Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: June 2013

Milwaukee’s Italian families have a distinguished heritage, one that began in a great rush to the city shortly before the turn of the 19th century, when Italian immigrants poured into Milwaukee and quickly formed two distinct communities. The Bayview settlement was dominated by newcomers from northern and central Italy, many of whom took jobs in the sprawling iron mill on the south lakeshore. The second Italian community, and by far the largest, was in the Third Ward, just west of today’s Summerfest grounds. The vast majority of Third Warders, whose numbers swelled to 5,000 by 1910, traced their roots to Sicily. third ward Mario Carini, an Italian-American historian and author of the book, “Milwaukee’s Italians: The Early Years,” said nearly every region of Italy was represented in Milwaukee. He noted, “Some came from the northern regions of Liguria or Lombardy and some from the more central regions like Lazio.” However, the greatest number of Italians who emigrated to the U.S. came from the depressed and impoverished regions of il Mezzogiorno, the southern regions of the Italy, the ones left behind culturally, economically and socially after the unification of Italy in 1870. According to Carini, many of the Italian immigrants from il Mezzogiorno came from the regions of Puglia, Campania, Abruzzo and Calabria. They were once part of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the transition to Italian unification was a difficult journey. The southern economy was mostly agrarian-based, in contrast to the industrial north, and the peasants of the countryside had to work non-stop to provide the simplest means of survival. The island and people of Sicily suffered most. Sicily thought of itself as an entirely different country. It was there that peasants faced the toughest of circumstances. A few very wealthy men owned nearly all of the workable land on the sun-baked island. The impoverished laborers hired to work the land toiled long and hard and received scant returns. Life in il Mezzogiorno soon became unbearable and the lure of America became more and more desirable. By 1910, four out of every five immigrants came from southern Italy. The quest for the American dream started soon after the immigrants passed through the doors of Ellis Island and stepped upon the real America. Carini said, “as the old axiom ‘go West, young man’  holds, so did the immigrants listen. A good number did stay and seek their fortune in the bustling metro of New York City, but others, intrigued by tales of a gold rush and general curiosity, embarked on their trek westward. But as they made their way, economic necessity forced the Italians to halt their journey to sunny California”, Carini said. With the huge metropolis that is Chicago and its some 16,000 Italians, so close, many sought their fortune just 90 miles north in Milwaukee. According to Carini, there was an Italian presence in Milwaukee as early as the Civil War, but the real influx of immigrants began in 1880 and, by 1910, records show 3,528 Italian-born immigrants lived in Milwaukee. Some natives of northern Italy chose the south side and suburbs, while others lived where work was found. But no neighborhood could compare to the Sicilian community of the Third Ward, where 2,759 Sicilians settled. Dubbed the Little Italy of Milwaukee, the Third Ward afforded a place to live and a place to work for the immigrants, which is really what they all came looking for in America.

Catalano Square

Most of Milwaukee’s early Italian population consisted of working adult males, Carini said. However, as women joined their husbands in America, their primary duty was to the family. They cared for the children in the morning, walked to the factory and put in a full day’s work and, then, went back home to prepare meals. As soon as children could have a job they did, some even worked on the coal docks next to their fathers. Though many found work and a place to live, the Italian immigrants were hardly living the luxurious life. Many men took up a second job and working conditions were very harsh. Rosario Spella, born in Milwaukee to Italian immigrants, knew the hardships of immigrant life. “Our economic situation was dire,” Spella said. “I was the primary source of income at 18 years old, since my father had gone job-to-job. There was very little money to support all of us, so we had to do whatever we could possibly do to help out.”

Brady Street

Living quarters were described as “sub standard” and immigrants were charged relatively high rents. Families were often crammed into small houses or apartments. “Housing was a big issue,” Carini said. “We used to move around a lot, but it used to always be within the Third Ward. We’d go from corner to corner or block to block. ” That was until the railroads started to take away housing property and the family was forced to leave the area, Carini said. However, Italian-Americans prevailed and fought through the arduous task that was immigrant life. The diet of the Italian immigrants in Milwaukee was apparently not better than what they were accustomed to Italy. In America they had meat more frequently, but less fruits and vegetables. Generally the families in Sicily had meat on Sunday, eggs daily (almost every family had chickens) and fruit of every kind grew abundantly in Sicily. Fruit was cheap, especially in the villages, and almost every family owned a little piece of land on which fruit trees and greens were cultivated for family use. This simple diet, accompanied by life in the open air and vigorous work in the fields, made the Sicilian peasants healthy and strong. In Milwaukee, instead of having fruit and greens, which were too expensive in America, they learned to substitute meat and stretch it with potatoes, which were more filling than nutritious. While macaroni was preferred to any other dish, the cost was too high and with the addition of tomatoes and oil, pasta became even more expensive. Since these were luxuries for the Italian laborers in Milwaukee, they learned to prepare cheaper food.

Peter Sciortino’s Bakery, Milwaukee’s Brady Street

Like the immigrants who preceded them, most Sicilians worked as laborers and factory hands, but a sizable number entered the produce business, selling fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the city. The most successful merchants graduated to their own wholesale houses on a stretch of Broadway long known as Commission Row. Others moved into the Brady Street area. Not afraid to work, the Italians were railroad employees, fruit peddlers, refuse collectors, shopkeepers, tavern owners or skilled craft workers in the masonry and stone trades.

Cialdini Grocery Store

At the time there were in Milwaukee 45 groceries owned by Italians and 38 of them crowded into three or four streets in the Third Ward. Many of the stores were one small, unsanitary room with stock consisting of a few boxes of macaroni, a small quantity of canned tomatoes and some oranges and bananas displayed in the window. Generally women attended the shop, while their husbands were at work on the tracks or in the foundries. Only three or four groceries had a large stock and did a good amount of business, but the system of giving credit to their customers, especially during periods of joblessness, made development of their trade on a large scale impossible.  Better conditions were found among saloon keepers, who did not give credit. In the Third Ward there were 29 Italian saloons, 12 of which were located on just 4 blocks on Huron Street. The immigrants engaged in other businesses, but on a smaller scale. Although almost every line of business was represented, Italian bakeries, meat markets, shoe repair shops, tailor shops and barber shops were typical of the businesses operated by Italians in the Third Ward. In 1905, the Sicilian immigrants adopted the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church on Jackson Street. The “little pink church” quickly became the neighborhood’s hub, both for worship and for the annual round of summer festivals that featured Italian bands, tug-of-war contests, food stands and fireworks. By 1939 many of the younger families had moved to the Brady Street area and they founded a new church, St. Rita’s, on Cass and Pleasant Streets, which then became the new center of their community. The descendants of those first arrivals, today, make up an extraordinary share of Milwaukee’s business leaders, politicians, clergy, restaurateurs, educators, police officers and military personnel. The warm and welcoming spirit that the Italian immigrants spread is still very much alive today. One need only take a trip to the modern-day Third Ward to find the epicenter of Italian culture in Milwaukee at the Italian Community Center. Paul Iannelli, a long-time Milwaukee resident and an Italian-American advocate, as well as a historian on the ICC’s history and executive director of Festa Italiana, said the Italians deserved their spot in Milwaukee. “We, Italian-Americans, have long entrenched ourselves in Milwaukee. We decided to build a sort of base for ourselves, as well as being a memorial to all those who came before us and laid the way for Italian-Americans in Milwaukee” Iannelli said. So after a challenging decade in the 1960s, when the city razed several blocks of the Third Ward including the local church, the Italian-Americans of Milwaukee began a revival of Italian heritage and culture. “Our first Festa was in 1977,” Iannelli says. “It was, initially, just a way to jumpstart the feeling of Italian-American heritage and pride.” Festa Italiana, an annual event now and in its 34th year, is an Italian-American festival featuring music, guests and authentic Italian food. Since the Festa became so popular a new headquarters was needed and in 1990 the Italian Community Center of Milwaukee opened its doors. “The ICC was built to house the organization and offices for Festa,” Iannelli said. “But it also was built to be a hub for Italian-Americans, which it became, and a place where old friends could connect.” A block-long building with a sandstone brick exterior, the ICC stands as an emblem of the Italian-American tradition. Three flags — the Italian flag, the American flag and Wisconsin’s state flag — fly high atop silver poles next to a black granite monument commemorating notable Italian-Americans associated with the ICC’s birth.

