Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 servings

Ingredients

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese (4 slices)
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup fine unseasoned dried panko crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, plus chopped fresh parsley for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut each piece of chicken in half horizontally and place each piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound out to a 1/4-inch thickness.

Place the 8 chicken pieces on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide the cheese evenly between 4 pieces of chicken. Arrange ham slices evenly over the cheese; top with remaining 4 pieces of chicken. Tuck in any cheese or ham that extends over the edges. Secure chicken pieces together using toothpicks along the edges to form a “sandwich.”

Place flour in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, mix together eggs and milk using a fork. Place panko crumbs and parsley in a third shallow dish. Dip a chicken “sandwich” in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip chicken in egg mixture, followed by the panko crumbs; transfer to a plate. Repeat process with remaining chicken “sandwiches.”

Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken “sandwiches” in skillet and cook, until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 2 minutes more.

Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until cheese is melted and bubbly and chicken is cooked through about 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.


Roasted Asparagus And Tomatoes

Ingredients

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine all the ingredients in a glass baking dish and roast the vegetables until tender about 15 minutes.


Although the granules look like grains, couscous is actually tiny pasta made from a type of wheat called semolina. Unlike other pastas, which are mixed with water and eggs into sheets, couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule pieces are formed. The couscous is then dried and later cooked in boiling water.

Israeli couscous
Israeli couscous is also a type of pasta but consists of granules that are much larger – about the size of small pearls. Made from wheat flour and semolina, Israeli couscous has a ball-like shape and is toasted, rather than dried, after the granules are formed. This process gives Israeli couscous a nuttier flavor and chewy bite that adds an unexpected touch to regional recipes.

Mediterranean Scallops Over Couscous

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on the finished dish
Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crumbled saffron threads
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
13-14 oz container no-salt-added diced Italian tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
10 ounces bay scallops, tough side muscle removed
1/3 cup frozen peas
Chopped parsley
2 lemon wedges

Directions

Heat oil in a medium covered skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and saffron; cook for 20 seconds. Add couscous and cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and tomatoes, bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the couscous is tender.

Increase the heat to medium, stir in peas and scallops; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until the scallops are just cooked through. (If the scallops are not all the same size, place the larger scallops in the pan first, wait several seconds and then add the smaller ones).

Drizzle with olive oil, top with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently purchased an air fryer. While I used my air fryer for cooking the salmon cakes and sweet potatoes, I also give directions for stovetop and oven baking methods.

Air-Fryer Salmon Cakes

When I make salmon or tuna fillets for dinner, I always make extra so I can make fish cakes at a later time.

Ingredients

Spicy Tartar Sauce:

1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon capers
1/4 teaspoon hot Cajun seasoning
Pinch of salt

Salmon Cakes:

Cooking spray
10 oz cooked salmon (or you can use canned salmon)
1 to 11/4 cups plain panko breadcrumbs, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large egg

Directions

Mix the Tatar sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Coat the basket of an air fryer with cooking spray.

Place the salmon in a mixing bowl and break up into small pieces. Add ½ cup panko crumbs, dill, mayonnaise, mustard, egg, and pepper; stir gently until combined. Shape the mixture into four cakes. Lightly coat the outside of the cakes in panko crumbs.

Coat the cakes with cooking spray and place them in the prepared air fryer basket. Cook at 375 degrees F until browned and heated through about 15 minutes. Serve with the Tatar Sauce.

Directions for stovetop:
Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place salmon cakes in the skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn cakes and cook until the second side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cakes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain 1 minute. Serve with the Tatar Sauce.

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

16 ounces of sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons avocado oil

Preheat your air fryer to 375 degrees F.

Slice the sweet potatoes into finger-sized sticks (mine are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch). They don’t have to be perfect but try to keep the size fairly consistent.

Place the potato slices in a ziplock bag or mixing bowl, along with the oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and toss to coat.

Transfer the sweet potatoes to the air fryer, and cook until tender and crispy (about 20 minutes). Shake the basket a few times to rearrange the fries, and use a metal spatula to turn them. Use your own judgment, cooking longer or shorter, if needed, keeping an eye on the fries to make sure they don’t burn.

Directions for Oven-Baked Sweet Potato wedges
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees K. Spread the coated potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Quick Saute Of Baby Spinach Leaves

Ingredients

1 clamshell package(5oz) of organic baby spinach leaves
1 large clove garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic slices and then the spinach leaves. Cover the pan and let the spinach cook on medium for one minute. Remove the cover, reduce the heat to low and cook the spinach, stirring often until wilted, about another minute or two. Serve immediately.


Greek Salad Topped With Chrispy Chicken Fingers

4 servings

Ingredients

Chicken
1 lb chicken tenders (about 8)
2 tablespoon olive oil
Flour (any type works here)

Chicken Marinade
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
`1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salad
1 head of romaine hearts
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons
1/4 of a red onion sliced thin
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
Half a bell pepper, seeded and diced
20 grape tomatoes, halved
16 Kalamata olives
8 pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 mini pita breads, warmed

Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano and 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 ½ teaspoons of Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

For the chicken


Combine the chicken tenders and the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag. Place in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Drain the chicken from the marinade and dredge the tenders very lightly in flour. Place the tenders in the skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate to cool.

For the salad dressing
Add all dressing ingredients to a jar. Cover and shake for about a minute. Store salad dressing in the refrigerator. Remove the dressing from the refrigerator15 minutes prior to using it.

