Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: August 2015

biscotticover

In Italian, the word “biscotto” means “biscuit” or “cookie.” More specifically, biscotti are named according to their original method of baking. The root words “bis” and “cotto” literally mean “twice” and “baked.” When Italians first created biscotti in the region of Tuscany many centuries ago, they were careful to bake the cookies twice, in order to allow the cookies to develop their signature crisp texture. Over the years, these methods became standard practice. Bakers shape the dough into a log, bake it, evenly slice it into cookies and then bake the cookies again.

The first biscotti were made as a portable and durable food for Roman soldiers and travelers. They were made with traditional almond flavoring during the Renaissance and, at the time, it was also popular to dip them in an Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo, a practice that remains common in Italy today. Many people outside of Italy prefer to dip biscotti in coffee or hot chocolate to soften them before eating them. The range of flavors that these cookies come in has also expanded hugely since their creation and can include walnuts, orange zest and anise. Some types are coated with icing or glazed with chocolate, but the most traditional ones do not have a frosting or coating.

It’s relatively easy to bake these cookies. The basic recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs and sometimes butter or olive oil, along with nuts, spices or fruits. There is no one perfect way to make biscotti. Some recipes call for eggs only, which is the traditional method, while others include butter or oil. The choice is yours; just keep in mind that those made with butter or oil will have both a softer texture and a shorter shelf life.

Here are my two favorite recipes.

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.

Toast the Nuts

Lightly Toast the Nuts

batter

Form the Batter

Shape into Loaves

Shape into Logs

Brush with Egg

Brush with Egg

Bake the Logs

Bake the Logs

Cool and Slice Logs

Cool and Slice Logs

diagonalslice2

Bake Slices

Bake Slices

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

Directions

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.

 


eggplantcover

Eggplant comes in a range of shapes and colors. Globe eggplants are the largest and most common type. Different varieties of the plant produce fruit (yes, eggplant is a fruit) of different sizes, shapes and color. A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors are grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Colors vary from white to yellow or green, as well as reddish-purple and dark purple. Some eggplant have a color gradient, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. Green or purple eggplant in white striping also exist.

Traditional, white-skinned, egg-shaped eggplant include ‘Casper’ and ‘Easter Egg’. Bi-colored cultivars with color gradient include ‘Rosa Bianca’, ‘Violetta di Firenze’, ‘Bianca Sfumata di Rosa’ (heirloom) and ‘Prosperosa’ (heirloom). I prefer the smaller version of the larger purple skinned eggplant that is often called Italian or baby eggplant, especially the Rosa Bianca variety. These have a somewhat more intense flavor, few seeds and the flesh is much more tender.

eggplantrosa

Eggplant is at its best in the summer. The flesh of an eggplant should give a bit when gently pressed; it should have no hard spots. The skin should be shiny and smooth, not mottled. Stems should be green. Avoid any with brown or soft spots.

Whole eggplant will keep up to a few days in a cool place. Avoid storing in the refrigerator, as this will damage the eggplant’s texture. It is best to use eggplant as soon as you can because the flesh turns bitter quickly, even when they are not overripe. There are as many variations on the reasons for using salt on eggplant as there are celebrity chefs. The main reason to use salt on eggplant is because the fruit has a very high moisture content. When eggplant is broiled or sautéed in a pan, it will usually steam and end up being mushy. The solution is to draw the moisture out before cooking. By sprinkling salt on the eggplant, water is drawn to the surface. Crystals of salt (no matter what the size) dissolve in the moisture on the surface of the eggplant and form a concentrated salt solution. The high concentration of salt then pulls moisture from inside the fruit. Rinsing and patting dry the eggplant won’t result in it absorbing a significant amount of water (it is porous but not a sponge). The more salt you use or the longer it is on the eggplant, the more effective this technique will be.

The other reason given for salting eggplant is to remove bitterness. This is a bit of an old wives tale. Eggplant becomes bitter as it ages. All of the salt in the world can’t change that. The key is to buy fresh eggplant and use it quickly.

Eggplant has a great deal of flavor and it is good for you. There have virtually no calories (about 20 calories in a cup of raw fruit). There’s very little fat or carbohydrates but it has a fair amount of fiber (2 grams in a cup). Eggplant makes the perfect base for a variety of delicious entrees, side dishes and snacks.

eggplant5

Eggplant Appetizer

For the grilled eggplant:

  • 8 – 1/2 inch slices eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Grill directly over medium coals or medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, turning once. Cool slightly.

