Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Strawberries are prefect for entertaining and are also the perfect snack. When shopping for strawberries, select those that are firm, plump, have a bright, glossy-red appearance and are fragrant. Their fringed caps should be bright green and look fresh. Berries should be firm, but not crunchy. Avoid bruised or soft berries or those having a dull appearance.

Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so select fruit that’s at the right state of maturity — when the berry surface is fully red. Cool berries as soon as possible and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. It comes as no surprise that fresh strawberries are highly perishable. Use them as soon as possible after purchasing for the best flavor, appearance and nutrient content. Fresh strawberries should be eaten within three to four days of purchase. There are any number of recipes you can make with fresh strawberries. Below are just a few of them.

strawberry-parfait

Easy Strawberry Parfaits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
  • 8 ounces whipped low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 6 amaretto cookies, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream cheese, honey and lemon juice. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.

In four wide-mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, strawberries and crushed amaretto cookies. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve chilled.

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Light As Air Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

Makes about 10 pancakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites

Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and oil.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into the flour mixture.

Grease a griddle and preheat it over medium heat.

For each pancake pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Cook over medium heat until pancakes are golden brown (1 to 2 minutes per side); turn the pancakes over when bubbly and the edges are slightly dry.

In a blender container or food processor bowl combine the strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Cover and blend or process until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the sauce until warm. Serve over the pancakes.

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Spring Strawberry Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 oz fresh strawberries, halved
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bag fresh baby arugula (4–5 oz)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts, shelled and toasted

Directions

Microwave water on HIGH 30 seconds or until hot. Stir honey and salt into the water until dissolved; let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Place in a medium bowl: the strawberries, thyme leaves, cider vinegar and sweetened water; toss to coat. Cover and chill 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.

Place arugula in a salad bowl; top with the strawberry mixture, toasted pistachios and cheese. Toss well. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

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Stuffed Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound strawberries, top trimmed
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • Optional toppings: mini chocolate chips, blueberries or nuts

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.

Use a small paring knife to quarter the strawberries from the pointed end almost to the flat top. Don’t cut all the way through

Use a small spoon to fill the space between the strawberry quarters with the mascarpone mixture.

Sprinkle with toppings, if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve cold.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients

Shortcake

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup cold butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Strawberries

  • 5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl stir together the egg, sour cream and milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once, stirring with a fork just until moistened.

Using a small offset metal spatula, spread dough evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a small metal spatula, loosen the sides of the cake.

Place a wire rack on top of the pan; place one hand on top of rack and the other hand under the pan and carefully invert the pan with the rack. Lift the pan off shortcake. Cool on wire rack.

Combine 4 cups of the sliced strawberries and the 3 tablespoons sugar and, using a potato masher, mash the berries slightly; set aside.

To serve:

Cut the shortcake in half horizontally. Spoon the sweetened strawberry mixture and the whipped cream over the shortcake bottom. Replace the shortcake top.

Spread the remaining 1 cup sliced strawberries over the top of the cake.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a chilled bowl combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.


new-potatoes

I oven roasted 1 lb of small new potatoes last week. I used half of the potatoes as a side for dinner and saved the remainder to make a potato salad for another meal. See the recipe below.

I also sautéed one pound of green beans (they are in season here where I live) and served half with the potatoes for dinner and saved half for a green bean salad later in the week. I prefer to saute green beans rather than boil them and the recipe is below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a heavy large baking dish. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the herbs, garlic and oil together until blended and then pour over the potatoes.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the potatoes, spacing them evenly apart, in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, for about 45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green beans and seasonings. cover the pan.

Simmer the beans, turning occasionally until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Serve half for dinner and refrigerate the remaining beans for the salad recipe below.

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Oven Fried Chicken

4 servings

This chicken tastes even better cold the next day.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and add the garlic. Set aside to cool.

On a sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, panko crumbs, paprika and salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the meted butter and then press the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared pan.