The Milwaukee Italian American Community Center

Italian Recipes From  A Few Milwaukee Chefs

Vicenza Barley Soup

Bartolotta Ristorante, Milwaukee Chef Miles Borghgraef Serves 6 Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts of broth (either chicken or beef broth will work)
  • 6 oz. pearled barley (rinsed well)
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 head radicchio (shredded)
  • 1 cup salumi* chopped fine 
  • 1 /2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 1 piece Parmigiano or Grana Padano rind
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 egg yolk

Directions: In large heavy bottom stock pot, on medium heat, saute the chopped salumi in 4 tablespoons of olive oil (reserve remaining 2 tablespoons of oil for plating) for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until the vegetables become translucent. Add rinsed barley. Mix ingredients well. Pour in broth, stir, bring to a light simmer and add cheese rind. After 30 minutes add shredded radicchio. Continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. When barley is tender (after about 45 minutes), remove two cups of broth. In separate bowl, temper** egg yolk with the two cups of broth. Mix in 1 cup of parmigiano or grana padano, reserve the other 1/2 cup for plating. While mixing vigorously, return the tempered egg/broth/cheese mixture to the soup. Melt in cold butter stirring continuously until incorporated. To serve, ladle soup into a serving bowl and top with some reserved extra virgin olive oil and cheese.   Notes: *Salumi is Italian cured meat ,such as prosciutto, pancetta, coppa and sopressata.  **Temper is to add hot liquid slowly so eggs don’t cook.

Venetian Risotto with Peas and Bacon

LoDuca Brothers Wine Chef Lou Bruno & Assistant Jim LoDuca Serves 8 or more. Can be used as a side dish or main course. Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Carnaroli or Arborio Rice
  • 1½ quarts chicken stock
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 8 oz. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 lb. cooked crisp bacon (cut into 2” pieces)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1½ cups Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/2 Bottle (750 ml) Pinot Grigio for stock

Directions: In 2 quart stock pot, bring chicken stock and Pinot Grigio to boil. Then reduce to a simmer. In a 6 qt stockpot, heat olive oil, add onion and saute until golden. Add rice and cook for several minutes, stirring constantly to coat rice. Add hot stock mixture to rice, a cup at a time, stirring constantly until the stock is almost absorbed. The rice should be never dry. When rice is still a little firm (after 15 minutes) add peas. When rice is cooked, add all the parmigiano cheese and mix well. Add more hot stock if necessary to keep rice wet and custard-like. Distribute bacon over top and warm. [Chef’s Hint: overly wet rice is best].

Sausage Rigatoni Rustica

Bravo Cucina Italiana, Milwaukee Chef Tony Evans 3-4 servings Ingredients

  • 1/2 oz. olive oil
  • 3 oz. Italian sausage
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 3 oz. eggplant
  • 2 oz. tomatoes 
  • 2 oz. Bercy sauce *
  • 4 oz. Alfredo sauce
  • 1 oz. each of Parmesan and Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon herb butter
  • 7 oz. rigatoni, cooked al dente
  • 1 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions: Preheat a  grill or grill pan and oil the grill.  Thickly slice eggplant and tomato. Leave sausage in one piece.  Grill sausage and eggplant slices until brown and tomatoes until slightly charred. Sausage should be cut on the bias into 1/4” thick slices and then cut in half. Cook rigatoni according to package directions. In a saute pan, heat oil and add garlic. Stir for  30 seconds. Add sausage and eggplant and saute. Add charred tomatoes and saute. Add bercy sauce, alfredo sauce and salt & pepper to taste. Mix to combine and heat through. Add parmesan/romano cheeses and herb butter. Mix to incorporate. Add hot rigatoni to saute pan. Add mozzarella, toss to combine and heat through. Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley. NOTE: *Bercy sauce is a white sauce made with white wine and sauteed shallots.

 

Strawberry Tiramisu

The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar, Milwaukee Chef Suzette Metcalfe Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur, divided
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 lb. Mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups espresso
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 ½ pounds strawberries, divided
  • About 52 crisp ladyfingers (Boudoirs or Savoiardi)

Directions: Whisk preserves, the 1/3 cup Cointreau and orange juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Set aside. Place mascarpone cheese and 2 tablespoons Cointreau in large bowl; fold just to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons Cointreau to soft peaks. Fold 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture into mascarpone mixture. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Hull and slice half of strawberries. Spread 1/2 cup of the preserve mixture over the bottom of an oblong serving dish or a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Arrange enough ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, over strawberry preserve mixture covering the bottom of the dish. Spoon 3/4 cups strawberry preserve mixture over ladyfingers, then spread 2 1/2 cups mascarpone mixture on top. Arrange 2 cups sliced strawberries over mascarpone mixture. Repeat layering with remaining ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, strawberry preserve mixture and mascarpone mixture. Cover with plastic and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Slice remaining strawberries. Arrange over the top of the tiramisu and sprinkle with chocolate.

The Italians In Texas (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/06/14/little-italy-new-orleans-style/Birmingham, Alabama’s “Little Italy” (jovinacooksitalian.com) West Virginia’s Little Italy Communities (jovinacooksitalian.com) Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com) Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/08/new-yorks-other-little-italies/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/15/little-italy-new-jersey-style/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/04/12/delawares-little-italy/ The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com) The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/24/indianas-little-italy-communities/

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There are many secrets to making a great potato salad. Often people leave it to chance or just pick up some from the deli – this can be a hit or miss proposition, as we have all had the not-so-good deli version. Making your own will give you a taste for the very best and you will never want to settle for deli potato salad again.

Some tips for making great tasting potato salads:

Use waxy potatoes (i.e., fingerlings, red potatoes, Yukon Golds) instead of starchy potatoes (i.e., russet), if you want them to hold their shape when you toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Lighten up the dressing by using a mixture of reduced-fat mayonnaise and low-fat yogurt. The yogurt gives the salad a nice tang. Vinaigrettes are an excellent alternative to creamy dressings.

Another important tip is to leave the potatoes whole and cook them thoroughly. Drain well and set the potatoes aside, until they are just cool enough to handle.

While the potatoes are still warm, cut them into bite-sized pieces (it is not necessary to peel them) and toss with a little vinegar, pickle juice or lemon juice to infuse the potatoes with flavor.

Other flavor boosters without fat to add to potato salads are onions, chives, capers, olives, mustard, herbs or pickles.

Add some veggies: red bell pepper and celery are naturally low in calories and will give your salad appealing crunch and color.

Be creative and add some interesting, non-traditional ingredients. On warm summer days, these salads are perfect for dinner. 

Chicken, Red Potato and Green Bean Salad

4 servings

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:

  • 1 pound small red potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound diagonally cut green beans
  • 2 cups sliced or cubed grilled or poached chicken (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mixed baby salad greens (about 6 cups)

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add beans and cook an additional 4 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Drain well.

Quarter potatoes. Place the potatoes, beans, chicken, onion and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve without chilling.

Farm Stand Potato Salad

8 servings

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon country-style Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Salad:

  • 1 3/4 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes from pan with a slotted spoon to a colander.

Add sugar snap peas and broccoli florets to pan. Reboil and cook 1 minute; drain.

Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add a little dressing to the potatoes and let rest while you prepare the other vegetables.

