Not only are there seasons for fruits and vegetables but fish and shellfish have seasons also. It is good to know that you can buy locally caught seafood that is in season near where you live or close to it. My local market is located right on the Gulf and the boats come in every day with fresh, seasonal fish. It is a pleasure to shop in such a fine market.
Here is a chart to help you buy in season fish locally.
In my area, the Gulf waters warm up in April. Along with the warm water, a host of fish appear with the temperature increase, such as Cobia, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Scallops, Flounder, Speckled Trout, Tuna, Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, Amberjack and Hard-Shell Crabs. Here are a few of our favorite fish dinners.
Spinach Pesto is delicious with this fish.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh redfish fillets (or any white fish fillets), ounces each
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Combine the flour, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a large shallow plate.
Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels.
Heat the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until melted.
Dredge the fish fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes.
Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side.
While the second side cooks, sprinkle the fish with the lemon juice and chopped parsley.
Carefully put the fish fillets on warm plates.
Serve the fish topped with Spinach Pesto, recipe below.
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.
With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy.
Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. This sauce freezes well.
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
6 large sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves
In medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat.
Season the scallops with the Italian seasoning.
Sauté the scallops 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and keep warm by covering with a piece of foil.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the garlic
When the garlic has softened, add the spinach.
Sauté the spinach until wilted.
Add the grated Parmesan, cream, salt and pepper, mix and heat until the cheese and cream are hot.
Divide the spinach mixture between two serving dishes and top each plate with 3 scallops.
Garnish the scallops with the chopped herbs.
I like to serve the kabobs over linguine dressed with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped basil.
4 metal, bamboo or wooden skewers
1 lb fresh tuna fillet (1 inch thick)—cut into 16 even-sized cubes
1 small zucchini—cut into diagonal slices
Onion slices—cut into 16 even-sized squares
2 bell peppers—cut into 16 even-sized squares
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus lemon wedges for serving)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic—grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Place the tuna cubes, zucchini, onion and bell pepper in a glass baking dish.
Mix together the remaining ingredients in a small measuring cup until well combined.
Pour over the tuna and vegetables in the baking dish.
Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour, turning the mixture halfway through marinating.
Divide the mixture evenly among 4 skewers and reserve the marinade.
Cook the skewers on a hot grill for about 10 minutes until cooked through, turning and brushing regularly with the marinade.
Serve the skewers with lemon wedges.
I often see photos of pizza with salad on top and I had been wanting to try something similar. So, keeping with what is in season, my pizza is made with onions, mushrooms and arugula salad. Serve this pizza with marinated olives and sliced tomatoes. And, don’t forget dessert!
1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
Half a large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
½ cup feta cheese
1 cup arugula
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Spread the pizza dough in a greased pizza pan.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute and add the mushrooms.
Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until all the mushroom liquid is absorbed.
Spread the sliced mozzarella on top of the pizza dough. Spread the mushrooms over the cheese.
Sprinkle the feta on top of the mushrooms.
Bake the pizza until crispy and brown on the edges.
Mix the arugula with the lemon juice.
As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the arugula salad and freshly ground black pepper.
Cut and serve.
Italian Almond Carrot Cake (Torta di Carote)
This cake is gluten-free and made with olive oil. It is not your traditional American carrot cake.
You can also buy the carrots shredded from the supermarket.
1/2 cup regular olive oil, not extra-virgin
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
1 cup mascarpone
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons rum
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the base of a 9 inch springform pan with a parchment paper cut to fit the bottom. Coat with olive oil spray.
Add the pine nuts to a small dry pan and toast them over low heat.
Grate the carrots in a food processor or with a coarse grater, and put them on a double layer of paper towels. Wrap the towels around the carrots to soak up the excess liquid.
Using the whisk attachment in an electric mixer, combine the sugar and olive oil until creamy.
Whisk in the vanilla and eggs. Fold in the almond meal/flour, nutmeg, grated carrots, toasted pine nuts the lemon zest and lemon juice.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be not be very high in the pan.
