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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: July 2013

A change in diet can be tough for kids. Gradual changes can be effective, though, such as switching from regular to whole-grain pasta in stages. First add 1/4 cup of the healthier noodle and each time gradually add more, until eventually they’re eating the entire dish whole-grain style. The key is making the changes over time and not making a big deal about them.

When your children see you eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, they’ll follow your lead. Help your child develop healthy eating habits by setting an example. You’ll send a message that good health is important.

Find new ways to introduce healthy food. For example, try a small amount of broccoli mixed in with whole-grain macaroni and cheese. Sometimes cooking veggies in forms that kids are comfortable with can encourage them to try different vegetablesYou can add peas to pasta or even make a half cauliflower/half potato mash.

When your kids ask for candy and a soda, help them make better choices by stocking up on healthy snacks. 

Present new foods or healthy choices, but don’t force children to eat it. Ask what new foods they’re interested in trying and offer to make them. Get excited about their willingness to try them! Put a small portion of a new food on their plate and ask them to taste it. 

When everyone sits down together for meals, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Everyone develops good eating habits and the quality family time is an added bonus.

Food shouldn’t be a source of stress for your family. Get your kids to eat healthier by being creative and consistent. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference.

Involve your children in choosing and preparing meals. Take them to the grocery store to help shop. Children who are involved in cooking are more interested in eating what they’ve prepared.

Have them help put together a shopping list and give them fun, educational tasks. For example, you can tell them to count out six apples into a produce bag at the store.

They can rinse and chop vegetables, tear lettuce or stir the pot. My grandsons love putting the cheese on pizza dough.

Thinking about a weekly schedule may seem overwhelming, so start with two or three days at a time. Good dinners should be balanced with whole-grain bread, rice or pasta, a fruit or vegetable and a lean protein or meat.

Make a game of reading food labels. Read books about food and explain where it comes from. The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat.

Not So Healthy Food Choices

Hot Dogs

Since they’re filled with sodium, they zap water from kids’ bodies—and up children’s chances of dehydrating. Plus, they are loaded with saturated fat, which is a factor in causing heart disease, even for little people. Another reason to cut back on hot dogs: One study found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month are significantly more likely to develop childhood leukemia.

Smart swap: Chicken apple sausages. They’re made with lean meat that’s lower in fat, calories and salt. The sausages also contain bits of real apple, which add a touch of sweetness that most kids love. There are now several healthy hot dog choices in the markets – just check the label for lower sodium and lower saturated fats. You will also want to avoid nitrates, such as the hot dogs made by Applegate. 

Pepperoni Pizza

One slice of pepperoni pizza packs nearly 300 calories and your little one may want seconds. This type of pizza includes lots of saturated fat and sodium, about 700 mg per piece. Kids need only 1,000 to 1,300 mg total per day.

Smart swap: Homemade veggie pizza on whole-grain crust. Besides being healthier, your child can pitch in with this cooking project, which wards off boredom. Just buy a premixed ball of whole-grain dough, low-sodium tomato or pizza sauce and vegetables your little one loves. You can also add skinless chicken breast, ham or lean hamburger for protein, which keeps kids fuller, longer and means less roaming around in the kitchen for a snack.

Ice Pops

Like soda, they come with empty calories that can cause weight gain. As refreshing as they might seem, they’re actually filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and dyes.

Smart swap: Frozen fruit. Freeze cubes of watermelon. Watermelon has a high water content, so the result is a sweet treat that keeps kids hydrated. You can also freeze grapes (just don’t give them to children under four years old, as they can be a choking hazard), blueberries and orange slices are other tasty, nutritious options. Unsweetened fruit juice also makes great frozen pops.

Potato Chips

Not only can all of that sodium in chips cause dehydration, but it can also prompt kids to quench their thirst with sugary drinks. Plus, chips are high in fat.

Smart swap: Grilled corn. An ear of sweet corn on the cob is a good source of fiber. Fiber is important for kids year-round, but summer schedules mean kids get less of it and it’s necessary for optimum gastrointestinal health. How much fiber does your small fry need? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests: Children 1-3 years: 19 grams of fiber per day; Children 4-8 years: 25 grams of fiber per day; Boys 9-13 years: 31 grams of fiber per day; Girls 9-13 years: 26 grams of fiber per day. For a calcium boost on top of the fiber fix, roll an ear of grilled corn in a bit of shredded Cheddar or Parmesan cheese.

Sweet Drinks

What children drink can have a major effect on how many calories they consume and how much calcium they get to build strong bones. One research study found that every additional serving of a sugary drink a day increases a child’s risk for obesity by as much as 60%.

Smart swap: Water can’t be beat. Kids may be upping their liquid intake when they drink sugar-filled beverages, but they’re also consuming hundreds of extra empty calories. If your child finds H20 ho-hum, freeze berries into large ice cubes and float them in cups of water or add a splash of unsweetened fruit juice to their glass of ice water

Healthy Easy Kid Friendly Recipes

Snacks

Baked Mozzarella Bites

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 mozzarella bites and 1 tablespoon sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

  • 3 (1-ounce) sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese

  • 3 tablespoons egg substitute

  • Cooking spray

  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce (homemade or store bought- check label for sodium and sugar content and choose lower levels.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup panko to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and place the panko in a shallow dish.

Cut mozzarella sticks into 1-inch pieces. Working with one piece at a time, dip cheese in egg substitute; dredge in panko. Place cheese on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is softened and thoroughly heated.

Pour the marinara sauce into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring after 30 seconds. Serve with mozzarella pieces.

Chocolate-Granola Apple Wedges

Serves 4 (serving size: 4 apple wedges)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • 1/3 cup low-fat granola without raisins

  • 1 large apple, cut into 16 wedges

Directions:

Place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring every 15 seconds, or until chocolate melts.

Place granola in a shallow dish. Dip apple wedges, skin side up, in chocolate; allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl.

Dredge wedges in granola. Place wedges, chocolate side up, on a large plate. Refrigerate 5 minutes or until set.

 

Main Entrees

Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon honey

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 frozen whole-grain round waffles, toasted

  • 6 ounces thinly sliced, lower-sodium deli chicken breast or home cooked and sliced thin

  • 4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella or mild cheddar cheese

  • 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices ripe tomato

  • 4 Boston lettuce leaves

Directions:

Combine mayonnaise and the next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl.

Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over 4 waffles. Divide chicken, cheese, tomato and lettuce evenly on the four coated waffles.

Top with remaining toasted waffles.

Individual Pizzas

Let your children assemble these pizzas.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough or homemade pizza dough

  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce

  • 4 individual mozzarella string cheeses

  • 8 black olive slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Divide pizza dough into four pieces. Stretch and roll out each piece into a 5-inch round.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of pizza sauce on each pizza round.

Peel string cheese into long, thin pieces and place on top of the the sauce,

Top each pizza with two black olive slices for the pizza eyes.

Or, let the children be creative and decorate the pizza as they wish.

Bake the pizzas for 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

Meat Sauce

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (grass-fed ground beef is a healthier choice) or ground turkey

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon Italian seaoning

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

  • 2 cloves minced garlic

  • 1 10 oz pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

  • 1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

  • 1 box large pasta shells

Directions:

Prepare Meat Sauce:

Brown beef in a large saucepan. Drain on paper towels to remove fat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan and saute onion and garlic.

Add tomato paste and Italian seasoning; cook for one minute. Return beef to the pan and add crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper. Simmer 30-40 minutes until thickened.

Prepare Filling:

Saute 1/2 cup onions and 2 minced garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add spinach and cook two minutes. Put mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

Combine cooled spinach mixture with mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

Boil the pasta shells in salted water until al dente, drain and set aside on clean kitchen towels.

Spoon filling into shells and place in a greased 9×13 inch baking pan.

Top with meat sauce and remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until heated through and the sauce is bubbling.