Then, combine potatoes, peas, broccoli, bell peppers and green onions in a large bowl. Add remaining dressing; toss well.

Quick Potato Salad with Shrimp and Feta

4 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salad:

  • 5 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
  • 3 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives

Directions:

To prepare dressing:

Combine dressing ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

To prepare salad:

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a microwave-safe dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Add shrimp and 1 tablespoon dressing; toss gently to combine. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Add remaining dressing, lettuce, bell peppers, onion and cheese; toss gently to coat. Top salad with kalamata olives.

Lemon-Arugula Potato Salad

If you want to make this potato salad ahead, prepare the recipe without the arugula. Once the potato mixture is completely cooled, cover and refrigerate. Toss with the fresh arugula just before serving so the greens do not wilt or get bruised.

Add some grilled steak for a complete meal.

6 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 7 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 3 small)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula

Directions:

Peel the potatoes, if you wish, and cut them into 1 inch pieces Place potatos in a medium saucepan; cover with cold, salted water to 2 inches above potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and gently simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots to pan; saute 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine shallots, vinegar, mustard, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk until combined.

Drizzle dressing over warm potatoes; toss gently to coat. Cool completely.

Add arugula to potato mixture; toss gently. Serve immediately.

Cobb Potato Salad

Great side dish for grilled entrees.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • Blue cheese vinaigrette, divided
  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Directions:

Make Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, directions below.

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Toss potatoes with green onions and 1/3 cup of the blue cheese vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, peel and chop avocados; toss with lemon juice. Mix lettuce with avocado mixture and tomatoes and add a little blue cheese vinaigrette. Toss gently.

Arrange lettuce mixture on a large serving platter; top with the potato mixture and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with bacon.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided 
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute.

Transfer garlic mixture to blender. Add 1/2 cup blue cheese, white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, sugar, hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper and remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil; blend well.

Transfer vinaigrette to bowl. Mix in chopped basil and remaining 1/2 cup of blue cheese. (Vinaigrette can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


Key ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine include olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet — one of the world’s healthiest — are hard to ignore. These people are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.

Numerous research studies suggest that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re trying to eat foods that are better for your heart, start with the principles of Mediterranean cooking.

Stock your pantry and cook at home.

Use whole, unprocessed ingredients and control portion sizes, salt and calories.

Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.

Love Italian food, then a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. Typical standbys are Penne with Vodka Sauce or Pasta with Broccoli Rabe.

Experiment with “real” whole grains that are still in their “whole” form and haven’t been refined. Quinoa, a grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet, cooks up in just 20 minutes, making it a great side dish for weeknight meals. Barley is full of fiber and it’s filling. Pair it with mushrooms for a steamy, satisfying soup. A hot bowl of oatmeal with some fresh summer berries is perfect for breakfast. Even popcorn is a whole grain—just keep it healthy by eating air-popped corn and forgo the butter (try a drizzle of olive oil instead).

Supplement your intake with other whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread and pasta. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” on the food package and in the ingredient list—it should be listed as the first ingredient. But if you still find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites, phase in a whole grain by using whole-grain blends of pastas and rice or mixing whole grains half-and-half with a refined one (like half whole-wheat pasta and half white).

By displacing meat at some meals, you can lower your saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonoids. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once a week. Swap out most of your red meat and replace it with skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. Start by making a few small changes.

Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health. Make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; for example, use a little diced pancetta in a tomato sauce for pasta. If you do have a hankering for a steak, it’s OK to indulge, just do so occasionally and choose a lean cut, like top loin, sirloin, flank steak or strip steak and limit your portion size to 4 ounces.

Use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. There are many dessert recipes now that use olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with balsamic vinegar is delicious for dipping bread and is a healthier alternative to butter. Other plant-based oils, such as canola or walnut oil, are also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Aim for 4 to 8 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1/2 to 2 cups depending on the vegetable. Pick vegetables in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Start your day out with a spinach and Cheddar omelet, have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch and have roasted carrots and a green salad for dinner. Big green salads are a great way to include several vegetable servings at once.

Snack on a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds in place of chips, cookies or other processed snack foods, which are often loaded with sugars, saturated fat and trans fats. Calcium-rich low-fat cheese or low-fat and nonfat plain yogurt with fresh fruit are other healthy and portable snacks.

Generally a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, fresh fruit is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth. If it helps you to eat more, drizzle slices of pear with honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit. Keep fresh fruit visible at home and keep a piece or two at work so you have a healthful snack when your stomach starts growling. Lots of grocery stores stock exotic fruit—pick a new one to try each week and expand your fruit horizons.

Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque buildup. Remember, “1 drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.

Eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table with your family and friends to savor what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. You’re more apt to eat just until you’re satisfied then until you’re busting-at-the-seams full. This is the perfect time of year to make some changes to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and local fresh caught fish is more available. These delicious dinners can all be enjoyed during a leisurely, relaxing dinner on the patio on a warm summer evening.

Fusilli with Green Beans, Pancetta and Parmigiano

Serves three.

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. whole grain fusilli or other twisted pasta
  • 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/2 -inch squares (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled but kept whole
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, put the pancetta in a cold 10-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pancetta starts sizzling, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the pancetta until golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of its fat, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Add the beans to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and season the beans with salt and pepper. With the pan still over medium heat, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the olive oil. Toss to combine. Add another 1/4 cup pasta water and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Sea Bass With Citrus-Olive-Caper Sauce

Buy Eco-friendly Mid-Atlantic Sea Bass

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea bass fillets (about 5 oz each), skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 lemons, peeled and thinly sliced, segments halved
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Directions:

Place broiler pan as close to heating element as possible and heat 5 minutes. On a plate, coat fillets on both sides with 1 tablespoons oil. Carefully remove pan from broiler and place on the stovetop.

Arrange fillets on pan, skin side down; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Broil fish 6 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together lemon slices, juice, oregano, capers, olives, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoons pepper.

Place fish on platter; top with citrus-olive-caper sauce.

Grilled Chicken with Feta and Red Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Grilled chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Red pepper sauce:

  • 2 pounds grilled red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces sliced feta cheese (4 slices)

Spinach leaves for serving plate

Directions:

To prepare chicken: place chicken, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; place in refrigerator and marinate 2 to 24 hours.

To grill the peppers: preheat grill. Place peppers on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag to let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers.

To prepare sauce: place grilled peppers, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.

Preheat grill to medium and oil grill grates. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken 7 minutes, turn, place feta cheese slices on top of the chicken and cook 7 more minutes or until cooked through.

Arrange spinach on serving plate, top with chicken and serve with red pepper sauce.

Orange and Olive Salad

Serve with flatbread or pita.

Ingredients:

  • Two heads romaine lettuce
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted, sliced in half
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • Orange slices and orange zest for garnish

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Wash and dry the romaine and arugula. Toss in a large bowl with the olives, onion and oranges.

Add freshly ground black pepper to taste (the olives may be salty, so don’t add any salt at this point).

Whisk the dressing ingredients, seasoning it to taste. Slowly pour some of the dressing over the salad while tossing well to coat all.

Be careful not to use too much dressing for the amount of greens. Garnish with very thin slices of orange and orange zest.

Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Almonds

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cored and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Large pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 3 large oil-packed anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound swhole grain paghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

For stuffing:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large cabbage

Cooking sauce for cabbage rolls

  • 3 containers (26-28 oz. size) tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of water to boil, adding the rice and turmeric. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cook the lentils in 3 cups of boiling water until soft.

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil in a skillet.

Mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl.

For the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, rice, lentils, almonds and raisins.

Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling, beginning at the thick end of the leaf. Fold this end over the filling, folding the edges in as you go to make a neat roll.

Place the rolls in one or two casseroles, covering with the sauce.

