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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2016

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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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I make pizza just about every week at our house because I think my husband loves pizza more than any other food. It is also an economical dish and usually healthy. Between the two of us, we get 3 meals out of one pizza: two dinners and one lunch. I usually try to make our pizzas with seasonal vegetables because they make the most tasty pizzas, in my opinion. Once in awhile, we will splurge and go for the deep-dish Chicago style sausage pizza. Over the past two months, I have made the following pizzas with veggies I had on hand and I am sharing those recipes with you. The sausage pizza was a treat for my husband’s birthday.

Use your favorite pizza dough or use my easy to make no knead dough. The recipe makes enough for three pizzas and the dough stores beautifully in the freezer. I like this recipe more than any other I have tried. The overnight refrigeration adds to the dough’s great flavor and makes a crunchy but tender crust.

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Easy No Knead Pizza Dough

Ingredients for the dough

  • 3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 8 cups 00 Italian Style flour or 7 ½ cups bread flour

Directions for making the pizza dough:

Pour the water into a 5 quart bowl or lidded food container. Add yeast and salt to the water.

Measure the flour with the “scoop and sweep” method. (Dip cup into flour and scoop it up. Level the cup with the back of a knife.)

Add all the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. You only need to mix it until all ingredients are combined. No kneading is necessary. (The dough will be very moist and will actually conform to the shape of the container you put it in.)

Cover, but don’t seal the lid tightly, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it begins to flatten on the top (about 2 hours).

DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! This method is designed to retain as much gas in the dough as possible. After rising, refrigerate the dough in the container and use the dough over the next 14 days. Once it’s refrigerated the dough will collapse slightly and it will not rise again in the container — that’s normal.

Directions for making pizza:

Pull up and cut off a 1 1/3 pound piece of dough from the container of refrigerated pizza dough. My pizza pans are large, so I usually get 3 pizzas from a batch of dough.

Extra dough may also be frozen. I freeze two portions of dough, individually, in freezer ziplock bags. To use, defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator.

Hold the dough in your hands and dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.

Form a ball, by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides and rotating the dough a quarter-turn as you go.

Place the ball in an oiled pizza pan and press and stretch the dough to the edges of the pan.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Place an oven rack on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

After the dough has rested, add the toppings as indicated below.

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Roasted Broccoli Rabe and Tomato Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the broccoli rabe, tomatoes and shallots with the olive oil to thoroughly coat. Sprinkle lightly with some salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetables onto 2 large baking sheets.

Roast until the tomatoes have deflated and the broccoli rabe is brown around the edges and cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Divide the mixture in half. Use one half of the roasted vegetables for the pizza and the other half as a side dish for another dinner.

For the Pizza:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • Half of the roasted vegetables
  • 8 oz mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup pitted black olives, cut in half

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the sliced mozzarella on top of the dough. Arrange the roasted vegetables evenly over the cheese. Do the same with the sliced olives.

Drop tablespoons of ricotta cheese over the vegetables.

Place the pizza pan on the bottom rack in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

IMG_0157

Pizza with Artichoke Hearts, Fontina Cheese and Tomato

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted (or use canned if frozen are not available)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 thinly sliced plum tomatoes
  • 8 oz sliced Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cook the defrosted artichokes in the olive oil with the garlic, onion and the juice of one lemon until softened and the onions are caramelized. Add the oregano and black pepper.

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Place the sliced Fontina on top of the dough. cover the Fontina layer with the shredded mozzarella cheese and then the Parmesan cheese.

Arrange the artichoke mixture evenly over the cheese. Do the same with the sliced tomatoes.

Place the pizza pan on the bottom rack in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

deepdishsausagepizza

Deep-Dish Sausage Onion Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of pizza dough at room temperature
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 8 ounces Italian fennel sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese

Directions

Generously grease a 10-inch springform pan with oil. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with cornmeal.

Place the pizza dough in the prepared pan. Using oiled hands, press and spread the dough evenly over the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (30 to 35 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the filling:

In a medium skillet cook sausage and onions over medium-high heat until brown, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Drain in a mesh (or one with small holes) colander. Using paper towels, pat sausage and, then, wipe out the skillet to remove additional fat.

Return the sausage and onions to the skillet and stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook and stir until heated through.

To assemble the pizza:

Arrange the mozzarella cheese slices over the bottom of the dough lined pan.

Spoon the filling over the cheese and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the edge of the crust is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbly.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the side of the springform pan and cut the pizza into wedges.