Bake the cake until the top is risen and golden and a cake tester comes almost clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest on a rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides. Let cool until ready to serve. Transfer the cake to a serving platter.
Combine the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar and rum in a small bowl. Slice the cake and serve with the mascarpone cream.
With family visiting for the holidays, I had plenty of leftovers to use up. Leftover vegetable dishes can become salads, such as my Green Bean Salad recipe. Leftover pork and steak can become new entrees. Leftover Tzatziki Sauce needed a new entre dish to accompany, so a middle eastern chicken dish is perfect. Leftover asparagus is always good in an omelet or a quiche. So many new meals from leftovers. Give your leftovers a makeover.
Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine
Serve this pasta with a Green Bean Salad.
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large (16-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped plum tomato
4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute.
Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and salt. Turn the shrimp over once and cook until pink on all sides.
Stir in pasta and Parmesan cheese; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.
Place pasta mixture in individual heated pasta bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.
Green Bean Radish Salad
You can also use leftover cooked green beans for this salad.
1 pound green beans, trimmed
15 large red radishes, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Place the radishes and the cooled beans in a serving bowl .
Combine the olive oil, shallots, vinegar and lemon juice in a large measuring cup.
Pour over the radishes and green beans and toss to coat.
Let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, tossing occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Chicken Shawarma Pitas
Serve with a Greek Salad.
1 cup finely diced peeled and seeded cucumber
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon za’atar spice mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pita breads or lavash
1 small tomato, chopped
Thinly sliced romaine lettuce
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium.
Stir cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Combine garlic, za’atar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl.
Slice chicken breast crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; toss with the spice mixture to coat.
Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine.
Grill the chicken on a stove top grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Spread 1/4 cup of the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a pita (or lavash) and top with one-half of the chicken, tomato and lettuce.
Fold like a taco (or roll closed, if using lavash). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Serve with Homemade Tomato Soup
1/2 cup leftover grilled pork tenderloin; thinly sliced
1 loaf Cuban or Italian bread or rolls
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 oz ham; thinly sliced
Yellow ballpark mustard
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices Provolone cheese
Dill pickle rounds
1/4 cup diced jarred banana peppers
Slice bread in half lengthwise and then in half horizontally. Butter the outside of the bread.
Spread mustard on the insides of the bread and layer each sandwich with 1/2 of remaining ingredients. Set tops of rolls in place and press down to flatten sandwiches.
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat for 4 minutes.
Brush the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter and place them in the skillet buttered side down.
Brush the bottoms of the rolls with butter and use the preheated pot to compress the sandwiches for 15 to 20 seconds.
Cook (keeping the pot on the sandwiches but no longer pressing down) until the first side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pot, turn the sandwiches over, replace the pot on top of the sandwiches, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, light green and white portions
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1/2 lb leftover cooked asparagus, cut into one inch lengths
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce tube refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin and drained on paper towels
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften,4- 5 minutes.
Add the shallots and saute for another 3 minutes.
Add the Italian seasoning, asparagus, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.
Stir and remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs.
Pat the crescent roll dough into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the sliced, drained tomatoes over the dough.
Spread the asparagus mixture over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Steak Quesadilla with Homemade Salsa
4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 ounces cooked steak, sliced thin
Homemade salsa, recipe below
Sour cream, optional
Brush a large frying pan with olive oil and heat the pan. Lay a tortilla on the bottom of the pan.
Cover evenly with one half of the steak, onion, jalapenos and cheese. Top with another tortilla shell.
Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the bottom tortilla begins to lightly brown and then use a wide spatula to turn the quesadilla over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into quarters and serve with salsa and sour cream.
One 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime juice
A few dashes chipotle Tabasco sauce
Mix together and chill.
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for education about environmental issues. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
In honor of this idea, our family likes to add a new plant or tree in our garden every year. In the past, we have added a redbud tree, a palm tree, a star magnolia tree, a cypress tree, a lemon tree, a maple tree and, this year, a fig tree.