Bake the cabbage rolls covered at 350 degrees F, 45-60 minutes until cabbage is tender. Cool slightly and serve from the dish they were baked in.


Turkey is an ideal grilling food. From ground turkey burgers and turkey franks, turkey tenderloins and other cuts for the grill, turkey provides you with a wide range of tasty, healthy and convenient meal solutions.

During grilling, turkey cooks best by indirect heat on an outdoor covered gas or charcoal grill with a pan of water placed beneath the grilling surface to catch the dripping turkey juices. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings and whole turkeys are all suited for grilling. Whole turkeys that weigh 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. However, you will need quite a bit of charcoal or gas for a whole turkey, which can take anywhere from three to four hours to cook on the grill.

Do not stuff a whole turkey. Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach the required temperature of 165°F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Grilling time depends on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals and the outside air temperature. Estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 165-170°F.

Keep food safety in mind before preparing any turkey and remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. Hands should be washed again and rinsed along with all utensils, equipment and countertops that have been in contact with any raw food (especially raw poultry) before preparing foods. It’s 20 seconds of prevention that can eliminate 90% of foodborne illness.

How to Grill Turkey

Bone In Turkey Breast

Grilling a turkey breast is an excellent way to enjoy a turkey dinner without making it a big deal. 

Prepare a barbecue grill with a rectangular metal or foil drip pan under the grates for indirect cooking. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of a turkey breast, not touching the bone.

Place turkey, bone-side down, on the grates directly over the drip pan. Grill turkey, covered, on medium 55 minutes.

If using a basting sauce, brush turkey with sauce and continue to grill, covered, 10 minutes. Brush again with sauce; continue to grill, covered, about 10 minutes more or until a thermometer registers 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer turkey to a carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Boneless Turkey Breast

Marinate a boneless turkey breast with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Then, preheat a grill to medium high and place a boneless turkey breast, skin side down, on greased grill grates. You’ll want to turn the grill down to medium to avoid burning the skin. After the breast browns, turn it over and cook until the temperature reaches 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer. Slice the turkey and serve on top of salads, with fruit or on your favorite sandwich roll.

Turkey Tenderloins

Tenderloin

Turkey tenderloins are the tender long strip of white meat hidden under the turkey breast. Because this strips of meat is an underused muscle of the turkey, it is very tender. One of the best ways to cook turkey tenderloin is with a dry rub and then grill on a hot grill.

Combine one tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, sage, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl. Rub this mixture on a turkey tenderloin and wrap in plastic wrap or put in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least two hours (overnight is best).

Rub grill grates with vegetable or canola oil and preheat  the grill. Place the seasoned turkey on the grill and cook five minutes on each side. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature is 165 degrees F. Take the turkey off the grill and let rest for five minutes to let the juices rest back into the meat.

Turkey Legs

Rub turkey legs with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and let rest several hours to allow the flavors to develop. Be sure to grill turkey legs over a medium-low heat for tender crispy results. In the end, you’ll be able to pull the meat right off of the bone and enjoy as is, with your favorite salsa or smothered with spicy BBQ sauce.

Ground Turkey

How to avoid parched pucks.

Season ground turkey with your favorite herbs and spices. Since ground turkey is lower in saturated fat than ground beef, you need to add olive oil or another liquid to the mix to make a juicy healthy burger. Make sure to place burgers on a well-greased, preheated grill to prevent sticking. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked all the way through to 165-170ºF. Grill some onion slices and peppers on the side and you’ll amp up the flavor even more.

Rosemary Grilled Turkey Breast

Ingredients:

  • 5 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 4 1/2 lb. bone-in turkey breast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub all over the turkey breast, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place a heatproof drip pan beneath the grill grates on one side of the grill and preheat to medium. Turn off the side of the grill with the drip pan. Pour about 1/4 inch of water into the drip pan, then place the turkey on the grill over the drip pan, skin-side facing up and cook over indirect heat, covered, at about (375-400°F) for 30 minutes.

Check to make sure there is still water in the pan and add more if necessary. Also, check that the grill temperature has remained constant and adjust accordingly.

Continue cooking for 35-45 minutes, then check temperature of the turkey. When turkey reads 165-170°F on a meat thermometer it is cooked through. Transfer to cutting board to rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve. 

Red Pepper, Basil, and Turkey Roulade with Basil Aioli

6 servings

This recipe uses a combination of direct and indirect heat, which can be accomplished using a charcoal or gas grill.

If you have a gas grill, you can easily use it to roast the peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red bell peppers
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves plus 2 cups large basil leaves
  • 1 boneless turkey breast half

Directions:

Roast peppers:

Roast peppers on the grill over high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blackened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, broil peppers on rack of a broiler pan about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.) Transfer to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Chop peppers and pat dry.

Make Aioli Sauce:

Finely grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon and squeeze 2 teaspoons juice. Puree zest, juice, mayonnaise, garlic and the 1/3 cup chopped basil in a food processor until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, while preparing roulades.

 

Butterfly turkey:

Remove and discard skin from the turkey breast, Cut turkey breast in half crosswise and chill 1 piece, covered, while working with the other.

Holding a sharp knife parallel to the work surface and beginning on a long side, butterfly turkey by cutting horizontally almost in half (not all the way through), then opening it like a book.

Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and, with flat side of a meat pounder, pound turkey to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Butterfly and pound remaining piece of turkey.

Make roulades:

Season turkey pieces well with salt and pepper and divide roasted peppers between them, spreading evenly and leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Top peppers with whole basil leaves and sprinkle with cheese. Beginning with a short side, roll up each turkey piece, gently pressing on filling while rolling (don’t roll too tightly, or filling will slip out of the ends) and tie roulades crosswise with string. Season roulades with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill:

If using a charcoal grill, light a full chimney of charcoal and place on one side of the grill. Charcoal will be ready for cooking when it turns grayish white, 10 to 15 minutes. If using a gas grill, light all burners.

First grill over direct heat:

When fire is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack 3 to 4 seconds), place roulades on lightly oiled grill grates directly over the fire and grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until seared on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Then grill over indirect heat:

If using a gas grill, turn off 1 side of the grill. Move roulades away from the fire and grill over indirect heat, covered, turning roulades occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into several places on each roulade registers 165-170°F, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Discard string, being careful not to unroll turkey, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Serve roulades with sauce.

BBQ Turkey Legs

Turkey legs, seasoned with smoky, sweet-flavored barbecue sauce, taste delicious when prepared on the grill. Instead of worrying about the turkey legs sticking to the grill, cook them covered in aluminum foil. Keep the turkey legs moist in the foil by basting the meat on a regular basis with your favorite BBQ sauce. To improve flavor, brining is an important first step for turkey legs.

Ingredients:

Brining Solution

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 8 turkey legs

Directions:

In a large bowl or pan, combine the water, salt, brown sugar and liquid smoke. When salt and sugar have dissolved, add the turkey legs.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain brine from turkey legs, discard the brine and gently pat turkey dry with paper towels.

Preheat the grill to medium. The temperature should read between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a charcoal or gas grill.

To brown the skin and lock in flavor, sear each turkey leg on the grill on direct heat for approximately two minutes on each side.

Baste each turkey leg with a generous amount of barbecue sauce. Make your own or use a commercial brand.

Wrap each turkey leg loosely in foil. Avoid tightly covering the drumsticks, since this can prevent heat from circulating properly around the meat.

Cover the grill and cook the turkey legs for approximately one-and-a-half hours. Baste them with barbecue sauce every 20 to 30 minutes to keep the drumsticks moist.

Check the internal temperature to determine when the meat is cooked thoroughly. The meat thermometer should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove the turkey legs from the grill.

Then add more barbecue sauce, rewrap the legs in the foil and allow the turkey legs to rest for 30 minutes before serving them.