 

A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets, gingerbread architecture, water sports, and for “the” freshest locally caught fish. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but to a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the streets are lit with vibrant sidewalk cafes that lure in passersby’s with the delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.

key west street

The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviable temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful sea backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.

Paul Menta

As a guide to the restaurant and seafood landscape, Paul Menta can tell you all there is to know about the area. A professional chef, community advocate, and pro kite surfer, Paul is the perfect person to tell you about the best secret dining spots in Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all that Key West has to offer.

Paul Menta

His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish, is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home cooks, have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, oysters, and lobster that come to the docks each day. As Paul describes it,” the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant”.  Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety, thus avoiding over fishing a specific species.

Key West 2

Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. The fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem. “Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants,” says Paul.

If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, Paul suggests visiting The Stone Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, but they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. Housed in a resort built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, home to The Stone Crab, which has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood that the restaurant catches themselves. Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stone Crab!

Key West 7

For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Paul recommends Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, to take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around. Whether you are an avid deep-sea fisherman or fisher-woman or this is your first time, Captain Moe will take you on a great adventure, not just a boat ride. From sailfish to tuna to grouper, they will lead you to the right spot.

To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where Paul himself will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood. “Being a chef and commercial fisherman I can tell you there is no better teacher of how to use, care for, store, cook and eat a product than a fishermen. They have ideas and techniques that most chefs would die for….but they have to ask…..so we spread the word to them,” says Paul.

Key West 4

When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get at home. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and, as of late, the Lion Fish. Paul’s favorite? The Hogfish. This fish is caught by spear fishing, which is a fun challenge to try. Speared by yourself or someone else, Paul suggests serving the fish whole and he affectionately calls it the “Key West Turkey”, because it can be stuffed with lobster, onions, and herbs.

While you may have heard of Key West’s conch fritters, which is fried conch meat that is actually native to the Caribbean, Paul prefers to make grouper fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty. Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions, carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning made by the Key West Spice Company and it contains celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is a simple preparation, but fresh grouper doesn’t need overpowering flavors. Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them in a sandwich or as an appetizer sitting by the beautiful water. You will find his recipe below:

IMG_1728

Grouper Fritters

Author: Paul Menta
Ingredients
  • 1 pound grouper
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Key Lime juice
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Coconut oil, for frying
Directions
Chop the grouper with a knife or use a food processor.

Finely dice the onions and carrots and mix with the grouper.

Add the Key West seafood seasoning.

In a medium bowl mix together the egg yolk and the key lime juice.

Add the flour and mix until a batter forms.

Use a tablespoon to make balls and fry the grouper balls in coconut oil or bake them in the oven on a sheet tray until brown. Serve with your favorite dip or sauce.

To make the grouper mixture into a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, form the mixture into larger patties or rounds and cook as described above.

IMG_0154

Key West Inspired: Strawberry Salad with Coconut Milk Dressing

Since it is strawberry season in Florida now, I decided to make a Key West inspired strawberry salad to add to this post. I think the recipe I created is a great example of the type of local flavors, ingredients and good eating that you will find in Key West. This salad is also a great accompaniment to some wonderful grilled Key West Pink Shrimp.

Ingredients

  • One head Butter or Bibb Lettuce
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Half of a large or one small cucumber, unpeeled
  • Lime juice

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup regular coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flavored Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the salad.

For the salad:

Wash and dry the lettuce. Place the lettuce cups on a serving plate. Leave space on the serving plate for a small bowl that can hold the dressing.

Remove the strawberry leaves, wash the strawberries and place them on paper towels to dry.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and cut each half into one inch pieces.

Cut the peeled avocado into one inch chunks and squeeze lime juice over them to prevent browning while you make the salad.

Arrange the strawberries, cucumber pieces and avocado attractively in the lettuce cups. Pour the Coconut dressing into the bowl on the serving plate.

Guests can help themselves to a lettuce cup and drizzle some of the dressing over the salad.

Key West

This post is written in collaboration with The Florida Keys and Key West and Honest Cooking Magazine.


Amalfi-Coast-Beach

Amalfi-Coast-Beach

Italy is surrounded by the sea where there is an abundance of fresh fish. Seafood is a very important part of the Italian cuisine and fresh seafood is the key to the best tasting Italian meals. Regional recipes for salt-water fish—and sometimes for fresh-water fish from Italy’s many lakes, rivers, and streams—are some of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine. One of the reasons that the Mediterranean people and their diet is so healthy is that they eat a lot more fish than they eat meat. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for the brain and heart health.

