Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Whether it be a simple wedge of aged cheddar paired with apples or something more elaborate, cheese is the perfect appetizer. It is my go to ingredient for making appetizers for simple get-togethers or important celebrations. You can create a cheese board with fruit and meats for a group or you can use cheese to make an appetizer for a few guests. They all work and guests are always pleased.

Cheese falls into three main types:

Soft Ripened

The term “soft-ripened” describes those that are ripened from the outside in and they are very soft and even runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened cheeses have a white rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is usually edible and these cheeses are easy to spread on crackers or fruit. Examples include Brie, Camembert and Triple Crèmes.

Semi-Soft

“Semi-soft” describes selections that have a smooth, creamy interior with little or no rind. These are generally high in moisture content and range from very mild in flavor to very pungent. Examples include Blue, Colby, Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack.

Blue cheese has a distinctive blue/green veining created when the penicillium roqueforti mold, added during the cheese-making process, is exposed to air. This mold provides a distinct flavor, ranging from fairly mild to strong and pungent. Common examples are French Roquefort, Italian Gorgonzola and Danish Blue.

Hard Cheese

This is a very broad category. Profiles range from very mild to sharp and pungent. They generally have a texture that ranges from elastic at room temperature to hard enough to be grated. This category includes Gouda, Cheddar, Dry Jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler), Gruyere and Parmesan.

Try some of these easy to make appetizers for your next party.

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Tomato-Basil Skewers

16 skewers

Ingredients

  • 16 small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, a variety of colors if you can find them, cut in half
  • White balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Thread mozzarella, basil and tomatoes on small bamboo or wooden skewers.

Arrange on a serving platter.

Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, the white balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper just before serving.

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Parmesan Artichoke Spread

Lower calorie versions of cream cheese and sour cream work well in this recipe.

20 servings

Ingredients

  • One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini (pickled Italian peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 20 toasted baguette slices (1/4 inch thick)

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Stir in chopped artichoke hearts, olives, peppers, parsley and lemon peel. Chill until serving time.

Serve on the toasted baguette slices.

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Gorgonzola and Pear Tart

Cut this tart up into small pieces for an elegant appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (8.6 oz.), defrosted over night in the refrigerator and at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack set on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Lay dough flat on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke holes all over the dough with a fork, leaving the outer inch untouched.

Bake until the dough starts to puff, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together the egg and Gorgonzola cheese until smooth and spread over the baked dough, using a spoon to move mixture toward the edges of the pastry.

Sauté onion in oil in a small frying pan until softened. Scatter onion and pear over the cheese layer.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the egg is cooked, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and cut into small serving squares. Arrange on an attractive serving platter.

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Steak and Cheese Rolls

16 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 16 thin slices of grilled, very tender steak, such as filet mignon (about 8 ounces) or deli roasted beef slices, not cut too thin
  • 16 tablespoons light Boursin cheese 
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced red and yellow bell peppers

Directions

Spread each slice of steak with 1 tablespoon of the cheese and top each with an even amount of bell pepper slices.

Roll the steak around the bell pepper slices. Secure with a toothpick and arrange on a serving platter.

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Warm Spinach and Artichoke Bites

24 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 24 small wonton wrappers
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise made with olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar is fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Place 1 wonton wrapper in each of 24 mini muffin pan cups sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, with the edges of the wontons extending over the top of the muffin cup.

Bake for 5 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Spoon the spinach artichoke mixture evenly in each wonton cup.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the edges of the wontons are golden brown. Remove to a serving platter.

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Mascarpone Apricots with Pistachios

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Crushed seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 ounces dried whole apricots (the soft, ready-to-eat kind)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios

Directions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the crushed cardamom seeds, lemon juice and apricots. Let the apricots simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until they puff up. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots to a baking sheet or large plate; let the apricots cool.

Finely chop the pistachios and place in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Using a small, sharp knife cut a pocket in each apricot (they will already have a small hole from where the stone was removed, so just make it larger).

Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, stuff each apricot with some mascarpone cheese. Dip the stuffed apricots, cheese side down, in the chopped pistachios.

Arrange on a platter and refrigerate until serving time. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Are you bored from eating the same things for dinner week after week? One of the best ways to add variety and interest to your meals is to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before or use your favorites in a new way. Add different seasonings and herbs to change your old recipes. Try new combinations of ingredients. Hopefully, the recipes below will inspire you.

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Mediterranean-Style Snapper

Serve this entrée with cooked orzo pasta or couscous and sautéed green beans.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small cloves garlic
  • Half of a 6 1/2 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted mixed green olives
  • Four 5 ounce red snapper fillets with skin or other firm-flesh white fish
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • 8 whole Pepperoncini (Italian pickled peppers)

Directions

Peel the garlic cloves and with the side of a wide knife smash garlic.

