Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: June 2020

America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.

So how did we come by the cheesesteak? Here is how the legend goes:

During the 1930s in the Italian immigrant section of South Philadelphia, brothers Harry and Pat Olivieri sold hot dogs and sandwiches. Tired of hot dogs, Pat suggested that Harry go to a store and buy some beef. Harry brought it back, sliced it up and grilled the beef with some onions. The brothers piled the meat on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver arrived for lunch and smelled the meat and onions. Pat never got a bite because the cab driver asked how much? Pat didn’t know what to charge, so he charged a nickel. The cab driver supposedly said, Heyforget about those hot dogs, you should sell these. It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to the sandwich by longtime employee, Joe Lorenzo, who was tired of the usual preparation and added some cheese.

According to Philadelphians, you simply cannot make an authentic Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwich without an authentic Philadelphia roll. The rolls must be long and thin, not fluffy or soft, but also not too hard.

In 1940, the brothers opened Pat’s King of Steaks at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue. The business has been there ever since, open 24 hours a day. Cheez Whiz was added to the steak and onions starting in the 1960s, and provolone, American cheese, and pizza sauce later became options along with various condiments and side dishes.

In 1970, Pat Olivieri retired and moved to southern California. A dispute over ownership broke out with Pat’s lawyer son, Herbert, on one side and Harry and his children, Frankie and Maria, on the other. In 1974 Pat died, and later Frankie bought the business out.

The reason the cheesesteak really blossomed was because of Pat himself. He was a larger-than-life figure who visited local theaters and concert halls, bringing steak sandwiches to the stars, then luring them back to his shop and taking pictures of them eating. He spread the word about his sandwich all over the world via these celebrities and they made him into a star.

Here is how I make this sandwich at home.

Ingredients

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 extra-large onion diced
1 pound ribeye steak fat removed, very thinly sliced and each slice cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-inch long) Italian loaf, 2 hoagie rolls or 2 baguettes, heated
4-6 slices Provolone or American cheese or both
Hot peppers or ketchup, optional

Directions

Heat a stove-top griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the diced onions. Cook onions for 2 to 3 minutes until they are just beginning to brown.

Add the sliced meat and more oil if needed. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, using a spatula to continually move the steak around and break it up into smaller pieces. Cook until all of the pink is gone. Sprinkle the meat and onion mixture generously with salt and pepper.

Separate meat into two piles for each cheesesteak sandwich. Place 2-3 slices of cheese on each pile of steak and let them melt slightly.

Invert a warm hoagie roll on top of each pile. Allow to heat for 1 minute.

Use a long spatula to scoop the cheesesteak and roll off the griddle/frying pan. Flip the sandwich over onto a serving plate and add your favorite optional toppings, and serve.

 


Summer squash and red potatoes are vegetables that are in season now and make a delicious side dish to go with fish or steak.

Ingredients

1 large sweet onion, diced
8-10 small yellow summer squash (each about 4-inches long) sliced into thin rounds
5 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
Olive oil
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400ºF
Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil. (I used a 12×8-inch oval baking dish.)

Cover the bottom of the dish with squash slices, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle ⅓ of the onion and 1 cup of shredded cheese over the squash.
Cover the squash with potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then ⅓ of the onion and 1 cup of shredded cheese.
Cover the potatoes with another layer of squash, overlapping them slightly, Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then ⅓ of the onion and 1 cup of shredded cheese.

Spray a sheet of foil large enough to cover the baking dish with cooking spray. Place the sprayed side down on the baking dish and press tightly to the edges of the dish.
Bake the casserole for one hour. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more. Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Here is another post to celebrate all the fresh produce available now in the markets. I received an abundance of white eggplant in my CSA share this week. White eggplant has hard skin when compared to purple eggplant. The skin of the white eggplant should be peeled off. White eggplant has white flesh whereas purple eggplant has a greenish hue. White eggplants come with more seeds but are less acidic, less bitter, and creamier than purple eggplant. This recipe makes a delicious main dish or a side for chicken cutlets or grilled Italian sausage.