Turkey Burgers with Barbecued Onions

One way to keep the turkey moist is to add milk  and  lightly mix them together. Overhandling the meat can make tough burgers.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Spanish onions, halved, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons prepared barbecue sauce
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (not lean — use a mix of dark and white meat)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or regular paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sesame seed buns

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions; stir-fry onions 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir in barbecue sauce; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cover; keep warm.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Lightly mix turkey, milk, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl; form into 4 patties.

Grill until cooked through, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Place on buns and top each with onions.

Grilled Turkey Tenderloins with Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless turkey breast tenderloins
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Marinade

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Peach Salsa

  • 4 small peaches, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 2 limes, about 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
  • 1 hot pepper, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion or sweet onion

Directions:

Season tenderloins with garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.

Place the tenderloins in a large plastic storage bag. Pour marinade over tenderloins and coat well. Seal bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Oil grill and preheat to medium-high.

Remove tenderloins from marinade and discard the marinade.  Grill tenderloins turning frequently, about 25 minutes or until done and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

While turkey is grilling prepare salsa. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

Slice the tenderloins into about 3/4-inch slices and spread peach salsa evenly over tenderloins.

 


Flooded banks of the Brazos River, Texas, c.1910

The few Italians who came to Texas during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were mainly explorers, adventurers or missionaries. The Italian presence in the state goes back to the earliest years of Spanish exploration. Like Christopher Columbus, Italians were often in the employ of the Spanish during that early period of discovery. Some soldiers of fortune came from northern Italy, but the larger numbers were from Sicily and Naples, provinces that were under the Spanish crown at various times. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s explorations in 1541 included soldiers with the Italian surnames of Loro, Napolitano and Romano, among others. When Texas became a settled territory in the late 1700’s, individual Italian merchants began to arrive. Among them was Vincente Micheli who came to Nacogdoches from Brescia.

Prospero Bernardi bust

Prospero Bernardi, an Italian immigrant who took part in the Battle of San Jacinto, where he was wounded on April 21, 1836.

In 1836, when Texas won independence from Mexico, Italian-born Prospero Bernardi was one of the Texans who fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. The older cities of San Antonio, Nacogdoches and Victoria have Italian families who date back to this period. Not until the 1880’s, however, did Italian immigrants begin to arrive in Texas in large groups. Between 1880 and 1920, immigration to Texas increased from a trickle to a flood. In 1870 there were 186 Italian residents in Texas. By 1920 their numbers had swelled to 8,024. The immigrants’ primary goal was to provide a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. The Italian immigrants were drawn by railroad and steamship advertisements, notices published in the Italian-language press, letters from Italian immigrants already in America and word-of-mouth information. Italian Texans learned to grow cotton and corn on Texas soil, to speak the English language and to adapt to their new environment. They purchased land, opened businesses and acquired a degree of geographic mobility.

Italian-owned Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas

These were mostly farmers who settled in three areas: the Brazos Valley around Bryan, mainland Galveston County and Montague County in the Red River Valley. The Montague group was from northern Italy. Never large in number, they engaged in agriculture, including planting some vineyards, primarily to supply the family table, but a few small wineries operated until Prohibition. Over in southwest Texas, Frank Qualia, who came from northern Italy to Del Rio, established Texas’ oldest winery in 1883. The Val Verde Winery managed to survive Prohibition by selling table grapes from the Qualia family vineyards. A fourth group has largely “come and gone.” These Italians were the thousands of miners and brick makers of Thurber. Between 1880 and 1920, this coal-mining town grew to a population of 10,000. Now, it is a virtual ghost town, a mere exit sign on Interstate 20, west of Fort Worth. Most of the Italians of Thurber moved to other areas when the mines and factories closed. Another group of Italians worked building a railroad in 1881 that extended from Richmond and Rosenberg to Brownsville. So many Italians were employed that the rail line became known as the “Macaroni Line.” Financial problems halted construction at Victoria in 1882 but many of the workers stayed in the area and settled in Victoria, Houston, San Antonio and Galveston. The Brazos Valley Italians came from impoverished Sicily, specifically from three villages, Poggioreale, Corleone and Salaparuta. After a period of tenant farming cotton and corn, they began to acquire land, some of it being flood-prone bottom land that had been passed over by previous immigrants. Estimates in the late 1800’s on the numbers of Italians along the Brazos ranged from 2,400 to 3,000. In 1899, heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in the Brazos bottom and some of the Italian families left the area for mainland Galveston County, where other Italians had begun to establish vegetable and fruit farms.There another weather disaster, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, created havoc for these Italian-Texans, damaging their farmland with the surging saltwater tide. (In the first week of December in 1913, major flooding occured in the state of Texas. According to the official records, the Brazos crested at 42 feet at Highbank. In September of 1936, another flood hit Highbank but this time the river crested at 40 feet). However, the families stood fast, continuing their farming or finding employment in nearby Houston. Today, the Galveston County towns of League City and Dickinson retain their Italian heritage.

Bales of Cotton Saved From Flooding

The pillars of Italian cultural identity in Texas have been principally food, faith and family. First is membership in the Roman Catholic Church. This can be seen in “Italian” parishes today, such as St. Anthony’s in Bryan, Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson, St. Francesco Di Paola in San Antonio and others. Also, the tradition of the St. Joseph Altar on the feast day, March 19, remains a custom in several Texas cities. On this day in Sicily, dishes of pasta, cakes and breads were placed on a specially decorated table in the church to symbolize food to the poor. Second, knowledge of the preparation of Italian cuisine and the customs that go along with the celebration of the meal – such as folk music and dance – are other important factors in maintaining Italian identity. One distinguishing dance is the tarantella, almost always part of the wedding feast. Social historians describe the Sicilian tarantella as “full of movement and abandon,” a dance that centuries ago fused with the Spanish fandango, performed in the Italian style without castanets and played with a certain melody. At times the sole accompaniment is the rhythmic clapping of hands.

Annual Festa Italiana

 Festa Italiana University of St Thomas 3800 Montrose Boulevard Houston, TX

Third, the foods and folk customs are almost always shared with the family. Italian consciousness does not depend on any one of these attributes, but a sum of all of them all. It is manifested in a pride in Italian achievements, especially, in architecture and sculpture. Courthouses designed by immigrated Italian architects grace many Texas county seats. Other public spaces are anchored with sculptures by Italian-Texans. Among such artists is Pompeo Coppini, who was born in Tuscany in 1870 and arrived in Austin in 1901. His sculptures include the Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin, the statue of Gov. Sul Ross on the campus of Texas A&M University and the Alamo Cenotaph Memorial in San Antonio, the city he made his home and where he was buried in 1957.

Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas in Austin by Pompeo Coppini.

Oscar and Frederick Ruffini, two Genoese brothers, designed many Texas public buildings. Frederick (b.1851) arrived in Austin in 1877. He was the architect of 19th century courthouses in Henderson, Longview, Georgetown and Corsicana.  Oscar (b.1858) settled in San Angelo and was the architect for several West Texas courthouses including those in Concho, Mills, Sutton, Sterling and Crockett counties. Other Italian artists in Texas include: John C. Filippone, print maker for George Roe’s version of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Rodolfo Guzzardi, painter of landscapes, including “Palo Duro Canyon-Texas”;  sculptor Louis Amateis and Enrico Cerrachio, creator of the Sam Houston monument in Houston’s Hermann Park. Parks, airports, streets and communities bear the names of prominent Italian immigrants, among them Bruni Park in Laredo, named for Antonio Mateo Bruni and Varisco Airport in Bryan, named for Biagio Varisco. The Italians in Texas constitute the sixth largest ethnic group in the state, according to figures from the U.S. census of 1990. In that year, when the total population of Texas was 16.9 million, the number of Texans who said they were Italian or part-Italian was 441,256. Sources: Texas Almanac and The Italian Experience in Texas, by Valentine J. Belfiglio, Eakin Press, Austin, 1983.