Figs are self-fruiting, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can grow be 15 to 30 feet tall. I don’t think I will see this in my lifetime, though. Figs can vary in size, shape, flavor, texture and time of harvest and can be black, green, brown, violet, yellow or purple in color.
Fig trees thrive in the heat of the southern US and Europe. Plant near a wall with southern exposure in the Middle South so they can benefit from reflected heat. In the areas with colder temperatures, plant cold-hardy selections, such as Brown Turkey and Celeste. You can grow figs in big pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. During the first year, as the plants become established, water regularly and mulch. Once established, figs can be very drought tolerant. Fertilize with Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) in late winter and early spring.
Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins K and B6.
Figs must be allowed to ripen completely on the tree before picking. They can be enjoyed fresh or dried.
Figs can be eaten whole without any seasonings. They are an excellent addition to salads, cakes and ice-cream. Dried figs can be added to soups, stews or to enrich poultry, venison, lamb dishes.
I am looking forward to making my favorite fig recipes with my own home grown figs in the future.
Fresh Fig Tart
One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.
Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.
Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces dried figs, diced small
2 cups heavy cream, cold
¼ cup honey
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.
In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.
Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.
Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Small-Batch Fig Jam
Makes about 2 ½ cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.
Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
To test for jam stage, place a small amount on a chilled plate. Tilt the plate and the preserves should move sluggishly.
(If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.
Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.
Sourdough Potato Bread
Adding potato to a bread recipe can make it softer and more moist, which is what you want for a great tasting sandwich bread. This recipe makes excellent sandwich bread, as well as, toast. Make an egg salad sandwich on this bread-so good.
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 large russet (baking) potato, cooked
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove the skin from the baked potato and mash. Set aside.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast, bread flour and sugar.
In a large measuring cup or medium mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, melted butter, milk, eggs, sourdough starter and salt. Pour into the flour mixture in the mixer bowl.
Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients until a dough forms. Switch to the a dough hook and knead the dough until smooth and elastic (10 minutes).
Place the dough in greased bowl, turning over to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled ( 2 hours)
Punch dough down. Knead briefly and divide in half.
Shape each half into a smooth ball and then into a loaf. Place the shaped dough in 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pans.
Cover loaves and let rise until almost doubled (1 hour)
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 min. or until loaves are richly browned. Let cool on wire racks.
Makes 2 large loaves.
Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, we often had crumb buns on Sunday morning. These crumb buns had a distinctive taste and plenty of crumbs – the best part. When I moved away from the area, I realized the rest of the US did not know what a really good crumb bun was all about. At least not in my view. So for many years, I kept trying different recipes until I came up with the right proportions and the right ingredients to make what I remember as the best tasting crumb bun. I am sharing my recipe with you.
New York Style Crumb Cake
8 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/4 cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for for sprinkling on the finished cake
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.
To make the topping:
Mix all of the topping ingredients until medium crumbs form. I use my hands. Set aside.
To make the cake:
In an electric mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl between additions.
Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk, mixing gently to combine and scraping the bowl after each addition.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
Squeeze the topping together in small clumps and sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cake batter.
Cover the entire top of the cake.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
When the cake is completely cool, dust it with confectioners’ sugar. To serve cut into squares.
We must give credit to Sicily for giving us some delicious desserts made with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is cooked twice, so the name “ricotta means” re-cooked. The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. When the whey is reheated (re-cooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain, and this is called ricotta cheese.The foam of the whey when it is being recooked is called zabbina in Sicilian.
According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, wrote that during the reign of the Sicilian King Frederick II, in the early thirteenth century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. The first depiction of the making of ricotta is found in an illustration in the medical treatise known as the Tacuinum sanitatis, from the eleventh century. (Pictured above.)
Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts, especially for the holidays. Here is one that we like quite a bit.
Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven.
Combine the crust ingredients. Press evenly over the bottom and 1-1/2-inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.