Ingredients

2 small white eggplants, 8-10 oz each, stems trimmed off
Olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
¼ cup finely diced banana peppers (mild)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 slices fresh tomato (Beefsteak tomato slices cut ¼-inch thick and diced
2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
3 basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup Italian seasoned panko crumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut a thin slice of eggplant off the top of each peeled eggplant. Dice the slices.
Hollow out the flesh of the eggplant to create a boat using a melon baller or small spoon, leaving a 1/2-inch of the flesh all around to create a shell. Dice the scooped-out eggplant flesh and combine it with the diced eggplant tops

In a medium skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and cook on medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are softened. Add the chopped eggplant and cook about 8-10 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomato breaks down. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the panko crumbs, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Let cool for about 15 minutes.

 

Oil a small baking dish and place the eggplant boats in the dish. Divide the stuffing evenly between the 2 eggplant boats.
Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the eggplant is tender and the topping is brown about 15-20 minutes.

 


This is the perfect time of year to make lots of vegetable dishes. The farm stands and CSA allotments are abundant now, so take advantage of these beautiful vegetables and add them to your menu.

This easy to make soup is delicious for lunch or for a light dinner with a salad. Use any combination of vegetables that you like for this soup.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 scallions, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 banana peppers (mild), chopped
4 small yellow summer squashes, chopped
2 cups fresh corn, about 2 cobs
1 cup sliced okra
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups chicken broth (homemade recipe)
1 cup heavy cream
Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the garlic and next 8 ingredients. Cook, stirring until the vegetables are coated in oil and beginning to soften about five minutes. Add the broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the cream. Heat over low until hot. Do not boil.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with ¼ cup of cheese.


Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs and Pecans

6 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken
1 garlic clove, peeled
3-4 celery tops
Half an onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or dried Italian seasoning
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 ½ lb

For the salad
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as parsley and tarragon)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Directions

To cook the chicken

Fill a 12-inch covered saute or large saucepan pan 3/4 of the way with water and bring to a simmer.

Add the garlic, celery tops, onion half, seasoning, salt, and pepper. Return the liquid to a simmer.

Add the chicken breasts to the poaching liquid, cover, and simmer until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside to cool. Save the broth for soup or gravy.

To make the salad

Combine the diced celery, diced onion, mayonnaise, mustard, and herbs in a large serving bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until the chicken is cool

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch dice.

Add the chicken and the pecans to the mayonnaise mixture, and mix well. Cover and transfer the salad to the refrigerator to chill until serving time.


Parmesan Coated Flounder 

Ingredients

2 flounder fillets (1 pound total)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill or preheat the broiler.
Coat a sheet of heavy-duty foil with nonstick olive oil spray.


In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice. Spread the mixture over both sides of the fillets. Sprinkle each side with shredded Parmesan. Lightly press the cheese into the fish.


Place the foil on the grill or on the broiler pan. Grill the flounder with the cover closed or broil about 8 inches from the heat for about 6 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove the fish with a long spatula to individual serving plates.

Grilled Eggplant Stacks

Ingredients

1 small round purple eggplant, peeled
Basil pesto
4 tomato slices
4 fresh mozzarella slices
Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill or the broiler.
Lightly brush the eggplant slices and the tomato slices with basil pesto.
Grill or broil until brown and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter. Grill or broil the tomato slices until hot, about 1 minute per side.

Place a tomato slice followed by a mozzarella slice on top of each eggplant slice. Return the stacks to the grill or the broiler and cook until the cheese begins to melt. Transfer the stacks to a serving platter.

Grilled Summer Squash

Ingredients

8 small yellow summer squash
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill or the broiler.
Slice squash in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper. Combine the oil and lemon juice and brush on the cut sides of the squash.
Grill or broil squash on medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes until tender. Remove the squash to a serving plate and sprinkle with the chives.


Fra Diavolo is a spicy sauce for pasta and seafood. Most versions are tomato-based and use chili peppers for spice. Fra Diavolo is served over pasta with shellfish that roughly translates to “among the devil,” getting its name from the hot pepper that gives it its signature heat. It’s traditionally made with shrimp or lobster, and sometimes clams
Debate rages on whether this dish originated in Italy or in one of America’s Italian American communities. Regardless of its origins, it is popular in restaurants, but lobster Fra Diavolo is rarely found in cookbooks. I grew up with spicy shellfish pasta, especially for Christmas Eve, so here is my version. I use lobster tails because they are easier to cook with and eat with the pasta.

