Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: lentils

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Eating less meat and more grains, beans, fruits and vegetables means you’ll be consuming fewer calories and less saturated fat. People who eat less meat are healthier, less prone to cancer, especially colorectal cancer, and suffer from fewer heart problems. Another benefit is that you’ll save money. Meat costs more per pound than most foods and it can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget.

Committing to a 100% vegetarian diet isn’t necessary to achieve the health benefits that vegetarians enjoy. There aren’t specific guidelines to exactly how much meat to cut out to achieve these benefits, but cutting back even slightly is a positive change. A national health campaign known as “Meatless Monday” promotes cutting out meat one day each week, but you could try meatless lunches during the week for the same effect. Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable diseases and it can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like freshwater and fossil fuel.

How to make veggies taste good:

Go big when it comes to seasoning your veggie-friendly food. Fresh herbs are great but try something besides rosemary and thyme. Hearty roasted root vegetables are the perfect blank canvas for experiments using dried spices. A blend made with shallot, onion and garlic, adds lots of flavor to vegetables. Like things hot? Try Aleppo pepper, a spicy-sweet pepper. Don’t be shy with the sauces, either. Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa added to yogurt brings the heat and then the yogurt calms it down. This sauce is delicious drizzled over roasted carrots. Or, use a herb-packed vinaigrette made from parsley, tahini, lemon and garlic. Choosing in-season produce at the peak of ripeness ensures that the color will be rich the taste will be fresh and flavorful.

Dinner One: Lentil Chili and Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

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Lentil Chili

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 (16-ounce) package brown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups lentils)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils, tomatoes and broth.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.

Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in parsley, salt and pepper and serve.

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Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter 12 standard muffin cups or use cupcake liners.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, egg and butter in a separate bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of cheese and the corn kernels.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove muffins from the tins and cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner Two: Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce and Garden Salad

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Penne Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, trimmed and diced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • One 28 – ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • One 6 – ounce can Italian tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine or beef or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 4 cups hot cooked penne pasta (about 8 oz. uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

Peel eggplant and cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

Heat the oil a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and a generous pinch of salt and allow to cook, shaking and tossing occasionally, until the eggplant is brown and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, cover with foil, and set aside.

Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and red chili flakes.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Once the tomatoes have softened, gently break them apart with a potato masher. Then add the wine and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta, parsley and eggplant, cover, and heat over medium until hot. Stir in basil and olives, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with pignoli and Parmesan cheese.

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Garden Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup torn romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup torn curly endive
  • 3/4 cup baby arugula
  • 1 small red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red or yellow grape, pear or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small carrot or half of a large carrot, thinly shaved
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese, finely shredded (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Homemade Salad Dressing (recipe below)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine romaine, spinach, curly endive, arugula, bell pepper strips, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Top with carrot and cheddar cheese. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Homemade Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

In a blender, combine broth, vinegar, honey, paprika, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and salt.

With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil through the hole in the lid and continue blending until mixture is emulsified.

Cover and chill for up to 1 week. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Dinner Three: Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata; Sautéed Garlic Spinach and Braised Baby Potatoes

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Oven Baked Asparagus and Pepper Frittata

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut asparagus at an angle into two-inch pieces and blanch in boiling hot water to cover about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet with a cover. Add bell peppers and cook until soft, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in onion and  asparagus pieces; sauté for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon remove the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk chopped parsley, salt and pepper with the beaten eggs. Stir in cheese and mix with the sautéed vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Coat the inside of the skillet with the softened butter. Pour the egg mixture into pan. Bake, covered, until the eggs are just firm, about 35 minutes. Remove cover; bake until top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Divide into six wedges and serve.

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Sautéed Garlic Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thickly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Thick strips of zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 pounds spinach, cleaned, thick stems discarded
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lemon zest. Bring the oil to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the oil infuse for 1 hour. Remove the lemon zest with tongs and discard.

In a large skillet a large heat the infused oil and add some of the spinach and cook over moderately high heat until wilted. Add the remaining spinach until it is all wilted..Season with additional salt, if needed and serve.

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Braised Baby Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 16 small red or new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

Place the potatoes, chicken stock, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place in a serving bowl. (I save this broth for soup or cooking other vegetables at a later time.)

Add the lemon zest and basil. Toss well and serve

Dinner Four: Mediterranean Salad with Hummus and Pita

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Easy Hummus

Ingredients

  • One 15-ounce can of no salt added chickpeas, drained, 1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for top
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt and drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with Pita bread.

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Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients

4 servings

  • 1/2 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 of a medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 2 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 3/4 cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes.

Mix bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season to taste with salt.

Do Ahead: The salad (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.


Umbrian Olive Orchards

Umbrian Olive Orchards

The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.

Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers.  Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.

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The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.

The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy

First Course

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Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.

Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread

Second Course

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Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
  • 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.

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With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.

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Repeat with the other 5 pieces.

Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.

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Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.

Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.

Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.

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Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.

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In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.

Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

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Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Fig and Almond Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
  • 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
  • 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar

Directions.

Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.

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Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.

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Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack until serving time.


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Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different parts of the world for a new year. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, here are the lucky foods to include:

Grapes
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal, as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.

Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.

Legumes
Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, its customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.

Pork
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish
Cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages because it could be preserved and transported, allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes, such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize the rice fields).

Cakes
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped sweets. Italy has chiacchiere, which are crispy fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands also eat donuts and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.

In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the finder will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.

Make your New Year’s Day dinner lucky with these recipes.

Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (bacala), rinsed well and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Soak and poach cod:

Cover the cod pieces with 2 inches of cold water in a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator and soak, changing the water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below).

Drain the cod, transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and add 6 cups water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat. (Cod will just begin to flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with a dampened paper towel and chill while making the sauce.

Cook whole garlic cloves in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning occasionally until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down into a very thick sauce, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mash thebgarlic cloves into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the sauce into a 3-quart gratin dish or other flameproof shallow baking dish and arrange fish over the sauce.