 

Desserts

Frozen Pudding Pops

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 4 serving-size pkg. sugar-free instant chocolate or chocolate fudge pudding mix

  • 2 cups fat-free milk

  • 1 – 4 serving-size pkg. sugar-free instant banana cream, butterscotch, pistachio, vanilla or white chocolate pudding mix

  • 2 cups fat-free milk

  • 16 Small plastic cups (3 oz. bathroom size)

  • 16 Wooden popsicle sticks

Directions:

Place sixteen 3-ounce disposable plastic drink cups in a 13×9 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Put the chocolate pudding mix into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 cups milk. Use a wire whisk or hand beater to beat the pudding for 2 minutes or until well mixed.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons pudding into each cup. Cover cups with a piece of foil. Freeze for 1 hour.

Place desired second flavor pudding mix in another medium bowl. Add 2 cups milk. Use a wire whisk or hand beater to beat the pudding for 2 minutes or until well mixed.

Remove pudding-filled cups from the freezer; uncover. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the second flavor of pudding over the frozen pudding in cups.

Recover each cup with the  foil. Make a small hole in the center of foil with the sharp knife. Push a wooden stick through the hole and into the top layer of pudding in the cup.

Put the baking pan in the freezer. Freeze for 4 to 6 hours or until pudding pops are firm. Remove from freezer. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Remove pudding pops from the cups to serve. Makes 16 pops.

Mini S’Mores

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole graham cracker squares

  • 16 tiny marshmallows

  • 1 ½ ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted*

  • 1 tablespoon white sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat the broiler. Using a serrated knife, cut each graham cracker into quarters (you will have 16 portions).

Place half of the crackers on a baking sheet and top each with a 2 tiny marshmallows. Broil 3 inches from the heat for just a few seconds until the marshmallows start to brown.

Remove and quickly top with remaining graham crackers. Dip one end into the melted chocolate, place on waxed paper and decorate the chocolate side with sprinkles.

Let stand until chocolate sets. Mini s’mores can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.

*To melt chocolate, place chopped chocolate in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

 

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If you’re ready to take your grilling techniques to the next level, add a plank or a wrap the next time you grill. Backyard barbecuers know that two simple, inexpensive tools can expand their repertoire of healthful and delicious dishes prepared on the grill.

Plank Grilling

The use of a plank — simply a piece of wood that doubles as a flavor agent and a cooking surface — offers several advantages to plain, old grilling.

1. It adds the subtle flavor of the wood to whatever is being grilled on top of it.

2. It provides a barrier against the flames, allowing foods to cook more slowly and evenly.

3. It provides a solid platform for delicate foods that can easily break apart and fall into the open spaces of a regular grill surface.

4. It does all this without adding one single calorie to your food.

Want to give plank grilling a try? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Plank grilling is used most often to cook fish. Salmon is a favorite, but Arctic char, trout, tilapia or mahi mahi would work fine, too. (Please remember to make sure your seafood is sustainable.)

2. Choose wood that has an aroma and flavor that works with what you’re grilling. The most commonly used woods are cedar, hickory, maple, hickory, cherry or apple. Also, only use wood that’s untreated, as well as stain and paint free.

3. Immerse the wood in water and soak for a minimum of one hour before grilling. This will help prevent it from catching fire. You can also add wine, apple juice or citrus to the water to intensify the flavor.

4. When the plank is finished soaking, rub a light coat of oil on the top surface. The oil will add a few calories, but it will prevent the fish from sticking to the plank. Then place the fish on the plank and whatever seasoning you prefer. (Some chefs prefer to warm the plank on the grill first, before adding the fish, to prevent warping.)

5. Put the plank with the fish directly on the grill and close the lid. Count on it taking up to 50 percent longer to cook because it’s cooking indirectly; this is also why you don’t need to flip it over on its other side.

6. You may want to baste the fish as it’s cooking with the same wine or juice that you used to season the plank. But you don’t have to.

7. Have a spray bottle filled with clean water standing by. If the plank catches fire; don’t panic. Just give it a spritz to extinguish the flame.

8. When the fish is cooked, remove it from the plank and serve.

9. The plank can be reused, if it’s still in good shape. Just soak in water to clean and allow to dry completely before storing.

How To Grill On A Plank

Step 1: Choose a grilling plank

Cedar lends the most intense, aromatic flavor to salmon, but other woods are excellent for plank-grilling, too.

Here are some examples:

Alder: Adds a mild, mellow flavor

Cherry: Imparts a rich woody flavor

Hickory: Gives food a strong, smoky flavor

Maple: Adds a mild and sweet flavor

Tip: Look for grilling planks at specialty cookware stores, hardware stores, and grilling supply outlets.

Step 2: Prepare the plank

Plank-grilling gives salmon the flavor imparted by a smoker with the convenience of a grill. Be sure to prepare the wood properly to increase moisture for cooking and prevent burning.

Take these steps to prepare your wooden grilling plank:

Rinse the plank with water to remove any dust.

Fill a sink or other large container with water.

Submerge the plank in the water, placing a weight on top of it. Soak the plank for 1 to 4 hours.

Enhance the plank’s flavor by adding 1 tablespoon salt to the water. If desired, you may also stir in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, citrus or berry juice or flavored liqueur to add more flavor.

Step 3: Prepare the fish (for example-salmon)

Leave the salmon filet whole or cut it into serving-size portions or use individual salmon steaks. You can add a dry rub, marinade or herb mixture to flavor the salmon. Apply rubs to the salmon up to 24 hours in advance. Add marinades or herb mixtures to the salmon 2 hours or less before cooking.

Step 4: Prepare the grill for direct grilling

For a charcoal grill:

Light coals using lighter fluid, an electric starter or a chimney starter. (If using lighter fluid, wait 1 minute before igniting the fire.) Let the fire burn until the coals are covered with a light coating of gray ash. Arrange coals evenly across the bottom of the grill, covering an area 3 inches larger on all sides than the plank.

For a gas grill:

To light a gas grill, open the lid. Turn the gas valve to “on” and ignite the grill as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the burners on high. Close the lid and preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5: Time to grill

Reduce heat to medium.

Place the plank on the grill rack and allow it to preheat for about 5 minutes or until it begins to crackle and smoke.

Lay the salmon on the plank, cover the grill and allow the salmon to cook for 18 to 22 minutes, depending on its thickness.

To test for doneness, insert a fork into the thickest part of the salmon. If it flakes easily, it’s finished cooking.

Tip: The plank should be approximately 8 inches from the heat. If you do not have control over the plank height, closely monitor the salmon while on the grill to make sure it doesn’t overcook. 

Banana Leaves

Wrap Grilling

Another way to add flavor and prolong cooking time is by wrapping the food before grilling it.

What to wrap it in? Consider these ideas:

1. Aluminum foil — Assemble a simple pocket of aluminum foil and you’re ready to make a Grilled Tuna Melt, Corn or Potato Packets or Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Packets. No calories added.

2. Corn husks — Besides grilling corn on the cob inside its own husk (just soak the corn cobs in cold water for a couple of hours, then grill, husks on, for 30 minutes), you can also use husks to create wraps for fish or chicken.

3. Tortillas — Wrap a whole grain tortilla around some turkey pepperoni, a little tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella, for healthy grilled pizza quesadillas.

4. Banana leaves — Available at most Asian grocers, banana leaves are wonderful for wrapping around a light and flaky fish. The moisture from the leaves will give the fish a light steaming, and the subtle taste of banana provides a hint of sweetness.

5. Cedar wraps — Sometimes you want the flavor of smoked wood in your food, but you may need a little more shelter than a plank can provide. Use cedar wraps – wafer thin strips of wood that wrap around individual servings of shrimp or fish. Tie them up with scallion greens and they look like presents for your dinner guests.

Cedar Paper Grilling Wraps:

Grilling with cedar paper grilling wraps is a healthy way to cook seafood, meat and vegetables. Cedar paper grilling wraps are great on the grill and even great in the oven, where the cedar paper infuses a smoky cedar flavor into your food. Cedar paper grilling wraps are made from red cedar from the Pacific Northwest.

Soak the cedar paper grilling wraps in water, wine or apple juice in a dish, or oversize zip lock bag for 10 minutes.

Heat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high (about 375 degrees F).