A Few Oral Histories:

Photo taken in Poggioreale, Sicily in the mid 1990’s.

“In the 1870’s and 1880’s, a wave of immigrants from Sicily boosted the population of the Highbank settlement to over 300. These early settlers travelled by wagons, stage coach, by horseback and Model T Ford from the Ports of New Orleans and Galveston to the banks of the Brazos River. Many of the Highbank settlers came from Poggioreale, Sicily and from surrounding villages and towns. Poggioreale was the former home of many of Highbank’s settlers, including the Falsone, Guida, & the Falco families. Other settlers came from small towns in an around Poggioreale like Alcomo and Palermo.” According to Mary Lena (Salvato) Hall, “My grandfather, Carlo Salvato passed away on November 22, 1949 at the age of 82. He was born in Italy on November 2, 1867. He came to the United States with his brother Frank Salvato. The two families purchased the Rogers farm that set up the beginning of the Italian farming community in High Bank. He is buried in Marlin, TX. He had five sons, Tony Salvato, Frank Salvato, Ross Salvato, Nick Salvato and Carlo Salvato and all are buried in Marlin except Tony Salvato who is buried in Houston. Four daughters Lula Lewis, Pauline Vetrano, Fena Rao and Mary LaPagelia all deceased and buried in Houston. They originally came through Louisiana.” “Our old house consisted of three bedrooms: a combination dining room and living room and a small kitchen (ten feet wide and fifteen feet long). The kitchen was located next to the bedroom, which was no bigger than today’s modern walk in closet. Linen were stored in metal trunks. Sunday clothes worn to church were hung in a cloth cabinet called chiffonier.” “The Italian influence can still be seen with Italian surnames appearing on most of the area mailboxes!. Prominent Italian families in the Highbank area once included the Salvato family, Alfano family, the Barbera and LaBarbera families, the Burresha family, the Cangelosi family, the Catalano family, the Corpora family, the Falco family, the Falsone family, the Margoitta family, the Martino family, the Parrino family, the Salvaggio family and others.” The following description of early Highbank comes to us from Robert Falsone who was born in Highbank in 1911 and lived there with his family that included ten children. Robert Falsone has taken the time to share many of his early memories of Highbank that provide a facinating account of life in the early days in Highbank!  “My name is Robert Falsone and I was born in Highbank on July 24, 1911. The following are my recollections of our early life in Highbank. When I was thirteen years old, daddy hired someone to paint door frames of the house. When the painter was out for lunch, I took the bucket of paint and the brush, went behind the car garage and printed R F 13 years old. Everytime I would go behind the garage , I would look up to see 13 still on the wall. It seemed like I never would get to be 14”. “The old house was a single wall frame house with one window in each room. A netting was tacked on the walls from the ceiling to the floor. Mother, with the help of the neighbors, papered the walls. The paste for sticking the paper to the wall was made what looked like flour mixed with warm water and brushed on the back side of the colorful paper. While the paste was still wet it stuck firmly on the netting tacked on the walls. In the winter when the North wind blew strong, the wall paper would push out and the go back against the wall. It appeared the wall was breathing. In the flood of 1913, water stood four feet deep in the house. It seems that when the house was built, the builders forgot to put an opening in the ceiling to get in the attic. As the water began to enter the house, daddy took an ax to cut a hole big enough for us to get up in the attic. I was only two years old when the flood took place, but mother explained to me years later why there was still a hole in the ceiling”. “My father, Dominico Parrino, was the first farmer to buy a tractor and everybody told him he could not plow a good field with the plow and big tires on the tractor, but he did well. So the next year, many of the other farmers bought tractors and are still plowing the fields that way! Course now they have even better tractors. We all had gas pumps on the land for fueling the tractors. The gas was Mobile Gas and we had the Red horse with wings on the pumps. I remember that each winter, Dad would kill a hog on a cold day (we had no refrigeration) and we made a lot of Italian sausage and hams, which my dad smoked in a barrel and then stored them in coolers in Marlin”. “Many of the first Sicilians to arrive in Texas took jobs as farm laborers because this was what they were most familiar doing. Soon, enterprising immigrants began selling their produce in the markets and as they acquired capital, they opened small corner grocery stores. According to the Houston City Directory for 1907, 13% of all grocery stores in Houston were owned by individuals with Italian surnames. Damian Mandola’s grandfather, Vincent, and his great uncles, Frank and Giuseppe, were among those who opened such stores. Vincent’s was located in Houston’s near east side and stocked canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables and household supplies. But, as was common for many Italian grocery store owners, Vincent also sold Italian cheeses and deli meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pancetta. For the Italian immigrants who came to America in the early 1900s, food and cooking were (and remain for their descendants) essential components of social life. The immigrants who came to Houston maintained their culinary traditions, just as they did in such places as New York or Boston. However, the effect Italian immigrants had on Houston’s culinary landscape was more diffuse than in northeastern cities. Houston has never had a Little Italy, but scattered in neighborhoods throughout the city, Houston’s Italian groceries fostered the growth of small food empires. Damian recalls one man who parlayed his corner grocery into a pasta factory; another went door-to-door selling olive oil and cheeses. His own father started a meat packing business, which ultimately failed after an untimely accident.” “There was always a stove in the back of all the stores where the women would cook,” muses Frankie B., who recalls making Italian sausage in the back of his parents’ store. “Our grandmothers would cook these huge Sunday meals for 50 or 60 people; our friends couldn’t believe it.” It was only natural for some of the sons and daughters of grocery store owners to start serving the recipes of their parents in a cafe setting.

The Food of Italians In Texas

Texas Ultimate Italian Sub

Ingredients:

  • 1 large round loaf of Italin bread about 10″ in diameter
  • 1/2 lb. mortadella
  • 1/2 lb. capicola
  • 1/2 lb. genoa salami
  • 1/2 lb. prosciutto di parma
  • 1/3 lb. provolone cheese
  • 1 jar (16 oz) olive salad
  • 1 jar (7 oz) roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1 jar (12 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 jar (12 oz) mild banana peppers, sliced
  • balsamic vinegar

Directions: Carefully slice the loaf in half . Scoop out the insides (top and bottom) to make a large cavity for the filling. Begin layering and alternating the meats, cheese and condiments. It helps to lay everything out assembly line style and layer in order, making sure to get everything evenly distributed. Use all the meat and cheese. You’ll likely have extra condiments (these can be served on the side if you like). Once the loaf has been filled, put the top back on and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Put a heavy pan over the top to weigh it down and chill the sandwich for at least 4 hours to let the flavors come together. Unwrap, slice in wedges and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Italian Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 cup zucchini, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 artichoke hearts, chopped (water packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup egg whites (from a carton of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and fold in artichoke hearts. In a bowl, whisk egg, egg whites, milk, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Add egg mixture, basil and mozzarella to vegetable mixture. Gently stir until eggs and mozzarella are evenly distributed. Coat an 8″ square pan with cooking spray. Pour in quiche mixture. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to set. Prego's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Prego’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Shrimp

From Chef John Watt Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Sweet Potato
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 8 Jumbo Gulf Shrimp
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Handful of sage leaves

Directions: Roast whole sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 mins. Remove all the skin from the sweet potatoes. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a food processor and mix to a rough texture. Add the flour, brown sugar, parmesan cheese and the eggs and continue to process until smooth. It should look and feel like a pizza dough; very elastic. Lightly dust flour over a wood countertop/cutting board. Separate the dough into five equal balls and begin rolling each ball out into a long thin string about 2 inches in thickness. Once all the dough balls have been rolled out, use a dough scraper/cutter to cut all five strings at once into 2 inch by 2 inch gnocchi. Lightly dust the cut gnocchi with flour and roll each gnocchi with a dinner fork to give them the traditional design. Heat a saute pan to medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot add the chopped green onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the jumbo shrimp and cook until pink. Add the chopped parsley and toss. In a separate saute pan; heat 4 tablespoons of butter. As the butter begins to foam around the edges add the gnocchi and sage. Toss and top with the shrimp.