Drain 2 tablespoons of oil from the sun dried tomatoes and heat the oil in extra-large skillet.

Add sun dried tomatoes, olives and garlic to the hot oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until garlic is golden. Use a slotted spoon to the remove the tomato-olive mixture. Leave the oil in the skillet to cook the fish. Set aside the tomato-olive mixture.

Rinse and pat fish dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Cook fish, skin side down, in the hot oil 5 minutes for each 1/2 inch thickness of fish or until the skin is golden and crisp and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking. Remove skin, if desired.

To serve, top fish with tomato-olive mixture, cheese, chopped fresh oregano and pepperoncini.

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Spicy Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes

Cook the sweet potatoes and onions in a foil packet alongside the steak on the grill. Serve with steamed fresh spinach.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces sirloin, rib-eye or strip steak, trimmed and cut into 2 portions
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat grill to high and oil the grates.

Combine allspice, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon, coriander and cayenne in a medium bowl. Remove 2 1/4 teaspoons for the steak.

Sprinkle the steaks with 2 1/4 teaspoons of the spice mixture.

Add the sliced sweet potato and onion to the bowl with the remaining spice mixture along with the oil and orange zest; toss to coat.

Place two 24-inch sheets of foil on top of each other (the double layers will help protect the ingredients from burning). Generously coat the top piece with cooking spray.

Spread the sweet potato mixture in the center of the foil in a thin layer. Bring the short ends of foil together, fold over and pinch to seal. Pinch the seams together along the sides to seal the packet.

Place the packet on one side of the grill and cook, turning once, about 6 minutes per side.

Cook the steaks on the other side of the grill, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to serving plates and let rest while the foil packets finish cooking.

Open the packets (be careful of steam) and serve alongside the steaks with steamed spinach.

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Linguine with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Herbs

Serve this dish with a mixed green salad and crusty Italian bread.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 3 young, thin zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with the basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili and olive oil.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente; drain well.

Add the linguine to the bowl with the tomato mixture along with the sliced zucchini and toss.

Add the 1/4 cup of grated cheese, toss again and serve in pasta bowls, passing more cheese at the table.

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Lemony Chicken with Cucumber Salad

Serve this dish with warm pita bread

2 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 medium tomatoes; chopped
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the salad

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey and dill in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Toss gently, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes or up to a day.

For the chicken:

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use the back of a small spoon to press garlic and dill into the other ingredients.

Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag or small rimmed dish and add the chicken. Marinate 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium frying pan (with lid) over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Turn, reduce heat to low, then cover the pan with the lid. Cook 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F (74C) when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Rest 5 minutes. Serve alongside the salad.

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Grilled Pork Kabobs

Serve this dish with your favorite coleslaw or use the recipe below.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Heat a gas or charcoal grill and oil the grill grates.

In a 1-quart saucepan, heat marmalade, rosemary and salt to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; set aside.

In a 1-quart microwavable bowl, place sweet potato pieces and water. Cover loosely with a microwavable paper towel. Microwave on High 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once, just until potatoes are tender (do not overcook). Drain sweet potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.

On each of eight 12 inch long metal skewers, carefully thread pork, sweet potatoes and zucchini, leaving 1/4-inch space between each piece.

Grill kabobs over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until the until pork is cooked., turning once and brushing with the marmalade glaze during the last 3 minutes.

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Easy Healthy Coleslaw

This coleslaw is very refreshing with BBQ foods. It keeps well, covered in the refrigerator and should be made several hours in advance to allow the flavors to develop and the cabbage to soften.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 ounce bag (about 6¼ cups) of supermarket shredded cabbage and carrot slaw

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, combine Greek yogurt, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Place slaw in a large bowl and pour the dressing mixture over the top. Stir to coat cabbage thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


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Even on busy mornings, don’t skip breakfast. With these quick and healthy choices you won’t have to. Make these recipes on the weekend, freeze in individual portions and defrost the night before. If time, in the morning heat in the microwave. Breakfast will be ready on busy weekday mornings as you go out the door. These breakfasts are also packed with healthy ingredients that will keep you from counting down the hours until lunch.

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Zucchini Oat Bread

Ingredients

Makes Two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2″ Loaves

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 lb zucchini)
  • 1¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pans with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on the long sides.

Spread walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8–10 minutes; let cool, then coarsely chop.

Whisk eggs, oil, granulated sugar, applesauce, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.

Whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg in another large bowl just to combine.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add egg mixture and slowly incorporate dry ingredients with a fork (batter will look dry).

Fold in zucchini, walnuts and 1 cup oats. Divide batter evenly in the prepared pans.

Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup oats over batter in both pans and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack and let bread cool 30 minutes; turn out bread onto wire racks and let cool completely. Bread freezes well.

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Pistachio Fruit Bars

Ingredients

Makes 12 bars

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 cup pistachios
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup chopped prunes
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Lightly coat an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on all sides.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium. Add oats and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Let cool on a plate.

Process the 3 tablespoons of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground; transfer to a small bowl.

Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into the processor and add figs, prunes, ½ cup pistachios, orange zest, orange juice salt and 2 tablespoons water and process until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Coarsely chop the remaining ½ cup pistachios and add to the bowl along with the oats; mix well.

Press firmly into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with the ground pistachios, pressing to adhere.

Bake 20–25 minutes, until no longer sticky. Let cool, then cut into 12 bars.

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Bacon Omelet Wrap

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices bacon
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped red sweet pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (2)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped,  fresh baby spinach
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 – 10 inch high-fiber whole grain flour tortillas, warmed

Directions

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook bacon in the skillet until crisp. Remove from the skillet and drain on a paper towel. Chop and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the same skillet and heat. Add the sweet pepper and green onions; cook about 2 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes more or until spinach begins to wilt.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, cottage cheese, Italian seasoning, black pepper and chopped bacon. Pour egg mixture over vegetables in the skillet. Cook over medium heat.

As mixture sets, run a spatula around the edges of the skillet, lifting egg mixture so the uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking and lifting edges just until egg mixture is set.

Slide egg mixture from the skillet onto a cutting board and cut into quarters.

For each wrap, place one egg portion in the center of each tortilla. Fold in opposite sides and roll up.

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Cranberry Scones

12 scones

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger or cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk, plus extra for the tops of the scones
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.

In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, beat eggs slightly and stir in the 1/3 cup buttermilk and cranberries. Add buttermilk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (some of the dough may look dry).

Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead dough for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat dough to an 8-inch circle about 3/4 inch thick.

Brush the top with additional buttermilk; sprinkle with oats, pressing gently into the dough. Cut into 12 wedges.

Place dough wedges 1 inch apart on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

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Ginger Pear Muffins

12 muffins

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup low fat milk
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup cored pear, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon oat bran or wheat bran
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and the salt. Make a well in the center.

In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and egg; add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in pear and walnuts.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Combine oat bran and the 1/4 teaspoon ginger; sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops are brown. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups to a wire rack to cool.

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Lots of mayo can easily turn a pasta salad into a 400 calorie or 500 calorie side dish. Here are some tips you can follow to make a healthy pasta salad.

A whole-wheat pasta salad is a great way to add whole grains and there are many brands on the market to choose from that actually taste good. Traditional pasta salads call for about two cups of pasta per person, without any dressing or add-ins. On its own, that’s 400 calories. And portions still matter, even when you’re using whole-grain pasta. Aim for about one-cup servings of cooked pasta.

Since pasta portions can quickly up the calories, it’s important add bulk to your dish by adding vegetables. Olives, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, scallions, cauliflower, grape tomatoes and cucumbers are great options, but there’s no limit to the amount of vegetables you can add.

Get flavor without adding calories by mixing in seasonal fresh herbs. Basil, mint and parsley all work well in a pasta salad. Herbs also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, which helps make your pasta salad even healthier.

Cheese, corn and beans are several high-calorie ingredients typically found in pasta salads. If you do add cheese, sprinkle about one tablespoon per serving to add flavor. For corn or beans, two tablespoons per serving should be enough.

Many dressings drown a pasta salad in calories. You want just enough dressing to cover the ingredients, without totally saturating them. This also allows the flavors of the vegetables and fresh herbs to come though. There are also many ways to make a healthier dressing: Combine light mayonnaise with nonfat Greek yogurt to cut overall calories or use a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. Whichever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to use two tablespoons of dressing per serving.

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Farfalle Salad with Fennel, Prosciutto and Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz farfalle pasta (bow ties)
  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), sliced as thin as possible
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound thin-sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/4-pound chunk Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 14 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, fennel, oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the prosciutto and toss again.

To serve:

Mound the salad on plates. Top with strips of Parmesan shaved from the chunk of cheese with a vegetable peeler.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over the cheese.

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Shrimp, Lemon and Gemelli Pasta Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb gemelli or cavatappi pasta
  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 peeled cucumber, sliced

Directions

Heat a large covered saucepan of salted water to boiling. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the label directs, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked. Drain well.

Grate 1 teaspoon peel from the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice into large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, dill, capers, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.

Stir in tomatoes and cucumber.

Add pasta and shrimp to the large bowl; toss until well-coated. Serve warm or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead.