Stir the sugar and flour together and then add to the ricotta. Mix thoroughly into the ricotta.
Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours tor 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color.
Make sure the center is fairly firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill until serving time.
Weather here in the South is perfect grilling weather and perfect for dining out on the patio. We have guests for dinner and grilling steak with plenty of Mediterranean flavors is my choice for the menu. When I grill steak, I often make extra so that the leftovers can be used for a salad or Mexican dishes.
When I cook beef, I prefer grass-fed organic meat. As such the cooking technique is a little different. The steak benefits from being brushed with olive oil and cooked a much shorter time than regular beef. Using these tips makes for a delicious grilled steak.
Grilled Steak with Balsamic Glaze
Sliced Tomatoes with Italian dressing and basil
Grilled Ribeye Steak
1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for the steaks
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups arugula
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Simmer the balsamic vinegar in a small skillet over low heat until thickened. Add the shallots, 1/4 cup oil and crushed red pepper. Return to a simmer and remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the parsley, capers and thyme.
Rub both sides of steaks with olive oil. Combine the minced garlic, paprika, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of the steaks. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Prepare an outdoor barbecue for medium-high heat. Brush the grill rack with oil.
Grill the steaks until cooked to your desired degree of doneness, but they are best if cooked for about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Line a serving plate or individual plates with arugula and place the cooked steaks on top. Spoon the glaze over the steaks and arugula. Sprinkle with the shaved cheese and serve.
This is the second post in the series Cooking the Mediterranean Countries. You can read the first post with this link.
Europe’s exploration of the world began in the 15th century and it was Portugal who pioneered what came to be known as the “Age of Discovery”. Portugal was the first to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast of Africa and the first to colonize the Azores and other nearby islands. In 1488, Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias, was the first to sail around the southern tip of Africa and in 1498 his countryman, Vasco da Gama, repeated the trip, making it as far as India. Portugal would establish ports as far west as Brazil, as far east as Japan and along the coasts of Africa, India and China. There were several reasons for the Portuguese to explore the world via the sea, but the overriding purpose was to discover a sea route around Africa to the east, with its rich promise of trade in valuable spices.
When Ancel Keys and his team of researchers studied and characterized the Mediterranean diet and compared it with the eating habits of most of the developed countries during that time period, they identified it as the “Diet of the Poor”. According to Portuguese gastronomist, Maria de Lourdes Modesto and Keys, Portugal was included in their observations and studies, and Keys considered Portugal to have a pure “Mediterranean” diet. However, Salazar, the leader of Portugal at the time, did not want the name of Portugal included in the “diet of the poor”.
While Portugal’s shores are technically not on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is considered to have a typical Mediterranean diet. The basics of the Portuguese diet include vegetables, fruit, good quality bread, unprocessed cereals, dried and fresh legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, etc.), dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, raisins, etc.), olive oil as the main source of fat and seafood instead of red meat.
A Portuguese breakfast often consists of fresh bread, cheese or jam, accompanied with coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine) is a very popular breakfast beverage.
Lunch, often lasting over an hour, is served between noon and 2 o’clock or between 1 and 3 o’clock, and dinner is generally served late, around 8 o’clock in the evening. There are usually three main courses for lunch and dinner. Soup is usually the first course. A well-known Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage) There are a wide variety of cheeses, usually made from the milk of sheep, goats or cows. The most famous are queijo da serra from the region of Serra da Estrela, Queijo São Jorge from the Portuguese island of São Jorge and Requeijão.
Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Fish is served grilled, boiled, poached, simmered, fried, stewed (often in clay pot), roasted or steamed. Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic was developed before the invention of refrigeration. Simpler fish dishes are often flavored with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes and meat was not often on the Portuguese table. When meat is eaten it is often in a dish with other ingredients. A typical way Portuguese eat meat is in a dish is called cozido à portuguesa, which somewhat parallels the French pot au feu or the New England boiled dinner.
Typical desserts include arroz doce (rice pudding decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard.