And Desserts In the Sicilian Tradition……

Ricotta-Filled Zeppole

DOUGH

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

FILLING

  • 2 pounds of ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 12 Maraschino cherries

Directions: Bring water, butter and salt to a boil. When boiling add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed, for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and put into electric mixing bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Mixing at a low speed add 1 egg at a time allowing each egg to be absorbed. Put dough into a pastry bag. Cut 12 pieces of wax paper into 3-inch squares and lightly dust with flour. Pipe a doughnut shape onto each piece of paper. Heat oil to 350ºF in a deep pan. Carefully slide batter off the wax paper into the oil. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes turning every couple of minutes. Doughnuts should double in size. Allow to cool on absorbent paper. Slice horizontally. Mix ricotta, sugar and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add chocolate chips and mix for 10 seconds. Put cream in pastry bag and fill center of each zeppole. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place a cherry on top of each pastry.

Cannoli

Sweet Cheese Filling

  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons candied cherries, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Drain the ricotta in a colander placed over a large mixing bowl for about two hours at room temperature. Press the cheese with a spatula to release more whey. Discard the whey and transfer drained cheese from the colander to the mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream in a small mixing bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the ricotta until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Add the cherries and chocolate chips. Cover and chill. Shells

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

To make the shells, sift the flour, sugar,and salt together into a large mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork or your hands, mix in the milk. Continue mixing until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half. Roll out each half on a floured work surface to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a 3-1/2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough. Heat the oil to a depth of 4 inches in a deep saucepan or deep fryer until it registers 325°F on a candy thermometer. Wrap each dough circle around a metal cannoli tube, sealing overlapping dough with the beaten egg white. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown (about 4 minutes). Remove carefully and place on paper towels to drain and cool. To assemble: Fit a pastry bag with the largest tube or snip 1/2-inch off the corner of a resealable plastic bag. Pressing one finger over the tube opening or pinching the corner of the bag shut, spoon filling into the bag. Fill each cannoli tube with the filling. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour or until ready to serve. Makes about 30 cannoli.  

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/06/14/little-italy-new-orleans-style/Birmingham, Alabama’s “Little Italy” (jovinacooksitalian.com) West Virginia’s Little Italy Communities (jovinacooksitalian.com) Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com) Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/08/new-yorks-other-little-italies/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/15/little-italy-new-jersey-style/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/04/12/delawares-little-italy/ The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com) The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/24/indianas-little-italy-communities/


Most people think of meat when they think of barbecue. But you might be surprised to learn that one of the first recorded barbecue recipes — found in a third century Greek food manifesto called, The Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus, (Dinner Table Philosophers) — featured bonito wrapped in grape leaves and grilled directly in the embers.

Fish is meant to be grilled. The direct heat cooks fish fast, easy and without removing moisture. Grilled fish is quite flavorful and juicy, just make sure it doesn’t stick. You can literally get fish off the grill in a matter of minutes, thus making fish the perfect after work meal. Fish is also great for dinner parties. Before dinner you can place the fish in a marinade or season it and light the grill a few minutes before everyone wants to eat.

The hardest part of grilling fish is knowing when it’s done. This is generally the trickiest part of grilling, but don’t worry. When fish is cooked the meat will flake easily with a fork and will appear opaque all the way through. If any part of the meat is still glossy and partially translucent then it’s not done. Most fish cooks quickly, so watch closely. Fish on the bone is more tolerant, requiring at least 10 minutes on each side for a whole two-pound fish. Thick fillets or steaks should be turned after five minutes.

Fillets are also good candidates for grilling, but have a greater tendency to dry out or to stick to the grill grate or break apart when you attempt to turn them.

To make this easier, always start out with a fish steak or fillet that is evenly cut. If one part is much thicker than another, it will be difficult to get the thick part cooked before the thin part dries out. If you have a fillet that is uneven consider cutting it in two. Put the thick half on first and when it’s about halfway done, put the thin half on. This way you will get the fish cooked to perfection without burning anything.

Uneven salmon fillets

The grill should be very hot and oiled, too (more on this later). Using direct heat will give the fish handsome grill marks. Once you have seasoned the fish, whether with a dry rub, a marinade or herbs, brush it with oil.

After oiling the grates put the fish on the grill and leave it until you are ready to turn it. Turn gently and leave it there until it is ready to leave the grill. With fillets you can tell they are ready to turn because the edges are flaky and opaque. Steaks and whole fish hold together better but take longer to grill. If you are grilling a whole fish stuff it with herbs and lemon slices. This not only adds to the flavor but creates a space to let the heat through. Also keep some fresh lemon juice mixed with olive oil handy while you are grilling. You can brush this on as you grill to add flavor and keep the fish moist.

The very best advice I can give you is this: buy two of the largest spatulas you can find.

I prefer metal spatulas because they are sturdier. They should be broad, at least eight inches across, and the blade should taper to a sharp edge. If possible, buy spatulas with long handles; more than 12 inches is good.

For fish steaks or compact fillets, gently place one spatula on top of the fish to secure it. Firmly but gently ease the second spatula under the fish to separate it from the grilling surface. Turn the steak or fillet sandwiched between the two, then gently slide them out.

Some other suggestions: 

Another easy way to turn a large fillet is to cover it with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil, slide a spatula under the fish, turn it over onto the foil, then lift the fillet a bit to slide the foil out.

A whole fish can simply be rolled over: making sure you have room on the grill to achieve this.

The first step, before you even light the grill, is to clean it thoroughly.

Scrub the grates with a wire brush. Then, once they are hot, brush them with oil.

Hold a thick wad of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil with long-handled tongs. Avoid using a long-handled basting brush for this job because the bristles might melt from the heat. Silicone brushes can melt at temperatures over about 650 degrees, and the grates can — and should — get hotter than that.

Here are some techniques to add to your cooking:

Plan ahead. Marinate fish before grilling or spray it with wine or another flavorful liquid as it cooks to prevent it from drying out.

Preheat the grill for 10 minutes to get the grates very hot.

Grill in a pouch. Enclose fish in edible leaves (banana, grape, or even cabbage) and grill until the fish flakes easily with a finger.

Another option is to grill the fish in foil packets, however, when you bundle the fish in foil it will not get any smoke or char from the grill, which means the fish effectively steams in the packet. It’s a healthy option, so many people might find it appealing. (Be cautious when opening the package as steam will escape.)

Grill on a plank. Season the fish on both sides, set up your grill for indirect grilling, then cook the fish directly on a water-soaked cedar (should be soaked for 1 hour) or alder wood plank (available from most cookware stores). No turning is necessary and the drama factor is impressive.

Grill in a basket. Invest in a wire mesh basket designed specifically for grilling fish. You can also use a cast iron pan on the grill.

If your grill has very widely spaced grates and you don’t want to buy a grilling pan or grilling basket, you can go the frugal route and grill on aluminum foil. (You can now even find nonstick coated foil for grilling.) Though you may not get the nice char marks, you will definitely have an easier time grilling the fish. I have found that if you make a few holes in the foil with a cake tester or fork and oil the foil, the fish will brown nicely even when cooked on top of the foil. After the fish is cooked, you can just slide the foil onto a serving plate. Easy.

Many chefs use the technique of grilling on herbs to infuse fish (as well as meat and poultry) with flavor. All you do is lay a thick bunch of herbs onto your grill grates or in a grill basket. Then simply grill the fish on top of the herbs and turn as usual. Use hardy herbs such as rosemary or thyme or even fennel fronds. It’s a good idea to toss the herbs in the same marinade as your fish (or spray with oil) to get them lubricated, so they don’t burn immediately on the grill.