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Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thin spaghetti
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pints red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling. Add spaghetti and cook as label directs for al dente.

Reserve 12 small basil leaves for garnish.

From the remaining basil, remove enough leaves to equal 2 cups firmly packed.

In a food processor, process basil leaves, garlic, 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until pureed, stopping processor and scrape bowl occasionally.

Add Parmesan; pulse to combine. Set pesto aside.

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper the with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently stir in mozzarella.

Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup spaghetti of the cooking water. Return spaghetti and reserved cooking water to the saucepan; add pesto and toss well.

Spoon spaghetti mixture into the bowl with the tomato-mozzarella salad. Garnish with reserved basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.

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Chicken and Penne Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups penne (tube-shaped) pasta
  • 2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell pepper, drained and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes. Add green beans; cook 4 minutes. Drain well.

Combine pasta, green beans, chicken, onion, basil, parsley and roasted peppers in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine.

Combine oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill.

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped yellow summer squash(1 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped green sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta

Walnut Pesto

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a roasting pan combine zucchini, summer squash, onion, fennel, sweet peppers and eggplant. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons oil; toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring twice. Transfer to a very large bowl; cool.

Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and cool slightly.

Add the pasta to the roasted vegetables. Mix gently.

For the walnut pesto:

In a blender combine garlic, the 1 cup torn basil, the cheese and walnuts; cover and pulse with several on/off turns until chopped. With blender running, gradually add the 1/2 cup oil, the lemon juice and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add the pesto to the pasta-vegetable mixture, stirring gently to coat. Stir in cherry tomatoes. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with additional basil.


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The Northern Great Plains

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.

North Dakota

part8-9

ND Durum Wheat Fields

By 1910, 71 percent of North Dakota’s population was born in a foreign country or had one or both parents who had been born in a foreign country. North Dakota was truly a melting pot of nationalities. Although Norwegians and Germans were the largest immigrants groups, as reported in The North Star Dakotan, all of the European and some of the Middle Eastern ethnic groups came to North Dakota. The variety of immigrant groups was phenomenal. North Dakota became a popular destination for immigrant farmers and general laborers and their families.

North Dakota produces two-thirds of the nation’s durum wheat – and that makes a lot of pasta. The largest portion of North Dakota’s durum is sold to mills across the U.S. and around the world. Italy is consistently the largest buyer of U.S. durum wheat, followed by Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.

Wheat production in North Dakota started around 1812 near Pembina. Seed was broadcast, cultivated with a hoe and harvested with a sickle, at that time. After threshing, wheat seed was stored in woven baskets or bags and delivered to market in wagons. In the mid-19th century, wheat farming became easier with the invention of the McCormick reaper (1831), the steel plow (1837), the treadmill thresher (1840) and the gravity-feed grain drill and steam powered thresher (1860).

Durum wheat, often referred to as “macaroni wheat”, was first grown commercially in the U.S. in the early 1900s from seed that came from the Mediterranean area and south Russia, known as Red Durum. Production increased rapidly until the U.S. became a durum wheat exporter.

Pasta is made from a mixture of semolina and water. What is semolina? Semolina is coarse-ground flour obtained from the heart (endosperm) of durum wheat. Durum wheat is the hardest wheat of all the wheat classes and it has an amber-colored appearance. Semolina used in the production of pasta is typically enriched with B-vitamins and iron.

Cando Pasta LLC, Abbiamo Pasta Co., Philadelphia Macaroni Company, Dakota Growers Pasta Co Inc and La Rinascente Pasta LLC are just a few of the pasta manufactures located in North Dakota. Annually, North Dakota pasta manufacturing companies use almost 16 million bushels of durum – almost one-fourth of an average North Dakota crop – making it into approximately 600 million pounds of pasta.

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part8-4

The Lost Italian

Tony Nasello is The Lost Italian and has become known throughout the region for his entertaining cooking classes, as well as his passion for food and wine. Tony and his wife, Sarah, write a weekly food and wine column called “Home with the Lost Italian” for The Forum, Fargo’s local newspaper. Here is one of their treasured recipes:

part8-1

Pasta Puttanesca

From Tony and Sarah Nasello’s blog: Home of the Lost Italian:

http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com/

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg linguini, cooked to al dente
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional: 12 to 18 jumbo shrimp (peeled & de-veined)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously (at least one tablespoon). Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat with the onion, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (also add shrimp now). Use a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies up into little bits. Cook until onions soften and become translucent, about four to five minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers. Simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat. During this time, drain the pasta and set aside until sauce is ready. Do not rinse with water.