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Drizzle any remaining butter over the chicken. (Chicken can be prepared in advance of cooking and refrigerated until cooking time.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crispy, brown and cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

Potato Salad

seasonal potatosalad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ lb leftover oven roasted new potatoes (about 8), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Directions

Combine all the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until dinner time.

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Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Half a pound of sautéed green beans, chilled
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the mustard, vinegar and olive oil in a serving bowl. Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Add the green beans and cherry tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

 


eastercake

Tradition is important in the Italian-American culture. Second only to Christmas Eve in the way of Italian-American traditions, Easter is a big holiday and, as such, it is centered around food—as most Italian-American celebrations are. From Easter breads and ricotta pies to roasted lamb and asparagus, there are numerous dishes on the Italian American table. Here are some recipes for just a few of them.

Pizza Rustica

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Also, called Easter Pie. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are Italians. Most pies contain ricotta cheese, eggs and some type of Italian meat. Italian Americans love to make this pie for their family members.  I remember vividly, my father visiting his family at Easter time and coming home with pies made for him by his sisters and sisters-in-law. It twas a bit overwhelming.

Pastry Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Directions

Put the flour and salt into a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.

Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until it does.

Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead together just to form a smooth, tight dough.

Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut in a ½ inch dice
  • 4 oz diced Prosciutto di Parma
  • 4 oz sopressata cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 cooked sweet Italian sausage link (4 oz.) cut into ½ inch cubes
  • Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with one tablespoon of water)

Directions

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Pecorino, pepper and eggs.

Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, sopressata and sausage and mix well into the cheese mixture.

To Assemble the Pizza Rustica

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan or a 9 inch deep dish pie pan.

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside.

With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick.

Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough from sticking.

Place the dough in the pan and pat the dough to cover the bottom and sides. If the dough breaks just patch it.

Pour in the ricotta mixture.

Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling settles.

Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round. (You can also cut the dough for the top into lattice strips.)

Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal, then crimp the dough edges decoratively.

Brush the egg wash over the entire pastry top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Spring Minestrone

 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces ground chicken
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup orzo or ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds of peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (I uses a melon ball scoop). Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.

Stir in pasta and carrots;turn heat to low and simmer about 8 minutes.

Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.

Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.

Spinach Lasagna

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For the white sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick and smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lasagna

  • 1 lb.mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • White sauce, recipe above
  • 12parboiled spinach lasagna noodles

Directions

Mix the ricotta with the spinach and the remaining filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.

Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle the top with extra parsley for color.

Italian Baked Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar fig jam
  • 1 large ham (8 to 10-pounds bone-in, spiral cut or 4- to 5-pound boneless)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and juice and olive oil.

Set the ham on the rack and rub the ham with the rosemary mixture. Season with salt and pepper and cover with foil.

In a small pot, heat the fig jam with a couple of tablespoons of water.

Bake the ham for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and glaze the ham with the fig jam.

Continue brushing the ham with the glaze every 15-20 minutes with a pastry brush, for another hour or until heated through.

If the ham starts to get too brown, loosely cover it with foil. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Easter Lamb Cake

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Ingredients

  • 1 pkg store-bought pound cake mix
  • 1 cup water (use 1/4 cup less than the package directions-my cake mix calls for 1 1/4 cups of water)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Whipped Cream Frosting, recipe below
  • 1 lamb mold

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the lamb mold by coating it with vegetable oil. Let sit for a few minutes then wipe clean with a paper towel.

Then grease (use a solid shortening) and flour the lamb mold, making sure to get all the creases.

Place the front of the mold on a baking sheet.

Prepare the cake batter according to the cake mix directions.

Fill the mold to the top for the front of the cake, do not fill the back side of the mold.

Place the back of the mold on the front and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake tests done. (Test with toothpick through a vent hole in the mold.)

Remove the mold from the oven, wait 10 minutes and remove the back of body mold.

Stand the cake up and gently remove the front of the mold. Have clean towels rolled up and ready to support the head of the cake, while placing a rolled up towel in back of the cake to support the that part also.