Preheat the broiler.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and water and spread over each piece of fish. Place the dish under the broiler and broil the fish 5 to 6 inches from the heat just until the mayonnaise mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Note: Brands of salt cod differ in their degree of saltiness: A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelming.

Sausage and Lentils with Fennel

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserve fronds
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage links
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Bring lentils, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes.

While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice and chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onion, carrot, fennel bulb, fennel seeds and remaining teaspoon salt. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly prick sausages in a couple of places with tip of a sharp knife, then cook sausages in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve the cooking water. Stir lentils into vegetables with enough cooking water to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through. Stir in parsley, pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with additional vinegar and salt, if needed.

Cut sausages diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve lentils topped with sausage slices and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Creamy Winter Greens

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens and kale
  • 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste

Directions

Make béchamel sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add béchamel sauce, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Almond Good Luck Cake

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The person who finds the whole almond inside the cake will have good luck during the upcoming year.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 whole almond

APRICOT GLAZE:

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the chopped almonds and 1 tablespoon flour; sprinkle into a well-greased 10-inch fluted tube pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extracts.

Combine the baking powder, salt, baking soda and remaining flour; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour into prepared pan. Insert whole almond into batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to a wire rack.

For the glaze:

Melt preserves in the microwave or saucepan and stir in orange juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 12 servings.

 


beans

Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each type provides its own individual shape and texture to a given dish.

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Borlotti (cranberry beans) is a favorite bean in northern Italy. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn  dark brown on the outside and  yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.

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The region of Tuscany is famous for Cannellini, white kidney beans, and are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include sorani, toscanello, corona and schiaccianoci.

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Chickpeas (Cece) or Garbanzo Beans are the most widely consumed legume in the world and have been adopted in every region of Italy. The chickpea has a round shape and are beige in color. They have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Chickpeas can be cooked in soups and stews, added to pasta, eaten cold in salads and ground into a gluten-free flour.

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Corona, a large white bean,  is a member of the runner family and when cooked, they almost triple in size. This is one reason this hearty bean is often called the “poor man’s meat.”

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Fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available.

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Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.

With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.

A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, beans contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content.

Cooking beans at home is a simple way to save money and provide the base for many healthy meals. It requires little effort and they’re easy to keep on hand in the refrigerator or freezer. You can quickly put together soups, salads, dips and spreads.

Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:

Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain beans, discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Beans develop flavor as they cook, but the flavor is subtle. You can boost the flavor of cooked beans by adding aromatic root vegetables, herbs and spices or meat to the pot near the end of cooking—the last 10 to 30 minutes. The flavor of the vegetables, herbs and meat is infused in the water and in turn is drawn into the bean. The conventional wisdom about salting beans is that salt toughens the skins as they cook. So it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking time. Do not add acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or tomato juice, as this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients after the beans are cooked.

Here are several flavoring options to add near the end of cooking dried beans:

  • Sauté separately diced aromatic vegetables—onions, celery, carrots, leeks, celery root, parsnip, garlic–in olive oil until just soft then stir them into the bean pot with about 10 minutes left to cook.
  • At the end of cooking, stir in salt and pepper to taste, add a bouquet garni–a few thyme sprigs, parsley stems and two bay leaves tied in kitchen twine–to soak.
  • Add a ham hock or a piece of prosciutto to cook with the beans for a deep meaty flavor. Diced bacon or ham steak added to the liquid will also deliver flavor to the beans, as will chunks of beef, pork or lamb.
  • When using beans in a soup, you can thicken the soup by transferring a cup or two of the cooked beans and broth to a blender and purée thoroughly. Then return the purée to the cooking pot.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta (small ears)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water  for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a saute pan for 1-2 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to brown. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add broth and simmer about 5 minutes. Add beans and drained orecchiette to the broth mixture. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

TIP: If you under cook pasta by a few minutes and then add it to your soup to finish the cooking time, the pasta will absorb some of the broth and be more flavorful.

beans8

Bean and Sausage Stew

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 Italian sausage links, either pork or turkey, cut in half
  • 1 cup cooked beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Brown the sausages on all sides for about 10 minutes and remove onto a plate.

Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil, return the sausage to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

beans9

Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

Serve with pita bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes, slightly drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the lentils in a pot with the water and let rest one hour. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain any excess water from the lentils and set them aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.

beans0

Beans and Broccoli 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried large white beans (corona), soaked overnight
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese with rind
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove the rind from the cheese and add to the beans along with the onion and garlic. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Season with salt. Let the beans cool in the liquid. Discard vegetables and Parmesan rind, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop the broccoli.

In a large bowl combine the anchovies, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and beans. Mix gently. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Shave Parmesan cheese over the mixture and serve.

beans02

Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to the skillet; cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is light golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet to a platter.

Add onion, garlic, fennel and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add browned chicken, tomatoes, wine and rosemary. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is tender.

Stir in beans. Cook uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until sauce is slightly thickened and juice of chicken is clear, when the thickest area reads 165°F on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Nemi

Lake Nemi, Diana’s Sacred Grove, is a small circular volcanic lake in the Lazio region of Italy, 30 km (19 miles) south of Rome. The shores of the lake were the setting for one of the cruellest religious rites in honor of a local divinity, Diana of Nemi also known as “Diana of the Woods”, an Italian version of the Hellenic goddess, Artemis. Her sanctuary was found on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the cliffs of the town of Nemi. The lake has often been referred to by poets and scholars as, “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is one of the more complex goddesses of mythology and her cult at Nemi was especially violent.

The “Rex Nemorensis” or king of the sacred grove, was the high-priest of Diana’s temple. The legend says that in her sacred grove there grew a large oak tree from which it was absolutely forbidden to break off a branch. Only a runaway slave could break off a branch, thus earning the right to fight the presiding high priest of the temple to the death. If the slave won, he could take the place of the priest and adopt his title of “rex nemorensis”. This violent rite of succession was based on the premise that the High Priest of Nemi always had to be at the height of his powers. He could never be ill nor could he die of old age.