4 servings

Ingredients

250g (8 1/2 oz) long pasta
4 small lobster tails, about 4 oz each, split in half down the middle lengthwise
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 (28 oz) containers chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh basil
1 cup seafood broth or clam juice
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Directions

In a sauté pan that will be large enough to hold the lobster and cooked pasta, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 30 seconds. Add the seafood broth and simmer for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chili paste, basil sprig, and salt to taste, or about 1 teaspoon. Simmer until the sauce is reduced about 1 hour. Add the lobster tails cut side down, bring the sauce back to a low boil and cook the lobster for about 5 minutes or until the shells turn red and the meat turns white.

Boil a large pot filled with water. When it comes to a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt and the pasta, and cook very al dente.

Place the lobster tails on a plate and set aside. Remove the basil sprig. Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce, along with a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. Let the pasta simmer in the sauce, mixing it well, and making sure every strand is coated with the sauce. Pour the pasta on to a serving platter and top with the lobster tails. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.


Ingredients

Pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅔ cup shortening
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Filling
¾ cup of sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour or other pie thickeners
6 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1tablespoon butter
Granulated sugar

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse a few times to combine. Add the shortening and pulse 2-3 times until the shortening is broken up into smaller pieces.

Slowly begin to add the water through the top spout of the processor and then while still pouring, run the food processor until all the water has been added and the mixture begins to come together (mixer will actually begin to make a different sound), but stop before it forms a complete ball. If too dry, add the extra tablespoons of water, one at a time.

Turn dough out onto a clean surface and form into a ball. Divide the dough into 2/3 and 1/3; shape into 2 flattened rounds on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. This allows the shortening to become slightly firm, which helps make a flaky pastry. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.

Heat oven to 425°F.
With a floured rolling pin, roll the larger piece of dough into a round 2 inches larger than the upside-down 91/2 to 10-inch glass pie plate. I roll the dough between floured pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Fold pastry into fourths; place in the pie plate. Unfold and ease into the plate, pressing firmly against the bottom and sides.

For the filling
In a large bowl, mix sugar and thickener. Stir in blueberries and lemon juice. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle over blueberries.

Roll the smaller piece of dough into a 10-inch round. Cut into 1-inch strips with a pastry cutter. Place the strips in a lattice formation over the berries. Seal the edges and crip the pastry all around the dish. Sprinkle the lattice crust with granulated sugar. Place the pie on a parchment-covered baking sheet to catch any drips during baking.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for another 45 to 50 minutes, covering the edges with a piece of foil if they seem to be browning too quickly. When done, the filling will be bubbling and the crust golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.


Serve with a green vegetable or a salad to complete the menu.

Serves 2-4

Zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick circles
1 small red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick circles, rings separated
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried
1/4 cup panko crumbs
4 chicken thighs (about 6 oz. each), trimmed of excess fat and skin

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Stir together the zest, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and the chile flakes in a small bowl.
In an oiled 7×11 inch baking dish, toss half of the oil mixture with the potatoes and onions. Spread them into a single layer as much as possible.


Mix together the remaining oil mixture with the panko crumbs.
Arrange the chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetables and press the panko crumbs on the tops of the chicken thighs.

Roast uncovered for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the pan drippings. Continue to roast until the chicken and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes more.


This pie makes a great lunch or you can serve it for dinner with a big salad.

If you have lemon-flavored olive oil, it works very well in this recipe.

Ingredients

Olive Oil Press in the Pan Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups Italian flour (00) or 1 ¼ cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
3-4 tablespoons water

Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a 91/2 to 10-inch pie pan. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top. Set aside.

Filling

1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini, ends removed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 large roasted red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt

Directions

Place the zucchini in a colander set over a plate. Toss the zucchini slices with 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Spread the zucchini out on a clean dish towel, roll it up, and squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid.

Put the zucchini slices into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
With a fork, mash together the cheese, seasonings, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread the bottom of the pie dough with the cheese mixture. Lay the zucchini slices evenly over the cheese, sprinkle with the chopped red pepper. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and top with the Parmesan cheese.


Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the filling is set and the dough is golden brown. Cut in wedges and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.



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