Place the food face down in the center of soaked cedar paper grilling wraps in same direction as the grain of wood. Fold the cedar paper’s edges towards each other until they overlap. Tie the cedar paper grilling wrap with butcher’s twine string (you can also used soaked scallion greens) and place on grill, seam side up.

Smoke your food in the cedar paper wraps directly on the grill grates or grill pan, close the lid (if using a grill), and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the food is cooked to your liking. If you are using a gas grill; do notkeep the lid open.

Serve cedar paper grilled wrapped foods straight on a plate or remove food from cedar paper wraps and garnish food with chives.

Cooking Tip #1:

Keep open bottles of alcohol away from heat source.

Cooking Tip #2

Leave the cedar paper grilling wraps seam side up and do not turn them over. This way juices remain in the cedar paper wrap and natrual steam keeps your food moist.

Recipes Using A Plank

Salmon on a Plank with Rosemary and Garlic

This healthy grilled salmon recipe gets flavor from the smoking cedar plank under it and from fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 2-pound salmon fillet

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons black pepper

  • 1 untreated cedar plank

Directions:

Soak cedar plank in water for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill. Place the salmon fillet on the cedar plank. Pour lemon juice over the fish. Evenly coat the fillet with garlic and black pepper. Place rosemary sprigs on top and place on the grill over medium heat.

Watch to make sure that the cedar wood doesn’t catch fire. You can pour small amounts of water on the wood around the edges if it starts to get too charred. Cook salmon for about 20 minutes, as directed above in the tips.

Cedar Plank Smoked Burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef

  • 2 drops liquid smoke

  • 1 large onion, cut into four 1/2-inch slices

  • 2 ounces Havarti cheese or smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

  • 4 hamburger rolls 

Directions:

Heat grill to high. Mix ground beef with liquid smoke and shape into 4 burger patties.

Place soaked cedar plank on the grill. Turn heat under plank down to low. Place patties onto plank (you may need to use two planks depending on how big your cedar planks are).

Place onion slices on greased grill grates. Lower heat to medium. Lower lid and cook to desired degree of doneness. (Gently turn onions halfway through cooking time; if they are done before burgers, move to a plate and cover with foil.)

Place 1 onion slice on top of each burger and top with 1/2 ounce shredded cheese. Lower lid and let cheese melt slightly. Serve immediately.

BBQ Chicken on Cedar Plank

Chicken Dry Rub

Mix all the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Coat the chicken with the rub, cover it and refrigerate overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons powdered yellow mustard 

  • 1 teaspoon dried sage

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Grilling the Chicken:

Once your grill is at the right temperature and (all the coals are grey or a gas grill reads medium), put the whole chicken, breast side up, on the cedar plank and put it in the center of the grill, directly over the heat. You want good heat directly under the cedar plank so the cedar will smoke through the whole cooking process. 

Chicken should be cooked (depending on size) in 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can use a meat thermometer to check the chicken temperature (160-165°F). Remove to a serving plate and carve.

Wrap Grilling Recipes

Cedar Grilled Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined.

  • 2 limes, squeezed

  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

  • 3 cloves of organic garlic – pressed through a garlic presser

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 small orange, unpeeled

  • 1 each: green onion, zucchini slice and rosemary sprig

Directions:

Soak cedar paper grilling wraps and butcher twine or scallion green in water for 20 minutes.

While the cedar paper grilling wraps are soaking, combine all ingredients and mix well and let mixture stand for 15 minutes. Cut orange in circular slices.

Lay down two orange slices on the cedar paper and then place 4 or 5 shrimp on top of the orange slices. Next lay a piece of green onion, zucchini and rosemary on top.

Wrap both ends of the cedar paper grilling wraps together and tie. Cut and remove any excess twine. (You can also use chives or scallion greens soaked in water to tie the wraps.)

Heat grill to 400 degrees F (medium hot). Then Place cedar paper grilling wraps on the grill grate for 12-15 minutes; cover with the grill lid. Peek at the shrimp and if they are pink, they are cooked.

After shrimp is cooked. Remove and let rest for 1 minute.

Serve in cedar paper grilling wraps.

Foil Potato Packets on the Grill

Great side dish.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

  • Olive oil

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Other seasonings of choice (e.g., Oregano, Rosemary, Italian seasoning, Parsley etc.)

Directions:

Place the diced potatoes in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and other seasonings of choice.

Tear off 8 sheets of foil into sizes that are big enough to hold and wrap around 1/4 of the potatoes. Place two sheets of foil on top of each other to make a double layer, so you have 4 groups.

Spray the foil with cooking spray, then layer 1/4 of the potatoes in the middle of each double-layer foil sheet. Fold the foil up over the potatoes and twist the edges to seal.

Cook on the grill over direct medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Be very careful when opening the packets, as the steam will be very hot.

Grilled Chicken and Peppers Packets

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb total)

  • 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

Directions:

Grease unheated grill rack and heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

Place each chicken breast in the center of a 12-inch by 18-inch piece of foil. Divide bell peppers and onion evenly over the chicken breasts.

In small bowl, stir together barbecue sauce, orange juice, salt, black pepper and red pepper. Evenly drizzle over chicken and vegetables.

Bring up 2 long sides of each piece of foil and double-fold with a 1-inch wide fold. Double-fold each end to form a packet.

Place packets, seam side up, on grill grate. Cover and grill packets over medium heat, 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the chicken breast reads 160-165°F and juices run clear. Place packets on plates. Cut a large X across top of packet; fold back foil. Be careful of the hot steam.


Newly Arrived Italian Immigrant Sitting On A Hill Overlooking Albuquerque

A close-knit Italian-American community has been a strong presence in Albuquerque, New Mexico since the transcontinental railroad first arrived there in 1880. These families established a foundation for the growth and development of a thriving Italian community in New Mexico’s largest city. Alessandro and Pompilio Matteucci, Antonio and Cherubino Domenici, Ettore Franchini and Orseste Bachechi (who is known as the “Father of the Albuquerque Italian Community”) were prominent residents. Colombo Hall, the city’s first Italian-American organization, and the Italmer Club, founded in the late 1930s, are located in the city.

Columbus Day Parade 1910

When Mexico ceded New Mexico to the United States in 1846, the Santa Fe Trail linked the United States with its new territory. When the railroad came to Albuquerque, El Camino and the Santa Fe Trail became obsolete.

American Lumber Company 1910

The railroad brought goods in quantity that freighters had previously hauled by wagons and mule trains. It also brought newcomers. Before the railroad, Albuquerque’s population was largely Hispanic with a sprinkling of Anglos. By 1885, the town counted more than 20 ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Chinese and Italians who were building the line.

Building the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad

With accessible transportation, the town’s economy changed dramatically. Albuquerque became a shipping point for livestock and wool and the lumber industry boomed. In the early 1900s, American Lumber Co. was second only to the railroad as Albuquerque’s largest employer. Its 110-acre complex was built between 1903 and 1905 near Twelfth Street. At its peak it employed 850 men and produced milled lumber, doors and shingles.

Cattle ranching and commerce on the Santa Fe Trail established the Raton area as a trade center. When the railroad roared over the Raton Pass in 1879, the city of Raton was born and its progress became unstoppable. The first coal mines opened that same year, providing additional economic opportunities for Raton.

“Raton” was the choice of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad’s chief engineer, A.A. Robinson. He fought hard for the shorter route over the steep mountains, avoiding the Cimarron Cutoff. A plentiful water supply and the promise of coal cinched the matter.

A typical Western frontier town, Raton had shootouts in the streets and theater in the opera house. Those who came to live and work in Raton were cattlemen from Missouri and Texas and immigrants from Greece, Italy, the Slavic countries and Asia. Nearby towns followed suit and grew with the railroad.

Dawson – Italian American Miners

In 1895 coal was discovered in the area that is now known as Dawson. Then in 1901 the property was sold to the Dawson Fuel Company for $400,000. The Dawson coal mine subsequently opened, a railroad was constructed from Dawson to Tucumcari and the town of Dawson was born. The company worked the mine for several years, before selling the mine and town to the Phelps Dodge Corporation in 1906. Upon purchase, the Phelps Dodge Corporation was determined to transform the town and developed amenities to attract miners. It featured schools, a theater, bowling alley, modern hospital, golf course and even an opera house. Through extensive advertising in areas such as St. Louis, Missouri and similar cities, miners from the U.S. and immigrants from Greece, Italy, China, Ireland and Mexico flooded into the town. (During its height, coal mined in Dawson fueled an area equal to one-sixth of the United States.)