If the sauce appears dry, add water to it in small amounts. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss to coat and cook together for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese; serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tip: The more you break apart the anchovies during the initial cooking phase, the more they will dissolve into the sauce. Anchovies are salty by nature, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding salt.

South Dakota

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Homestake Mining Company 1900

Although the early pioneer settlement of this region was by white, native-born Americans, many groups of European immigrants have had an influence in the development of the state.

William Bertolero of Lead, SD was born in the city of Borgiallo, province of Torino, Italy, in 1859 and his story is an excellent example of the successful immigrant. Bertolero attended school in his native land and at the age of thirteen years began working on the railroad in the famous tunnel between Como and Switzerland.

Then at the age of fourteen, he went to the island of Sardinia, where he was employed in the silver mines for four years. He, next, worked in the iron mines, silver mines and railroad in France and then in northern Africa. After four years he was recalled to Italy for military service. After his discharge from military service due to an injury, he sailed for America in 1881.

He went to Collinsville, Illinois, where he was employed in the coal mines for some time. He worked in various mines in southern Illinois until early 1883. He moved to the Black Hills and arrived in Deadwood in March 1883. Three days later he became an employee of the Homestake Mining Company and remained connected with the company for twenty-six years. Mr. Bertolero married Miss Rosa Caffaro, who was also born in Italy, and together with their two children made their home in Lead, South Dakota, on the western side of the state.

He became the director and vice president of the Miners & Merchants Bank of Lead and gave the greater part of his time to the supervision of his investments and his accumulated  fortune. Among his many community associations, Mr. Bertolero wan a member of The Italian Lodge and the Society of Christopher Columbus. For some time he was a volunteer fireman and he was ever willing to do anything within his power to increase the prosperity and prestige of his adopted city.

Source “History of Dakota Territory”  by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915)

Artisan Italian

A homemade pasta store in Alcester, SD

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The secret to great a great pasta dish is in the pasta, not the sauce. Our pastas are made with old-fashioned brass dies, using tools that are imported from Italy. The brass dies create pastas with rougher surface textures which help hold the sauce to them. We use organic whole grain flour and then add organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices to make artisan pasta that brings a new level of flavor and flair to any pasta dish. (http://www.artisanitalian.com/)

Here is one of their delicious recipes.

part8-6

Fettuccine with Gorgonzola Cream

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 oz fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

Directions

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauce pan with the butter and garlic, cook 2 minutes, then whisk in flour, cook 1 minute.

Whisk in stock, then cream, bring to a bubble and stir in Gorgonzola until melted. Stir in Herbes de Provence and cook 3 minutes more.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

In a serving bowl toss the hot pasta with the sauce and fresh spinach (spinach should slightly wilt). Serve immediately.

Montana

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The first wave of migration and settlement into Montana began when gold was discovered in Bannack (1862) and Alder Gulch (1863), south of Butte. By 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed. From 1882 to 1883, the railroad sent out 2.5 million pieces of literature advertising land for sale. Immigrants from northern Europe were sought as they could adapt to the climate and conditions of Montana, though only a few came. An English colony was established in Helena and the Yellowstone Valley in 1882; a few French came to Missoula County; and a few Dutch families settled in the Gallatin Valley in 1893. The most notable settlement was that of the Finnish lumbermen east of Missoula in 1892, while the Italians and Germans settled in Fergus and Park counties. The smelters and mills of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company drew Scandinavian and Irish workers to the area. The Montana coal mines of Cascade, Carbon and Musselshell counties were worked by the Irish, Poles and Italians.

Bontempo, Martinelli, Castellano, Bertoglio, Ciabattari, Favero, Sconfienza, Ronchetto and Grosso — were just some of the Italian families who settled in the Meaderville section of Butte. The area would later come to be known as Montana’s “Little Italy,” where the majority of its residents could trace their lineage back to Northern and Central Italy. By the late 1920s, the Meaderville neighborhood, took on a life of its own, with its abundance of restaurants, taverns, night clubs and specialty grocery stores.

Pauline (Mencarelli) de Barathy, Tom Holter and Jim Troglia, all of Butte recently shared some of their Meaderville memories in The Montana Standard.

Holter’s grandfather, Mike Ciabatarri, ran M. Ciabatarri & Son Meaderville Grocery and Holter spent his Saturdays delivering groceries for his grandfather. He remembers Sundays, when dinner was served by his Aunt Neda. “She was a helluva cook,” he said.

Troglia’s childhood memories include building go-carts, skating on the neighborhood rink, riding bikes over the many hills behind Meaderville and stealing cigars from Guidi’s Grocery. Guidi’s, Holter noted, was also known throughout Butte for their sausage and salami. “When they died,” he said, “they took that recipe to the grave.”Pauline de Barathy was amazed at all the imported items the store carried, including the different types of cheese. “That was their specialty,” she said.