Diana

Diana

This ritual continued up until the Imperial era, according to the ancient Roman historian, Suetonius. Emperor Caligula, angered by the fact that the high priest of Nemi had been in his role for too long, ordered him to be killed by an opponent of greater strength. In the II century AD the fight to preside over the sacred altar became symbolic in nature and the cult of Diana itself began to wane, almost completely disappearing after the advent of Christianity. The origins of the cult of Diana are mixed with legend and it is probable that this ancient myth on the Italian peninsula had Greek origins.

The locals will tell you that the spirit of the “rex nemorensis” still wanders in the woods around the lake and that you should take special care when walking in these parts. However, the lake is most famous for its sunken Roman ships, discovered there in the XV century. These ships were very large and technologically advanced for their time.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, acquired the nickname Caligula when he was still a little boy, playing in soldier’s boots several sizes too big for his feet. People started calling him Caligula which means “Little Boots” and they still called him that when he became the Roman Emperor in 37 A.D.

Caligula

As one of his royal passions, Emperor Caligula ordered several large barges to be built to use on Lake Nemi. For centuries scholars and historians debated Caligula’s reason for building the barges. Some contend that Caligula built the barges to show the rulers of Syracuse, Sicily and Egypt that Rome could match any luxurious pleasure barges that they built. Caligula bragged that his ships were the most luxurious in the world. Other scholars argue that Caligula designed one of his ships as a floating temple to Diana and some say that the other ship may have been used as a floating palace where Caligula and his court could indulge in the depravities that history has credited to him.

Suetonius, the Roman historian, described the two biggest barges as being built of cedar wood adorned with jeweled prows, rich sculptures, vessels of gold and silver, sails of purple silk and bathrooms of alabaster and bronze. The floors were paved with glass mosaic, the windows and door frames were made of bronze and many of the decorations were costly.

The flat-bottomed Nemi barges were not self-propelled. Instead, they were attached to the shore by chains and bridges stretching across the water so people and commerce could travel back and forth. The two largest ships were about 250 feet long and 70 feet wide, nearly covering Lake Nemi.

nemi 3

Nemi 2

Caligula had no suspicions that officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate and of the Imperial Court were conspiring to assassinate him. Although they successfully assassinated Caligula on January 21, 41 AD., the assassins were unsuccessful in their goal of restoring the Roman Republic. After Caligula’s assassination, the Roman Senate and the Praetorian Guard attempted to destroy everything connected with him, including his barges, which they pillaged and sank.

Fishermen handed down memories of Caligula’s palatial Nemi ships to their descendants, some swearing that they could see the shadowy outlines of the ships in the waters of Lake Nemi. The ships were actually buried in the mud 200 yards distant from each other in five fathoms of water; one 150 feet from the bank and the other 250 feet from the bank.

Legends of Caligula’s sunken ships filled with fabulous treasures were passed down through generations of Lake Nemi citizens. For centuries local fisherman considered Caligula’s sunken barges local landmarks and some explored the wrecks and took small treasures from them, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone tried to explore and raise Caligula’s legendary ships.

In 1446 Cardinal Prospero Colonna, an Italian humanist, and Leon Battista Alberti, a  renowned engineer, followed the clues in the local legends about the Nemi barges, but the wrecks lay too deep to be salvaged effectively at the time. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini worked to recover Caligula’s ships for about five years – from October 1928 to October 1932. Mussolini ordered the Italian Navy engineers to drain Lake Nemi. A London Times story reported that everyone on the site cheered as the waters receded to reveal the first Nemi ship.

With all of the water removed, the level of Lake Nemi dropped 66 feet and a mud shower occurred as a result of the sinking of the lake floor. Work stopped while the government and the archaeologists debated the future of the project and Lake Nemi began refilling with water. The second ship had already begun to dry out and re-submerging caused a great deal of damage to it. The Italian Minister of Public Works ordered the project and all of the research related to it to be abandoned on November 10, 1931. The Navy Ministry, which had participated in the original recovery, petitioned the Italian Prime Minister to resume the project on February 19, 1932 and the government granted permission. Pumping out the waters of Lake Nemi resumed on March 28, 1932 and the second ship was recovered in October 1932.

The hulls of the Nemi ships and their contents were recovered, as well as items scattered around the ships, including bronze and marble ornaments, tiles and utensils. The recovery of the Nemi ships settled a prolonged and contentious scholarly argument. Before the ships were recovered, many scholars scoffed at the idea that the Romans were capable of building large enough ships to carry grain, despite ancient sources that said they had built such ships. The size of the Nemi Ships proved that the ancient sources were correct.

Over the centuries, scholars have also debated whether or not the lead bars found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea were from anchors used on Roman ships. The Nemi ships were built during the transition between the use of wooden and iron anchors and they were the first Romans ships found with intact anchors. The Nemi ships confirmed that the lead bars were from the anchors. Additionally, the Romans made ball bearings out of lead and they probably used the ball bearings on the Nemi ships to make the statues of the gods rotate.

Both of Caligula’s Nemi ships contained several hand-operated bilge pumps working like modern bucket dredges, the oldest example of this type of pump ever found. Piston pumps on the two Nemi ships supplied hot and cold running water through lead pipes. The Romans used the hot water for baths and the cold water for fountains and drinking water. This piston pump technology later was lost to history and not rediscovered until the Middle Ages.

The Italian government built a museum called the Lake Nemi Museum over both ships in 1935 and it opened in January 1936.

Source: History Because It’s Here

The Cuisine of the Roman Empire

Food, like the weather, seems to be a universal topic of conversation, endlessly fascinating and a constant part of our lives. In addition to art and archaeology, we have information on Roman food from a variety of written sources. Here are two ancient recipes for porridge written by Cato the Elder from De Agricultura.