For the dip:

  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup grilled eggplant
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Garnishes:

  • Olive oil and fresh mint
  • Walnuts, toasted
  • Grilled pita wedges or focaccia

Directions

In a food processor finely chop chickpeas, mint and garlic. Add lemon juice, salt and grilled eggplant. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle fresh mint and walnuts on top. Serve with grilled pita or focaccia.

eggplant1

Pasta with Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Cheese

Burrata cheese is a creamier cousin of mozzarella. Pennoni pasta come from the Campania region and belong to the short, smooth diagonal pasta cuts.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh red chili, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound pennoni, rigatoni or orecchiette, cooked until al dente (1 cup pasta cooking water reserved)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ounces burrata or mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup small basil leaves

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill to medium. Brush eggplants with oil. Grill, turning occasionally, until soft and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let cool. Coarsely chop eggplant.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until golden, about 3 minutes. Add eggplant and chili; toss to coat. Season with salt.

Toss in pasta, reserved cooking water,  lemon zest and juice. Remove from heat. Stir in burrata and mint. Serve immediately.

eggplant2

Grilled Vegetable Muffaletta

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • 2 pepperoncini (peppers), stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 4 plum tomatoes (1 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise 1/4-inch-thick
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red peppers, patted dry
  • 1 (8-inch) round loaf rustic bread, split horizontally and hollowed out

Directions

In a colander, toss eggplant with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse and dry eggplant.

In a food processor, pulse olives, pepperoncini and parsley until very finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in yogurt.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Lightly oil the hot grill.

Mix eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini with oil and season with salt. Grill, turning frequently, until tender and slightly charred, about 4 minutes for tomatoes and about 7 minutes each for eggplant and zucchini.

Spread bread with olive mixture. Assemble sandwich with peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

eggplant3

Roasted Eggplant Wrap

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Vegetable oil, cooking spray
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, peeled, root end left intact, halved lengthwise, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 cup drained canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 6 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 11 tomatoes), halved (quartered if large)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole-wheat wraps ( 8 inches each)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon each thyme and oregano in a small bowl; set vinaigrette aside.

Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Mix eggplant, zucchini, onion and remaining 2 teaspoons each thyme and oregano in a large bowl. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Roast, tossing occasionally, until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and salt; season with pepper. Drizzle with vinaigrette; toss to coat.

Arrange mozzarella in the center of each wrap. Top each with 1 1/4 cups of the vegetable salad. Roll up and cut in half.

eggplant4

Baked Eggplant Fries

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together the panko, rosemary, thyme, paprika and salt in a shallow dish.

Cut each slice of eggplant into three somewhat equal pieces

In a separate dish, whisk the egg and olive oil together.

Dip an eggplant slice into the egg mixture and then dredge in the panko mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the fries are crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately with heated marinara sauce.


 

FullSizeRender

This is definitely pie baking for those who are intimidated by making traditional pies. Think rustic tarts — they don’t even require a pie plate. First, you roll out just one sheet of dough (since there’s no top) as perfectly or imperfectly as you like. Then you add the fruit filling in the center and fold over the edges of the dough. There you are – ready to bake.

A crostata is an Italian baked tart or pie, also known as coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy. The earliest known use of crostata in its modern sense can be traced to the cookbooks Libro de Arte Coquinaria (Art of Cooking) by Martino da Como, published circa 1465, and Cuoco napoletano (Neapolitan recipes), published in the late 1400s containing a recipe (number 94) titled “Crostata de Caso, Pane,” etc. The French version is called a Galette.

A modern crostata is a “rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart that may also be baked in a pie plate. Crostatas have a status as being one of the premiere Italian pastries. A crostata can be made with just about any type of fruit filling, the pastry can be prepared with fruit that is in season, as well as any range of home canned preserves and even with canned fruits and jams that are purchased in the supermarket. The fact that the crostata may be prepared as an open-faced dessert or be covered with a top crust allow this Italian pastry to easily adapt to all sorts of occasions.

Since peaches looked absolutely beautiful this week, I bought some for eating and some for baking. So I am making a peach crostata for you here and recipes for other types of fruit fillings follow. Just follow the directions for the peach crostata for the other fruit fillings. Take your pick. Not only is this dessert easy to prepare but if you serve it to guests, they will think you are a pastry chef.

