Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Appetizer

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Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

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Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer is a great time to entertain and if you can do it outdoors, it is even better. Casual get-togethers call for easy to do recipes using foods that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you are hosting or attending such a party, thoughts usually run along the “what should I make” category. Since I live where it is quite hot six months of the year, I tend not to serve or take mayonnaise flavored dishes. Here are some ideas for each menu course of what to make or bring to an outdoor party. These have all been stamped with approval from my family and friends.

Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms

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Ingredients

  • 3 lb mixed fresh mushrooms
  • 3 oz. dried mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice fresh mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until tender — about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze to dry.

Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Cook, while stirring frequently, over high heat until the mushrooms release their liquid — about 10 minutes.

Add the shallots, garlic, rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add broth, cognac, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and the thyme.

Transfer skillet to the oven and roast, stirring twice, for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serve warm with grilled bread.

Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad

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This is a popular dish, so I often divide the salad onto smaller serving dishes, so I can have them available in several areas.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds tomatoes,  quartered
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish

Directions

Oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Whisk together the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

Mix the shrimp with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Grill the shrimp, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.

Mix the grilled shrimp with the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature.

Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers

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This dish is always a big hit with everyone.

Serves 6

For the sausage:

  • 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage

Directions

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

Keep a third of the grill indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over two-thirds of the firebox and leaving one-third coal-free.

On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Lightly brush or rub the sausage with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F.

Cut the sausages into two-inch lengths and set aside.

For the peppers and onions:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To finish the dish:

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

Add the tomato sauce and heat.

Add the grilled sausage links to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat until the sausage is warm. Serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.

Side Dish: Corn Pudding

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Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh (about 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish or another shallow baking dish of about the same size.

In a mixing bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn and the salt and black pepper; Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1 cup of corn and half-and-half in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the eggs and cayenne. Blend thoroughly.

Spoon the corn/pepper mixture into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the top. Pour the egg mixture over all.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 40 minutes.Garnish with chopped parsley.

Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler

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Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 to 6 medium (4 cups) peaches, peeled and sliced

Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the filling ingredients except the peaches in a mixing bowl.

Stir in peaches. Pour into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.

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Make the topping:

Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in the egg and cream just until moistened. Spread the topping over the peach filling; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar.

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Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Serve warm or chilled.

 


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pavia hats

Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.

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The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.

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By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.

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Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.

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Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.

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Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.

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When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.

• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.

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Serves 1

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.

Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.

Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.

Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.

Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.

Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.

The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.

Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.

Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.

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Asparagus Risotto

From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).

Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.

In the saucepan with the  reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.

Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.

Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

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Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)

Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.

Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper

Directions

Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.

Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.

When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.

After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.

The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.

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Paradise Cake

Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.

Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.

Ingredients

1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
4 eggs
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste

Directions

Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.

Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.

Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.

Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.

Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

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Tomatoes were yellow and orange-colored at the beginning of the tomato’s cultivation, with the color red becoming more prevalent through many years of breeding. Today, there are hundreds of different types of tomatoes in colored varieties that include red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and black. Some tomatoes, like Heirloom and cherry, come in many varieties, as well.

Most people consider the red tomato varieties the most popular, especially the Beefsteak and Roma varieties. Pink tomatoes have similar flavors to the red ones, that include the Pink Girl and Brandywine varieties. Orange tomato varieties include Persimmon and Mountain Gold and they are usually sweeter than red tomatoes, due to a higher sugar content. Yellow varieties, such as Golden Boy and Garden Peach, are similar to the orange type, but are usually less tangy than red tomatoes. There are green tomato varieties (not just unripened tomatoes) that ripen green and usually have a lower acidic taste than red tomatoes.

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed

Herbs

Place the following  herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

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Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook  until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

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Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.

Pepper Pizza

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 cups fresh tomato sauce, see recipe above
  • 1 ½ cups leftover sautéed peppers and onions, see recipe here
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, cut into strips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Move an oven rack to lowest position in the oven.

Press the dough out on a greased pizza pan. Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella.

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Spread the sauce over the cheese. Place the peppers and onions evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with the hot pepper.

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Place the pizza in the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the prosciutto slices evenly on top.

Return the pizza to the oven for about a minute or two to warm the prosciutto. Set the pizza on the counter on top of a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

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Tomato Jam is great on burgers in place of ketchup or served alongside grilled meat or fish. It also pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and cured meats. I like to serve it as an appetizer, as part of a cheese board selection.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes), cored and quartered
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, sugar, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 2-second pulses.

In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.

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Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, until it is glossy and has a jam like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).

Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

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Grilled Corn and Grilled Squash Boats

First Course

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Tomato Salad with Herbed Ricotta Cheese

Serve with crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Combine oil, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and garlic in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine ricotta and 2 tablespoons minced basil in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange the tomato slices on a platter; sprinkle with the remaining salt, pepper and torn basil leaves.

Drizzle oil mixture over the salad. Dollop ricotta mixture evenly over tomato slices. Serve.

Second Course

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 porterhouse steak, about 1 1/2 pounds and 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed of excess fat
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I use Pensey’s Chicago seasoning), divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil and rub in ½ tablespoon of steak seasoning on each side of the steak. Allow the steak to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

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Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat (450°to 550°F).

Brush the cooking grates clean. Sear the steaks over direct high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.

Continue grilling over indirect high heat until cooked to your desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes more for medium rare (125 – 130 degrees), turning once or twice.