Place a dab of icing on a plate and stand the cake in an upright position. Frost and decorate with jelly beans, raisins, cherries, or chocolate chips for the eyes and nose.

(Best results cool cake in the refrigerator before frosting, this makes a firmer surface for the icing.)  Place green tinted coconut around the base of the lamb; add jelly beans and a colorful bow at the neck, if desired.

Whipped Cream Frosting

This is a great whipped cream recipe because it does not weep after it sits on the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Directions

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a electric stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.


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Below is a dinner we had last week that makes use of “in season” produce: cabbage and Italian kale. It also demonstrates my frugal habits.

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

This dish goes well with mashed potatoes. I served Mashed Potatoes with Kale to make the dish a bit healthier, plus we like mashed potatoes mixed with greens. Swiss chard also works well. See the recipe below.

Makes 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cabbage

Meat Filling

  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sauce

  • 2 cups strained or crushed Italian tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • Half of a small onion, sliced thin

Directions

Prepare the cabbage:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer cabbage leaves. Remove the cabbage core and carefully peel 8 large leaves off the head. Blanch leaves for 1 minute (half at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels so that they dry and cool.

I saved the rest of the cabbage for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Make the filling:

Combine all the meat filling ingredients with a pinch or two of salt and black pepper.

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Make the cabbage rolls:

Form some of the meat filling mixture into a golf ball-sized rounds and place on the cooled cabbage leaves. Fold in the sides of the cabbage leaves and roll up jelly roll style wrapping the cabbage around the filling.. Repeat with the remaining leaves and mixture.

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Make the sauce:

In a casserole dish large enough to hold the cabbage rolls, combine the sauce ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so that the stuffing remains intact. Cover the dish with foil a and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover the baking dish and continue to bake for 15 minutes more.

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Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.


seasonalmarchStarting with this post, I will include posts each week about cooking with seasonal and local (if possible) ingredients.

When buying produce in season, you are not only getting fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavor, you are also getting the best price! Try incorporating a few of the “in season” produce items in your market into your weekly menu. Below is a dinner we had last week that made use of what is in season where I live: asparagus and tuna. February and March are good months for catching tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. I also made this tuna steak work for two meals. Earlier in the week, I grilled a tuna steak and we ate about 2/3 of the tuna steak and I saved 1/3 to make the tuna cakes in the recipe below. Asparagus are at their peak right now and prices are quite reasonable, so they are on our dinner table each week.

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Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and trim the woody stems from the asparagus spears. Place them in a baking dish large enough so that they lay in a single layer. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spread them back into a single layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Tuna Cakes

Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side, if desired. Recipe below.

tunafilet

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 oz cooked (leftover grilled) tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

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Shred the tuna into a medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients, except the Panko crumbs and oil and mix very well.

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Sprinkle a coating of Panko crumbs on a sheet of wax paper. Divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.

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Press the panko crumbs into the tuna cakes as you form the patties. Refrigerate the tuna cakes for a few hours before cooking. They will hold together better during cooking.

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Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties to the pan and, cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

 Light Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.


Porta Castello Tower

Porta Castello Tower

The Province of Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city of Vicenza is the capital of the province and it is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, rich in history and culture with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi.

Founded in the 2nd century B.C., Vicenza came under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The architectural work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80),  gives the area its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the region’s development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England, other European countries and North America.

The region was once under Napoleonic rule and, later, became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the populace of Veneto rose up against Austria and the area received the highest award for military valor for the courage it displayed in the uprising. Later, as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the province was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war for Italian independence.

Vicenza was a location of major combat in both World War I and World War II and it was the most damaged city from Allied bombings in the Veneto region.

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Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare

In the 1960s the region experienced a strong economic development caused by the emergence of small and medium family businesses. In the following years, the region’s economic development grew and huge industrial areas sprouted around the city.

Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, which includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Behind the classical Palladian buildings, you will also find a more ancient Vicenza that goes back to the days of a less established social order. The daily strife and power struggles between rival families was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. If you walk down some of the smaller streets, you may still come across tall bulky houses with defensive turrets, each bearing the family’s coat of arms, and built to defend their ancestral rights and families. The combination of such towers that still watch over the town, led to Vicenza being known as the “City of a Thousand Towers”.