A number of restaurants flourished in Meaderville, including the Aro Cafe and the Rocky Mountain Cafe and de Barathy recalled how residents could smell the wonderful aromas drifting from the restaurants. “Your mouth would just water,” she said. “You wanted to taste it so bad.” Holter, on the other hand, remembers the Meaderville Bakery. “Best there ever was,” he said.

All three people talked about the neighborhood gardens. Whose house had the best garden was the number one concern and who could make the best wine or grappa ran a close second. Wine was a staple in Italian households and every fall the train would bring in an abundance of grapes and cherries for wine making.

Italian traditions were passed down through the generations, and for many, so was the language. Although de Barathy’s mother was born in Butte, it was not until she started school that she learned English. “That was not unusual,” she explained.

Even though, Meaderville has succumbed to “progress”, traditions continue. Every Christmas, Holter serves up a big Italian dinner, which includes “piatto forte,” a dessert recipe handed down by his mother. On New Year’s Eve, it’s “bagna cauda” at the Troglia home, a spicy dish with anchovies and garlic that originated in northern Italy.

What de Barathy cherished most about her neighborhood was that it was so close-knit. It was nearly a nightly occurrence to find people outside, visiting with their neighbors. “It was their chit-chat time” and “I miss that,” de Barathy, said.

part8-8

Grandma’s Oxtail Ravioli

Serves 6

Mario Batali, the famed chef, spent his childhood watching his grandmother make oxtail ravioli and other Italian specialties passed down in the family. The Batali family’s roots are almost entirely in the West. Mario’s great-great-grandfather left Italy for Butte, Montana in 1899 to work in the coal mines and eventually moved further west.

For the Ravioli:

Kosher Salt

  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Red Onions (sliced)
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (crumbled)
  • 1 Bunch Red Swiss Chard (cut into 1/2″ ribbons)
  • 1 cup Fresh Ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh Pasta Sheets

For the Oxtail Ragu:

  • 5 pounds Oxtail (cut into 2″ thick pieces)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flour (for dredging)
  • 2 Medium Onions (sliced 1/4″ thick)
  • 4 cups Red Wine
  • 2 cups Brown Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Pecorino Romano for Grating

Directions

For the Ravioli:

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook slowly till softened. Add sausage and cook until pink is gone, about 8 minutes.  Add chard and stir to mix with sausage and then cover and cook 15 minutes till chard gives up its water.  Remove lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Add sausage and onion mixture to the ricotta, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine.  Lay 1 sheet of pasta on a work surface and use a pastry cutter to make 12 2½- by 1-inch rectangles.  Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling on one rectangle and cover with another rectangle.  Press firmly around the edges to seal, brush with a little water if necessary.  Continue with the remaining pasta and filling.  These can be set aside on a baking tray, the layers separated by dish towels and refrigerated, for up to 6 hours.

For the Oxtail Ragu:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Trim the excess fat from the oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper.

In a 6 to 8 quart, heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Quickly dredge the oxtails in the flour and sear them on all sides until browned, turning with long-handled tongs.  This should take 8 – 10 minutes.  Removed the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the same pan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook them until lightly browned, 5 – 7 minutes. Add the wine, stock, tomato sauce and thyme and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the oxtails to the pot, submerging them in the liquid and return the pot to a boil. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the oxtails with long-handled tongs.  When they are cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and shred into small pieces with a fork.  Discard the bones.

With a small ladle, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce.  Return the shredded meat to the casserole.  Place the casserole over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce to a very thick ragú. Season with salt and pepper.

To The Prepare Dish:

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Meanwhile, In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat about 3 cups of the ragú. Gently drop the ravioli into the boiling water and cook at a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain. Add the ravioli to the sauté pan with the ragu. Toss very gently over medium heat to coat the ravioli with the ragú, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide among six heated bowls and grate Pecorino over each bowl. Serve immediately.

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stuffedvegcover

Throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, nearly every meal begins with an assortment of appetizers. Stuffed vegetables are often on the appetizer tray with an emphasis on eggplants, peppers and tomatoes seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Many of the most popular stuffed vegetables served as a main course in these regions are stuffed grape leaves, artichokes filled with savory breadcrumbs and sausage and hearty cabbage leaves rolled around a meat and rice stuffing.

An easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is by making them your meal’s main event. Stuffed vegetable recipes—including stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes and stuffed squash—use usually hollowed out and filled with lean meats, flavorful cheeses or even more vegetables. Any sturdy vegetable can be used for stuffing. Leftovers can often be used for the filling, such as risotto to stuff tomatoes.