Flat Skewers

Grill on skewers. Skewer chunks of fish or even a whole fish and suspend the skewers between bricks positioned opposite each other on the grill grate.

Support the skewers on foil covered bricks.

One of my favorite meals in the summer is grilled local line caught swordfish sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a little panko bread crumbs; finished with lemon juice, capers and olive oil. It is delicious.This method works with any so-called “steak” fish including tuna, halibut, monkfish, grouper or salmon.

Marinated Tuna Skewers

4 servings

A simple marinade adds a lot of flavor to tuna skewers. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/3 pound (1-inch-thick) tuna steak, cut into 32 (1-inch) cubes
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Olive oil for grill

Directions:

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, basil, soy sauce and mustard. Add tuna and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, then thread tuna onto 8 skewers.

Season skewers with salt and pepper. Grill on oiled grill rack, turning frequently, until fish is cooked to your liking, 6 to 10 minutes.

Blackened Grouper on the Grill

You may be asking “can’t I just do it on the stove?”. The answer is yes, but you will fill your house with smoke and realize outside is a much better idea.

Ingredients:

Cast iron or nonstick pan (all metal, no plastic handles)

2 Grouper fillets, skin removed

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Blackening Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper (make it a full tablespoon if you like a lot of heat)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Place the pan on the grill and light the grill to high heat. The pan needs to heat up on the grill for at least 10 minutes.

Dry the grouper fillets very well.

Mix all of the rub ingredients together well and then spread the rub out on a plate.

Melt the butter in a separate shallow dish, large enough to fit the fillets. Place both dishes on a tray and carry out to the grill.

Dip each fillet in the butter, covering both sides and then transfer to the plate with the rub and coat each side of the fish with the blackening rub.

Immediately place the fish into the very hot pan on the grill.

Cook, with the lid open, for 2 – 3 minutes, lifting the bottom of the fish carefully to check on the crust. You want a nice, blackened crust without burning. If the grill pan is very hot, this should only take around 3 minutes.

Turn the blackened grouper and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate.

Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • 4 tender celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
  • Six 6-ounce skinless mahimahi or any firm fish of choice

Directions:

In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until just softened, 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, artichokes, olives, pine nuts, sweetner and capers and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, 8 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and let cool.

Heat a grill. Rub the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 9 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates, top with the caponata and serve.

MAKE AHEAD  The artichoke caponata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Breaded and Grilled Shrimp and Scallops

I’m fortunate enough to live on the Gulf of Mexico, so that means we have access to fresh seafood and the grill all year long. There is nothing better than our Gulf shrimp, so I am always looking for a new recipe or technique for grilling these shrimp. You must be sure to oil the grates for this recipe or you will have bread crumbs stuck to the grill.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Shrimp
  • 1/2 lb. U.S. Gulf Sea Scallops

Directions:

Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the tail as well.

Mix the lemon juice, zest, olive oil and garlic together in a glass bowl.

Place the shrimp and the scallops in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes (no longer or the lemon juice will cook the seafood).

Remove the shrimp and scallops from the marinade and place them on skewers. Use double skewers to prevent the shrimp and scallops from rotating when you move them around the grill.

Cover the bottom of a plate with the breadcrumbs and then roll each skewer into the crumbs, covering all sides with the breadcrumbs while pushing them into the seafood to make them stick.

Let the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers sit in the refrigerator for about 20 more minutes while the grill heats. (This aids in the crumbs adhering to the shrimp and scallops).

Heat the grill to high heat and oil the grates The best way is to use a folded paper towel dipped in oil and then use tongs to rub down the grates.

Place the breaded shrimp and scallop skewers on the grill and grill for about 3 – 4 minutes. Don’t move the skewers once they are on the grill or you will lose a lot of breadcrumbs.

Flip the skewers over and continue to grill for another 3 minutes and then remove the skewers from the grill to a serving platter.

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Onions and Red Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, with skin
  • 2 small sweet onions, halved crosswise but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers—stemmed, cored and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram

Directions:

In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce and brown sugar with the 2 tablespoons of oil; add the salmon and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Light a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill. When hot turn off one burner or leave an area of a charcoal grill without direct heat.

Drizzle the cut sides of the onions with oil and grill over moderately high heat, cut side down, until nicely charred and starting to soften, about 15 minutes. Turn the onions and cook until tender, about 15 minutes longer. Push the onions to the cool side of the grill.

Oil the peppers and grill them, skin side down, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Turn and grill for 5 minutes. (Remove the charred skin if desired.) Push them over to the onions.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and grill, skin side down, for 8 minutes. Turn and grill until the salmon is just cooked through, 4 minutes longer.

Transfer the salmon, peppers and onions to plates and sprinkle with the marjoram. Drizzle the onions and peppers with the oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme.


Meat may be the star attraction, but what barbecue is complete without complementary side dishes? They pair exceptionally well with grilled foods and sometimes they can even steal the show. Sides are also practical because it’s a way to be sure there’s something for everyone on your BBQ table.

Save yourself time in the kitchen by cooking as much as you can on the grill. Eggplant, portobello mushrooms, onions, zucchini, asparagus, sweet peppers and hot peppers all taste wonderful when grilled with just a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Invest in a grill pan and you’ll be able to grill green beans, carrots, button mushrooms, patty pan squash, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets for additional healthy veggie options. And don’t forget you can grill corn on the cob, either in the husks or wrapped in tin foil.

Need a potato fix, but don’t feel like spending the afternoon deep frying in the kitchen? Wrap a whole potato in tin foil and cook it in the hot coals or on the grill grates for a healthier and more satisfying potato dish.

Make individual foil packets to cook more delicate foods. Toss in lemon slices with the veggies and you’ll have an elegant, healthy side, without much clean up.

Salads top the list of popular barbecue sides. Most can be made in advance and many salads taste better after sitting overnight in the refrigerator. The exception is a mixed green salad – remember to wait until the last minute to add the dressing. Both can be made ahead and kept separate.

All the recipes on this post are not your traditional barbecue sides. They appeal to adults and kids alike, keep well as leftovers and most can easily withstand being left out in the sun for a while.

Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Serve with grilled pork, fish or chicken.

4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.

Add celery, celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel, chopped fennel fronds and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grilled Green Beans and Peaches

4 Servings

Mix 2 peaches (cut into 1/2-inch wedges) and 1 pound trimmed green beans with 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

On a preheated grill cook peaches and green beans in a skillet that can go on the grill or on heavy duty foil with a few holes poked in it, until beans are crisp-tender and peaches are lightly charred, 8–10 minutes. Place in a serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds and 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar.

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

6–8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds small Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap each potato individually in foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender, 45–60 minutes. Let cool slightly. (Can be prepared ahead up to this point.)

Unwrap potatoes and arrange on the same baking sheet. Set another rimmed baking sheet over potatoes, rimmed side up and press gently to smash potatoes without breaking them apart.

Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with half of the oil. Carefully turn potatoes to coat.

Preheat oven to 500°F.  Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining oil, turn to coat and continue roasting until crispy and golden brown, 25–30 minutes.

Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled in alternating strips and cut into chunks
  • 1 Red or Vidalia onion, cut into chunks
  • 10 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Gently combine all ingredients, except basil, in a bowl and let sit a for a few hours. Toss again. Add basil, toss and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Saute

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

Directions:

Saute zucchini and onion in oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add garlic, corn kernels, chives and Italian seasoning; saute 5 minutes or until tender.

Chickpea and Walnut Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw mix
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette, homemade or store bought

Directions:

Mix garbanzo beans, shredded carrot, broccoli slaw mix, chopped walnuts and dried cranberries with the vinaigrette. Place baby greens in the bottom of a serving bowl and place bean mixture on top. Shred Parmesan cheese over the salad.



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