During its operation, Dawson experienced two mine large tragedies, one in 1913 and another in 1923. The first occurred on October 22, 1913, when an incorrectly set dynamite charge resulted in an enormous explosion in Stag Canon Mine No. 2 that sent a tongue of fire one hundred feet out of the tunnel mouth. Rescue efforts were well organized and exhaustive; Phelps Dodge sent a trainload of doctors, nurses and medical supplies from El Paso; and striking miners in Colorado ceased picketing and offered to form rescue teams. But there was little need for anything except caskets. Only a few miners escaped. A total of 263 died in what was declared one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history.

Almost ten years later, on February 8, 1923, a mine train jumped its track, hit the supporting timbers of the tunnel mouth and ignited coal dust in the mine. Approximately 123 men perished, many of them children of the men who had died in 1913. These miners had been mostly immigrants, who had traveled here from Europe to work. A large percentage had been Italian.

 The original church of San Felipe de Neri was started in 1706 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest who came to Alburquerque [the spelling was later changed to Albuquerque] with 30 families from Bernalillo in 1704 or 1705. The church was initially named San Francisco Xavier by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, who founded the city of Alburquerque and named it after the Viceroy of New Spain. Jesuit priests from Naples, Italy, came in 1867 at the invitation of Bishop Lamy. The Jesuits oversaw a major facelift to the church and adjacent buildings. In 1878 they built a school for boys on the northwest side of the church. At the same time, the land to the east was enclosed for a playground, stable and corral. Today, the former school building is leased for use as retail shops. (Source: Coal Town – The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico”, ©Toby Smith.)

The first Spanish explorers and settlers, beginning in the early 1500’s, brought their European wines grapes with them as they made the sunny, fertile Rio Grande valley their new home. These original grape stocks remain the source of many of New Mexico’s vinters to this day. In the 1580s, Missionary priests were busily producing sacramental wines. By the 19th century, vineyards and wineries dotted the Rio Grande valley from Bernallilo south to the Mexican border. Census data in 1880 identified 3,150 New Mexico acres dedicated to producing 905,000 barrels of wines per year.

European farmers from Italy and France settled in the Corrales valley in the 1860s. Among the Italian families who settled there were the Palladinis, Targhettas and Salces and by the 1880s they were successfully growing several varieties of grapes (up until that time the only type of grape grown in Corrales was the Mission grape). By 1900 Corrales was known for its vineyards and the making of wine, much of it by French and Italian families.

1908 Champion Grocery and Meat Market

New Mexico’s Italian American Shopkeepers

A Few of New Mexico’s Italian Americans

PIETRO VICHI DOMENICI

Pietro Vichi “Pete” Domenici (born May 7, 1932) is an American Republican politician, who served six terms as a United States Senator from New Mexico, from 1973 to 2009, the longest tenure in the state’s history. Domenici was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Italian-American parents.  Alda (née Vichi), an illegal immigrant, and Cherubino Domenici, who were both born in Modena, Italy. Growing up, Domenici worked in his father’s grocery business after school. He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary’s High School in Albuquerque. After earning a degree in education at the University of New Mexico in 1954, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, he pitched for one season for the Albuquerque Dukes, a farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He taught mathematics at Garfield Junior High in Albuquerque. He earned his law degree at the University of Denver’s law school in 1958 and returned to practice law in Albuquerque. In 1966, Domenici successfully ran for a position on the Albuquerque City Commission and in 1968 was elected Commission Chairman. This position was equivalent to that of mayor under the structure of the city government at the time. In 1972, Domenici successfully ran for a position in the U.S. Senate

LOUIS ANDREA SAVIO

Louis Andrea Savio who was born June 22, 1879 in Valperga, Italy. He emigrated to the US from Le Havre, France on December 20, 1901. He married his first wife, Regina, in 1905. In 1910, he operated a saloon in Rockvale, a mining town in Colorado. His passport application shows, he resided only in Rockvale, Colorado and Dawson, New Mexico during his lifetime. He obtained citizenship April 16, 1909 in Canon City, Colorado. His second marriage was on July 6, 1918 to Ernesta. In September, 1918 he was listed as a musician employed by the Phelps Dodge Corporation but his occupation was listed as baker, when he and his wife planned to travel to Italy to visit his mother in 1925. His father, Antonio, was deceased. Mr. Savio was active in supporting the Dawson community. He was the Dawson High School Band Director. He donated a piano and art work to support the high school activities. He always led the 4th of July Parade with his band. He was Treasurer for the Loyal Order of Moose. He also belonged to the Dawson Club and participated in men’s basketball and baseball games. The 1920 census shows him to be Manager of the Bakery Shop. In 1938 he was elected to the Board of Governors of the New Mexico Bakers Association. He was residing in Raton, NM at that time. He died on March 8, 1960.

MOLLY’S BAR

Shortly after the end of Prohibition in the 1930’s, Romeo Di Lallo, Sr. and his wife, Molly, both Italian immigrants, opened one of the first old-time nightclubs in New Mexico, the “Monterrey Gardens.” Less than two years later all was lost in a fire, so Romeo and Molly had to start all over. In 1938 after Romeo became ill with miner’s lung disease (having worked in New Mexico coal mines for a number of years), Molly opened ROMEO’S BAR on Bridge Street in the South Valley of Albuquerque and that same year their son, Romeo, Jr. was born. Romeo, Sr. passed away in 1946 and in 1947 Molly married a builder named Tony Simballa. One year later Tony built a new and larger facility for ROMEO’S BAR, on Isleta Boulevard in the South Valley. In 1948 their son, Albert Simballa, Jr. was born. In 1952 Molly, Tony, Romeo, Jr. and Al moved to Tijeras in the mountains just east of Albuquerque where they opened MOLLY’S BAR. At TRAILRIDER PIZZA, next door to MOLLY’S, you can enjoy Pizza, Sandwiches and Italian Appetizers. The sign over MOLLY’S front door states, “The Greatest People On Earth Walk Through This Doorway.”  Source: The italian Experience: Library of Congress and Center for Southwest Research (UNM)

New Mexico’s Italian Food

Zero otto pasta

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari

Squid-ink noodles are now readily available from many shops. If you cannot find them, you can make your own pasta.

Serves – 4 

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-sized calamari
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons or more of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ oz white wine
  • 2 cups peeled tomatoes
  • 1 small chili (fresh or dried)
  • salt and pepper
  • finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 lb squid ink pasta

Directions:

Clean the calamari and cut the tubes into rings. Cut the tentacles into smaller pieces.

Fry the onion and garlic in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add the calamari and wine and allow the wine to evaporate. Add the tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper and cook until the calamari is tender, 30-40 minutes.

Finish with parsley, more oil if needed and the lemon zest.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and combine with the sauce.

Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 10 flour tortillas, quartered
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Layer half of the tortillas on the bottom of a lightly greased 13×9 baking dish.

Heat oil in a skillet and brown the beef. Drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salsa, tomato sauce, oregano and chili. powder

Layer half of this mixture on the tortillas.

In another bowl, combine ricotta cheese, beaten eggs and garlic powder.

Layer over the meat mixture.

Spread remaining meat mixture on top.

Layer remaining tortilla quarters over the meat mixture.

Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

Enchilada Chicken Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups red enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, optional
  • Chipotle hot sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pat chicken breast halves dry and season to taste – on both sides – with salt and pepper.

On a large plate, combine the flour, cumin, coriander and cayenne; whisk to combine.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs.

On a third large plate, pour out the breadcrumbs in an even layer.

Spread 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of a baking dish large enough to comfortably fit all four chicken breasts.

Lightly dredge one chicken breast half in the flour mixture; tap off excess.

Dip the chicken breast half in the eggs, letting any excess drip off.

