Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: April 2016

april-2

The chart shows what is in season where I live in the south on the Gulf Coast area of the US. We are about two months ahead of the northern states in when crops mature. For example, strawberries are in season here from February until the beginning of May, while in the north, the peak season is June.

This week I am cooking what is in season and sharing the recipes with you for stuffed artichokes, spring peas, golden beets, leftover spring vegetables from the holiday week and strawberry pie. Rhubarb is available mid-April here. The veggie dishes are a little different – time to make a change in flavoring these traditional spring vegetables. We enjoyed the changes.

april1

Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I grow so much basil during the summer that I have pesto sauce in the freezer all winter long. I had small amounts of vegetables left from the meals I served during the holiday. As a frugal cook, I do not throw anything away. These leftover vegetables can add much flavor to a simple pasta dish without a lot of preparation. I served this pasta with grilled shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought  basil pesto
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup cooked leftover spring vegetables (carrots, zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli)
  • 1 /2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

In a medium skillet, combine the pesto with enough cream to thin out the sauce. Add the leftover vegetables and warm over low heat.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Cover the skillet and heat on low until the mixture is hot. Add cheese and black pepper. Toss and serve.

peasalad

Spring Pea Salad

This salad goes well with BBQ meat or roasted salmon.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an orange, peeled and fruit segments diced
  • 1/4 of a fennel bulb, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound green peas, blanched (if fresh) or thawed (if frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a medium serving bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the red onion, peas, fennel and oranges and toss gently. Let marinate for an hour and serve at room temperature.

artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Italian sausage link, casing removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/4 cup marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes, cut sides down, in a bowl with the water. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the artichokes and place the squeezed lemon half in the bowl.

Thinly slice the other half of the lemon and set aside.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon until crumbly.

Add the minced garlic and marinara sauce and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the bread crumbs and red pepper flakes. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs absorb the sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Take the artichokes out of the water bath and drain.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open and fill each with the stuffing mixture.

Place the artichokes in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the artichokes.

Place the lemon slices on top of the artichokes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (The size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time).

Remove from the heat and serve hot or at room temperature.

goldenbeets

Golden Beets in Walnut Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 golden beets, trimmed of greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in foil and place the packages on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Bake the beets, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife pierces each with little resistance. (They may cook at different rates; remove each one when it is done.)

Place oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When it is warm, add the garlic and cook until it begins to soften. Add walnuts and continue to cook until they begin to color, about another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the beets have cooled, peel off the skins. Thinly slice the beets and arrange them in a serving dish. Pour the walnut sauce over the sliced beets and garnish with parsley.

strawberry rhubarb

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Until rhubarb is in season where you live, you can make the pie with all strawberries.

My family’s favorite pie.

  • Two 9 inch refrigerated pie crusts or you favorite pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Granulated sugar for the topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Fit one pastry sheet into a 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cut the top crust into 10 even strips on a floured board. Place the strips on top of the fruit and weave them to form a lattice top.

Brush the top crust with 1 tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let the pie cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


hamcover

So do I. There are many possibilities for using up this holiday classic. I rarely make baked ham – only when I have company and I know they like it. This year, I made Italian Baked Ham for Easter dinner. You can see the recipe here. I had plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches during the week before my visitors went home. My grandson also likes to just snack on ham. I also had plenty of leftover ham to make the following three meals that we will have in the upcoming week.

hamgratin

Ham and Potato Gratin

I served this with a green vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes or 1 lb, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan heat 1 tablespoon butter and saute the onion and garlic until they are golden. Remove to a small bowl.

In the same saucepan melt the remaining butter on medium heat. Add the flour to it and stir constantly with a whisk for about 2-3 mins until the roux is well toasted.

Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Add the salt, black pepper and pepper sauce. Continue mixing until bubbly and thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted.

Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish; top with 1/2 the ham, then 1/2 the onion mixture and half the parsley. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of paprika.

Make another layer with 1/3 of the sliced potatoes, the remaining onion mixture, parsley and ham. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon paprika.

Top with the rest of the potato, cheese sauce and the remaining paprika.

Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

hamsoup

Split Pea Soup

This soup is hearty enough for dinner with some good bread, especially pumpernickel.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups dried split peas
  • 2 quarts good quality vegetable broth or water
  • Leftover ham bone
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, diced

Directions

In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Return the peas to the stock pot and add the broth, ham bone, onions, garlic, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bone; cut off the meat, dice and return the meat to the soup. Add the salt, celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender Remove the bay leaves before serving.

hamreuben

Ham Reuben Panini

Adding a salad makes this a complete meal.

For each sandwich you will need:

  • 2 thick slices sourdough bread
  • 4 oz leftover, thinly sliced baked ham
  • 2 oz sauerkraut, drained
  • 2 slices swiss or provolone cheese
  • Russian Dressing, recipe below
  • Pickles, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the ham with a little water, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Take the ham out of the oven and unwrap it. Spread each slice of bread with Russian dressing. Layer one slice of bread of the slices of ham, sauerkraut and slices of cheese, then top the sandwich with the remaining slice of bread (dressing-side down).

Brush the bread with a little olive oil.  Place the sandwiches in a panini press and cook according to directions

Or cook on a stove top pan

Put the sandwiches in the pans and weight them with a lid or heat proof bowl topped with something heavy. Cook until the first sides are crisp and golden about 7 minutes then turn the sandwiches. Cook until the second sides are also well toasted and the cheese is melted. Lift the sandwich onto a cutting board. Cut each in half diagonally and serve with pickles.

Russian Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix well and refrigerate until needed.


potenza3

Potenza is a province in the Basilicata region of Italy. In 272 B.C. the province was conquered by the Greek army. Later in the 11th century, the area became part of the Duchy of Apulia, which was at the time ruled by the Normans. In the 13th century it became part of the Kingdom of Naples In 1861 the province was unified with the rest of Italy in the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

Potenza1

The region has suffered from innumerable earthquakes and is still a seismically active area. Although Potenza was mostly rebuilt after having being destroyed by several earthquakes in its history, the city still bears many of the signs that it existed in ancient times. The Cathedral, built in the 12th Century and renovated during the Neoclassical age, houses interesting works of art, while the Torre Guevara is an example of a Medieval castle. The Roman Villa of Mal Vaccaro is characterized by beautiful mosaics and the Edicola of San Gerardo is a temple that was built in the 19th Century to exhibit the saint’s statue. The National Archaeological Museum and the Provincial Archaeological Museum contain numerous finds that document the city’s history, as does the Archivio di Stato, with documents dating back to the 14th Century.

potenza6

The rich history of the region can also be seen in its architecture, ranging from the exquisite rock churches of the Byzantine monks to Romanesque architecture. Frescoes, paintings and sculpted objects throughout the region represent a long and beautiful artistic heritage. The historic center of Potenza is located in the upper part of the city and is accessible via escalators. The square of Mario Pagano provides the  perfect central point from which to  for explore the city. Across the square is the Via Pretoria, the famous street of Potenza, that goes from the east side to the west side of the city. Packed with bars, shops and restaurants, Via Pretoria is a vibrant hub during the day and evening.

potenza5

potenza4

potenza7

Along the Via Pretoria there are many major cultural, architectural and art historical buildings, which include the “Palazzo del Governo”, the recently restored ‘Stabile’ theater and the church of San Francesco of Assisi which was founded in 1274. The church houses the De Grasis sepulchre and a 13th century Madonna in the Byzantine style that is worth visiting. The Romanesque church of San Michele Arcangelo dating back to the 11th century has many beautiful artworks including over 500 ancient frescos, one of which depicts St. Michele slaying the dragon.

potenza8

The Lake of Pantano di Pignola spreads out into a valley surrounded by mountains. The lake was formed by an artificial dam in an area of meadows and cultivated fields. The nature reserve is home to a variety of wildlife including foxes, weasels, beach martens, hedgehogs and shrews. The habitat also provides the perfect environment for birds and the reserve is home to many beautiful species including Grey Herons, Moorhens, Egrets, Widgeons, Teals and many other species of duck, Great-Crested Grebes, Kingfishers and Lapwings.