Getting vegetables ready for stuffing is quite simple, but the technique varies from vegetable to vegetable. It’s important to always use the freshest, ripest vegetables available, avoiding those that are oversized and or soft. Cut ripe tomatoes in half, then scoop out most of the pulp with a spoon to create a shell. For peppers and squash, remove the seeds and stringy bits of flesh and you’ll be left with a natural cavity to fill.

Many stuffings are interchangeable and work well with other vegetables. You can add diced ham or sausage for a meatier taste, nuts for a crunchy texture or experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.

Pack the stuffing into the vegetables, place them in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish. Bake until the vegetables soften and the filling is cooked through and golden brown.

Liquids like tomato sauce, wine, broth or water are often poured around the vegetables to keep them moist and provide even more flavor.

Stuffed vegetables taste good hot or at room temperature. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre, a first course, a main course or a side dish.

stuffedveg1

Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 8 small tomatoes
  • 6 oz olive oil-packed tuna, drained and oil reserved
  • 10 pitted Kalamata olives, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon reserved tuna olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Gently scoop out tomato seeds and pulp, leaving the shell intact.

Set shells cut side down to drain on the paper towels.

Mix tuna, olives, parsley, capers, tuna olive oil, thyme and pepper, breaking up any large chunks of tuna.

Spoon tuna mixture into tomatoes and chill until serving time.

stuffedveg2

Orzo-Stuffed Peppers

You can prepare these up to 12 hours before serving. Just cover the baking dish with foil, refrigerate until time to bake the peppers.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 3 cups baby arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 small bell peppers, halved and seeded

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cook the orzo according to package directions in boiling, salted water in a saucepan; drain.

Heat oil in the pot and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is tender. Add arugula, feta, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper; stir.

Add drained orzo and mix thoroughly.

Season the inside of peppers with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Fill peppers and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover with foil; bake until the peppers are tender ( about 35-40 minutes).

stuffedveg3

Stuffed Portobellos

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 (4-inch) portobello caps
  • 1 1/3 cups lean ground beef or ground turkey, lightly packed
  • 3/4 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons lower fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Remove the brown gills from undersides of the mushrooms, using a spoon; discard the gills.

Combine beef with the remaining  ingredients in a medium bowl.

Spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into each mushroom cap.

Place caps on a baking sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are lightly browned.

Sprinkle each cap with Parmesan cheese before serving.

stuffedveg4

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 zucchini, small to medium size
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces scallions, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Cut zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving about ¼ inch attached to the shell. Lightly salt the zucchini shells.

Chop the zucchini pulp.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the sausage till browned. Add the zucchini pulp and garlic and saute for a minute or two.

In a bowl, combine the scallions, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, red pepper and pine nuts.

Add the sausage mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon mixture into scooped out zucchini shells and sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.or until the zucchini shells are tender and the tops are lightly brown.

stuffedveg5

Stuffed Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash each pepper and ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup beef broth, plus extra if needed
  • Additional parsley for garnish

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring a small amount of water (about 1 inch) to a boil.

Peel onions and using a slotted spoon, place the onions in the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes; remove to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice off the top of each onion. Remove the center, leaving a 1/2-inch shell.

Chop the centers and tops of the onions; set aside.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; remove to a paper towel to drain.

In the drippings, saute the chopped onion until tender.

Add the butter and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley.

 

Add the bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Stuff the onion shells with the mushroom mixture; place in an ungreased shallow 1 quart baking dish. Pour broth around the onions.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 45 minutes or until tender, basting frequently during the first 15 minutes with the broth, adding more if needed. Sprinkle with additional parsley before serving.


fruitcover

Looking for a quick snack or an easy dish to make for a picnic, barbecue or party, fruit salad is a great option.

A few additions to a fruit salad can go a long way in adding color, flavor and uniqueness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice prevents browning in some fruits and adds a bright flavor that will help balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Similarly, a chiffonade of fresh herbs (like mint, basil or cilantro) elevates and enhances a dish of fruit.

When making a fruit salad think about flavors that will complement and balance the sweetness (or sourness) of the fruit you are using. Smoky, spicy and salty flavors work well with very sweet fruits like berries or melon. A homemade simple ginger syrup complements tart fruits like pineapple.

To make the ginger syrup:

Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 piece (about 4 ounces and 10 inches long or use several small pieces) of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

fruitsalad1

Fruit and Herb Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 1 half-pint raspberries
  • 1 half-pint blueberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned, for garnish

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine all of the fruit in a large attractive serving bowl. Refrigerate.

For the syrup:

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and then the mint. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Let the syrup cool.

Gently combine the cooled syrup with the fruit just before serving.

Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

fruitsalad2

Wine Soaked Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups rosé wine
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Mascarpone cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Grand Marnier and both wines. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, add in all of the fruit, making sure that all the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:

Use a slotted spoon to remove the wine soaked fruit to individual dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and serve.

fruitsalad3

Basil Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 3 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

In a large bowl combine the watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey and drizzle over the fruit. Stir gently to coat.

Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

fruitsalad4

Melon, Berry and Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel or lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 honeydew melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, parmigiano-reggiano or feta cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, preserved lemon, crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the melon slices and blackberries on a large serving platter.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit. Garnish the salad with cheese, snipped chives and serve.

fruitsalad5

Red Fruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pound strawberries, cored and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Mint for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the fruit in a large bowl.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry skillet, then crush in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until finely ground. Work the sugar into the coriander one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the fruit along with the lemon zest and toss gently with your hands. Season with the lemon juice.

Set aside for at least ten minutes or even overnight before serving.

Add mint if you like it before serving.


100_0907

Grouper is a mild, sweet fish that belongs to the sea bass family. It is a salt water fish that can become quite large. It is a locally caught fish where I live and grouper sandwiches are very popular here.

Due to their preferred habitat around coral reefs, groupers are accessible primarily by hook-and-line fishing. In my local area, the harvesting of grouper is closely monitored and regulated to ensure healthy stocks as a naturally renewable and sustainable resource.

In many parts of the world, grouper fisheries are depleted. One reason for this is their unusual mating ritual, where mature fish come together to spawn in huge numbers and that makes them easy targets for destructive fishing practices. This situation removes many reproducing fish and challenges the recovery of their populations.

Red and black grouper from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are no longer over fished. Management techniques supported by EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) show enormous promise for bringing our seas back from unhealthy environments. Under an innovative fishing model known as catch shares, fishermen have an economic incentive to help the fishery recover. They get a share of the allowed catch, which grows larger as the fishery recovers.

Grouper is also a healthy menu choice. Six ounces of uncooked grouper has only 165 calories and 3 grams of fat (none of which is saturated). It can be cooked in a variety of ways since it is a firm fish that holds up to various cooking methods, including cooking it on the grill. Since grouper is a lean fish, however, it benefits from basting with a flavorful sauce while grilling.

Herb Infused Fish Fillets

Since I cook for two most days, I made half the amount listed in the recipe below. You can also use any firm white fish fillets that are available in your area.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs grouper fillets (or other firm white fish) 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 8  bay leaves 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rinse the fish fillets and and pat dry with paper towels.

Lightly salt both sides of the fish and set aside until the grill is ready

Heat the grill to medium-high.

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Cut off a piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil large enough to accommodate the fish on the grill. Poke several holes through the foil, spray with olive oil cooking spray and make a base on the foil for the fish with the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.

In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

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Place the fish on top of the herb branches, brush the fish with the lemon mixture.

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Place the foil with the fish on it on the grill over direct heat and close the cover. Grill for 6 minutes, brush the fish with the lemon mixture again and sprinkle with the minced oregano leaves.

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Close the grill cover and cook for about 6 more minutes more or until the fish flakes when poked with a fork in the thickest part.

Grind fresh black pepper over the fish before serving.

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Roasted Corn and Peppers

I served the grilled grouper for dinner with this side dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the olive oil with the peppers, corn, onion and the salt and pepper in a baking dish.

Roast the mixture in the oven until the corn and peppers start to brown, about 20 minutes, stirring twice.

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Grilled Grouper Sandwich

If you would like to turn this grilled grouper into one of Florida’s best dishes, here is how to do it.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 medium green onions, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

For the sandwich:

  • 4 grouper fillets, about 1 inch thick (5-6 oz each), cooked according to the recipe above.
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • 4 leaves green leaf lettuce

Directions

In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, onions, relish, capers, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

On each bun bottom, place lettuce and a grilled grouper fillet. Spoon some sauce evenly over the fish. Cover with a bun top and serve.

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Caesar Salad Topped with Grilled Grouper

You can also turn this grilled grouper into a great salad, another favorite in my region.

Ingredients

  • 4 grouper fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick (6 oz each), cooked according to the recipe above.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 large garlic cloves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 cups of firm country bread, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Large head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the croutons:

Whisk 1/4 cup of the oil, 2 of the garlic cloves, minced and coarse salt in large bowl to blend. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Transfer croutons to a baking sheet.

Bake croutons until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

For the dressing:

Combine the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, remaining 1/4 cup oil and 1 garlic clove in a blender and puree until smooth.

Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad:

Place lettuce and croutons in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Place the lettuce and croutons onto 4 individual serving plates and place one grilled grouper fillet on top of each salad.

Sprinkle each with additional Parmesan cheese.



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