The traditional pastry in Italy is pasta frolla but you can also use 1 large sheet of defrosted puff pastry or 1 refrigerated round pie crust dough. The traditional pastry recipe is below, if you would like to use it. I keep it simple and use the refrigerated store-bought pastry crust. I don’t peel the peaches either.

IMG_0133

Peach Crostata

I like to brush the bottom of the crust with a little jam or marmalade to keep the crust from getting soggy and to add an additional layer of flavor. Traditional recipes do not call for this step.

Ingredients

  • One refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons apricot or peach preserves or orange marmalade
  • 3 large peaches, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour, cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Water or cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Remove the pie crust dough from the paper pouch and place flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the crust with the preserves.

IMG_0127

IMG_0136

In medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the peaches and vanilla. Mix well.

IMG_0137

Rather than spooning the fruit mixture onto the center of the crust, I prefer to arrange the fruit in a decorative pattern to within 1 1/2 inches of the edge. Use tongs to arrange the fruit and pour any juice left in the bowl over the arranged fruit. If there are any slices that don’t fit just arrange them in the center on top of the first layer, as I did for this crostata. Dot with the butter.

IMG_0139

Fold the crust edge over the filling to form a border, pleating the crust as necessary. Refrigerate the tart until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush the crust edge with water or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender. Serve warm. This dessert is sometimes served with sweetened mascarpone cheese or whipped cream.

FullSizeRender

Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, lemon and orange zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with. Roll out into an 11 inch circle.

Blueberry Crostata

  • 18 oz blueberries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Blackberry Crostata

  • 12 ounces blackberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Plum Crostata

Note: For this recipe you want firm but slightly ripe plums, and preferably freestone, such as the Italian prune plums.

  • 2 pounds firm ripe Italian prune plums, cut into sixths or eighths
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or other flavored liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Fig Crostata

Use fig jam for the crust, if you can.

  • 1/2 lb of ripe figs
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Apricot Crostata

  • 1 1/2 lbs of fresh ripe apricots
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Coarse sugar

Cinnamon Apple Crostata

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples or 3 large apples
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans or walnuts

6a00e5521e0b2e883301539307d4b0970b


summerpastacover

Summer pastas should be simple and fresh, ideally made with vegetables straight from the garden or from your local farmers’ market. As the temperature rises, trade out heavier ingredients like braised meats or long-cooked sauces for fresh vegetables, bright herbs and seafood. One of the best parts of summer is the abundance of fresh produce. Perfect summer tomatoes need little work. Just toss them with fresh fettuccine and extra-virgin olive oil. Or try roasting cherry tomatoes with garlic and red onions and mixing it all with pasta, lemon juice and arugula. The great thing about summer vegetable sauces for pasta is that they require so little cooking. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

summerpasta1

 

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 2 zucchini, diced small
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Bring a medium-sized stockpot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta al dente. Reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, diced zucchini and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the diced tomato, lemon juice, cooked chicken and pasta cooking water. Bring ingredients to a boil; add spinach and cooked, drained pasta.

Stir ingredients and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Stir in the chopped parsley. Serve hot, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese.

summerpasta2

Tomato Linguine Sauté

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound linguine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Wash the tomatoes. Dry the tomatoes; then core and cut them in half.

Use a spoon to remove most of the seeds. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.

Add chopped tomatoes to a colander, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and let them sit so they can release some of their water (this should only take a half an hour and can be done ahead of time).

Combine drained tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic in a large sauté pan. Warm this mixture over low heat. It should not be hot.

Cook pasta al dente. Drain.

Combine pasta and tomato mixture together in a serving bowl. Add fresh basil and Parmesan and taste for seasoning.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

summerpasta3

Pasta With Shrimp and Roasted Red Peppers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 fresh roasted red peppers, diced; for directions on how to make roasted red peppers, check this post
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • 12 ounces dried penne pasta

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the onion is tender.

Add crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add roasted peppers, shrimp and wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and cheese. Return to boiling; reduce heat.

Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Stir in basil.

Add the hot cooked pasta to the pan; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

summerpasta5

Pasta with Squash Blossoms

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow summer squash, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound short pasta
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 7 squash blossoms, 4 sliced thin and 3 left whole
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced

Directions

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Reserve 1 1/4 cups pasta cooking water. Drain pasta.