Finally, coat the chicken breast half on both sides with the panko bread crumbs, pressing to adhere. Set aside on a clean plate.

Repeat  with the remaining chicken breast halves.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Place chicken breast halves into the hot skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes total.

Place chicken in the baking dish with the sauce.

Spoon the remaining 1 cup enchilada sauce evenly over the chicken breast halves. Top with both cheeses and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve topped with cilantro and/or chipotle hot sauce.

Lemon Pudding Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Popular restaurant dessert.

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 cups raspberries
  • Powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat the egg yolks and 1 cup of the sugar until light. Add the flour and mix well. Whisk in the lemon juice, salt and milk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture.

Pour the batter into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To make the raspberry sauce:

Reserve 16 raspberries for the garnish. Puree the remaining berries with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar for 2 minutes or until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the pudding cake and flip it onto a flat surface. Cut eight 3-inch circles with a ring cutter. Serve with sauce and garnish with raspberries. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.


One of the best things about grilling, (other than not having dirty pots to clean up) is that tonight’s grilled dinner can also be a new meal for tomorrow. Grilled steak, veggies or chicken can be mixed into pasta, risotto or a frittata, providing most (if not all) of the flavor, plus a subtle smokiness.

Think about it. You can fire up the grill once and cook enough for two or even three meals―tonight’s dinner, plus extra that can be turned into a second, different meal for lunch or dinner.

Extra grilled chicken breasts can make a chicken salad later in the week; a second pork tenderloin may turn into sandwiches for lunch or leftover grilled vegetables can serve as a side dish for another meal.

To store food for the next meal, place it on a clean platter and let it cool. Then, cover and refrigerate for up to four days. Doubling up on cooking takes very little extra effort and you’ll be rewarded with a head start on another wholesome and healthful meal.

Some Other Advantages

1. Saves time when planning meals.

2. Larger quantities of food may cost less than individual or small quantities.

3. Foods may taste better as a new dish than they do as leftovers.

4. It provides greater variety in the foods that you eat, which means less boredom with food and better nutrition.

It’s not about having the same meal twice, but rather making one meal into another that tastes and looks different.

Sausage Mixed Grill

Servings: 4

Prick fresh sausages all over before grilling to release the excess fat.

Ingredients:

  • 12 Applegate Farms turkey breakfast sausages
  • 4 Chicken Sausages (al Fresco fresh)
  • 4 hot or sweet Italian pork sausages (my favorite comes from Fortuna)
  • 16 multicolored mini bell peppers
  • 2 heads of radicchio, cut into 6 wedges each
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Light a grill and oil the grates. Poke the sausages all over with a knife. Thread each type of sausage onto a pair of skewers (to facilitate turning). Thread the peppers and radicchio onto separate paired skewers as well. Brush the sausages and vegetables with olive oil. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Grill the sausages over moderate heat, turning, until cooked through, 10 minutes for the breakfast sausages and chicken sausages and 25 minutes for the Italian sausages. Grill the peppers, turning, until lightly charred, 10 minutes. Grill the radicchio until crisp, 2 minutes per side. Reserve half of the sausages and vegetables for Pasta with Grilled Sausages and Vegetables.

Pasta with Grilled Sausages and Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound gemelli pasta or any short pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Leftover sausages and vegetables, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound smoked mozzarella, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup chopped basil

Directions:

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the garlic and shallot for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and leftover sausages and vegetables and heat. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

Add the cooked pasta and the reserved pasta water to the skillet with the sausages. Toss. Add the cheese, toss well and sprinkle with the basil.


Herb-Rubbed T-Bone Steaks

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T-bone steaks, cut 1 inch thick (3 1/4 -3 1/2 pounds) at room temperature

Directions:

Light a grill and oil the grates.

In a small bowl, mix the basil, oregano, fennel, paprika and garlic powder with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Season the steaks with the spice rub.

Grill over moderate heat for 8 minutes per side for medium-rare; transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Slice one steak for dinner and reserve the second steak for Steak Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing.

Steak Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 small shallot, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 ounces crumbled Roquefort or Maytag blue cheese
  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts, quartered
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into thin rings
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, halved
  • Leftover T-Bone Steak, sliced

Directions:

In a food processor bowl place the garlic, shallot, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Process until the garlic and shallot are finely chopped.

Add the mayonnaise, sour cream and milk and process until smooth. Add the blue cheese and pulse once or twice to combine.

Transfer the dressing to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and hard-cooked eggs on a serving plate and drizzle with some of the dressing.

Arrange the steak slices on the top of the salad and drizzle with more dressing.

 

Grilled Vegetables

Use vegetables of choice, but here are some suggestions: eggplant, zucchini, asparagus and yellow squash, all work in place of the vegetables listed.

Serve half the grilled vegetables over rice, orzo or polenta and add a tomato salad for a vegetarian dinner.

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 (4-inch) portobello mushroom caps (about 1 pound)
  • 4 medium red bell peppers, quartered
  • 2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 4 slices (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 12 asparagus
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Oil grates.

Arrange mushrooms gill side up, bell pepper quarters, asparagus and onion slices on a baking sheet. Brush vegetables with oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt and black pepper.

Drizzle vinegar over mushrooms. Place vegetables on the grill and cook 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Reserve half the vegetables for the Pita Sandwiches.

Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon commercial or homemade pesto
  • 2 whole wheat pitas, cut in half
  • 4 leaf lettuce leaves
  • 4 servings Grilled Vegetables
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese or cheese of choice

Combine mayonnaise and pesto.

Spread 1 tablespoon pesto mayonnaise mixture into each pita half. Stuff each pita half with 1 lettuce leaf, grilled vegetables and 2 tablespoons cheese. Serve immediately.

Serve with coleslaw.

 

Grilled Rosemary Chicken

Serve 4 chicken thighs with sauteed spinach over polenta. Reserve leftovers for the next day’s pizza.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Lemon juice

Directions:

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a heavy duty ziploc bag and mix well. Add chicken to the bag, seal, then shake contents around to make sure everything is coated. Chill for 3 to 24 hours.

Preheat grill to medium high-350-400 degrees F.  Oil grates.

Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.

Grill chicken with grill lid covered for 4-6 minutes per side, depending on size. Transfer chicken to a platter, brush tops with lemon juice and cover with aluminum foil.

Let stand for 10 minutes. (Don’t be tempted to skip this step. This is what locks in all the great flavor). Set aside 2 chicken thighs for the pizza.

Chicken Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 leftover grilled rosemary chicken thighs, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded,
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Oil a pizza pan and sprinkle with a little cornmeal.

Spread the pizza dough in the pan.

Spread dough with marinara sauce, leaving a 1 inch border.

Distribute the mozzarella cheese evenly on top of the sauce.

Place sliced chicken over the cheese.

Layer onions over chicken and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil.

 

Grilled Halibut with Blueberry-Pepper Sauce

Serve with green beans.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ lbs fresh halibut or any white fish fillets, about 1 inch thick
  • 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Olive oil for brushing on fish
  • Lemon or orange wedges (optional)
  • Fresh sage leaves (optional)

Directions:

For blueberry-pepper sauce:

In a medium bowl, use a potato masher or fork to mash 3/4 cups of the blueberries. Stir in the remaining whole 3/4 cups blueberries, the 1 teaspoon sage and the 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, the 1/4 cup sage, the 1 teaspoon orange peel and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add orange juice and the 1 tablespoon olive oil, stirring until lightly moistened; set aside.

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Divide fish into 8 pieces. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat grill and grease grill grates. For a charcoal grill, place fish, skin sides up on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 5 minutes.

Turn fish; top 4 fish fillets evenly with panko mixture, gently pressing onto fish. Leave 4 fillets without topping.

Grill for 7 to 10 minutes more or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Set aside the 4 untopped fish fillets and refrigerate for chowder.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on greased grill rack directly over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

To serve, place the 4 crumb topped fillets on a serving platter. Serve with blueberry-pepper sauce. If desired, garnish with lemon wedges and sage leaves.