Also, in the province of Vicenza and within easy reach, are the castles of two very renowned rival families. In the town of Montecchio Maggiore, one will find the remains of the hilltop fortresses that belonged to the Montecchi (Montagues) and Capuletti (Capulets), the legendary protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet saga. The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting even without the town. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda, a charming and less formal house. The grand Basilica di Monte Berico, with its three Baroque facades, a painting by Veronese and the views from the hillside are impressive.

Here are some personal photos of the villa a dear friend lived in while working in Vicenza. She was kind enough to share these photos, so you may have a close up view of these magnificent structures and gardens. I am sure you will enjoy viewing them as much as I have.

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Thank you to Dolly Alvarez Crooks for photos of my friend Barbara Ferg-Carter’s Vicenza Villa.

The Cuisine of Vicenza

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The quality and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica and the peas of Lumignano. These products have found their way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area.

The local specialty, Baccalà alla Vicentina, is made with salt-cured cod (stockfish) that is soaked for a couple of days and served with yellow or white polenta.

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The most famous local cheese, is Asiago, which comes from Asiago, located in the Vicenza Alps.

The province has numerous wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established and traditional wines include: Durello, Torcolato, Recioto and Raboso.

Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:

vicenzaappetizer

White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain the asparagus and place them on a serving platter.

Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the minced shallot. Saute for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Be careful not to burn the shallot.

Remove the pan from the heat, turn away from the stove and add the wine. Place the pan back on the burner and add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue to cook until slightly reduced.

Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder. Add the butter and continue to saute until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny.

Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme and lemon slices to serve.

vicenzarisotto

Risotto with Peas

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat and keep at a low simmer.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until it is thoroughly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is completely absorbed.

Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice mixture; stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed.

Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at time, stirring constantly after each addition, until the rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center and the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream, a total of 18 to 20 minutes.

About 12 minutes into the cooking time, stir in the peas. The rice should be al dente but no longer crunchy and the peas tender and bright green. The mixture will continue to thicken slightly when removed from heat.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the butter, cheese, chopped marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with marjoram sprigs.

vicenzachicken

Cutlets in Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium veal or pork cutlets or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Half of a small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens. Add the cutlets and cook until golden on all sides, around 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve the cutlets with the sauce spooned over the top.

vicenzadessert

Cherry Gelato

Ingredients

  • One 16 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed or 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a blender or food processor combine the cherries and orange peel. Blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the pulp. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the cherry mixture and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high-speed for 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saucepan the combine milk, cream and salt; heat just until simmering. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes.

Slowly stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining milk mixture. Combine thoroughly.

Heat and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Be careful not to let mixture boil.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl combine cherry mixture and the egg yolk-milk mixture, stirring until well mixed. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze the chilled mixture in a 2 to 4 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the mixture to a covered freezer container and freeze in your regular freezer for 4 hours before serving.

vicenzamap


companycookiescover1

Family will be visiting at the end of the month. Grandchildren are off from school and it is the perfect time to come south. Still cool up north, but swimming weather where Grandma & Grandpa live.  I like to have nutritious foods available when they visit, so I make a few things ahead of time, especially breakfast items and desserts. These recipes are healthy, easy to make and freeze well. They just need defrosting when company arrives.

bananabread

Good For You Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vanilla flavored, reduced fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 medium very ripe bananas (or 3 large), mashed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and lightly flour the bottom of the pan.

Combine the yogurt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir until completely combined. Whisk in the baking soda, vanilla and mashed bananas. Add the honey and eggs and mix until completely combined. Stir in the flour and nuts.

Pour into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 1 hour and a cake tester should come out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Cool ten minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing. The cake tastes better if allowed to rest overnight.