Some Traditional Portuguese Dishes
COZIDO A PORTUGUESA
Portuguese stew is the perfect example of the importance of using all the meat an animal can provide. This stew can include beef, pork, chicken and a variety of pork derivatives such as blood sausages and smoked pork parts.
The most traditional of Portuguese soups is simply: onions, potatoes and kale or cabbage, cooked with garlic and olive oil in a clay pot. This soup would normally be served with a slice of “linguica” ( smoked pork sausage) and cornbread (broa).
BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU
These codfish fritters can be eaten as a starter or snack or along with rice and salad as a main dish. The fritters are made of shredded codfish, potatoes, eggs and parsley and cooked until crispy.
ALHEIRA DE MIRANDELA
Alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage made from meats that may include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit, compacted together with bread. If you have “alheira de caça” it means that it will only have game meat. This unusual sausage was created by the Jewish residents in Portugal when they were forced to convert to Christianity. Their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork but by preparing this sausage looking dish, they could easily fool others. The dish has become traditional throughout Portugal.
Charcoal-grilled sardines are the most typical dish served in Lisbon. You can eat it in restaurants or from a street vendor during the Santo António festivities in June. They are most often served on top of a slice of cornbread, or with a roasted pepper salad or boiled vegetables.
Cook Portuguese Style Recipes At Home
Caldeirada (Portuguese Fish Stew)
2 onions, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced (red or green)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 laurel leaf (bay leaf)
2 lbs (1 kg) fish ( chose from various kinds, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, skate, sea bass, monkfish, hake, haddock, etc.)
6 large potatoes, sliced
4-5 saffron threads
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
In a large pot put layers of onions, tomatoes, fish, peppers and potatoes.
Continue to make layers until all the ingredients are used. Place the parsley, laurel leaf, saffron and salt on top.
Add the wine, water and olive oil.
Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. Shake the pan once in a while.
DO NOT STIR, just shake the pan.
Clams With Chouriço (Portuguese Sausage)
3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
7 ounces chouriço sausage, sliced
1 sliced leeks or onion
1 chili pepper, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slice, for garnish
In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chouriço until lightly browned.
Add the leeks, chili, bay leaf and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
Add the wine, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Add the clams cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes until all the clams are opened.
Throw out any that do not open. Garnish with lemons and parsley.
Serve with bread to soak up the juices.
Portuguese Cornbread (Broa)
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast
1 ½ – 2 cups bread flour
Grind cornmeal to a powder in a food processor. You may skip this step, but the bread will not be as smooth.
Mix 1 cup of powdered cornmeal, salt and water until smooth.
Add olive oil and cool to lukewarm.
Blend in the yeast. Gradually add the remaining cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, mixing constantly.
Add more flour if the dough is still sticky. Knead until firm.
Let rise in a greased bowl until double in volume.
Shape into round loaf and let rise until double.
Bake at 350 degree Fs for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Grilled Red Snapper with Parsley Sauce
1 whole red snapper (2.2 lb or 1 kg), cleaned, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, mince
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea or coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
4 tbsp (60 mL) minced red onion
½ cup (125 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (30 mL) capers
1 garlic clove, chopped
Preheat a barbecue or broiler until hot.
Make the parsley sauce in a bowl by whisking together the oil, vinegar, onion, parsley, capers and garlic. Set aside.
Season the fish with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and brush or drizzle with oil.
Grill or broil the fish for five minutes on each side. Transfer to a heated platter, spread with parsley sauce and serve.
Portuguese Rice Pudding, Arroz Doce
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel of one lemon cut into long strips (avoid as much of the white pith as possible)
1 cup short-grain rice (arborio is a good choice)
2 cups hot milk (you can substitute some of this with cream, if you like, for a richer consistency and flavor)
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top
Place the water, salt and lemon peel into a medium pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and allow the water to simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lemon peel from the water with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the rice to the water and bring it back up to a boil.
Then reduce it to a simmer and allow the rice to absorb all of the water (about 10 minutes).
