.

For the meat

  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces crustless Italian bread
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 8 ounces lean Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Marinara Sauce, heated

For filling

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 3 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 2×1/4×1/4-inch strips
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 18 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

Line an 18 x 12-inch baking sheet with foil. Moisten foil with water. Mix bread and milk in medium bowl. Mash bread with fingers until soaked. Squeeze out excess moisture from the bread. Place bread in a large bowl; discard milk. Add beef, sausages, eggs, salt and pepper to bread and mix well. Place meat in center of foil. Using moistened fingers, pat meat into 12 x 14-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover; chill while preparing filling.

Filling:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Bring 1/4 cup water to simmer in large pot. Add spinach; cover and cook until just wilted, tossing often, about 3 minutes. Drain well; pat dry. Cool. Arrange spinach over meat, covering completely. Cover with prosciutto. Arrange cheese on top of the prosciutto. Place hard-boiled eggs end to end in line down long side of roll. Arrange parsley along both sides of eggs. Starting at long side near eggs and using foil as aid, roll up meat jelly roll style. Pinch ends and seams together, enclosing filling completely.

Transfer meat roll to the prepared baking sheet. Remove foil from around meat roll. Brush meat with 1 tablespoon oil.

Bake meat roll until thermometer inserted into center registers 160°F, about 1 hour. Pour hot marinara sauce over meatloaf. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature; cut into slices.

Almond Limoncello Cake

 Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar or sugar alternative
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 ½ ounces almond paste, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel, (2 -3 lemons)
  • 3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur made with vodka)
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9” springform pan.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

In an electric stand mixer, add sugar, oil and butter. Beat until light & fluffy. Add crumbled almond paste and grated lemon peel. Beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well. Add flour mixture and blend.

Transfer the batter to the pan. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool cake completely. Remove cake from springform pan and carefully remove the bottom of the pan. Place cake on a serving plate.

Brush top of cake with Limoncello or poke tiny holes in the cake and drizzle with the Limoncello. Can be prepared one day in advance at this point. Cover and store at room temperature. Right before serving, sprinkle with a little more Limoncello and powdered sugar. If desired, garnish with sliced almonds. Serves 8 to 12.

Note: The cake needs to cool completely before being removed from the springform pan and that takes several hours. Also, if it sits overnight, the Limoncello really sinks in and gives it a richer, more lemony flavor.

 

 


Now that the holiday dinners and festivities are over, it is time to get back to the normal routine. After all the rich food, it is time to eat more simply and more healthfully. After the hectic pace of the holiday season, it is time to move at a slower pace.

Now what about all those leftovers from the holidays in your refrigerator or freezer? What can you do with them that won’t be tons of work and, at the same time, healthy?

Instead of tossing those holiday leftovers to avoid more over-indulging, use them to your advantage. Here are some practical tips and recipes to help you reduce food waste and space out the calories.

Most foods will stay fresh for up to seven days, but if it looks or smells even a little funky, throw it out!

Leftover Tips:

Serve small portions of leftover turkey, roast beef or ham along with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sandwiches, salads, wraps or a light main course.

Mix leftover veggies and seafood with small portions of pasta or brown rice.

Reduce portions of high calorie favorites by adding fresh or frozen vegetables to creamy soups, rich pastas or leftover mashed potatoes.

Combine herbs and roasted root vegetables along with a pinch of low fat cheese to make quesadillas, minis pizzas or omelets.

Toss leftover cookies in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse those gingerbread folks and sugary stars into tiny crumbs. Put them in ziplock bags and freeze for up to two months. Use the sugary mixtures to make a pie crusts, a base for bar cookies or toppings for cobblers.

You can pulverize candy canes and use the bits and peppermint dust to flavor ice cream treats for months to come. Sprinkle the candy mixture on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Cut the holiday ham or pork roast into small pieces or cubes and use to make quick frittatas or stir-fries. If a turkey or a beef roast was the centerpiece at your Christmas table, shred the leftover meat and add to your favorite chili mixture. Freeze in containers that hold from 4 to 6 cups, and you’ll have a quickie dinner to thaw and serve in January.

 

Recipes for Leftover Ham 

 Glazed Pineapple Baked Ham Recipe

Ham and Bean Soup

Serve with good rye bread and a salad for a quick weeknight meal.                                                                                                                                  

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound fully cooked ham; cubed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 16-oz cans Great Northern Beans; rinsed and; drained
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup potatoes; peeled, diced
  • 3/4 cup carrots; diced
  • 3/4 cup celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley; minced

Directions:

In a 3 quart saucepan, saute ham, onion and garlic in oil until onion is tender.

Add the next seven ingredients; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Add parsley and serve.

Ham-Stuffed Jumbo Shells

8 Servings

1 Serving equals 3 stuffed shells (274 calories)                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 cups cubed fully cooked lean ham
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine flour and milk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Reduce heat; add the ham, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Remove from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved sauce. Drain pasta; stuff each shell with about 3 tablespoons of filing.

Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 350° F. for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, paprika and remaining Swiss cheese.

Vegetable and Ham Casserole                                                                                                     

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1-1/4 cups 1% milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 2-1/4 cups frozen cauliflowerets, thawed
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray

Directions

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add cheeses; stir until melted.

Place vegetables in a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with ham. Pour sauce over ham. Place bread crumbs in a small bowl; spray with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle around the edge of casserole.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Yield: 5 servings. 1 serving equals 227 calories

Recipes for Leftover Beef 

 Roast Beef Tenderloin with Port Sauce

Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound leftover beef roast, tenderloin or steak                                                                                                                                                                                          
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour, divided
  • ½ cup reduced sour cream
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Cooked egg noodles or rice, for serving

Directions:

Cut the meat in slices about 1/3 inch thick, then the slices into strips 2 1/4 inches long. You should have about 4 cups. Set aside.

Heat the broth in a small saucepan until hot.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not brown, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms become tender and start to release their juices, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper and stir. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Do not brown. Add the hot broth and stir until smooth.

Add the beef to the pan, stir well, and warm just to a simmer, about 3 minutes. Stir the remaining 1 teaspoon of flour into the sour cream, add to the pan and season with salt to taste. Warm gently over low heat until hot, about 7 minutes. The sauce will thin a little; do not boil or the sour cream will break up. Spoon over the noodles. Serve with a green vegetable.

Leftover Roast Beef Italian Stew                                                                                                           

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Leftover roast beef, diced or shredded
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 -24 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 cup bottled whole mushrooms
  • 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • 6 ounces pre-prepared sliced carrots (about 2 medium)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Remove leftover roast and trimmings from refrigerator. Skim off all the visible saturated fat (hard white fat that rises to the top when chilled). Place roast beef on cutting board. Using a sieve, strain the liquids into a bowl, removing any solids and additional fat solids.

Chop onion and green pepper into 3/4-inch pieces. Dice beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces or shred the roast beef . Quarter the potatoes and slice carrots. In a dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, saute onions in olive oil for 3 minutes, then add green pepper and saute for 3 minutes more.

Add beef, strained beef stock, diced tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, oregano, basil, celery salt, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if desired. Add whole mushrooms just long enough to heat through. Serve hot.

Note: If you have leftover potatoes, green beans, peas, or carrots, feel free to use those. Since they are already cooked, add those with the mushrooms just long enough to reheat.

Potato Beef Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups finely diced leftover roast beef                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 to 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

Directions:

Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Heat oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add beef and sauté for about 1 minute longer. Stir in the flour until blended. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and peas and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the prepared baking dish. If using leftover mashed potatoes, warm them in a saucepan with a little milk until softened. Spoon potatoes evenly over the beef layer and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbly. If desired, turn on the broiler to brown the top for just a minute or two, but watch carefully to prevent burning.

Recipes for Leftover Turkey

Turkey and Mushroom Risotto

4-6 Servings

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup shredded leftover turkey meat
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, and any liquid released has evaporated, 5-7 minutes.

Add rice; stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup warm broth and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock by 1/2-cupfuls, stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Add leftover turkey meat, stir to combine and to warm through, adding a little stock or water if necessary to keep mixture creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir Parmesan into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 4.

Turkey Pasta Salad                                                                                                                                       

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 can (3.8 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat salad dressing

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a serving bowl, combine the pasta, turkey, olives, peppers and feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving

Pesto Turkey Club                                                                                                                             

1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 1 ounce sliced turkey
  • 1 slice turkey bacon, cooked
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions:

Spread pesto on bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and remaining bread slice.

 



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