Summer Fish Chowder

Ingredients:

  • Leftover grilled white fish fillets from Grilled Halibut with Blueberry Pepper Sauce recipe, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ cups clam broth or fish stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 pound peeled, diced Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons instant flour (Wondra)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Chopped chives for garnish

Directions:

Heat oil in a soup pot and add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook gently. Add the garlic, potato, corn and coat in the fat.

Sprinkle in the flour and black pepper to taste. Stir well. 

Gradually add the clam broth or fish stock, stirring all the time until flour is dissolved. Cook at a simmer for about 25 minutes. Add the milk and butter slowly, stirring constantly, to the soup when the potatoes are soft.

Add the fish and heat on low for 4- 5 minutes; only until the fish is hot. Taste before adding any salt because clam broth can be salty.

Serve with corn muffins.


After the long wait for the first tomato to ripen, do you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a tomato deluge? You may have also grown too many tomatoes or found yourself carried away when purchasing at the farmers’ markets. Here are a few ways to enjoy all of your tomatoes to the maximum.

1. Eat tomatoes fresh or barely cooked.

Mid-summer is too hot for lengthy cooking and little preparation is needed for tomato consumption. Slice or chop some tomatoes and sprinkle on a little salt. Just slightly more work, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs and now you have a snack or side dish. Toss on some cheese — feta or bleu — and you can call it a salad. With further preparation, you could enjoy tabbouleh.

2. Preserve for later.

Canning tomatoes is the best place to start if you are interested in learning to can. Anyone with motivation can learn to can by carefully following the guidelines in the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Hydration. Most tomatoes and especially heirloom varieties tend to be high in acid and, therefore, resistant to spoilage. A favored method of preserving tomatoes is canning a not-too-thick tomato sauce that can be simmered further in soups or spaghetti sauces in the fall and winter.

Weather too hot for lengthy cooking sessions is also unsuitable for the boiling water of canning, so you might consider freezing a quart or two of sauce. I have also had good luck with freezing tomatoes whole in Ziploc bags or plastic containers to cook later on in the year.

3. Share your bounty.

The best thing about having too many tomatoes or any vegetable is that you can feel generous and share. Neighbors and co-workers seem especially appreciative of receiving extra produce. If you have a lot to share with those in need, be aware that Food Gatherers accepts produce donations.

The days of too many tomatoes pass quickly. What are your favorite ways to enjoy your tomato bounty?

Fresh Marinara Sauce

Yields about 2.5 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and diced (about 2 cups diced)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 12 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh ripe tomatoes (about 5 lbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook slowly on medium heat until they start to caramelize. They should be evenly brown and soft.

Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the 1/2 cup of red wine and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and their juice and stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer and cook on low, stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours, or longer depending on the water content of the tomatoes. The sauce should be thick with much of the water evaporated to concentrate the flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Freeze in 2 cup portions for use during the winter.

Tomato and Basil Spread

Makes 1-1/4 cups spread (10 servings).

Ingredients:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 -8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 -2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • Miniature toasts and/or crackers/cut up vegetables

Directions:

Place chopped tomatoes on a paper towel to remove some of their liquid.

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, cream cheese, basil, garlic and pepper.

Stir in enough of the milk to make mixture of spreading consistency.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Serve with crackers and vegetables.

Crunchy Zucchini and Tomato

Broiling these lightly breaded vegetables gives them a crunchy yet tender texture, while keeping them healthy with only 54 calories per serving.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 4 slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat broiler. Coat both sides of zucchini and tomato slices with olive oil. Sprinkle zucchini and tomato slices with Italian seasoning and pepper.

Place zucchini slices on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning once halfway through broiling.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese and garlic.

Place tomato slices on broiler pan next to zucchini slices. Sprinkle tops of vegetable slices with bread crumb mixture. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes more or until topping is golden.

Fresh Tomato-Feta Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal, for sprinkling on pizza pan
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 1 ounce pitted kalamata olives, halved (1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Let dough stand at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.

Arrange tomato slices on a jelly-roll pan lined with paper towels; top with more paper towels. Let stand 30 minutes.

Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in the oven. Preheat oven to 500° F. (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven as it preheats).

Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and garlic carefully, so as not to break the tomatoes.

Press dough into a pizza pan sprinkled with cornmeal and pierce dough liberally with a fork.

Place pizza pan on stone and arrange tomato mixture on dough. Crumble cheese and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Bake at 500° F. for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and cheese is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven; top with olives and basil. Brush outer crust with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil.

Cut into serving pieces.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Clams

4 servings (serving size: about 2 cups pasta with 4 clams

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups chopped tomato (about 4 large)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 littleneck clams

Directions:

Combine tomatoes, 1/3 cup chives, 1 tablespoon garlic, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes. Drain mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving liquid.

While the tomatoes stand, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook the pasta for 10 minutes or until al dente and drain.

Heat butter, olive oil and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic in a large skillet over low heat; cook 3-4 minutes or until tender. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add reserved tomato liquid and bring to a boil and cook 6 minutes.

Add clams; cover and cook 4 minutes or until shells open. Remove clams from the pan to a pasta serving bowl as they open and discard any unopened shells.

Add drained pasta to the pan with the tomato mixture and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Pour into the serving bowl with the cooked clams and top with the remaining chives.

Red Lentil-Rice Cakes with Fresh Tomato Sauce

6 servings- 12 cakes (serving size: 2 cakes and 1/2 cup sauce)

If you’re starting with leftover cooked rice, use about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 3 cups finely chopped plum tomato (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cakes:

  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

Directions:

To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; set aside at room temperature.

To prepare cakes:

Bring 4 cups water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place lentils in a large bowl.

Combine remaining 1 cup water and rice in the same pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Cool 10 minutes. Add rice to lentils.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, fennel and garlic to the pan; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Cool 10 minutes. Add to the rice mixture.

Add mozzarella cheese and remaining ingredients, stirring until well combined. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Cook cakes in two batches. Spoon rice mixture by 1/3-cupfuls into pan, spreading to form 6 (3-inch) circles; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Carefully turn cakes over; cook 5 minutes on other side. Remove cakes from the pan.

Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining rice mixture. Serve with tomato sauce and a green salad.

Oven-Baked Chicken With Fresh Mozzarella & Tomatoes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 slices fresh tomatoes or more if tomatoes are small
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a shallow dish, stir to mix well.

Dip chicken, one piece at a time, in the beaten egg and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.

Place chicken in the prepared dish.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Turn the oven to Broil.

Top with tomato slices, vinegar and mozzarella cheese.

Broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes to warm the tomatoes and melt the cheese.

Sprinkle with basil and parsley.


Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its beauty, as well as its unique taste and texture. Eggplant belongs to the plant family commonly known as nightshades and are kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplant grows in a manner much like tomatoes by hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream-colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

While the different varieties do vary slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and soft texture. In many recipes, eggplant fulfills the role of being a complementary ingredient that balances the surrounding flavors. Eggplant is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contains nutrients invaluable for good health.

Shahla Khan, a senior adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, discusses myths and facts about this fruit.

Myth: Eggplant is a vegetable.

Fact: While it’s generally thought of as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit. The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash is a plant of the family Solanaceae. Eggplant is grown for its usually egg-shaped fleshy fruit and is eaten as a cooked vegetable. Some even consider it a berry.

Myth: Consuming eggplant causes insanity and can be poisonous.

Fact: Because eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, people thought the purple bulb variety was associated with the mandrake plant and was poisonous and, if you ate it, you would go insane. Some people also thought nightshade vegetables were harmful because they confused them with “deadly nightshade,” an inedible weed that’s also part of the Solanaceae family. Historically, deadly nightshade has been associated with witchcraft. When ingested in large amounts, it’s believed to cause convulsions or even death. But that has nothing to do with eggplant.

Myth: Eggplant always has to be salted before cooking to remove its bitter taste.

Fact: The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste. Salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit may soften and remove some of the bitterness. Some varieties of eggplant do not need this treatment, because they are far less bitter. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and the salting process may reduce the amount of oil absorbed.

Myth: Eggplant contains some unhealthful compounds.