Recipe for Punic porridge:

Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, 1/2 pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

Recipe for wheat pap:

Pour 1/2 pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

For those who could afford it, breakfast, eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. The Roman lunch, a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables and cheese. Dinner, the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg and fruit.

An Ancient Roman Meal

Nemi 4

 

Roman Egg Drop Soup – Stracciatella

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (liters) mixed meat broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons semolina
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina, grated cheese, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture all at once, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork to break up the egg, which will form fine, light flakes or small rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.

Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

SAMSUNG CSC

Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml sweet white wine
  • 250 g green lentils
  • 3 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • Pinch of asafoetida (an ancient spice similar to garlic with an onion flavor)
  • Dash of bitters
  • Generous handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 225 g honey (This amount used in the recipe’s translation is excessive, as a reader kindly pointed out. After researching amounts of honey used in the Roman days, I would say no more than a half a cup should be used, if that. A couple of tablespoons would probably suit our current tastes. That was all I used when I tested the recipe.)
  • Generous splash of wine vinegar
  • Generous splash of must (grape juice boiled until it’s reduced to 3/4 of its volume)
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a little oil to a pan and, when hot, stir-in the asafoetida and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to splutter, then grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and pound to crush them. Add just enough vinegar to bring the mixture together as a paste and add a dash of bitters.

Combine the sweet wine and lentils in a pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender (about 60 minutes). When the lentils are almost done add the leeks, honey, coriander and mint along with the spice and vinegar blend. Flavor with a little more wine vinegar and must.

Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Garnish with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then serve.

Nemi 6

Aliter Sepias

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a classic dish of cooked squid or cuttlefish served in a spiced and herb white wine sauce thickened with an egg yolk.

1 kg cooked squid or cuttlefish

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled 
  • 1 raw egg yolk 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 60 ml fish stock 
  • 60 ml white wine 
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Pound together the pepper, lovage (or celery) seeds, coriander and mint in a mortar. Work in the honey, stock, wine, vinegar and olive oil then pour into a pan.

Heat slowly and, when warm, gently whisk in the beaten egg yolk. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and cook on low heat until thickened.

Arrange boiled or fried squid (cuttlefish) on a warmed serving dish, pour the sauce over the squid.

Nemi 7

Honeyed Quinces

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a dessert of quinces boiled in a sauce of white wine and honey. Pears can be substituted but quinces are more tart. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime.

Ingredients

  • 10 quinces 
  • 100 ml honey 
  • Cinnamon 
  • 250 ml sweet white wine

Directions

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft (reduce the cooking time for pears). Chill before serving. Pour into individual bowls.

 


hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. The hazel part of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “haesel” meaning a headdress or bonnet, referring to the shape of the outer shell covering. Hazelnuts are native to Asia Minor and they spread to Italy, Spain, France and Germany via Greece. Prior to the 1940s, hazelnuts were imported to the United States. Today, they are grown commercially in the Northwest US. In the food industry, hazelnuts are currently eaten raw, roasted, blanched, minced, sliced, powdered and pureed. Hazelnuts are also used as a premium ingredient in chocolates, biscuits, confectionary products, sweets, pastries and ice cream and in sauces and salads.

Hazelnuts are about the size of a small marble. The nut meat is encased in a hard shell that resembles an acorn without its cap. The nut meat has a bitter brown paper-thin skin that is removed before eating. These nuts contain 88 percent unsaturated oil, which is pressed for use and known as the delicately flavored hazelnut oil. Although it cannot be heated to high temperatures, this oil is favored by gourmets worldwide and is relatively expensive. Hazelnut cooking oil has a similar composition to extra virgin olive oil with high content in Omega 9 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This makes hazelnuts another healthy cooking oil option with flavorful taste.

Why are hazelnuts sometimes called filberts?

Well, there doesn’t seem to be one explanation. The most commonly accepted explanation is because hazelnuts mature on or around St. Philibert’s Day on August 20. Other historians believe the term filbert derives from the German, vollbart meaning full beard, a reference to the appearance of the husked shell. Hazelnuts are also known as cob nuts in some areas. Other experts claim these are all different varieties of the nut, but once shelled, they are quite difficult to tell apart.

Buying and Storing Hazelnuts

Check hazelnuts for freshness by picking up a nut and shaking it. If it rattles inside the shell, this is an indication it has lost moisture due to age or mishandling and is now stale. The shells should be free of cracks or holes. Most markets now carry shelled and ground hazelnuts, which can be quite a timesaver in the kitchen.

At room temperature, unshelled hazelnuts seldom last more than a month. Once shelled, they should be eaten as soon as possible. Shelled hazelnuts should last unopened up to 4 months in the refrigerator or 1 year in the freezer.

Hazelnut oil is more fragile. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Hazelnut oil should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Avoid heat when using hazelnut oil so as not to sacrifice its delicate flavor. When adding to sauces, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in at the last moment.

Hazelnut Preparation

  • For full flavor, roast and cool raw shelled hazelnuts before grinding or chopping.
  • To remove the paper skin, spread shelled hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast at 275 degrees F (130 C), stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the skins begin to break. Roll in a clean kitchen towel, let rest for 10 minutes, and then gently rub back and forth to remove the skins. Some bits of the skin may remain.
  • Bring hazelnuts to room temperature before using.

Equivalent Amounts

  • 2-1/4 pounds hazelnuts in the shell = 1 pound shelled nut meats.
  • 1 pound hazelnuts in the shell = 1-1/2 cups nut meats.
  • 1 pound shelled hazelnuts = 3-1/2 cups.
  • 1 cup shelled = 5 ounces.
  • 4 ounces ground, lightly packed = 3/4 cup.
  • 1 ounce ground, lightly packed = about 3-1/2 Tablespoons.
  • Macadamia nuts may be substituted for hazelnuts.

hazelnut 5

Arugula Salad with Poached Pears & Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 pears, peeled, stems attached, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups grape juice
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 5 oz baby arugula leaves
  • 3 oz red lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Directions

To make the poached pears:

Remove the core of each pear using a melon baller keeping the pear intact.

Place the wine and grape juice in a large saucepan. Add the pears, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 25 minutes or until tender turning them as needed, then remove pan from the heat and cool the pears for about 10 minutes in the liquid. Remove pears from the poaching liquid, transfer to a plate and let cool. Discard liquid.

To toast the nuts:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake until the nuts are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove pan from the oven and set the nuts aside to cool; then rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

To make the dressing:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shallots and vinegar. Slowly add the oil while constantly whisking to blend. Whisk in the water and season the dressing with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the salad:

Cut each of the poached pear halves into 4 wedges.
Toss the arugula, red lettuce, parsley, pears and half of the nuts in a large mixing bowl with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and gently mound the salad onto a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining nuts and Parmesan cheese and serve.

hazelnut 4

Chicken Scaloppine with Hazelnut-Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Madeira
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped 

Directions

Slice each chicken breast half into 2 cutlets. Place cutlets between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound each piece to about 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle pounded chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

Melt butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add the shallot to the same skillet and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the Madeira and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add cream; boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.

hazelnut 2

Lentil and Hazelnut Patties

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups dry lentils or use 1½ cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Rinse the dried lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Add water, if needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Older lentils may take longer to cook and shed their outer skins as they cook. (The best way to tell if they are cooked is to taste one.) Drain the lentils. Return the lentils to the saucepan and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Combine lentils, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg and hazelnuts. Stir in thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Mold into 4 burger-sized patties.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add patties and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Transfer onto a serving platter and serve with Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated peeled, seeded cucumber 
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Pat cucumber dry with paper towels. Combine cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill 1 hour.

hazelnut 1

Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 (12 ounces each) boneless pork tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Wine Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the pork:

Trim the pork of its silverskin and cut each tenderloin in half crosswise. (You will have 4 pieces.)

In 3 separate shallow bowls, place the flour, egg and hazelnuts. Add the salt and pepper to the flour. Dip the pork, on all sides, including the ends, first in the flour, then the egg and finally the hazelnuts. Make sure to coat the pork pieces completely with the nuts.

In a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, heat the vegetable oil and saute the pork on all sides until golden brown. Transfer the browned pork to a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees F.

For the sauce:

Add the olive oil to the pan used to brown the pork. Saute the shallots over medium high heat until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the white wine, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
Cut the pork tenderloins into 1/2-inch slices and place on a serving platter. Top the pork with the sauce and garnish with rosemary.

hazelnut 3

Italian Hazelnut Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 275°F oven, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; and turn the oven up to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large bowl.

Beat egg whites and the salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through the baking time, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

Eggs-1

Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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3 lentils

Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling and very flavorful. From a nutritional standpoint, they are rich in fiber and in iron and are, consequently, ideal for people suffering from anemia.

Lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times and lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs dating back 8,000 years. As a plentiful source of protein, lentils were found on the tables of peasants and kings alike and the poor, who could not afford fish during the season of Lent, substituted lentils.

Thought to have originated in the Near East and/or the Mediterranean area, lentils are small disks resembling a flat baby pea. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins. They grow two to a pod and are dried after harvesting.

In Italy two major types of lentils are grown: the hiemal strain matures in late summer and produces larger seeds that are more delicate in flavor, whereas the minus strain matures in the spring and has smaller seeds.

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional Italian accompaniment for sausages. Lentils are served on New Year’s Day in Italy because their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won’t want for cash during the rest of the year.

There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as fifty or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors with red, brown and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor and some varieties have a slight peppery taste.

Select lentils that are dry, firm, clean and not shriveled. The color of lentils you choose will depend on your usage, but in general, the color should be fairly uniform. Canned lentils are also available, but it is just as easy to cook your own.

If your recipe calls for a lentil that will retain its shape when done, common brown lentils are the usual choice. Brown lentils still have their seed coat and have not been split. Most red, yellow and orange lentils tend to disintegrate with long cooking because the hulls have been removed. Slightly sweet in flavor, these are best reserved for pureed soups or stew thickeners. Other choices include French lentils which are olive-green and slate-colored. These will cook up the firmest. Persian green lentils will turn brown as they cook and become tender while still retaining their shape. Considered the most flavorful (and most expensive) are the French Puy lentils, which also retain their shape.

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

You may be able to find lentil flour in some specialty markets. It is used in India to make a fermented dough for bread.

Dried lentils have an indefinite shelf-life, yet another reason why our ancestors kept them as a staple food. With age, the color may fade a bit, but the flavor will not deteriorate. Store lentils in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry place.

red-lentil-jar

Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils may also be frozen up to six months. However, they may fall apart when reheated, if not handled gently.

These measures will help you determine how many lentils you need for your recipe.

• 1 cup dry lentils = 2-1/2 cups cooked
• 1 pound dried lentils = 2-1/4 cups dry
• 1 pound dried lentils = 4 servings
• 1 pound dried lentils = 5 cups cooked

Lentils are a natural in soups and stews and also make a great cold salad. The high protein content in lentils makes them an excellent meat substitute.
Lentils need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes. To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt once the lentils are completely cooked. Acidic ingredients such as wine or tomatoes can lengthen cooking time. You may wish to add these ingredients after the lentils have become tender. Older lentils will take longer to cook because they have lost more moisture. Do not mix newly purchased lentils with old ones. They will cook unevenly.

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

Lentils are popular across Italy, where they are grown in Umbria in the north and Puglia and Sicily in the south. Technically not a “bean,” lentils are legumes. Unlike beans, lentils require no soaking, so this salad is quick and easy to prepare. Serve as a side salad or add a cup of diced mozzarella and it makes a light main dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Place lentils in a large bowl. Stir in onion and next 4 ingredients (through pepper). Add vinegar and oil; toss well. Serve at room temperature.

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 g) short-grained rice
  • 1 cup (200 g) lentils
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • One whole onion
  • 1 rib celery, cut in half
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the lentils and cook them for 30-45 minutes in 2 quarts of water with the onion and celery.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lentils with a slotted spoon and strain the broth, discarding the celery. Reserve the broth and onion separately.

Slice the onion and sauté it with the oil and the garlic for 3 minutes; add the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Add the lentils, the spinach and the lentil broth. When the soup comes to a boil add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is done, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • Cold water
  • 2 pounds fresh italian sausage, sweet or hot
  • 3 cups homemade or low sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in a little water

Directions

Wash lentils well by soaking them briefly in water and changing the water at least once. Put them in a 2-1/2-quart saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until not quite done, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, pierce the sausages in several places and then put them in a small saucepan. Add the chicken broth and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. From time to time, skim off and discard foam and fat that rise to the top. When sausages are done, remove the pot from the heat and let them sit in the broth while you finish the lentils.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and sage in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are done.

Drain the sausages, saving their liquid. To the lentil pot, add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and add the tomato paste. Mix gently using a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 cup of the broth in which you cooked the sausages. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

To serve, arrange the sausages on a platter next to the warm lentils.

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1- 28 to 32 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (juice reserved)
  • 1 1/4 cups dried green lentils
  • Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound shaped pasta, such as cavatappi or rigatoni
  • Pecorino cheese, grated or shaved
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Cook until the mixture dries out a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season with the oregano,crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the lentils. (If the sauce begins to dry out, add additional water as needed.) Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Serve with the lentil sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino and garnish with basil.

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 and 1/4 lbs (1 kg) white fish or white fish bones and heads, gills removed
  • Salt

For the Stew:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 and 1/2 oz (100 grams) cooked lentils
  • 9 oz (250 grams) fish and seafood cut into serving pieces, such as sea bass fillets, prepared squid, peeled prawns, peeled langoustines (small lobsters or use lobster claws) and scrubbed clams
  • 28 oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 1 fresh basil sprig, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

Pour 3 pints (2 liters) water into a large saucepan, add the herbs, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns and season with salt.

Gradually bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool.

Add the fish bones and return to the heat, bring just to the boil;  lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the fish bones cool in the stock for a stronger flavor. Strain the stock.

Prepare the Stew:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet and add 1 tablespoon each of the celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cook for a few minutes more.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a shallow saucepan and add the remaining celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add the sea bass and the squid. Increase the heat to high and cook for 1 minute, then add the prawns, langoustines, clams and lentil mixture.

Pour in the strained fish stock, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and basil. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef chuck blade steaks, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Heat a large deep skillet with a cover over medium heat until hot. Add the beef to the skillet and brown evenly. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste.

Add water, onion and bay leaves to the skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-1/4 hours.

Add lentils, carrots and Italian seasoning to the skillet; return to a boil. Continue simmering, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils and beef are fork-tender.

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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With the US economy in the doldrums, many Americans are struggling to stretch every dollar as far as possible and that includes their food dollars. It is in times like these that imagination and creativity in the kitchen become especially important. With the right amount of thought and planning, it is possible to create delicious low-cost meals. And if the need to spend money more carefully leads to more nutritious, home-cooked meals in American households, that is a “good thing”.

Of course, many cooks, past and present, have had to economize at certain points in their lives. They’ve done it by comparison shopping, buying produce in season and adding more vegetables and less meat to the pot. Frugal cooks also bypass convenience items such as fruits and vegetables that are pre-washed and pre-cut and some buy extra produce, when the price is right for canning and freezing.

Hectic schedules and the readily available convenience foods have paved the way to less-healthful eating habits. In much of the United States, it is just as easy — or easier — to order out or pick something up for the evening meal, as it is to prepare the meal at home.

One way for Americans to spend less money on food is to choose unprocessed (or less-processed) foods, with a few fresh ingredients added, as the basis of a meal. Packaged and prepared meals cost you considerably more than cooking with raw ingredients at home. Focus on the products stocked along the perimeter of the store. This is where healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, meat and fish are usually located. Preparing meals at home allows you to control the amount of salt and fats you use in your recipes.

Another suggestion is to buy produce that is in season to keep costs down. In American supermarkets, it is not uncommon to find certain items, such as broccoli, cucumbers and apples, on produce shelves year-round. But unless these items are in season in your area, they are being shipped from somewhere else or are being pulled from cold storage. When fresh produce is shipped long distances, it tends to lose some nutrients along the way and flavor often suffers. It also tends to be more expensive. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also taste fresh and provide high amounts of nutrients, if they were processed immediately after picking. In the winter, especially, frozen fruits and vegetables may be a nutritious and economical option.

Taking the time to plan your weekly menu not only helps to save time and money, but also provides a way to create meals with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, plus all the essential vitamins and minerals needed by adults and children. When eating balanced meals your body feels satisfied, has fewer cravings and, this in turn, prevents late-night snacking. Make a shopping list before you go to the supermarket and stick to it.

Tougher cuts of beef and pork are a lot cheaper than steaks and chops ($2 to $6 per pound for many cuts compared with $10 or more per pound for steaks and don’t forget to watch for sales), but no one wants to eat a piece of leather for dinner. The best way to cook tough cuts of meat is low and slow, usually for 3 or more hours, often in liquid, to make them melt-in-your-mouth tender.

When you’re making dinner, think about what you’re going to eat for lunch tomorrow. If you’re making a salad for dinner, make a little extra and put it in a container, undressed, for lunch the next day. And what about your leftovers from dinner? Is there a little extra chicken or maybe part of a can of beans? Toss that in with your lunch salad. Packing lunch is a great way to make sure you’re not wasting any leftovers—and to help you eat healthy, save money and save time throughout the day.

Italian Beef Stew

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 7 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 26-28 oz. containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3/4 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add onion and chopped carrot; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté for 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from pan to a bowl and set aside.

Add 3 teaspoons oil to pan. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; dredge in flour. Add half the beef to pan and sauté about 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure.

Add water to pan and bring to a boil, scraping pan. Return meat and the onion mixture to pan. Add tomato and next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and stir in sliced carrot, mushrooms and potato. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.

Slow Cooker Chicken Osso Buco

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • Snipped fresh parsley

Directions

Place flour, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, a few pieces at time, shaking to coat.

In a large skillet brown chicken, half at a time, in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until golden, turning once. Remove to a plate.

In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine carrots, onion, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with tapioca. Place chicken on top of vegetables.

In a medium bowl stir together tomato sauce, broth, lemon peel, lemon juice and thyme; pour over chicken.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Serve chicken and sauce over hot cooked pasta or rice and garnish with snipped parsley.

Baked Spinach Casserole

Serve this vegetable pasta dish as an entree or as a side to perk up baked chicken or meatloaf.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 lasagna sheets, traditional or no-boil
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach (about 12 ounces total), washed, thoroughly drained and coarsely chopped;
  • or 1 package (9-10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, thoroughly squeezed and drained to remove all water
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9” x 13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Cook the lasagna sheets according to package instructions, drain, and layer in the bottom of the baking pan. (If using no-boil lasagna sheets, soak for 5 minutes in hot water to soften before layering.)

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. Add the spinach and onion. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the ricotta, milk, salt, nutmeg and the spinach and onion mixture. Mix well.

Pour the mixture over the lasagna sheets. Spread evenly. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until a golden crust forms on the top. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

Tomato Lentil Chili

Some good bread, homemade corn bread or biscuits would be a nice addition to this meal. Make extra to take for lunch.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry lentils (red or brown)
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking bulgur, whole wheat couscous or quick-cooking (pearled) barley
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Yogurt, chopped red onion, hot sauce (optional)

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook 7 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the toppings. Simmer 30 minutes. Serve with optional toppings: yogurt, red onion and hot sauce.

Pasta with Tuna Tomato Sauce

Salad and some homemade garlic bread is all that is needed to complete this quick meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 can (26-28 ounces) peeled plum tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 large whole cloves garlic, peeled 
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) tuna in oil, drained, retaining oil separately
  • 8 ounces penne or spaghetti, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • Chopped parsley or other herbs for garnish

Directions

Empty the tomatoes and their juice into a large skillet. Add the whole garlic cloves. Cook over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring frequently, breaking the tomatoes into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon or fork. Remove from heat. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the anchovies, if desired; use a fork to break them up and mix them into the tomato sauce.

Break up the tuna chunks in a small bowl using a fork, then add to the tomato sauce, stirring in gently.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. When the pasta is ready, drain thoroughly. Return it briefly to the pot, add a little of the tuna olive oil and mix well. Add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet. Using tongs to lift the long strands, fold it gently into the sauce. Stir in the breadcrumbs and garnish with parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Better For You Brownies

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral tasting oil
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 tablespoon cold leftover brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Position rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Use an 8 by 8 silicon baking pan or line a similar sized metal or glass baking dish with foil or parchment paper so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch. Spray the prepared pan completely with cooking spray.

Put the butter, oil and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 75 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave again until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. (Alternatively put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, not touching, the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)

Stir the brown and white sugars, vanilla and salt into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and coffee and beat vigorously by hand until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and glossy. Add the cocoa, flour and baking soda and stir just until it disappears.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if not using a silicon pan).

Cool the brownies in the pan on the counter. Lift brownies out of the pan by the foil, if needed. Peel off the foil and cut into 16-2-inch squares.

Store extra brownies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


Umbrian Pork

The art of preserving pork in Umbria, dates back to the 2nd century BC. Because of the poor farming conditions in this cold mountainous area, the inhabitants of Norcia (in the Province of Perugia) relied on animal husbandry. This art was perfected under the Roman Republic and Roman Empire and continued to thrive under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church State until modern times. The meticulous selection of livestock, the expert dry or humid curing, the distinct and diverse flavoring, the personal care and attention by specialists of this art, all contribute to the production of these unique delicacies.

Prosciutto

Umbrian cured ham, Prosciutto di Norcia, is the king of Umbrian delicacies. The most famous of central Italian ham is unmatched in quality and taste. The prosciutto is made of salted and naturally aged meat from the hindquarters of heavy mature animals. A Prosciutto di Norcia will generally weigh at least 20 pounds ( 9 kilos). The animals are raised in the high mountain ranges above sea level in the Valnerina district. The calciferous rock, of which the mountains are mostly made, filter rain water to create natural cellars with perfect conditions for the slow aging process (14 months or more) resulting in top quality cured meats. Prosciutto di Norcia is savory but not salty and each slice presents a variety of shades of garnet. The unique nutty taste of this ham is a perfect companion to a side dish of Mediterranean fruits or grilled asparagus.

Capocollo

Also known as lonza, ossocollo, capicollo, coppa. Capocollo is the famous Italian sandwich meat, characterized by its tenderness and aromatic flavor. Umbrian capocollo is made from prime cuts of pork neck, which is salted and flavored with fennel, garlic, salt and black pepper and cured in a red wine brine. The craft of capocollo preparation includes storage in fresh cellars where the capocollo is massaged by hand for at least 30 days. The capocollo is bound with natural string and allowed to air-dry. It is then wrapped in brown-paper and hung for 45-50 days at a temperature around 50 degrees F (10°C). A slice of Umbrian capocollo is compact and has a savory but slightly sweet taste which improves with age and adds refinement to any appetizer. Also delicious in a cold main course of arugula salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and wedges of pecorino.