Slowly add the hot milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, to the rice mixture. After each addition, allow the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next batch of milk.
Stir frequently and keep the heat at low, so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.
Pour the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.
Chill before serving.
People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, however, Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues outside of the Middle East in Ostia Antica (near Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD) there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout Italy.
There are differences in what is considered Kosher in various Jewish traditions. For example, the Ashkenazim consider rice to be chametz, or leavened, and therefore forbid it, while allowing chocolate, cheese and other dairy products. The Italkim and Sephardim instead allow rice, but consider chocolate and dairy products to be chametz, and thus forbidden.
Jewish cuisine through the centuries influenced modern-day Italian cuisine. Wild radicchio flavored with garlic, herb salads, omelettes, pies made with chard, spinach, leeks, marinated cabbage, turnips, eggplant, artichokes, fava beans, polenta chestnuts and raisins are just some of the ingredients contributed by the Jewish immigrants.
Here are some recipes suitable for Passover with Italian Jewish influences.
Tomato Soup with Rice
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 medium carrot, slice
1 tablespoon olive oil
26 oz container Italian chopped tomatoes (such as Pomi- no salt or sugar added)
8 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onion, celery and carrots in oil until softened but not browned.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining chicken broth and rice. Season with salt, thyme and pepper.
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.
Honey Lemon Artichokes
1 large lemon, cut in quarters, plus the freshly squeezed juice from 2 or 3 lemons to equal 1/2 cup
4 large globe artichokes (12 to 14 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 medium roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice
Fill a very large bowl with cold water; squeeze a few of the lemon quarters into the water, then place them in the bowl.
Rinse the artichokes. Snap off or use kitchen shears to trim all the pointed outer leaves and then slice off the center leaves at the top.
Leave 1 to 2 inches of stem attached to each artichoke; cut off the rest and discard.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove a thin layer from the remaining stems.
Working quickly so the artichokes don’t discolor, use a grapefruit spoon or a melon-ball scoop to remove the choke, or thistle part, in the center of each artichoke, making sure to remove all fibers.
Quickly transfer each trimmed artichoke to the bowl of lemon water.
Once all the artichokes are trimmed, work with them one at a time, cutting them in half and then again, so each artichoke is quartered.
Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
Add the artichokes cut side down, fitting them snugly into the pan.
Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, re-positioning the artichokes in the pan as needed so each one picks up golden color.
Season lightly with salt.
Stir in the lemon juice, honey and water; cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
The liquid should thicken slightly and the artichokes will be tender.
Transfer to a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the artichokes.
Garnish with the parsley and red bell pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Braised Chicken and Eggplant
3 lbs chicken pieces; skinned/fat removed
Salt and pepper; to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion; halved, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1½ lbs eggplant; unpeeled, cubed
½ lb. fresh Roma tomatoes; cored, cubed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken on each side.
Remove the chicken from the skillet to a bowl or platter. Don’t clean the skillet.
Add the onion, garlic and eggplant. Cook the vegetables and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
Add bay leaf and hot pepper flakes. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet. Baste with the sauce.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked. Discard the bay leaf before serving and sprinkle with basil.
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic
2 pounds fingerling or small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash and pat dry the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Toss the potatoes making sure to coat them well with the herbs and oil.
Put them onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, gently moving them around on the pan halfway through cooking.
Serve at once garnished with more fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil.
Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds (4 ounces)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped (2 3/4 ounces)
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
8 large eggs, separated
In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest with 1/2 cup of water.
Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat; let steep.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-by-3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; oil the paper.
Evenly coat the bottom and sides with the matzo meal, tapping out any excess. Refrigerate the pan.
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the granulated sugar, almonds, lemon zest and egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake.
Remove the pan sides and invert the cake onto a wire rack.
Peel off the parchment and let the cake cool to room temperature.
Reheat and strain the syrup. Transfer the cake to a plate and prick all over with a fork.
Pour the syrup evenly over the cake and set aside at room temperature for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake and serve.