Fact: The health benefits of this nightshade fruit far outweigh any risks. Eggplants contain many nutrients that are invaluable to health. Potassium, manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate, magnesium and tryptophan, to mention just a few. In addition to those nutrients, eggplants are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and one cup of cooked eggplant has about 30 calories. Eggplants also contain phytochemicals that enhance health.

Myth: When purchasing eggplant, the bigger the better.

Fact: Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Their seeds will be softer and they are less likely to be bitter. Eggplants are very perishable and get bitter with age. They should have firm, taut, smooth and shiny skins. Once the skin starts to wrinkle or you feel and see soft brown spots, the quality of the eggplant has lessened. Large, oversize eggplants may be tough, seedy and bitter.

Source: University of North Florida’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.

How to Select and Store

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. As you would with other fruits and vegetables, avoid purchasing eggplant that has been waxed. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Do not cut eggplant before you store it, as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf in the refrigerator.

If you purchase eggplant that is wrapped in plastic film, remove it as soon as possible, since it will inhibit the eggplant from breathing and degrade its freshness.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its nutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplant can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove the skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, grilled, roasted in the oven or steamed. If baking it whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 177 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 25 minutes, depending upon size. You can test it by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through easily.

Appetizer Course

Eggplant Picadillo

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped fine
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 – 16 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sliced drained pimiento-stuffed green olives (5-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bunch parsley, stems discarded and leaves chopped

Directions:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and bay leaves; saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant cubes; saute until cooked, about 4 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, except parsley. Simmer until picadillo thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in parsley. Discard bay leaves. Serve with toasted pita or corn chips.

Lunch Course

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Servings: 4

This grilled-vegetable version of Eggplant Parmesan is much lighter than the fried kind.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick 
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing vegetables
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped oil packed Calabrian chilies or other hot chilies
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. and heat a grill pan.

Brush the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Grill the eggplant in batches over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly charred, about 4 minutes.

Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until lightly charred but still intact, about 2 minutes. (This step can be done early in the day)

In a bowl, combine the olives, chilies and shredded basil.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the center, arrange half of the eggplant in a 9-inch square, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, olive mixture and cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread.

Salad Course 

Pan-grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Salad

6 servings

Serve at room temperature to allow the flavors to blend.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 4 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Mint leaves, to garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with 2 teaspoons salt and let stand in a colander for 30 minutes.

Mix together the oil, vinegar and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat a ridged grill pan over high heat.

Brush the zucchini with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the zucchini, turning once, about 3 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the eggplants with olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini, add the dressing and mix.

Stir in the mint leaves. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Side Dish

Broiled Eggplant with Pesto

 Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Large bunch of basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lemon, to serve

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in half, through the stalk. Using a small, sharp knife make a crisscross pattern across the cut surfaces to a depth of about 3/4 inch.

Brush with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The flesh should be very soft.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, then remove from the skillet and cool.

Process the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste into a paste in a food processor. Add enough of the remaining olive oil to produce a loose-textured puree.

Mix in the cheese and spread the pesto over the scored surfaces of the eggplant. Broil until golden and bubbling. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Dinner Course

Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ¼ cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, chopped

Directions:

Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the center, leaving enough flesh inside the skin, so that it holds its shape when baked.

Chop the eggplant that has been scooped out of the inside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat and saute the eggplant until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and saute the onion, pepper and garlic until tender. Add to the eggplant in the mixing bowl.

Salt and pepper the beef. Add the beef to the pan and saute until all of its liquid is evaporated and the beef begins to brown slightly. Add to the vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Mix together the cooked eggplant, vegetables, beef, herbs, 1 cup of the cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the egg and season with salt and pepper.

Fill the scooped-out eggplant halves with this mixture, dividing it evenly between the two halves.

Top with the chopped tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs.  

Place in an oiled baking dish and bake for 50 minutes.

Let cool briefly; cut each half in two and serve.


Italian immigrants entered the Great Plains first as missionaries (Fra Marco da Nizza, 1495-1558 and Eusebio Francisco Kino, 1645-1711 were two) and later as adventurers ( Count Leonetto Cipriani, 1816-1888 and Italian American Charles Siringo, 1855-1928, for example). Since Italy was not a unified country until the Risorgimento (1860-70), early travelers were either in the service of Spain or France or were individual agents. In the mid-1800s the combination of economic and political conditions encouraged some Italians, like the officers and enlisted men in General George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry Regiment, to find adventure on the Plains. After 1869 the transcontinental rail line brought Italian journalists and tourists to the Great Plains; their letters and published travel memoirs provided information about the people, geography and potential jobs for countrymen back home.

Giovanni Martini U.S. Army

Carlo De Rudio U.S. Army

History tells us that on June 25th and 26th, 1876 the U.S. 7th Cavalry had a date with destiny at the Little Big Horn River. On the 25th of June both Carlo De Rudio and Giovanni Martini were among the roughly 500 U.S. Troopers under Colonel Custer’s direct command. In all, the 7th had between six and twelve troopers of Italian birth in June of 1876.

Interestingly, the majority of Custer’s troopers of Italian descent served in the same unit. Part of the American military experience going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency was that Italians were considered highly skilled in the arts, especially the musical arts. As a result, it was common to find men of Italian descent in the military with duties that included being in the unit’s military band. This was true under Custer’s command with the majority of the members of the regimental band being of Italian descent. In fact the band director’s last name was Lombardi and he was identified as having been born in Naples, Italy.

Italian emigration began increased in the late 1880s, when political and economic upheaval coincided with natural disasters. A rapid rise in Italy’s population increased pressure on the land, which in many areas had been farmed to the point of exhaustion; years of poor rainfall contributed to famines and poverty; and in 1887 a devastating outbreak of malaria left 21,000 dead. Leaving one’s village in search of work in other parts of Europe was not uncommon in Italy. Between 1886 and 1890, however, there was a significant increase in emigration from Italy and by 1890 immigration to America surpassed movement to other parts of Europe.

All across the Great Plains, Italians worked together to help newly arrived immigrants find jobs and places to live. Small boarding houses provided familiar food, language and a comforting family atmosphere. Churches and schools were quickly established, as were mutual aid societies, such as the Dante Alighieri Society and the Christopher Columbus Society. The societies also served as sites for labor union meetings in mining regions.

“Little Italy” neighborhoods developed in urban areas such as Omaha, Edmonton and Sheridan. Italian-English newspapers were published in Omaha and Edmonton. Many Italians who decided to remain in the Plains, gradually worked up from their initial menial jobs to own shops, farms or businesses and, then, became active in local politics. In both Canada and the United States, immigration legislation in the 1920s and early 1930s, combined with Benito Mussolini’s efforts to reduce emigration, dramatically reduced the flow of Italian immigrants, although the movement was never eliminated entirely. By the late twentieth century, Italian immigrants were no longer laborers looking for manual work or skilled workers arriving with families, but were university students and professionals searching for educational and career opportunities that were difficult to find in Italy.

According to the 1910 census data, in the states of the Great Plains, Colorado had the largest total population of Italians (14,375). In Montana 2,568 made the Plains their home. In Nebraska 66 percent of the state’s 3,799 Italian immigrants lived in the city of Omaha and another 14 percent in Lincoln, with the remainder scattered throughout the state. Seventy-five percent of the 3,517 Italian immigrants in Kansas lived in that state’s southeastern coal-mining district. In Oklahoma, 72 percent of the state’s total Italian immigrant population (2,564) lived in the Great Plains and in Wyoming 1,086 of the statewide total (1,962) were in the Plains. In South Dakota the 1,158 Italians lived mainly on land along the rail lines and in North Dakota 1,262 Italian immigrants were recorded in 1910 census.

View of Downtown Denver 1879

Denver’s “Little Italy” had its roots in the Highlands neighborhood of North Denver. Italian miners, railroad workers and farmers helped to develop Colorado in the late 19th century and northern Italians were well represented in the state.

In the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, the area in Denver between Broadway and Zuni Streets and 46th and 32nd Avenues was known as “Little Italy”.  It was an area of Italian grocery stores and bakeries, community bread ovens, churches and schools – an area where a new wave of immigrants from all over Italy moved to and where they were comfortable and socially secure in a new country.