Adding Italian flavors to your fish, makes dinner so much more interesting. Try these out next time you are cooking fish.

seafood1

Shrimp Bruschetta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large peeled fresh or frozen (thawed) cooked shrimp
  • 1 pint yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup tomato (marinara) sauce
  • 1 small baguette or small loaf of Italian bread
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Remove the tails from the shrimp, if present. Combine the shrimp, tomatoes, parsley and marinara sauce in a saucepan and heat just until warm.

Preheat the broiler.

Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and then crosswise, so you have four pieces. Place the bread on a baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes or until light, golden brown.

Spread the ricotta on the toasted bread and top with the warmed shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes and parsley before serving.

seafood2

Tuna Club Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup creamy Italian salad dressing, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained
  • One 12 ounce can solid white tuna, drained and broken in chunks
  • One 8 3/4 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 12 extra-thin slices sandwich bread, lightly toasted
  • Butter head lettuce leaves

Directions

For the roasted red pepper sauce:

In a blender container combine the salad dressing and half the roasted red sweet peppers; process until nearly smooth.

For tuna filling:

Chop the remaining peppers. In a mixing bowl combine the chopped peppers with the tuna, corn and 1/4 cup of the roasted red pepper sauce.

For each club sandwich: spread two slices of toasted bread with tuna filling, layer with lettuce leaves, stack the two slices, then top with a third slice of toast.

Cut in half diagonally. Serve with remaining roasted red pepper sauce as a dipping sauce.

Light Creamy Italian Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a jar or mixing bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Use immediately or store in a jar in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

seafood4

Sea Bass with Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper

Fish and Salad

  • 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, thinly sliced and then cut into thin strips (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen sea bass or grouper fillets, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Fresh fennel tops

Directions

To make the dressing:

In a screw-top jar, combine vinegar, oil, oregano, mustard, the 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash black pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the dressing in a small container with a cover and chill until serving time.

For the salad:

In a large bowl, combine the fennel strips and carrot. Pour the remaining dressing over the fennel mixture. Toss lightly to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

For the fish:

Pat  the fish dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, stir together the crushed fennel seeds, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish.

Heat a stove top grill ( or use the broiler).

Grill for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.  Carefully turn fish once halfway through grilling.

Drizzle the reserved 1 tablespoon dressing over the grilled fish. Cut the fish into four pieces and serve with the fennel salad. Garnish with fennel tops.

seafood3

Pasta Bowl

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh white fish fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces dried pappardelle pasta (wide noodles)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling.

Trim zucchini. Trim and peel carrot. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini and carrot lengthwise into thin ribbons. Set aside.

Cook pappardelle pasta al dente according to the package directions and add the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and broccoli.

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook the fillets about three minutes on each side. Place on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, combine the wine, broth, Italian seasoning, the salt and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Simmer, uncovered, about 4 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the reserved 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Bring back to boiling.

Add drained pasta, broccoli and vegetable ribbons to the skillet. Gently cook and stir until the pasta is coated with the sauce mixture and thickens slightly.

Stir in the cherry tomatoes, the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and half of the parsley. Heat until the cheese is incorporated and the tomatoes are slightly softened.

Divide pasta, vegetables and sauce into four individual pasta bowls. Break fish into large chunks and place on top of each pasta serving. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

seafood5

Swordfish with Citrus Salsa

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen swordfish or tuna steaks, cut 1 inch thick and divided into 4 steaks
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 blood oranges or red grapefruit
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • Asparagus

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a small saucepan cook the green onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil for 1 to 2 minutes or until the onions soften. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Crumble saffron threads into the mixture; stir. Let stand to infuse the saffron.

Cut a thin slice from one end of each orange or grapefruit and the lemon, so the fruit will sit level. Working on a cutting board, cut down from the top of the fruit to remove the peel and white part of the rind.

Working over a bowl to catch the juices, remove the fruit sections by cutting into the center of the fruit between one section and the membrane; cut along the other side of each section next to the membrane to free the section. Remove seeds.

Add saffron mixture to the bowl with the fruit sections and juices. Stir in the mint, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Lightly brush both sides of the swordfish steaks with the remaining olive oil; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Grill fish on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish flakes when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking time.  Or use a stove top grill or a broiler.

Add some asparagus spears to the grill with the fish. Turn the asparagus several times during the grilling time.

Gently stir fruit-mint mixture to combine and spoon over the fish. Serve the asparagus on the side.



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