Hazelnut Cocoa Thins

24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until light and foamy. Add the cocoa, sugar, flour and vanilla, gradually, as you beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Fold in the hazelnut flour

Drop by rounded teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets – 12 to a pan – one inch apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto the kitchen counter. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them to a storage container. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar or make a glaze and frost them before serving.

companycookies1

Almond Orange Thins

24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 8 oz almond paste
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Directions

Whip the egg whites until foamy and tripled in volume, but not stiff. Set aside.

Cut the almond paste into small cubes and beat in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and egg whites and mix until smooth. Blend in the almond extract and orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop by rounded teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets – 12 to a pan – one inch apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto the kitchen counter. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them to a storage container. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar or make a glaze and frost them before serving.

cookiesbrownie

Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Brownie Ingredients:

  • 18 ounce package brownie mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water

Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To form the cookies:

In a medium bowl, combine the brownie ingredients. Stir until well blended.

Drop 1 level tablespoon of dough on parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. I can get one dozen cookies on each of my baking sheets.

For the peanut butter filling:

Mix the powdered sugar and peanut butter together and roll 1/2 teaspoon of the dough into small balls. Press the peanut butter balls into the surface of the uncooked brownie cookies.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are set. Cookies may appear slightly undercooked, but do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheets for about 3 minutes and transfer to wire rack.

IMG_0176

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Makes 16 scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pecan meal (pecans ground to a powder)
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus extra for the topping
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Cinnamon sugar, vanilla sugar or sugar crystals for the topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, pecan meal, cinnamon and cinnamon chips.

Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with a few larger chunks of butter still showing.

In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently just until it holds together.

Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into 6 inch circle. With a bench knife, cut the circle into eight triangles.

Brush the tops of the scones lightly with buttermilk and sprinkle with flavored sugar.

Place the scones on the prepared cookie sheets and bake 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Rotate the pans on the oven racks after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and place the scones on a wire rack to cool.


I belong to a community group that meets once a month. We have a potluck dinner prior to each meeting and everyone brings a “covered” dish.  Until I discovered the Reynolds Pan Carriers, I struggled with how to transport my dish to the meeting. The Reynolds’ pans make the whole process so much easier. You can reheat the food in the aluminum pan, cover it, place in the carrier and then into the car. So much easier to carry it into the meeting also because the pan has handles.

Carriers are available in Lasagna and 13 x 9 inch Cake Pan sizes. These carriers are made with the same sturdy paper board used to carry 6-packs of beverages. Plus, the colorful design on the disposable carrier makes it attractive to place on the table.

Below is a video from the Reynolds Company on how these disposable pans and carriers work. A bonus  recipe is included.

Below are some of the recipes that I have made for the potluck dinners and I have been asked to make again and again. Hope you like them.

potluck1

Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • One bunch broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into one inch slices
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • Salt

Directions

Cut the broccoli rabe into one inch pieces and place in a large Dutch oven. Fill the pot with cold water and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook the broccoli rabe for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon or spider to a bowl. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the garlic and olive oil in a large deep skillet Add the sausage and cook until completely brown. Add the cooked broccoli rabe and red pepper. Heat thoroughly. Add the pasta cooking water and the cooked pasta. Stir and heat for a few minutes before serving.

potluck2

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 15 mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ onion minced
  • Small garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

Place cheese balls in a plastic freezer container in a single layer and freeze at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix bread crumbs and 3 tablespoons of pasta sauce. Stir in beef, onion, salt, oregano and egg. Shape mixture into 15 (2-inch) balls.

Press 1 cheese cube into the center of each ball, sealing it inside. Gently place on the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.

Place browned meatballs in an ovenproof casserole dish with a cover and pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs. Place the covered dish in the oven and heat the meatballs in the sauce, about 20 minutes.

potluck3

Oven Baked Italian Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One 3 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 1 pound package Italian pork or chicken sausage each link diagonally cut into fourths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with the olive oil. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage pieces around the chicken.

Bake 15 minutes; turn chicken pieces over and bake 15 minutes.