The area along the South Platte River, sandwiched between the growing downtown and the hills to the west, was known as “The Bottoms”.  Here many of the first Italian immigrants settled. There was also farmland along the South Platte, where they could grow cash crops of vegetables that were then sold in small, neighborhood shops and from push carts and horse-drawn wagons thoughout the neighborhoods of Denver. Later it became an area of railroad yards, industries and warehouses.

These two areas – “Little Italy” and “The Bottoms” – have undergone drastic change since those days of the first Italian immigrants. Today “Little Italy” is still a residential area interspersed with small businesses. But the demographics are most different, as the neighborhood is re-populated with a new wave of residents – young (20-30 year olds) singles and couples often with young children. “The Bottoms” is no longer an area of truck farms and warehouses, instead parks and high rise apartment buildings have been built there.

The Italian immigrants who settled in Utah faced a different environment. Their numbers were relatively small, yet they settled in four major areas and contributed to the life and labor that characterizes Utah history. These immigrants, almost all of them confined to mining and railroad centers, brought with them language, religion, beliefs, customs and products of cultural distinctiveness. The first noticeable number of foreign-born Italians in Utah appeared in 1870 and totaled seventy-four. These early immigrants, Protestant Vaudois of the Waldensian persuasion from northwest Italy, were the result of Mormon missionary activity in Italy from 1849 to 1861. Almost all settled in the fertile areas of Ogden, where they began to farm.

The first Italian laborers, predominantly from the North, began arriving in Utah in the late 1890s in response to the opening of the Carbon County coalfields. The development and expansion of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad into Utah in the 1880s was a catalyst to the state’s coal mining industry. Four major camps emerged: Clear Creek (1882), Winter Quarters (1882), Castle Gate (1888), and Sunnyside (1900) Many of these early laborers were lured to Utah by agents representing coal companies.

Upon their arrival in the Carbon County coalfields, the Italian immigrants settled in two of the four main camps, Castle Gate or Sunnyside. The coal companies (Pleasant Valley Coal and Utah Fuel) furnished a few of the workers with company-owned houses on company-owned property and compelled the laborers to trade at the company-owned stores. Trading at company stores was inevitable, since miners were issued scrip instead of currency. The company town became a prominent feature of western mining life and the immigrants who lived in them were subjected to difficult living conditions. For example, the rent charged by Utah Fuel Company depended on the number of rooms in a house. In one boxcar on company property a cloth curtain was used to divide it into two quarters. When company inspectors approached, a family member would take down the partition, so as not to be charged for two rooms instead of one.

In describing the camp at Sunnyside, a resident has written: “many put up tents in the southern part of the canyon and this section became known as “Rag Town” by local town residents. Company-owned houses were hastily erected framed structures, not plastered inside, but in 1915 the company began a program of building better homes and modernizing the camp.

Italian family in Utah

The mining and railroad opportunities in Salt Lake County also attracted Italian immigrants at the turn of the century. As early as 1880 there were thirty-five Italian laborers living in the mining camp in Bingham, mostly Piedmontese. Bingham was a bustling community of many diverse nationalities, described as “a town of 22 saloons and 600 sporting girls.” Like Carbon County, Bingham was susceptible to labor strife. The Utah Copper Company in 1903 became the major employer in Bingham Canyon.

By 1900, 102 of the 170 Italians who resided in the county lived in Salt Lake. Immigrants were employed by the Union Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroads; but Italians also owned saloons, grocery stores and tailor shops. The lack of a mining town atmosphere with its potentially explosive character, differentiated Salt Lake City from other Italian immigrant localities. In Salt Lake, Italians took part in celebrations and parades that promoted good will between the Italian and non-Italian communities.

Life in Utah was a new experience, but Italian immigrants were able to maintain continuity with the past, while at the same time adjust to the new environment. Alexander DeConde, a resident, aptly described the situation as “it was mezzo amara, mezzo dolce (“half bitter, half sweet”).”

Carl L. Stranges immigrated to the United States, from Italy, in the 1880s at twenty years of age. After his arrival in the United States, he moved to Grand Junction, Colorado and resided there until shortly before his death in 1942. Carl Stranges opened his grocery store in the southwestern portion of the downtown area, often referred to as “Little Italy”, due to the concentration of Italian residents and Italian-owned businesses in the area. Three other grocery stores and an icehouse were located within a two-block area of the Stranges store. Carl Stranges owned and managed the grocery until shortly before his death in 1942. He willed the store to his niece and her husband who continued to operate the store until 1963. Since that time, a variety of businesses under several ownerships have used the building.

 Italian Food On the Great Plains

Antipasti of Grilled Octopus, basil pesto, tomato jam and Sicilian olive oil at Luca D’Italia.

Slices of 12-hour braised beef on a crusty baguette topped with melted taleggio cheese, caramelized onions, arugula and a red-wine sauce.  

Italian Sausage Soup with Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1- 32 oz can chicken broth
  • 1- 15 1/2 oz can kidney beans (rinse and drain them)
  • 1- 14 1/2 oz can undrained diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely crushed rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 6 oz bag baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup bowtie pasta, uncooked
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the Italian sausage and cook for about three minutes, stirring often.

Add in the onion andcook for another three minutes or until the onions become tender and the sausage browns.

Add the chicken broth to the saucepan ,as well as, the tomatoes and the red kidney beans.

Stir the soup while you add the oregano, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil.

Once it boils, reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in the pasta and the spinach and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Let it boil.

Once it boils, reduce to low heat again, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender. If you used fresh tortellini, you don’t have to let the soup simmer as long.

Serve this hearty winter soup with some garlic bread and garnish the soup with cheese.

Braised Short Ribs

Serve with Mashed Potatoes.

Ingredients:

6 bone-in short ribs (about 6 pounds)

Seasoning for short ribs:

  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme picked clean
  • 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary picked clean and chopped
  • Flour to lightly coat the short ribs
  • Olive oil (to brown the short ribs)

Coarsely chop all the following vegetables and garlic in the food processor

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped large
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 peeled carrots cut in chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Braising liquid

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups Merlot
  • 2 cups beef stock (homemade or low sodium purchased)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Water to replenish evaporation during the cooking process

Fresh chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Dry the short ribs of any excess moisture with a paper towel. Season each short rib generously with salt, fresh cracked black pepper, rosemary and thyme. Coat a roasting pan (that will fit all the meat and processed vegetables) with olive oil and bring to a high heat on the stove.

Lightly coat the seasoned short ribs with flour, add them to the pan and brown very well on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Do not stuff the pan with short ribs or they won’t brown. Better to browm them in separate batches, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

When the short ribs are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan. Leave the fat in the pan to saute the vegetables, add a drizzle of olive oil, reheat and add the chopped vegetables.

Season vegetables with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Cook the vegetables until they begin to caramelize. There will be a natural glaze of browned vegetable and meat juices on the bottom of the pan.

De-glaze

Add the Merlot and chopped tomatoes, along with the bay leaf and bring to a simmer scraping the bottom to assure all the caramelized juices are returned into the braising liquid.

Add 2 cups of beef stock.

Cover the roasting pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically while cooking and add water, if needed, to keep the liquid level just under the top of the short ribs.

Halfway during cooking turn the short ribs over to allow foe even cooking and tenderness.

During the last 20 minutes remove the cover, so the short ribs can caramelize. Garnish with fresh chopped Italian Parsley

Buffalo Cacciatore with Polenta

Serves 6 to 10

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. buffalo roast cut into 1 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, plus juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix all dry spices together and rub on the meat.

Over medium high heat, heat oil in a Dutch Oven and brown the meat. You may need to do this in two batches.

Place browned meat in a dish and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute for 4 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with wine; then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.

Return meat to the pan, cover and place in the preheated oven. Braise for 1 1/2 hours. Check for tenderness and continue braising until tender.

Prepare polenta as directed on package.

Spoon polenta on serving platter and top with Buffalo Cacciatore.

Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

34 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Water
  • 1 ¾ cups finely ground, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped almonds
  • 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions:

Heat oven to 325°F. Coat 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, about 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl.

With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.



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