Keep the lid closed as much as possible during grilling. Remove the steak from the grill and place the butter on top if the steak. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch slices

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Italian Frying Peppers

These are delicious as a side dish for grilled steak. Extras will be great in a sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen whole Italian frying peppers
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)

Directions

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Combine all the ingredients in a large skillet with a cover. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the peppers until they soften and develop brown spots.

Turn the peppers over after they are browned on the bottom side. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Grilled Yellow Squash Boats

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, etc)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Directions

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Cut the necks off the yellow squash and reserve for another recipe. Cut each squash in half and scrap out the seeds with a spoon making a hollow in the shell.

Sprinkle the shells with salt and pepper. Fill each squash with 1 tablespoon of cheese followed by 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Drizzle each with olive oil.

Place the squash boats on the grill and close the cover. Cook until the shells are tender and the crumbs begin to brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Recipe

Dessert Course

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

I purchase hazelnut pastry and cake filling from the King Arthur.Flour Company. If you prefer, you can substitute Nutella for the hazelnut filling in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hazelnut pastry /cake filling or use Nutella
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Chocolate Frosting

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer add all the ingredients except the flour and the water. Beat the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and water and beat until smooth.

Form balls of dough with a tablespoon or a small melon scoop. Roll until rough with your hands. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. With a fork, press down on the dough balls to flatten slightly.

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Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove the cookies to the counter or a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, frost the top of each cookie with a teaspoon of your favorite chocolate frosting.

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Summer is a wonderful time to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with your friends. Serving appetizers and drinks are a great way to entertain when it is hot. You want easy to prepare recipes so you are not in the kitchen for hours and you want to use simple, common ingredients that you usually have in your pantry or refrigerator. Below are a few of my easy to make suggestions.

Mediterranean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.

Oven Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash Rounds

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Homemade Marinara Sauce, (see recipe here)
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 2 medium yellow squash, ends and neck trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.

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In a plastic bag, combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.

In another shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place the squash slices in the bag with the flour and shake until they are coated.

Next, place each slice in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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Place the squash rounds on the prepared baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Marinated Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4-ounces of cream cheese, quartered
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted black and green Italian olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted crostini, pita chips or crackers for serving

Directions

Place the cheese quarters in a medium container. Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sun-dried tomatoes over and around the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt.

Pour the olive oil over the mixture. Squash the mixture with a fork and cover the container. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Bring the cheese mixture to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the marinated cheese mixture into a serving dish.

Arrange crostini, pita or crackers around the dish with a couple of small knives for serving.

Tuna Dip

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Serve with fresh celery, radishes, carrots and thin, crispy crackers.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 8-ounces canned tuna
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.


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Don’t let your herbs go wild in the garden or get moldy in the refrigerator. There are lots of way to incorporate them into your recipes.

A general guideline for using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use dried herbs.

Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.

For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors.

Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor.

Storing Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator for a few days.

After washing, you can mince the herbs and place them halfway up in the sections of an ice-cube tray. Cover herbs with cold water and freeze until solid.

Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag. Drop them into soups, stews and sauces as needed.

Some Other Ways To Use Herbs

If you love a big, green salad, add fresh herbs to the mix.

Add a big handful of fresh herbs to a basic mixture of equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, stir and then remove from the heat. Once completely cooled, strain out the herbs (discard) and use the simple syrup to sweeten iced coffee or tea and cocktails.

Fresh herbs are a perfect in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. They round out the fatty and sharp flavors from the oil and vinegar.

Combine finely chopped herbs and room-temperature butter to make a spread that compliments bread or cooked meat or vegetables.

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Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 medium zucchini and 2 medium patty pan squash, diced
  • 1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups Summer Vegetable Stock (corn cob stock) (recipe here)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot; add the garlic, celery and onion. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly salt the vegetables. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.

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Add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 25 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lemon juice, corn and herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls topped with a tablespoon of sour cream.

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Creamy Herb Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This makes a great party dip with lots of fresh summer vegetables and pita chips.

It is best to process all the ingredients in the food processor with the exception of the yogurt, for the best consistency.

Use either whole or low-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (but don’t use nonfat).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Process mayonnaise, shallot, chives, basil and lemon juice in food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover dip and refrigerate until thickened, at least 1 hour. (Dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days.

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Spaghetti with Clam and Herb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams in broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red-pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. (or use the quick skillet method – see recipe here). Drain pasta and set aside.

Drain the clams over a large measuring cup. Set the clams aside. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of clam broth.

Heat oil in the same pan that the pasta was cooked in over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, herbs, hot pepper and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring as needed, until the shallots have softened.

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Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked spaghetti, turn the heat down and let the spaghetti simmer for two minutes.

Add the drained clams and let the mixture heat for a minute or two. Serve in pasta bowls with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

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Pan-Fried Herbed Pork Cutlets

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely minced herbs (any combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, chives, parsley)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 pork cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick and each weighing about 4 oz)
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Combine the herbs, fennel and salt in a shallow dish.  Place the flour in a second shallow dish. Pat chops dry with paper towels.

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Trim the cutlets of fat and pound them lightly with a meat mallet to make them uniform in thickness. Press the herbs on both sides of the cutlets and then dredge the cutlets in the flour (do not discard flour).

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Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Dredge cutlets in the flour a second time just before cooking.

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Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the pork cutlets until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 heads tender lettuce (such as Boston or Bibb), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, sage and chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • Sliced red and white radishes
  • 1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Directions

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and mustard; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, shallots, radishes and herbs. Add dressing and toss to combine. Add almonds and serve.

Variation: The dressed salad can also be placed—open-face sandwich fashion—on top of grilled bread that has brushed with olive oil.



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