Foods and Products of Potenza

The foundation of the local cuisine is pork: locals are expert producers of ham, sausages, capocollo, salami and pancetta. Typical dishes include cotechinata, fried pork, peperonata with pork or sanguinaccio.

Sheep and lamb are also very common and fish dishes include eel, trout and baked codfish. The first course is always a handmade pasta, such as orecchiette, cavatelli, strozzapreti, strascinate or fusilli.

Sheep’s milk cheeses include pecorino burrata, provola, manteca and cacioricotta.

The three most famous wines from the area are the red Aglianico D.O.C., the white and sparkling Moscato and the dessert wine Malvasia.

The pepperoncino pepper, known by locals as, diavlicchio (little devil) is a hot pepper that is a true symbol of the area’s cuisine. It is most often used, added to red sauces.

Some of the regional dishes:

Lucanica is a versatile sausage made with lean pork meat that can be prepared many different ways.

Ciammotta is made with fried potatoes, peppers and eggplant in tomato sauce

Piatto d’Erbe alla Lucana is similar to a vegetable stir-fry. The dish is made up of onions, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, basil and parsley that are cooked together and seasoned with olive oil.

Recipes from Potenza

potenza9

Ciammotta

Ingredients

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 potatoes
  • 5 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 onions
  • 1 garlic clove. chopped
  • 10 olives, pitted and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Directions

Slice the peppers, eggplant, potatoes and onions and sauté them separately.

Mix the vegetables together in one large pot with some of the oil used to sauté them and add the chopped garlic clove, the olives and the diced tomatoes.

Season with salt and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

potenza10

Spezzatino Di Agnello (Stewed Lamb)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of lamb, cut into cubes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • A slice of bacon or pancetta
  • A few leaves of sage, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • White wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Heat a little olive oil with the chopped bacon, the garlic, the sage leaves and the rosemary in a large skillet with a cover.

Add the meat and season with salt and pepper. Add a little wine to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over low heat, covered until the meat is tender.add more wine if needed to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.

potenza11

Vegetable Calzone

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lbs (800 grams) pizza dough
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ¼ oz (40 g) raisins
  • 2 ¼ lbs (1 kg) Swiss chard, cut into strips
  • 1 dried chili pepper

Directions
Soften the raisins in warm water, drain and squeeze.

Mix the chard, raisins, chopped chili pepper, salt and pepper with a little olive oil to moisten.

Roll the dough out into a thin round about the size of a pizza. Place the dough on a large greased pizza pan.

Spread the greens over one half of the dough. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold the uncovered half of the dough up and over the greens. Seal the edges.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F (200 ° C) for 25 minutes.

potenza12

Sweet Lasagna

From  Erica De Mane, a chef, food writer and teacher who specializes in southern Italian cooking.

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, the leaves lightly chopped

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A splash of brandy or cognac
  • Two 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, chopped, one can drained
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A few basil leaves, lightly chopped

Lasagna

  • 3/4 pound homemade or very thin store-bought, sheets of fresh lasagna
  • Salt
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • A large handful of basil leaves, lightly chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filling. It should be slightly sweet but with a salty edge from the cheese. Be liberal with the black pepper; it serves to balance out the sweet spices.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and the nutmeg, and sauté until the shallots are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the splash of brandy or cognac, letting it boil away. Add the tomatoes, and season with salt and black pepper. Let the sauce bubble, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. It will have thickened slightly but still have a fresh taste and bright color. Add the basil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Set up a large pot of pasta-cooking water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Boil the lasagna sheets, a few at a time, until just tender. Scoop them from the water with a large strainer spoon and into a colander. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking and lay them out on kitchen towels.

Lightly oil an approximately 9-by-12-inch baking dish (you’ll want it 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep). Put down a layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of pasta. Add a layer of the ricotta mix and then sprinkle on some almonds, some parmigiano cheese and then some of the basil.

Put down another layer of pasta and cover it with tomato sauce. Make another pasta layer and repeat the ricotta, almond, parmigiano and basil pattern. Repeat this pattern (you’ll probably get four layers of pasta), finishing with a layer of pasta, a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano cheese.

Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake, uncovered, until bubbling and crisp around the edges, about 30 minutes. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving.

potenzamap

 



%d bloggers like this: