Eating a healthy lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources. Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters, if you leave out the processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.
When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. When you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.
Falafel Sandwich with Tomato Gazpacho
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed or 2 cups homemade dried beans
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
Olive oil for the pan
Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup pure tahini paste (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if necessary
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Large pinch cumin
Large pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
4 whole-wheat pita pocket breads, sliced open
Combine all falafel patty ingredients, except the parsley, in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds.
Stop motor and scrape down sides of bowl, then pulse for another 10 seconds, until all ingredients are well incorporated but the mixture is slightly coarse. Stir in the chopped parsley
Refrigerate the mixture in a covered bowl for a few hours before making the patties.
For the tahini sauce:
Whisk all of the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth in a serving bowl. Set aside at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Pour a little olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread it to cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven while the oven is preheating.
Form mixture into 8 or 9 balls and flatten into patties.
Place the patties on the hot pan and spray the tops with a little olive oil cooking spray.
Bake the patties for 10 minutes, turn the patties over and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and browned.
Wrap the pita breads in foil and heat them in the oven for 5 minutes while the patties are baking.
Fill each pita with some of the lettuce, falafel patties and tahini sauce.
3 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeds removed
2 scallions, trimmed
1 celery stalk, trimmed
Half a green bell pepper, seeds removed
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agave syrup
Celery and cucumber sticks for garnish
Chop all the vegetables and place in a processor or blender and process until smooth.
Pour into a covered container and chill. Serve in 8 oz glasses and garnish with stalks of celery and cucumber.
Asparagus Quiche with Heirloom Tomato Salad
1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch scallions (green onions). trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup half & half (milk/cream)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
Heat the oven to 450°F.
Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread the asparagus and scallions on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Roast until the vegetables until tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one-inch pieces.
Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.
Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.
Arrange the roasted asparagus and scallions over the bottom of the crust.
In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper.
Whisk together until well combined.
Pour over the vegetables and top with the cheese.
Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Heirloom Tomato Salad
1 pint miniature heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-3 tablespoons Italian Vinaigrette
Combine the tomatoes, garlic, vinaigrette, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Serve over butter lettuce, if desired.
Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup finely diced feta cheese
½ lb small cooked shrimp, optional
Salt and pepper
1 lb short pasta
Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp, pasta and the salt in a large bowl. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Carefully scoop the pasta out of the pot with a large spider or slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the vegetables.
Add the shrimp, if using, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.
If made ahead, refrigerate covered overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.
The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.
The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.
For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,
Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.
Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.
Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.
Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.
Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.
Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.
1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Red Pepper Hummus
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.
Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.
Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.
Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Peppers and Onions
6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.
Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.
Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).
Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper
Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.
3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.
Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.
Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.
Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.
Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.
Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.
An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.
In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.
The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.
The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.
Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.
The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.
The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.
Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).
Recipes To Make From Cosenza
Serve with Calabrian Bread
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.
Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.
Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.
In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.
Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.
Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.
Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.
Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.
In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.
Lagane E Cicciari
Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water
Add the salt to the flour and mix well.
Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)
Roll the dough to form a long log
With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.
Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.
Cook as directed below.
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.
Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.
Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.
Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.
Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce
When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)
Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.
Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)
1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.
Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.
Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.
Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.
In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.
Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.
Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.
If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.
Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.
Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.
Mediterranean Tomato Salad
Serve this salad with grilled steak.
- 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
- One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
- ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.
Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.
Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
Fall Vegetable Minestrone
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
- Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.
Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.
Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,
Lemon Leek Spaghetti
This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
- Salt & black pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.
Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
Butternut Squash Gratin
Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.
Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.
Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.
Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.
Longing for a salad even though it is cold outside? By using seasonal produce, you can make salads even with snow on the ground. This time of year switch to dark leafy greens, cold-weather vegetables like broccoli, beets and squash and seasonal fruits like pears and citrus. Add flavorful dressings to balance the heartier tastes and textures. For a full-meal salad, finish the salad with cooked beans, meat or seafood and a bit of your favorite cheese or toasted nuts. Winter vegetables also make delicious salads, especially after they have been roasted.
Winter Salad with Spinach, Pears and Walnuts
Serves 4 to 6
- 3 Anjou, Bosc or Comice pears
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon German Dusseldorf mustard or yellow prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 3/4 pound spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Chop 1 pear and slice the remaining two.
Put the chopped pear, oil, vinegar, mustard and honey into a blender and purée. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons water, more if needed, to make a thin, pourable dressing.
Put spinach, onion, walnuts, feta cheese, sliced pears and dressing into a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.
Chickpea Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup finely minced shallot
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp stone-ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large avocado
- 1 lemon
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
- ¾ cup cooked black lentils (rinsed and drained)
- ¼ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- 4 oz goat cheese
- 3 handfuls Italian kale
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Place all dressing ingredients in a jar. Seal and shake vigorously until well combined. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preferences.
Cut the avocado in half and discard the pit. Chop the flesh into a small bowl and toss with a squeeze or two of lemon juice to help prevent browning.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all salad ingredients together.
Pour about half the dressing over the top and toss with salad tongs or a large fork and spoon to thoroughly blend the ingredients and coat lightly with the dressing.
Top with a big squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add more dressing, if needed. Serve immediately.
Winter Citrus Salad
- 3 tablespoons pistachio, almond or any nut flavored oil
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon white or golden balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
- Pinch salt
- 2 oranges (segmented)
- 2 pink grapefruits (segmented)
- 2 tangerines or satsumas (peeled)
- 3 oz mixed baby salad greens (about 3-1/2 cups, lightly packed)
- 4 cups frisée or curly endive, oak leaf or red leaf lettuce, lightly packed
- 1/3 cup shelled, roasted pistachios
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove the peel and white pith from the fruit with a small, sharp knife. Working over a shallow bowl, slice down either side of each membrane, releasing the citrus segments into the bowl.
Remove any seeds from the fruit. Drain and reserve the accumulated juices for the dressing.
Place the oil, orange juice, vinegar, agave and salt in a small glass jar and seal the lid. Shake vigorously to combine. (The dressing can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days. For best flavor, bring to room temperature before using.)
Place the segmented citrus in a large salad bowl. Drizzle some of the dressing over the fruit and toss to coat. Add the greens and toss to combine, adding more dressing to lightly coat the greens as well.
Transfer the salad to a platter and sprinkle with the pistachios. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
Italian Barley Salad
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup uncooked, quick-cooking barley
- 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (chilled) or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
- 12 pitted kalamata olives
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
- 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the barley. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the barley is just tender but firm. Transfer the barley to a colander. Drain well. Place in a medium bowl to cool.
Dry artichokes on paper towels. Coarsely chop the artichokes and olives, dice the bell pepper, quarter the tomatoes and cut the cheese into one-quarter inch cubes.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, dried basil, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil.
Combine the cooked and cooled barley with the vegetables and cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to blend. serve immediately of refrigerate until serving time.
Red Grapefruit and Beet Salad
- 3 medium beets, greens removed
- 2 red grapefruits
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Wrap beets individually in aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until beets are tender when pressed through the foil and a knife slides easily into them when unwrapped, 50 to 60 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, unwrap beets and rub each with a paper towel to remove skins. Halve and slice beets.
Cut thin slices off the top and bottom of a grapefruit and set on a cutting board. Slice down along the curve of the fruit, removing all skin and white pith and cutting all the way to the flesh.
Working over a bowl, cut along each side of the membranes to release the sections, allowing them to fall into the bowl along with any juice. Repeat with remaining grapefruit.
Gently stir in honey and salt. Add beets and toss. Garnish with mint. Serve or chill until serving time.
The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.
Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.
The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.
The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.
Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.
Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.
Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.
Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.
And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.
Torta Umbra al Formaggio
(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)
In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
- 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles
Ingredients for each serving
- 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
- 1 winter black truffle
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon
- 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.
Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)
- 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
- 1 twig fresh rosemary
- 10 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.
Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.
Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2 cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.
Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.
Cover and cook 60 minutes.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.
Pasta alla Norcina
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
- 4 sausages of Norcia
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ onion
- 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.
Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.
Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)
by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)
This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.
Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.
Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.
Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.
Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.
Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.
When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.
by Baci Perugina
10” tart pan
For the crust:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
For the filling:
- 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
- 8 Baci candies
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.
Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.
Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.
Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.
Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.
Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.
Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.
Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.