Saute yellow squash and zucchini in olive oil in a large skillet over low heat until pale gold, about 8 minutes.

Add pasta, the reserved pasta cooking water, tomatoes, 4 sliced and 3 whole squash blossoms, cheese and oregano. Cook, stirring, until a sauce forms, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

summerpasta6

Lemony Pasta Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Pasta Salad

  • 10 ounces bow-tie pasta
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 10 ounces (about 1 pint) mini heirloom, grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 ears corn on the cob, shucked
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, mustard, salt and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the sliced tomatoes, corn kernels, crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts, basil and mint.

Pour the dressing over the pasta and mix well. Serve at room temperature.


grilledvegcover

What could be easier than making your entire meal on the grill? Cook vegetable side dishes alongside your main course for a quick summer meal. Here are some of my favorite vegetables to put on the grill.

Eggplant

Slice eggplant into planks (1/4” thick) and give them a quick dip in a marinade before putting them on the grill. A combination of balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil and olive oil is a good marinade for eggplant.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers can be cooked two ways. Leave them whole and let them cook until charred all over for peeling, or cut them into chunks and grill until just blackened around the edges but still crisp.

Tomatoes

The flavor of tomatoes can vastly be improved by grilling. Cut them in half crosswise and place them cut-side down on an oiled grill. After three or four minutes turn them over and add a teaspoon of basil pesto. Cook for another three to four minutes then serve.

Zucchini

Zucchini is another vegetable made more delicious by a quick marinade before grilling. You can even use the same balsamic-basil marinade that you use for eggplant and vary the herbs for a different taste

Onions

The onions sharp and pungent flavor transforms into mellow and sweet on the grill. Cut the onion crosswise into half-inch slices and then run a skewer through it. Grill over medium rather than high heat to keep the outside from burning before the inside is cooked.

Corn

I do not leave corn in the husk for grilling because I don’t like the taste that charred husks leave on the corn. Simply brush with melted butter or olive oil and grill to get a charred effect. If you do not want charring, wrap in foil and grill.

Potatoes

Par-boil small potatoes until they are just about cooked through. Then thread them onto skewers and finish them on the grill. If you have some russet potatoes and a little time, make smoked potatoes. Build a fire for indirect grilling and add a handful of wood chips or chunks. Rub the potatoes with a little olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Put them right on the grill and close the lid. Do not wrap them in foil. After 45 minutes to an hour the potatoes will be done (test like you would a baked potato).

Asparagus

Asparagus in season are hard to beat no matter how it is prepared, but just give them a few minutes on the grill and you have something even better. Make a little garlic aioli to dress the spears after they’re grilled for a delicious side dish.

grilledveg1

Grilled Summer Squash, Onions and Tomatoes

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup red and/or yellow grape tomatoes

Directions

For the marinade: In a 3-quart rectangular baking dish, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt. Add zucchini and onion, stirring to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Lightly coat a grill pan with cooking spray. For a charcoal grill, preheat a grill pan on an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 15 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove zucchini and onion from marinade and place in the grill pan. Reserve marinade.

Grill vegetables for 5 to 6 minutes or just until tender and lightly brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomatoes. Grill about 1 minute more or until tomatoes are heated through.

For a gas grill, preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium. Preheat grill pan as directed. Add vegetables as directed above. Cover and grill as above.

Remove vegetables from the grill pan. Place on a serving platter. Drizzle reserved marinade over the vegetables. Toss to combine.

grilledveg2

Grilled Corn Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn on the cob
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite Italian salad dressing
  • 2 cups shredded fresh spinach
  • 2 cups red and yellow tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh oregano or basil leaves

Directions

Husk and silk corn. Brush each ear of corn with some of the Italian salad dressing. Place corn on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender, turning often. (Or place brushed ears in a shallow baking pan; bake in a 425 degree F oven for 30 minutes, turning once.) When cool enough to handle, cut kernels from the cobs (you should have about 2 cups kernels).

In a large bowl, combine corn kernels, spinach, tomatoes and the 2 teaspoons snipped oregano or basil. Add remaining Italian salad dressing; toss to coat. Spoon corn mixture into six small mugs or bowls. Sprinkle individual servings with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with oregano or basil leaves. Makes 6 servings.

grilledveg3

Chili-Roasted Potatoes

Here is another way to grill potatoes.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes or round red potatoes
  • Half of a 16 ounce package (about 2 cups) frozen small whole onions, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
Wash and dry potatoes. Quarter the round red potatoes, if using. Cut any large fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise, if using.