For the salad
Tear the romaine hearts into small pieces, wash well and spin dry. Place the washed romaine in a large serving bowl. Add the remaining salad ingredients except for the pita and add just enough salad dressing to moisten the salad. Start with about ¼ cup, mix well, taste and see if more dressing is needed. Place the salad in four serving dishes and top each with two cooked chicken tenders. Serve with pita bread.


The recipe yields enough sauce and meat for 2 pounds of pasta. Serve this meal, as the Italians do, with a green salad.

Penne with Ricotta Cheese
1 lb whole grain penne pasta
1 lb Italian pork sausage, hot or sweet, cut into links
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Soft and Tender Meatballs
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
3 (26-28-ounce) containers Italian crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the meatballs:
Combine the crushed saltines and milk in mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Mash with a fork until a smooth paste forms. Add the meat, Parmesan, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the saltine mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Use a muffin/ice scoop to form 12 meatballs. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Combine oil and garlic in a large Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until the garlic is soft about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion softens about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Carefully place the meatballs into the sauce. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and place the Dutch Oven in the preheated oven.

Place one tablespoon olive oil il a separate baking pan and place the sausage links in the pan, turning to coat the sausages in oil. Place in the oven with the sauce. Bake until the sausages are brown, turning them over halfway through the baking time about 45 minutes. Add the sausages to the meatball/sauce mixture. Continue to bake the sauce for 15 minutes more.

For the pasta
Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven and place it on the stove, covered, while you cook the pasta. When the pasta is cooked al dente, return it to the pasta pan and add 2 cups of the tomato sauce, stir gently and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir again. Place the pasta in a pasta serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of warm ricotta cheese on top. Place some of the meatballs and sausage around the pasta and serve.


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. This new series will be about what they cooked.

Brooklyn’s Lard Bread or Prosciutto Bread or Prosciutto Cheese Bread

There’s a bread that can be found at most Italian deli’s in New York City – it used to be called Lard Bread but now is referred to as Prosciutto Bread The lard bread story is not clear if you try to trace it back to Italy. Like Nicolo Mazzola, who founded their Brooklyn bakery in 1928 and whose family originated in Sicily, but on trips back to the homeland, he’s never seen anything like Mazzola’s lard bread on the streets of Palermo. Recipes for lard bread don’t appear much in Italian cookbooks either, and while stuffing fatty odds and ends into bread dough is a common theme throughout Italy, no particular region seems to have much connection to the peppery cured-meat-and-aged-cheese bread that’s popular on this side of the Atlantic.

For most Italian Americans who eat it, lard bread is mainly a Christmas and Easter tradition.
If you’ve never heard of lard bread—also called prosciutto bread—you’re not alone. The loaf is virtually unknown outside New York City and parts of New Jersey and Philadelphia, where a critical mass of Italian Americans has kept the tradition alive since their ancestors immigrated to the country in the 1800s. But even in the Northeast ItalianAmerican communities, you won’t find it in most Italian bakeries. “Lard bread” isn’t the most appealing name in times like these, especially after decades of healthy eating conditioning, it never captured the public imagination as you might expect for a bread stuffed with meat and cheese.

I thought it would be a fun thing to try at home and take to my Sons & Daughters Of Italy In America meeting. I doubled the recipe to make 2 loaves to take to the potluck supper we have before the meeting. I used my go-to pizza recipe for the bread dough and then added the traditional ingredients as described below.

Brooklyn Street Bread

Ingredients

Dough
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Filling
4 ounces provolone cheese, diced
2 oz pancetta, diced
2 ounces prosciutto, diced
2 ounces pepperoni, diced
2 ounces Genoa salami, diced
2 ounces capicola, diced
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer and with the paddle attachment mix until the ingredients come together around the paddle. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes.

Spray a large ziplock plastic bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag and close the top. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight. Alternately, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubles, 60-90 minutes and make the bread the same day.

Place the dough in the center of a floured pastry board and flatten the dough with your hands into a large circle. Spread the black pepper, meat, and cheese over the top. Fold the dough over to cover the meat and cheese, and then flatten and fold the dough over a few times with your hands to distribute the ingredients throughout the bread.

Shape the dough into a large oval shape or into a baguette and place on a rimmed baking pan.

Cover with greased plastic and let rise at room temperature until puffy and dough springs back slowly when pressed lightly with your finger, about 45-60 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp paring knife make a ½-inch-deep lengthwise slash along the top of the loaf, starting and stopping about 1½ inches from ends. Bake until the loaf register 205 to 210 degrees, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer the loaf to wire rack and let cool completely about 3 hours. Serve.


Cinnamon Cake

This cake can be made with gluten-free and low carb flours.

Makes 12 servings.

Ingredients

Cake Batter
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter, divided
1 cup granulated sugar or granulated sugar substitute

Topping
1/2 cup regular oats
1 cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.

For the cake batter:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large liquid measuring cup whisk eggs, vanilla, and sour cream until well combined.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar or sugar substitute until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture and egg mixture to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

 

For the topping:
In a processor, pulse oats, brown sugar or brown sugar substitute, pecans, remaining ½ cup butter and cinnamon until small clumps form.

To assemble the cake:
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle one-third of the topping evenly over the batter.


Spoon the remaining batter over the topping spread it with a spatula to cover the topping.


Sprinkle evenly with the remaining topping. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool cake in the pan set over a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.



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