Ciauscolo

This soft sausage has a strong and assertive flavor. It is made with shoulder and bacon meat, which is repeatedly minced to obtain a creamy texture. It is stuffed in natural gut casing and allowed to air-dry for 2 weeks. Delicious when spread on a slice of crusty Italian bread and accompanied with slivers of green apple or grapes and a little honey.

Fiaschetta

These spicy, pear-shaped sausages are characterized by their small size and intense flavor. They are made from coarsely ground lean pork, seasoned with black pepper and garlic. The fiaschetta are dry-cured in rooms heated with a natural log fire for 40-50 days.The spiciness of this salami is a perfect balance for delicate, close textured Umbrian bread. It is also popular as an addition to a rustic meat-based risotto.

Corallina

The original and most famous of Umbrian salami is made from the best cuts of pork following a traditional and age-old recipe. The meat is expertly hand-cut to obtain the correct balance of meat and fat. It is flavored with whole and crushed black peppercorns, garlic and salt, hand-tied and aged for up to 40 days.This authentic delicacy can be served as an appetizer with grilled vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Aged Guanciale

Meat taken from the cheeks of the pig are cured in a red-wine based brine for 20 days. It is subsequently hung for 10 days in a room where a wood-fire maintains a steady temperature that encourages the curing process. It is then seasoned with either crushed chillies, fennel or black pepper and left to mature in a cool room for 45-50 days. The guanciale is mostly a soft-white color with a ribbon of pink running through it. It has a variety of uses – for basting roast meats, to adding flavor to gravy, as a topping for minestrone or polenta or as wafer-thin slices placed over bruschetta or freshly baked bread.

Pancetta

A speciality made from pork belly. When making pancetta, some of the fat is removed and replaced with crushed chillies, fennel, black pepper and sea salt. The pancetta is rolled, tied with jute and pressed between planks of wood. It is stored in a cool place for approximately one month and as the curing progresses, the planks of wood are tightened to compact the layers. The finished product is dense and when cut appears as pink and white spirals. The taste is spicy but delicate. The flavor of pancetta lends itself to goat cheese, black olives, peas and other legumes. It can be used as an alternative for bacon in classic pasta dishes such as pasta alla carbonara, pasta all’amatriciana and pasta alla carrettiera.

Coppa di testa

Hand-cut meat from the head of the pig, seasoned with garlic, black pepper and salt and steamed in a jute bag. This cooked salami has a marbled terrine-like appearance with a delicate aromatic taste. It can be served in thin slices with arugula and mature pecorino or with fried eggs. Goes well with a glass of robust red wine.

Recipes Using Italian Cured Pork

Frittata with Prosciutto, Potatoes, Goat Cheese & Thyme

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 ounces arugula
  • 1 russet potato (about 8 oz), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (or cheese of choice)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the sliced potatoes in a bowl and cover them with cold water to keep them from turning brown.

Slice the onion and saute in the olive oil until soft and translucent.

Oil a 9×12 baking dish and place an overlapping layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish (you will use about half of the potatoes). Spread the cooked onions and the prosciutto on top of the potatoes. Next a layer of arugula and top with crumbled goat cheese and half of the thyme.

Whisk together the eggs and milk and gently pour over the layers in the pan. Top with the remaining slices of potato and sprinkle remaining fresh thyme on top.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Removing the foil and bake 5-10 minutes until the eggs are set. Turn the oven setting to broil and brown the top of the frittata.

Lentil Soup and Ciauscolo

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices Ciauscolo salami
  • 2 1/4 cups lentils
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put the lentils in water and let stand overnight.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Into a saucepan pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic cloves and chopped shallots. Add the potatoes and let cook for 5 minutes.

Drain lentils and put into the pot. Stir, cover with cold water, add the rosemary, bay leaves and salt and cook for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally to see if the lentils are soft. The soup should be quite liquid, so it may be necessary to add a few tablespoons of water. When cooked, remove the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves and keep warm.

Take the slices of Ciauscolo and sear them quickly on both sides on a stove top grill.

Pour the lentil soup into bowls and place the Ciauscolo slices on top. Add freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound small brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved through root ends
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 pound 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide strips
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

Directions:

Cook brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté pancetta until crisp. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

Add warm brussels sprouts to the skillet; sprinkle with thyme and sage. Sauté over high heat just until heated through and vegetables begin to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Spaghetti All’Amatriciana

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz finely minced guanciale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onion (about 1 large onion)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced pepperoncini or other dried hot peppers
  • 2 28-oz cans tomato purée
  • 1 lb dry spaghetti

Directions:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until the oil ripples but does not smoke. Add guanciale and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat begins to render and meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add onion and stir, coating onions with the rendered fat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and pepperoncini and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tomato purée, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. At this point the sauce can be used immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for up to a week or cooled and frozen.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain but don’t rinse, return spaghetti to the hot pot and toss with the sauce.

Pizza with Mozzarella and Capocollo

Ingredients:

Dough

1 pound of pizza dough

Topping

  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 pound thinly sliced capocollo

Directions:

Heat pizza stone in the oven for at least 45 minutes before assembling pies. Place the stone on a rack in the lower third of oven. Heat oven to maximum temperature (500º to 550º).
While stone is heating prepare topping.



Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add tomatoes to the boiling water; boil for 20 seconds. Drain tomatoes, then peel, quarter, seed and coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, place onion slices in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat 2 or 3 times while you prepare the rest of the topping (soaking raw onion in cold water mellows the harsh taste).

Rinse and dry leek. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and sugar; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is blended and thickened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer sauce to a bowl.

Spread dough in a greased pizza pan. Working quickly, spread sauce over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Tear the cheese into pieces and arrange on top of the sauce. Drizzle lightly with oil. Place pizza pan on the stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and the edge of the crust is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and top with capocollo and red onion.



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