Place a 24 x 18-inch sheet of heavy foil on a flat surface. Place potatoes and onions on foil. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt, chili powder, paprika and pepper. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold remaining ends to completely enclose the potatoes, leaving space for steam to build. Wrap with a second 24 x 18-inch piece of heavy foil to insulate.

Heat grill to medium. Grill the packets for 45 to 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, turning packet every 20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 8 (2/3-cup) servings.

grilledveg4

Grilled Eggplant Rolls

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplant
  • About 1/3 cup olive oil for brushing the eggplant
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 recipe for Basil Pesto, click here for my homemade recipe
  • 1 cup Tomato (Marinara) Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves

Directions

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.

Trim the eggplant and cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices, discarding the first and last slices from each one; you should have about 16-18 slices.

Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Place over the hottest part of the grill, in batches and cook, turning once, until soft and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes on each side; return the slices to the baking sheet as they are done.

Season the eggplant slices on both sides with salt and pepper and arrange the slices on a work surface with the narrow end of each slice toward you.

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese and pesto until smooth and well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the mixture on the narrow end of each slice of eggplant and roll up, not too tightly, like a jelly roll. Set aside.

Heat the tomato sauce and spoon the sauce onto a rimmed serving platter. Arrange the eggplant rolls seam side down in the sauce and sprinkle with the marjoram leaves.

grilledveg5

Grilled Vegetable and Mozzarella Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium yellow sweet pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 recipe Balsamic Vinaigrette, see below
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 10 ounce package Italian mixed salad greens (romaine and radicchio)
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
  • Snipped fresh basil

Directions

Place tomatoes, zucchini, sweet pepper, and onion in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour the Balsamic Vinaigrette over the vegetables in the bag; seal bag. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Drain vegetables, reserving vinaigrette.

For a charcoal grill, grill vegetables on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals.  Grill sweet pepper and onion for 7 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning once. Grill zucchini for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning once. Grill tomatoes, skin sides down, about 5 minutes or until soft and skins begin to char.

For a gas grill, preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place vegetables on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board; cool slightly.

In an extra-large bowl combine salad greens and basil. Add reserved vinaigrette; toss to coat. Arrange greens on a large platter. Cut grilled zucchini and sweet peppers into bite-size pieces. Arrange grilled vegetables and the cheese on top of greens. Sprinkle with snipped fresh basil.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a screw-top jar combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Cover and shake well.


chowdercover

Summer is here along with just about every vegetable you could possibly want to cook. It is also the best time to make a delicious chowder. Chowder usually indicates a soup that is rich and creamy with chunks of seafood and vegetables. The term may also describe a hearty soup made with corn or chicken.

The most famous, of course, is New England Clam Chowder. It is believed that the word “chowder” evolved from the French word “chaudiere,” the name of the pot in which French fisherman would boil their catch of the day with potatoes and other vegetables. French settlers in the New England colonies introduced the culinary tradition to America. “Chowder” first appeared in a written recipe in 1751 and, by the 1800s, American cooks were using mostly clams instead of fish because of the abundance of shellfish in the northeast.

Italian chowders and stews are usually made with seafood. The true story of cioppino begins with ancient Mediterranean fishermen who created the first fish soups and stews. These recipes were adopted by seamen and the recipes used local ingredients. Cioppino belongs to the same tradition as a chowder and a bouillabaisse. American cioppino is a story of immigration patterns, ethnic heritage and local adaptation. Food historians, generally agree, cioppino originated in California (in the San Francisco Bay area) and the group of Italian fisherman credited for the recipe immigrated from Northern Italy, specifically Genoa.

East Coast Italian Americans were fond of Manhattan Clam Chowder and put their special touches to it.

chowder1

Italian American Clam Chowder

Serves 8

Ingredients

Medium-sized hard-shell clams provide the flavor for the broth and the tender clam meat for this hearty soup. Instead, the broth is briny and clean tasting with flavors from the sea standing out.

If you do not want to fuss with fresh clams substitute 4 cups of clam broth and 16 oz of canned clams.

Ingredients

  • 8 pounds clams, medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 1 ¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 28-32 oz. can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , chopped

Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams open, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the clams as they open to a large bowl; cool slightly. Reserve the cooking water.

Holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices, sever the muscle that attaches the clam to the shell and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Discard the shells. Cut the clams into 1/2-inch dice; set aside.

Pour the broth that collected in the bowl into a 2-quart glass measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth in case of sediment; set the clam broth aside. (you should have 5 cups; if not, add some of the cooking water to make this amount. Rinse and dry the pot, then return it to the burner.

Fry the pancetta in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the pancetta is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and pepper flakes and saute about 1 minute.

Add the reserved clam broth, bottled clam juice, potatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the reserved clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and ladle the chowder into individual bowls. Serve immediately.

chowder2

Corn and Potato Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups red potatoes,unpeeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 8 ounces cream-style corn
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and remove to a plate. Crumble when cool enough to handle. Add the onion and cook in the bacon drippings over medium heat until the onion is lightly browned and tender.

Stir in flour until blended into the mixture.

Add chicken broth and stir to blend.

Add diced potatoes, corn and cream-style corn, pepper and hot sauce.

Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cover, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.

Add milk and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.

Serve warm with crusty bread.

chowder4

Summer Vegetable Chowder

Servings 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces light cream cheese

Directions

In a large soup pot on medium heat, sauté the onions in the butter and oil for 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the celery, cover, and cook until just soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots, potatoes, water or stock, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.

With a strainer or slotted spoon, remove about 1 1/2 cups of the cooked vegetables and set aside in a blender or food processor.

Add the green beans, bell peppers, and zucchini to the soup pot and cook until the green beans are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the parsley, simmer for 2 more minutes, and then remove from the heat.

Discard the bay leaf.

Puree the reserved vegetables with the milk and cheeses to make a smooth sauce.

Stir the sauce into the soup and gently reheat.

chowder3

Summertime Fish Chowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 tsp. dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus additional for optional garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups water, as needed
  • 1 lb. firm-fleshed white fish, skin removed, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add potatoes and carrots, stir, then add fish stock and tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add fish and stir. Cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While fish cooks, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Do not let it boil. Add milk to soup mixture and stir. Keep at low temperature.

To serve, ladle into shallow bowls. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

chowder5

Chicken and Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds summer squash, diced
  • 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

Directions

Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot. Add chicken and sauté until lightly brown. Add broth and Parmesan cheese rind.  Simmer for 10 minutes. Add squash and simmer until the squash is tender. Remove the cheese rind.

Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, basil, salt and pepper.


paninicover

Milan Panini Shop

Although the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956 and a precursor appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook, panini sandwiches became trendy in Milanese bars, called paninoteche, in the 1970s, when office workers were looking for quick lunch choices. Trendy U.S. restaurants, particularly in New York, began selling the sandwiches, whose popularity then spread to other U.S. cities, each producing distinctive variations of of the sandwich.

Food historians generally agree, panini, as we know them today, originated in the sandwich shops of Italy, perhaps as early as the 1960s. A survey of newspaper articles confirms that the panini sandwich caught the American consumers attention in the mid-1970s. As time progressed, panini evolved from upscale fare to trendy sandwiches for everyone.

Panini for Lunch

Panini for Lunch

In many English-speaking countries, a panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno] from the Italian, meaning “small bread, bread roll”) is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. The plural form of “panino” in Italian is panini. Examples of the bread types used for panini are ciabatta, foccacia and Italian baguettes. The bread is cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients or other foods and then pressed in a grill. There is widespread availability and use of sandwich presses, often known as “panini presses” or “toasted sandwich makers.”

paninirome

In Italy classic filling combinations are:

mozzarella, tomato (plus arugula and/or prosciutto);
prosciutto and fontina cheese
prosciutto, chese and olive tapenade;
bresaola, goat cheese or stracchino (plus lettuce and/or tomato);
speck (smoked cured prosciutto from Tyrol), arugula and cheese
grilled vegetables and cheese.

When Italian panini are offered outside of Italy, they tend to differ quite substantially. The biggest no-no’s are the use of:

More than one kind of meat (this is very unlikely in Italy);
Large amounts of meat (in Italy, more than a few slices would be considered overpowering);
Too many ingredients (in Italy, it’s never more than 3 or 4 in total);
Any kind of dressing (oil and vinegar are for salads, not for sandwiches);
Honey-mustard, barbecue sauce, spicy mayo (since they don’t exist in Italy).

paninimaker1976

Breville 1976

 

 

 

paninipress

 

 

 

 

Do you know who invented the sandwich press?