Squeeze lemon over the chicken, place the lemon skins in the roasting dish with the chicken and sprinkle the chicken with the minced garlic and oregano.

Add the sliced potatoes, onions and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes.

potluck4

Italian Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped

Directions

Trim most of the fat from the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season the roast generously with the salt and pepper and lightly rub with all-purpose flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot,  but not smoking, add the roast and brown on all sides, 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir about 1 minute.

Add the wine and stir to incorporate the vegetables. Add the beef stock, the tomatoes, half the parsley, the sage, the bay leaf and the roast with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer on very low, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours.

(You can also put the pot into a 300°F oven and turn the roast every hour.)

Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust the sauce for seasoning, remove the bay leaf and stir in the remaining chopped parsley.

Cut the meat into thick slices and place in a deep serving dish. Spoon the hot sauce over the meat to serve.

potluck5

Lasagna

Ingredients

Cheese Filling:

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lasagna:

  • 16 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 4 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 16 lasagna noodles, parboiled

Directions

For the filling:

Mix all the filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of parboiled noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.

Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


tarantocover

The province of Taranto is located in the Puglia region of Italy. The city of Taranto is the capital of the province and an important military and commercial port. It has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships and food-processing factories. The ancient city of Taranto was situated on a peninsula and the surrounding islets and coast were strongly fortified. The islets S. Pietro and S. Paolo protected the bay where the commercial port is now located and because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called “the city of the two seas”.

taranto1

Taranto was founded in 708 BC by Spartan immigrants, who named the city after the mythical hero Taras. Taranto increased its power by becoming a main commercial port in southern Italy, with the largest army and fleet. In the early 3rd century BC, Roman legions entered Taranto and plundered it. The Tarantines called for help from Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, who decided to help Taranto because he was in debt to them. In the spring of 280 BC, he landed in Italy with 20,000 phalanxes, 500 peltasts, 2,000 archers, 3,000 elite cavalry from Thessaly and 20 war elephants. The Romans mobilized eight legions totaling about 80 000 soldiers. The battle of Heraclea was won by Pyrrhus, but the casualties were very high. Eventually Pyrrhus and the Tarentines were defeated by the Romans in the battle of Beneventum.

tarantomuseum1

In the 8th century AD Saracens began their raids against Southern Italy, occupying Taranto for forty years, until it was reconquered by the Byzantines in 880. The city suffered from other Saracen raids in 922 and again in 927 when the Saracens conquered and destroyed the city, enslaving and deporting the survivors to Africa. The 11th century was characterized by a bloody struggle between the Normans and the Byzantines. The region was conquered by the Normans and became the capital of the Norman principality for almost 4 centuries. In 1465 Ferdinand I of Naples incorporated Taranto into the Kingdom of Naples. In March 1502, the Spanish fleet of Ferdinand II of Aragon, allied to Louis XII of France, seized the port of Taranto and conquered the city. With the fall of Napoleon, Southern Italy and Taranto, returned to Bourbon rule, forming the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Then in 1861 the whole of Southern Italy was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which became the Kingdom of Italy. During World War II, the Italian ships at anchor in the port were severely damaged by British naval forces as part of the Allied invasion (Operation Slapstick).

tarantoceramicmuseum

Photo Collection of ceramics produced in Taranto ca. 580 BC. Taranto Archaeological National Museum

Collection of ceramics produced in Taranto ca. 580 BC. Taranto Archaeological National Museum

A fascinating landscape makes up the beautiful countryside of Taranto: sometimes green and lush with large vineyards and olive groves, sometimes rocky and rough with ravines, caves and gorges where ancient civilizations settled. The “city of many caves:” as Grottaglie is called, is an ancient village in the province whose first settlements date back to the 1st Century AD. It is famous worldwide for its handmade pottery. The province is also known for its numerous ceramic finds that trace back to the Classical Age and are kept in the National Museum of “Magna Grecia” in Taranto.

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tarantoceramicshop1

tarantoceramicshop

Considerable amounts of clay are a natural resource in the surrounding territory and the ceramic industry is important in the province. There are many ceramic shops that are actually located inside some of the province’s caves. Also, noteworthy, is the presence of prehistoric ruins in the Village of Triglie. In the north, Martina Franca is a charming town that overlooks the Itria Valley, with its lush green nature contrasting with the white trulli homes and ancient farms.

Trulli Village

Trulli Village

The Traditional Foods of Taranto

tarantoburrata

Mussels and oysters are the pride of Taranto and fish and  shellfish pastas are usually served for the main course. Vegetables and legumes are plentiful, as are burrata cheese, sausages  and capocollo from Martina Franca. Grapes, oranges and the famous clementines of the Gulf of Taranto are the usual desserts. Meals are paired with the excellent wines of the province, such as Primitivo di Manduria, Martina Franca and Lizzano.

tarantoappetizer

Crostini with Burrata Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

(Italy Magazine)

Serves 4 as an antipasto

Ingredients

  • Burrata: 1 grapefruit sized ball (usually 200-300 grams in weight, 8-10 ounces)
  • Bread: Small loaf or half of an Italian rustic bread
  • Sun-Dried tomatoes: 8 marinated sun dried tomatoes (from either a deli or from a jar with oil)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

Slice 4 pieces of bread lengthwise about ½ inch thick. Lightly toast the bread in the oven or on the grill.

Slice the cheese into 8 portions. Cut each slice of toasted bread in half.

Drizzle the bread lightly with olive oil. Spread the burrata slices on top of the bread with a spoon to get all the creamy interior.

Slice each sun-dried tomato into 3 strips and lay on top of the burrata. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve.

tarantooysters

Taranto Baked Oysters

6 main dish servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 24 oysters on the half shell
  • 6 lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place the bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form.

In a medium nonstick skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, parsley, and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat; stir in fresh breadcrumbs, Italian bread crumbs and the next 4 ingredients (Italian breadcrumbs through black pepper).

Place oysters on a jelly roll baking pan. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over the oysters.

Bake the oysters for 7-8 minutes or until the edges of the oysters curl. Serve with lemon wedges.

tarantocalzone

Vegetable Calzone

(Montena Taranto Cheese Company)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Marinara Sauce, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the spinach, zucchini and ricotta in a bowl.

Divide the dough into four equal balls and roll each into a circle.

Spread a thin layer of pesto on one half of each circle.

Place a quarter of the spinach/zucchini mixture on top of the pesto half of the dough.

Top with a 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella.

Fold and crimp the eggs with fork. Bake 20 minutes until brown and crusty. Serve with sauce, if desired

tarantomussels

Green Peppers with Taranto Mussels

(BridgePugliaUSA)

4 servings:

  • 500 g/1 ⅛ lb Taranto mussels
  • 500 g/1 ⅛ lb green peppers
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, if needed

Directions

Clean the peppers and remove the seeds and the stalks and cut them into strips. Sauté the pepper strips in a pan with some oil and the garlic. When the peppers have softened and are lightly caramelized, add the tomatoes.

After a few minutes, add the raw, well-cleaned mussels, cover the pan and let them cook over high heat until the mussels open. You may not need to add any salt since the liquid from the mussels could be salty enough. Stir and serve with  bread.

Family Recipe

Family Recipe

Ricotta Cookies

Makes 5-6 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Frosting, recipe below
  • Colored sprinkles, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter in an electric mixer bowl, add the sugar and continue beating.

Add the eggs, ricotta, orange zest and vanilla; beat well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; fold into the batter.

Drop by a rounded teaspoon of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet or line the baking pans with parchment paper.

Bake about 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool.

Frosting:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat ingredients together until combined. Spread on the top of the cookies. Add sprinkles, if desired.

tarantomap


dinnermenucover

How do you decide what to have for dinner? Do you go by what you are in the mood for or what is the quickest meal you can come up with for tonight? If I don’t plan ahead for specific dinners, I usually find myself looking at what is in the refrigerator/freezer/pantry for ideas. That is how the meals below came together – no recipes – just what makes a good match. Chicken breasts and flank steak were in the freezer. The asparagus and salad ingredients were in the refrigerator. I also had a little cream and the mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator. Chicken broth, corn meal and the ingredients for the soup were in the pantry. So they became dinner for 3 nights in the true Italian frugal way. They all passed the test for delicious, according to my husband. If you are looking for something different to make, try the recipes below.

Dinner One

stuffedchicken4

Stuffed Chicken Breasts 

If you have leftover chicken, as I did, it makes a delicious chicken salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole jarred roasted red peppers, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs, divided
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F.

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until evenly thin.

stuffedchicken1

Cut the roasted red peppers to fit the flattened chicken breasts. Place the peppers on the chicken and sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on top of each breast. Fold in the sides of each breast and roll the breasts up, jelly roll style.

Place the chicken rolls in a small baking dish (just large enough to fit the chicken rolls) and sprinkle with the Italian bread crumbs and parsley.

stuffedchicken3

Pour the broth around the chicken rolls and bake for about 45 – 60 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts) or until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant meat thermometer. Slice the chicken rolls into half-inch slices to serve.

asparagus

Oven Roasted Asparagus With Lemon Shallot Sauce

If you are making the asparagus without the chicken dish above, then preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the asparagus until tender for 15 to 20 minutes. If making the asparagus with the chicken, then use the directions below.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt

Sauce

  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 scant teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Toss the asparagus with oil and a sprinkling of salt in a large bowl. Spread on a baking sheet or a baking dish.

After the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, put the asparagus in the oven with the chicken and roast, stirring once halfway through, until tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Place the asparagus on a serving plate.

To make the sauce:

Combine the cornstarch and broth.

In a small saucepan, heat the broth, shallot, zest, turmeric and cream to boiling. Boil until thickened and slightly reduced, whisking the entire time.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice.

Season with salt to taste and keep warm. (Makes 1/2 cup.)

To serve:

Pour the sauce over the roasted asparagus on the serving plate.

Dinner Two

steak2

Grilled Flank Steak

For the flank steaks marinade:

  • 1/2 cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 flank steak, trimmed of excess fat

To marinate the flank steaks

Combine all the ingredients except the steak in a glass baking dish. Add the steak and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

steak1

Grill the steaks

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking.

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grates.

Remove the flank steak from the marinade and grill the steaks, covered, until grill marks form and the steaks have a nice brown sear, 4 to 5 minutes.

Turn the steaks and continue grilling until grill marks form on the other side and the steak is cooked to medium rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a steak should read 130-135°F), 3 to 4 minutes more.

Let the steak rest 10 minutes loosely covered with foil. Cut the flank steak across the grain and serve with the Greek Salad.

greeksalad2

Greek Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces, washed, and dried
  • 1 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium English cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz peperoncini (Tuscan peppers), drained & sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Place the lettuce in a large bowl and add the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, olives and onion.

Place the oil,  lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste in a small, nonreactive bowl and whisk to combine.

Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the feta and serve with pita bread.

Dinner Three

blackbean1

Black Bean Soup

Makes about 9 cups

  • 1 pound dried black beans (2 cups), rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped fine (about 3 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 10 oz can Rotel chunky diced tomatoes with mild chilies
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Early in the morning, place the beans with water to cover in a large bowl and let soak for a couple of hours. Drain and rinse the bean.s

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add onions, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic and spices; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vegetable broth.

Add enough water to keep the liquid just covering the beans. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.

Stir in the salt. Continue to cook until the soup thickens and the beans are cooked but not mushy, about 30 to 60 minutes more.

cornmuffins1

Corn Muffins

12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1⁄4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Butter a regular muffin pan.

In large bowl thoroughly combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the milk and melted butter.

Combine with the dry ingredients until just evenly moistened. Do not overmix.

Stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Immediately spoon the batter into the muffin pan.

Evenly sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the muffins.

Bake 18 -20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.



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