Thomas Edison. Before sandwich grills, people had to toast each slice of bread individually using an electric toaster or a griddle. The sandwich grill made it possible to brown two slices of bread at the same time. Unfortunately, Edison’s novel approach to sandwich-making didn’t get much attention from home cooks. It was discontinued in the early 1930s, according to the museum at Thomas Edison’s winter estate in Fort Myers, FL, where the celebrated scientist’s sandwich grill is on display. Edison’s contribution to the world of grilled sandwiches was entirely forgotten by the time Breville came out with its panini press in 1974.

A panini press, which is essentially a two-sided grill, used to grill a sandwich. This method may also be accomplished by placing the sandwich on a grill, pressing down firmly with a spatula, then turning the sandwich over and repeating the process. Depending on your preference, the outsides of the bread may or may not be buttered or brushed with extra virgin olive oil to give it a crisp texture.

Thinly sliced grilled chicken, turkey and roast beef can also make delicious panini. The meat needs to be cooked before being placed in the sandwich — grilling a panini only heats it through and does not actually cook the meat. After you’ve selected the bread, meat and cheese, decide on the extras.

Some popular additions to panini include spinach, roasted red peppers, basil, olive oil, olives, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and oregano. For a vegetable panini, use eggplant or zucchini, or any other vegetable that can be grilled. Panini make for a delicious and filling meal that is simple and quick to make and one that can be customized to your tastes.

panini2

Classic Italian Panino

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • One 6″ rectangular piece focaccia or ciabatta bread
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto or speck
  • 2 thin slices taleggio or fontina cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup arugula
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Split the bread in half and place prosciutto, fontina, and arugula on the bottom half. Drizzle with vinegar, season with salt and pepper and cover with the top half. Place in a panini press and grill just until the cheese begins to melt.

paniniporkItalian Pork Panini

2 servings

In central Italy, herb-and-garlic-seasoned pork roast is called porchetta. If you cannot find delicatessen porchetta (sold in some specialty food stores), use roasted pre-marinated Italian pork tenderloin. Cool the pork before cutting into thin slices. If you can’t find the olive mix, chop some garlic-stuffed green olives and mix in a bit of olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread
  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced porchetta or cooked Italian-seasoned pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons minced green olive mix or tapenade
  • 2 ounces sliced Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Divide pork, olive mix and cheese between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread.

Brush the outsides of the bread lightly with oil.

Place sandwiches on a panini grill or stove top griddle. Cover with grill top or a grill press.

Grill 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt.

panini1

Tomato, Artichoke and Fontina Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread
  • 4 slices Italian Fontina cheese (3/4 ounce each)
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, well-drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions

On two slices of bread, layer half the cheese, artichokes, spinach, two slices of tomato and the remaining half of the cheese.

Top with the uncovered bread slices.

Cook on a panini maker or indoor grill until bread is toasted and the cheese melts.

paninigrilled

 

Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • One small onion (sliced)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or yellow (seeded and each cut in 4 wedges)
  • 2 zucchini (sliced)
  • 4 oz. (100 g) provolone, scamorza or fontina cheese (sliced)
  • One handful of fresh arugula
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) Italian country bread

Directions

In a small skillet, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Grill the bell peppers and zucchini on a stove-top or outdoor grill (lightly sprinkled with salt) for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

When the peppers are ready, put them aside and peel off the skin (it should come off easily – if it doesn’t, let the peppers rest for 10 minutes in a sealed zip-lock while they are still warm).

Assemble the sandwich by layering the cheese, the grilled vegetables, the onions and the arugula on one half of the bread slices. Cook the sandwiches in the press until the cheese melts.

panini5

Pesto Chicken Panini

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (2- to 3-ounce) Ciabatta rolls or foccacia bread
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 ounces mozzarella or fontina cheese, sliced
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced grilled or roasted chicken
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin

Directions

Preheat a panini grill or stove-top griddle pan.

Slice the bread in half. Spread the cut sides if the bread with pesto.

Top one side with chicken, cheese and tomatoes. Place the top on and brush lightly with olive oil, if desired.

Place in the grill or on a griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until golden and the cheese starts to melt.



%d bloggers like this: